Dogs do get jealous, say scientists, and it could help us understand jealousy in humans

New research looked at how dogs reacted to their owners reading aloud or paying attention to a plastic bucket or a stuffed dog that moved and barked

Does your dog seem to get annoyed when you lavish attention on your partner? Do they seem jealous even? If so, don’t worry: it’s not all in your head.

A new study published in the journal Plos One suggest that dogs really do get jealous - the first scientific confirmation of the behaviour and one that might have interesting implications for how we think about jealousy in humans.

The research carried out by psychology professor Christine Harris from the University of California monitored the reaction of 36 dogs when their owners ignored them in their home.

The humans were given three different activities – either reading a book aloud; paying attention to an unknown object (a Halloween bucket); or petting and talking to a toy dog that moved and barked.

Harris found that dogs were least likely to react to owners reading the book and most likely to act aggressive when they were treating the stuffed dog like the real thing.

Forty per cent of the dogs tested even showed jealous behaviour when their owners were talking to the plastic Halloween pumpkin.

Read more: Dog steals baby's toy but quickly repents
'Cats recognise their owners' voices but never evolved to care'
Concept of cuteness is 'hardwired from age of three'

For Harris, the findings suggest that dogs have a very basic instinct to act up if they feel a rival is getting more attention – something that might help psychologists understand human jealousy better. “It suggests to me that some of our ideas about the nature of jealousy, like that it requires complex cognition, are incorrect,” Harris told the Washington Post.

However, some scientists have pointed out that the dogs in the study might not have been jealous, but were simply reacting fearfully to a new ‘dog-like’ creature – the stuffed animal.

Speaking to NPR, Laurie Santos of the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University said: "This is a very new science. We are just developing new tools to better understand animal emotions.”

For Harris though the implications are clear: "Jealousy has tremendous human consequences," she told the Post.

"We think about these experiences after they occur, wondering if they mean we’re unloveable or ugly, or if we’re going to lose our best friend or our lover. [But] these results suggest that all of that isn’t required. All you need is a loved one and a rival.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before