CAN DOGS BE JEALOUS? SCIENCE SAYS, "YES."
By Kim Campbell Thornton
When we are on a walk with all three of our dogs and someone stops to pet them, Harper, our 7-year-old cavalier, pushes forward to be first. When they move on to one of the other dogs, she nudges them, as if to say, "No, pet me, pet me."
Is Harper jealous or envious of the attention received by the other dogs? The answer used to be no -- that jealousy is a complex emotion not experienced by dogs. Then University of California, San Diego psychology professor Christine Harris, working with former honors student Caroline Prouvost, decided to test whether that was actually true.
Their study, published last July in the journal PLOS ONE, found that dogs may well experience a basic form of jealousy. One of the definitions of the word "jealous" is one who is solicitous or vigilant in maintaining or guarding something. In this case, dogs may have evolved to protect social bonds from interlopers (or in Harper's case, protecting her share of attention from people and making sure other dogs don't get any).
When their owners showed affection toward another dog, the dogs in the study snapped and pushed at their owners or the rival dog, which for experimental purposes was a stuffed dog that barked, whined and wagged its tail. In contrast, they were less likely to display jealous behaviors when the owner showed interest in a novel object, such as a jack-o'-lantern bucket, or when the owner read aloud a children's book that had pop-up pages and played melodies.
Dogs were about twice as likely to push or touch owners when they interacted with the stuffed dog (78 percent) as when the owner paid attention to the bucket (42 percent). Thirty percent of the dogs tested tried to get between their owner and the stuffed dog.
"Our study suggests not only that dogs do engage in what appear to be jealous behaviors, but also that they were seeking to break up the connection between the owner and a seeming rival," Harris said. "We can't really speak to the dogs' subjective experiences, of course, but it looks as though they were motivated to protect an important social relationship."
Your response might be, "So what?" If you're a dog owner, you've probably seen your dog exhibit jealous behaviors. The research is important, though, because it adds to our knowledge of the canine brain and helps to support the growing body of research indicating that dogs have sophisticated social and cognitive abilities.
You probably know as well that pets can be jealous of more than just other dogs. Sometimes they are a roadblock in the path to true love. It's not unusual for pets to resent attention given to a new person in the owner's life, whether that's a boyfriend or a baby. They may seek more attention for themselves or even try to insert themselves between the owner and the new person. That's especially common when the pet is used to getting all the owner's attention. It's no surprise he doesn't want to compete with anyone else for it.
If your pet is jealous of the new love of your life, seek to create a love triangle -- the good kind. Have your significant other become the giver of all good things: walks, meals, treats, toys. If the new kid on the block is a baby, provide those things to the dog (or cat) in the baby's presence. In both cases, you'll be helping your pet develop a positive association with the newcomer, joining best friend to best friend. What could be better than that?
Getting to Westminster:
star power & luck play roles
Q: I've always wondered: How do they decide which dogs get into Westminster? Do they have to be champions? -- via Facebook
A: The Westminster Kennel Club show, which is coming up Feb. 16 and 17, is considered to be the, er, top dog of canine conformation shows, thanks to its historic nature -- it first took place in 1877, making it the second-longest continuously held sporting event -- and its prime location at New York City's Madison Square Garden.
The top five dogs in each breed, as determined by the number of points they earn at shows throughout the year, receive invitations to the show. That way, the Westminster Kennel Club is assured that every breed will be represented. All the other entrants, limited to dogs who are champions or have earned at least a major (a 3-, 4- or 5-point award) in the show ring, must get there the old-fashioned way: by U.S. mail.
Entries are mailed during a three-week period in November and December. The show superintendent holds all the entries and delivers them to the Westminster Kennel Club's office on the day entries close. Westminster Kennel Club spokesman and co-host of USA Network's telecast of the show David Frei says some people write "Pick me!" on the outside of the envelope containing their entry or mail multiple entries for the same dog.
In the end, pure luck of the draw determines which of those dogs make it to the show: The entries drawn out of the pile, up to the limit of 2,800, win the dog world's version of a Golden Ticket. The remaining entries are returned. This year, the 2,711 dogs entered come from 48 states (no dogs are entered from North Dakota or Idaho), plus Washington, D.C., and 14 countries. -- Kim Campbell Thornton
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Keep pets out of
-- We all know that dogs will eat just about anything. That includes Gorilla Glue, which has a sweet smell and taste. Veterinarian Jason Nicholas warns that it's not uncommon for dogs to lick up spills of the industrial-strength adhesive, leading to an emergency situation. If swallowed, even a small amount of the glue can expand, causing an obstruction that requires emergency surgery. If you keep it around the house, store it where your pet can't get to it, don't work with it in your pet's presence, and wipe up spills right away.
-- Sam Adams -- the puppy, not the patriot -- had a broken leg when he was left at a Michigan shelter. Fortunately, he benefited from a special fund that helps rescue groups save at-risk dogs and cats. The Michigan Pet Fund Alliance created the Judith Middleton Kroon Life Saving Program Fund from a bequest by an animal-loving donor, plus donations. With the grants of $100 to $200, rescue groups have greater latitude to pull senior pets or those with medical or behavior problems from shelters and provide the care or training they need until they can be placed in homes.
-- When pets need medical imaging such as an MRI, they sometimes have to go to hospitals for people because not every veterinary clinic has access to the expensive, high-tech equipment. Seeing a new opportunity for revenue, The Johns Hopkins Hospital opened the Center for Image-Guided Animal Therapy. Now pets can receive diagnostic scans more quickly and during normal working hours instead of the late nights and weekends common at facilities where people and animals share equipment. When the scanners aren't in use by pets, they can be borrowed -- for human patients. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Does your dog want to be your only valentine? He may experience jealousy when you give attention to other dogs or people. Position: Main Story
Caption 02: Lucky pup Samuel Adams has a repaired leg and a new home thanks to a grant from a fund for at-risk shelter pets. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 2