Anyone who has spent time around a dog will tell you that they seem so human-like in their behavior, feelings, and emotions. We are often quick to assume they are feeling bored, jealous, or guilty because that’s how a human would feel in a certain situation.
And the thing is, we’re probably not totally wrong. Dogs are definitely capable of a broader array of emotions than originally though. But just how complex they are is up for debate.
Today, we’re going to dive into jealousy in dogs. Do you ever wonder if your dog is feeling jealous of other dogs, jealous of your partner, or maybe your new baby? Do dogs really get jealous? Let’s find out more about how this complex emotion may be affecting your dog.
Psychology Today explains that emotions are usually sorted into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary emotions are the emotions we find in most living beings. These are things like fear, joy, surprise, love, sadness and anger. These emotions are largely accepted to be universal and are easy to identify in our dogs, which is why it’s definitely possible to identify when your dog is happy, and when they are bored.
On the other hand, secondary emotions, such as grief, jealousy, envy, hope, guilt, and shame, are thought to be less applicable to most living beings. There have been several studies showing some of these emotions in primates, but otherwise, they are written off as being too complex for most of the natural world.
Until this 2014 study came along that looked specifically at jealousy in dogs. In this study, the researchers discuss how jealousy, even as a complex emotion, would benefit the survival of such a social and cognitively sophisticated species because it is an emotion that protects and forms social bonds.
In this study, researchers observed that the dogs definitely showed jealous behaviors such as barking at, snapping at, or putting themselves physically between their owners and a stuffed dog when their owners interacted with it.
Anyone who lives in a house with more than one dog probably could have told you the same thing––but this well designed and documented study gives us some strong evidence that the jealousy you’re perceiving in your dog is definitely real!
More clear evidence of jealousy in dogs is observed by owners who breed their female dogs. When these owners are not careful to give the puppies and mother dogs equal attention, mother dogs will sometimes show aggression towards her own puppies and kick her puppies out of the “nest” if she feels they are getting more attention than her from the human owner (source)
Sometimes the display of unwanted behaviors or downright disrespect can tip us off that our dog has some big feelings going on. Other times it's their withdrawn, depressed sort of demeanor that lets us know.
Let’s take a look at some of the common signs of jealousy in dogs:
In short, anything that takes your attention away from them can result in jealousy. However, there are some times when dog jealousy is more likely to crop up:
Mild jealousy usually isn’t any cause for concern, but when your dog’s jealousy results in aggressive or negative attention-seeking, you probably want to figure out how to curb the behavior.
What’s more, a very jealous dog can also fall into a cycle of separation anxiety (the two often go hand in hand), which can be really hard on both owner and dog.
Here are some ways to deal with jealousy in dogs:
As you can see, addressing jealousy is a lot like addressing any number of common behavior issues in dogs. It takes patience, consistency, and dedication.
Are you having issues with jealousy in your dog? What brought it on and how have you coped? We’d love to hear more about your situation in the comments below!
Comments will be approved before showing up.