Envy is an emotion that many people experience for a variety of reasons. This is something that comes naturally to most of us. We may feel envious because our friends have things that we want but don’t have. We may feel envy over a person’s financial or general lifestyle, wishing that we had the same. We even feel envy over the appearance of others.
Many dog owners wonder whether their pets feel envy in the way that humans do. Well, dogs can feel envy in their own way. Dogs have no idea that they are envious, as they have no concept of what envy actually is in the same way that we do.
Signs of Envy in Dogs
Of course, your pooch isn’t going to sit there glaring at your new 75-inch flat screen, wishing that they could afford one. The envy that dogs feel is more to do with emotions and attention rather than material things. This means that dogs do not feel emotions such as envy and jealousy in the traditional sense, but they do feel their own versions.
For example, if a new baby or even a new pet is brought into the household, your dog may immediately become what we would class as envious or jealous. You may notice your dog trying harder to get your attention, growling and snapping when around the new pet or baby, or becoming totally distant.
You may also find that an envious dog becomes disobedient in some ways. This is an observation that comes from a study that was carried out. During the experiment, two dogs were asked to perform the same task. One was rewarded each time while the other was not. Pretty soon, the dog that was not being rewarded stopped obeying the trainer. The other one continued to do as it was asked because it was being rewarded. It was concluded that the unrewarded dog became envious hence, stopped obeying orders.
There may be signs of envy that are displayed through your dog’s body language, so this is another factor to consider. Some dogs will tail tuck and put their ears down when they feel envious. This is because they are also affected in other ways – for instance, the thing that is causing your dog to feel envious may also make it feel threatened and fearful. Your pet may start keeping its distance from you and ignoring you if it is envious of the way you are treating another pet or person – just like the disobedient dog in the obedience training example.
There are other signs that your pooch may display if it is feeling a little on the jealous side. Some of the signs you may notice include being stand-offish, avoidance, whining, and loss of appetite. The latter is often related to the fact that your dog may feel miserable or upset as a result of whatever is causing the emotion.
History of Dogs Feeling Envy
A lot of research has been carried out into canine emotions over the years, and this is how we have come to learn so much about our four-legged friends over time. Centuries ago, dogs were used as working animals rather than pets, so people rarely gave a second thought to their emotions. However, these days they have become part of the family for many people and this is why dog owners are so keen to learn more about canine emotions such as envy.
As research has shown, it is difficult to say conclusively whether dogs feel envy. Of course, they feel an emotion that upsets them and makes them act differently in the same way as humans. However, because they do not have a concept of what envy or jealousy actually is, it can seem remiss to say that your dog is envious of something.
Moreover, the matter is even a gray one amongst scientists with some stating that dogs cannot feel envy because they do not have the complex cognitive processes to feel these emotions in the same way as humans. That being said, many do agree that dogs do feel something, often in relation to fairness and how they are being treated compared to another pet or person.
Science Behind Dog Envy
As a result of research over recent years, scientists and researchers have come to the conclusion that dogs can feel a certain form of envy. For instance, dogs may show what we see as envy if they feel the other household pets are getting more food or attention from them. They may feel this emotion if another pet is getting more cuddles and affection than them.
It can even happen between mommy dogs and their puppies once the mom-dog loses her maternal instincts. Both trainers and dog owners have seen behavioral changes in their pooches when they are ‘jealous’ and feel they are not getting fair treatment.
Helping Your Pooch to Overcome Envy
It can be difficult to train your dog not to be envious (or their version of envious) because emotions cannot be controlled. However, one thing you can do is to try and address the problem that is causing them to behave and feel the way they do.
For example, if you have recently brought a new puppy into the household, don’t spend all of your time showering your new fluff ball with affection and leaving your trusted pooch feeling left out. It is only natural that your dog will be put out by this, as they will have seen your attention diverted completely to the new pet. Instead, make sure you also pay plenty of attention to your dog and shower them with love – even give them extra cuddles and affection compared to normal to make them feel more at ease.
In addition, you should try and get your pooch used to whatever it is that is causing the problem. If it is a new pet, get your dog used to spending time with it. Of course, this is a gradual process, but the more your dog gets to know and get used to the newbie, the more quickly they will stop behaving jealously.
The same goes for a new baby in the family. Naturally, you will be spending a lot of time with the baby caring for it. However, be careful not to simply shut your pooch out and stop paying them any attention. This will only cause resentment and will leave your dog feeling depressed and isolated, which is never a good thing if you want them to get along with the new baby.
Make sure you treat your dog fairly when it comes to everything from toys and food to love and affection, as this will make them feel part of the family rather than make them feel pushed out.
Even if you have a new partner on the scene and suddenly start spending more time with them rather than with your pooch, you may start seeing signs of envy and resentment. Again, make sure you do not push your dog out in favor of spending all of your time with your partner – instead, get your new partner involved in playing with your pooch, taking them for walks, and feeding them.
By a Boston Terrier lover Reno Charlton
Published: 04/05/2018, edited: 04/06/2020