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We've all heard a little kid get jealous and yell out, "It's not fair!" But what about your "fur kids"? Do dogs get jealous? And if they do sense unfairness, what can dog parents do to work through it and treat everyone the same? The truth is, dogs can get jealous and how researchers determined this is an interesting look into how dog's behave.
Fido Figures Out Fairness
For a long time, it was assumed that humans were the only species that recognized unfairness and exhibited jealous behaviors when they felt they were treated wrongly. After studies showed that monkeys protested unequal treatment, a research study by behavioral scientist Friederike Range looked at whether dogs too might demonstrate jealous behaviors, reports NPR. When participating dogs were asked to give their paw, all dogs responded to the request. Over time, researchers started rewarding some dogs with food and allowed other dogs to watch but not get a treat when they performed the same task. Those that did not get the food began to hesitate in handing over a paw. Eventually, many of the dogs that were not rewarded stopped cooperating at all. Range's conclusion was that dogs feel human resentment if they think someone else in the pack is being treated differently.
If you have a several dogs in your home, you might also have recognized that if one dog gets a treat, they all expect a treat. In homes with multiple dogs, it is important to try to keep things fair. Over time, jealous dogs could start to demonstrate undesirable behaviors — and they could be more than just refusing to give a paw.
A dog's jealous behavior likely stems from the fact that they are pack creatures and while they see you as their pack leader, they are always jockeying to be next in line. This doesn't mean that they will exhibit aggressive behavior toward one another, but it also doesn't mean that one of their feelings won't get hurt if they perceive some unfairness. This behavior can be exhibited toward humans (like new babies in the home) as much as other dogs.
Understanding Dog Behavior
Dogs' behavior can tell their pet parents more than you may realize. For example, if a dog sits at your feet or between your legs, he may be anxious. By observing each of your dogs carefully and regularly, you can become more aware of how you all interact as a family.
Do dogs get jealous at home the same way they do in a behavioral lab? A jealous dog may stop obeying simple commands, like the dogs in the study did, but there are other signals that your dog is peeved. A dog may try to wedge his way in between you and other pets and humans, start avoiding interaction with people or other dogs, or become aggressive or vocal with other pets in the home that he feels are treated better. As a pet parent, you want to make sure attention, treats, playtime and positive reinforcement are all doled out equally. If you need to give one dog something different, like a spoonful of peanut butter hiding a pill or a reward for toilet training, try to do it in a separate room away from your other pup.
Fostering a Fair and Happy Environment
Since dogs can sense unfairness, proud pet parents of multiple dogs should strive to create an environment where everyone's needs are met. If you are able to keep things fair among all your pets, it's less likely they'll show signs of envy. If you do start to see one of your dogs displaying jealous behavior, try to find ways to grow closer to him and rebuild trust. A strong bond between a dog and a pet parent is the best way to keep everybody happy.
Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.