Can Dogs Feel Jealous?

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Introduction

Good news, dog owners! You're not being overly sensitive or crazy when you think your dog gets jealous. A recent study uncovered that, without a doubt, dogs do get jealous. While there is still a question as to if this jealousy is the same as it is in humans, the fact of the matter is that dogs do experience feelings of envy. 

If you do a Google search, you will likely also find articles by scientists claiming dogs cannot feel these types of emotions. However, any dog owner will likely tell you his pawsome best friend does not take kindly to you spending time with another four-legged furball. 

But dogs don't just get jealous of other dogs or humans. In fact, several studies have shown that one of the most prominent examples of jealousy in dogs can be found in the relationship between a mother dog and her pups. However, dogs also get jealous when it comes to their owners. Human behavior has a much stronger effect on our dogs than we may have thought in the past. So keep in mind that your actions are most likely having an impact on your four-legged friend. 

Signs a Dog Feels Jealous

Dogs don't just get jealous of other dogs or humans. In fact, several studies have shown that one of the most prominent examples of jealousy in dogs can be found in the relationship between a mother dog and her pups. However, dogs also get jealous when it comes to their owners. Human behavior has a much stronger effect on our dogs than we may have thought in the past. So keep in mind that your actions are most likely having an impact on your four-legged friend. 

The studies that claim to prove dogs can get jealous are somewhat new, which means we still have a lot to learn. However, there are common, expected signs that your dog will display that will let you know he or she is feeling jealous over something you are doing. While some people may argue with you until the cows come home that dogs cannot show envy or jealousy, we beg to differ. Most of these studies have concluded that jealousy and envy in dogs aren't quite the same as they are in humans, but this is not to say we may not learn otherwise down the road. 

How do you know if your dog is jealous? He or she will likely try to get in between you and the other dog (or stuffed animal, as you'll see in the example below), whine or whimper, growl, and maybe even bare his or her teeth. 

Every dog is different and dogs may show jealousy in various ways based on their breed as well. All of this is important to keep in mind when trying to determine if your dog's behavior is truly jealousy or if it's something else. 

Body Language

Here are some signs your dog is jealous:
  • Growling
  • Whining
  • Guarding
  • Pacing
  • Twitching whiskers
  • Whimpering

Other Signs

These are other signs your dog may be jealous:
  • Protecting You
  • Getting in Between the Person or Thing They are Protecting
  • Displaying Abnormal Behaviors

History of Dogs Being Jealous

For as long as dogs have been our companions, we've wondered what emotions they can display, right? One study performed by scholars at the University of California, San Diego discovered that dogs more often than not showed jealous behavioral traits when their owners turned their attention to a stuffed dog that simulated many 'real' dog behaviors. 

The dogs would growl, snap, and push against the stuffed dog, doing everything in their power to get to their human. So, while we may not know exactly when the first case of a jealous dog was ever recorded, we know this emotion does exist!

Science Behind Dogs Getting Jealous

The particular study mentioned above is relatively new and many regard it as a monumental step towards understanding the emotional lives of our dogs. It also shows that most dogs' jealous behaviors were triggered by social interaction with the supposed real-life dog (even though it was just a stuffed animal!) 

In years past it was thought that jealousy was a secondary emotion and one that dogs were incapable of experiencing. However, new research shows that dogs do in fact understand when their owner is paying closer attention to another dog or when they are being treated unfairly.

Dogs are incredibly keen social observers that should probably be given more credit than we often award them. Think about how much time you spend with your dog and all the different emotions you experience. It should really come as no surprise that dogs can experience such a complex emotion such as jealousy, especially because of how intertwined our emotional lives are with our dogs. 

How to Train Your Dog to Be Less Jealous

Having a jealous dog can be quite a challenge, especially if you want to have any social life at all! While it may be both endearing and frustrating at the same time to have a jealous dog, there are, thankfully, a handful of things you can do to curb this jealousy. With a little bit of training and a whole lot of rewards, you will undoubtedly see a vast improvement in how your dog reacts to you talking or touching another animal or person. 

Here are a few things you can do to prevent your dog from getting overly jealous:

  • Redirect any excitement your dog exhibits when you are around other dogs or people 
  • Practice basic obedience (teach your pup how to sit, stay, and lay)
  • Separate your dog from other dogs to avoid too much excitement and a potentially dangerous situation
  • Try to stick to a routine to avoid interruption and excitement 
  • Reward your dog for good behavior when he is around the person or animal that makes him jealous
  • Remember to give your dog attention and love, this will go a long way! 

How to React When Your Dog is Jealous

  • Wait until they are calm to reward them.
  • Never give into bad behavior.
  • Reward your dog for great behavior.
  • Teach your dog basic obedience.
  • Give your dog more attention in other dog's presence.
  • If things escalate, remove your dog from the situation.
  • Have the new person spend time with your dog.
  • Slowly introduce your dog to a new dog.