Possessive Pooches: Dog Jealousy Identified in New Report

Credits: Courtesy of Jacqueline Gross
Coco basks as Rich Michalski pets her.  Meanwhile, Rosie longs for attention. Credits: John Mooney
Credits: Courtesy of Gerri Knego
Credits: Amy Schetelich

FANWOOD, NJ -- A new research study reported in The New York Times seems to confirm what animal lovers have long suspected: man’s best friend can be just as jealous as any man (or woman).

Christine R. Harris and Caroline Prouvost found that dogs exhibited significantly more jealous behaviors (e.g., snapping, getting between the owner and object, pushing/touching the object/owner) when their owners displayed affectionate behaviors towards what appeared to be another dog.

To conduct the study, the researchers adapted a model used in studies designed to analyze emotion in infants.  Dr. Harris observed 36 dogs as their owners ignored them and focused their attention instead on a realistic looking stuffed dog, a plastic jack-o'-lantern or a children's pop-up book. The dogs were then evaluated for aggressiveness, attention-seeking behavior and interest in the owner and object.

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All of the dogs nudged their owners when they played with the stuffed animal, and 86 percent tried to push the fake dog during that stage of interaction.  Since the pets reacted so strongly to a fake dog, the researchers concluded that the data presented a "strong case that domestic dogs have a form of jealousy." 

Local dog owners concur with the researchers.

“The finding is absolutely right.  It’s so obvious to me,” said Gerri Knego, a Fanwood resident. “My dog, Savannah, a Pekinese mix weighing 18 pounds, rules the roost in our house. When our other dog, Benji, a terrier almost twice her size, tries to climb on the bed with us, she snarls and chases him away. However, if another dog threatens Benji, she will back him up.”

Jacqueline Gross, also of Fanwood, says that if she pets another dog, her Shih Tzu, Cookie, gets very jealous.

“If she is inside and sees me petting another dog, she starts barking like crazy,” Gross said.

Rich Michalski, who has three dogs, says that the littlest one can be the most aggressive when it comes to seeking attention. 

“She’s definitely the alpha dog,” he said.  “They fight for attention.  It goes on every day.”

Amy Schetelich of Scotch Plains reports that her dog, Millie, even gets jealous of her husband, John.

“If any of us hugs each other, she barks until she is included. It’s crazy.”

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