I was asked by a new dog owner if dogs could be jealous and while I immediately said, "Yes, Of course," I then had to stop and think about it.When one of my dogs tried to get between myself and the dog I was petting, was that jealousy? To me it seemed like it. But was it really?
Anecdotal Evidence AboundsWhen I posted on social media the question, "Do your dogs or cats ever show jealousy?" my page was inundated. Apparently jealousy to varying degrees is quite common. Tamara H. has a rescued Doberman Pinscher, Alister, who is very attached to Tamara. When her older cat, Simba, wants attention and settles next to Tamara in her chair, Alister tries to get between Tamara and the cat. He'll use his long nose to try and push the cat away. When Tamara interrupts him and asks him to lie down, he'll do so but stretches his neck so that while his body is on the ground, his nose remains on her lap. Amy S. has a dog, Fizz, who is very jealous of their newly adopted cat. He'll try and steal the cat toys so that no one can play with the cat and will play with him instead. Joanne S. has two dogs and a cat. When the cat is on her lap, one dog tries to get up on her lap so he can lie on top of the cat. The second dog has no issues with the cat on Joanne's lap. Interestingly enough, the first dog has no jealousy issues with the other dog; just the cat. Dogs don't just get jealous of attention paid to cats, however; several people mentioned they had a dog who showed jealousy by trying to get between two people hugging each other. Barking when people were kissing also seemed to be common. One person, who didn't want to be named, said she and her husband had to exile their dog from the bedroom because he would react badly when they were intimate. There were a few reports of jealousy expressed by cats, plus quite a few episodes of jealous parrots and a few jealous horses.
What is Jealousy?All of these anecdotes portray behavior that we see as jealousy. What is jealousy though? In people, jealousy is a complex emotion that might include insecurity, a fear of abandonment, anger and a host of other emotions. Often regarded as a negative emotion, it is usually assumed to cause more problems than it could ever solve. Those that study human behavior say that we don't have much control over jealousy; it's an emotion most of us will feel at some point in our lives. Our inner critic, that voice we hear in our head, torments us with questions and critiques and wonders, "Why?" When we're feeling jealous, we question our relationships, partners, and friends. We imagine scenarios in which we always lose. Unfortunately, those feelings of jealousy and self doubt erode our confidence in ourselves. If unchecked, jealousy is a vicious circle that can ruin relationships and friendships.