18 November 2008

Study Says Jilted Dogs Get Jealous

Dogs get jealous when jilted, suggests a new study that found canines feel especially intense jealousy pangs when in a "love triangle" involving their owner and another, more recently introduced, person or animal.

The finding suggests dogs may also experience pride, embarrassment, shame and other secondary emotions outside of basic emotions such as anger, anxiety and surprise. Scientists previously thought only humans and chimpanzees showed behaviors linked to secondary emotions.

A genetic propensity for jealousy may even run as deep as a dog's ancient wolf ancestors. "I would definitely think you would find jealousy in wolves," said lead researcher Paul Morris. "For example, sexual jealousy would be an extremely powerful motivator in the wild state. Jealousy would also relate to position in hierarchy and alliances between animals within a pack."

The researchers asked the pet owners to report observations of both primary and secondary emotions in their animals, which included cats, pigs, horses, rabbits, rats and hamsters, as well as dogs. All the animals received high scores for secondary emotions, with over 80 percent of owners claiming their dogs showed signs of jealousy.

Morris also studied the phenomenon directly with his own two dogs, Silver and Jessie. He went out of his way to shower Silver with attention, and then only occasionally gave Jessie her usual head pat. Jessie showed her teeth and snarled, but contained her anger and tried to push her way back into the mini pack.

"Jealousy is at its heart related to the real or anticipated loss of love, affection and attention," Morris told Discovery News. "Dog jealousy is different to human jealousy, in that it is tied to the here and now; dog jealousy occurs only in the presence of the interloper. So when I talk about dog jealousy, I see it as a much more primitive and hugely less elaborate version of human jealousy."

[Source: The Discovery Channel]