German Shepherds can be very protective and loyal. But, do German Shepherds get jealous? Do dogs get jealous? If you have more than one dog in the house and decide to pet one, do the other dogs show signs of jealousy?
According to researchers at the University of California San Diego, the answer is, in fact, yes. Dogs do get jealous.
Christine Harris, a professor at the University of California – San Diego, got the inspiration for the research after visiting her parents. Her parents have 3 Border Collies and when she met them, she realized something about them.
“I’d pet two of them at a time and it wouldn’t have been surprising if that had made the third wants my attention, too,” she said.
Aside from the interesting behavior shown by the third dog, the two dogs Harris was petting showed aggression at each other.
While psychology experts believe that jealousy is a complex feeling – one that is only seen and observed in humans – Harris and research partner Caroline Prouvost saw otherwise.
In 2014, Prouvost and Harris conducted the study involving 36 dog participants. In the experiment, each dog’s owner was asked to interact with three objects with his or her dog watching. The objects the owners had to interact with are a plastic Jack-o-Lantern, a children’s book, and adoggie stuffed toy.
Signs of jealousy in dogs
The results showed that when the dog ownerspaid attention to the doggie stuffed toy, the real dogs had the following reactions:
- Tail straight up,
- Trying to get the attention of their owner by nudging or pawing,
- Trying to get between the fake dog and their owner,
- Whimpering and whining.
It was also noticeable how the display of these behaviors was not as prominent as when the owners interacted with the other objects.
In the figure below, you will see that:
- 78% of the dogs tried to get their owners’ attention by pawing them when they were interacting with the doggie stuffed toy;
- About 42% tried to paw their owners when they were interacting with the pail;
- And only 22% of the dogs showed signs of jealousy towards the children’s book.
Figure by: C. Harris and C. Provoust/PLOS ONE
What’s more interesting isthat the dogs tried to break the connection between his owner and the fake dog. It was also seen that 86% of the dogs involved in the study sniffed the doggie stuffed toy’srear end, this suggests that the majority of the dogs saw the doggie stuffed toy as a legitimate rival.
Yes, dogs do feel jealousy
With the research, Harris and Prouvost contradicted what most psychologists believe. Dogs feel jealousy too – but it’s less complex than in humans. Harris and Prouvost believe that jealousy in dogs may have something to do with the way they grew up – especially in species that have multiple dependent siblings because they have to compete for food, resources, and affection.
“Many people have assumed that jealousy is a social construction of human beings – or that it’s an emotion specifically tied to sexual and romantic relationships,” said Harris. “Our results challenge these ideas, showing that animals besides ourselves display strong distress whenever a rival usurps a loved one’s affection.”