Dogs thrive on attention and love, as sociable animals they like to feel a sense of belonging to their ‘pack’, in this case the pack usually consists of family members.
Just like us dogs can get jealous, they may express this by becoming apathetic, withdrawing from the pack or they may become naughty, trying to find ways to command your attention. If you own a dog you are probably aware of when your dog is trying to get your attention, he may nestle in even closer to you, nudge your hand or even bark.
What is surprising is that jealousy is considered a very complex cognitive process, it involves having a sense of self-being self-reflective, and being aware of when your needs are being disregarded. This opens up the possibilities that dogs may share a whole range of emotions, similar to our own. It also opens up the idea that emotion is a very basic instinct and serves some evolutionary purpose.
Young babies have also been shown to display jealous type behaviour which supports the idea of jealousy having an evolutionary purpose, perhaps to help siblings compete for available resources such as food, warmth and safety for example.
A study carried out at the University of California by Christine Harris identified jealous type behaviours in dogs. The study which had strict criteria, for example the studied group of dogs were all small breeds and had been with their owners for an average of 25 months, were videotaped under 3 different conditions. When the owner were paying attention to a dummy substitute dog, the owners dogs were more likely than on other occasions to try and gain their owners attention by nudging their hand.
Although the study was carried out on smaller dogs there is no reason to not conclude that the same jealous type behaviours would be displayed in larger dogs to.
Dogs are smart, social animals, and part of being sociable involves interaction with others and building up strong relationships. Give a thought to your poor dog next time you make a fuss of another dog, and take time to give your dog a pat on the head too.