A dog gets jealous as their owner pets a cat.

Can Dogs Feel Jealous?

Jealousy is the feeling of being envious or protective of something deemed special. It can develop over relationships, people, and even inanimate objects like toys and food. It is difficult to know exactly what emotions pets feel and acknowledge, but jealousy is one that has been studied and documented in dogs.

What Causes Canine Jealousy?

Common objects that inspire jealousy in dogs include time with family and friends, a toy, a bed/personal space, or food items. In 2014, researchers in San Diego completed a study that involved dogs watching their owners interact with different objects, observing their actions and behaviors.

The objects that were used included a stuffed animal that looked like a dog, a jack o’-lantern, and a book. A third of the dogs in the study tried to get between their owners and the stuffed toy or to redirect their owners back to interacting with them. A fourth of the dogs in the study snapped aggressively at the stuffed animal. The researchers further surmised that the remainder of dogs that did not react to the stuffed animal had realized that it wasn’t real and did not perceive it as a threat. No dogs showed jealous actions towards the jack o’-lantern or the book. It was clear from this study that the dogs were jealous of the stuffed toy when their owners were playing with it and their actions further solidified this conclusion.

Objects or actions that trigger jealousy are unique to each dog. These feelings have also been noted in dogs when a new significant other, pet, or baby enters the relationship, which may lead to less personal attention from their pet parent.

Ways to help minimize and avoid jealousy must start by identifying the cause and determining if it is secondary to a person/pet or inanimate object. Once you have identified the inciting cause or causes, you can work toward minimizing and eliminating jealousy.

Tips for Minimizing Jealousy in Dogs