Many dog owners are convinced their dogs get jealous, while some people say it’s just imagination – projecting a human emotion on the dog. Scientists recently made an experiment to ascertain which is correct.
The test adapted a test used for human babies. 36 dogs and their families participated, and the owners were asked to shower a robotic stuffed dog with affection, pay attention to a plastic jack-o-lantern pail as if it were a dog, and to read a book aloud. The pail and the book were compared to the robotic dog to see if there’s a difference in behavior between something that looks and acts like a dog – the robot barked and wagged its tail – and something that’s clearly not.
To make the experiment fair, the robot would have to be lifelike enough to be accepted as an actual dog. 86 percent of the participating pooches attempted to greet it like they would a dog, and were probably surprised when the rear end held no smell…
The results were clear. The dogs were twice as likely to touch or push their owner when he or she paid attention to the robodog than when playing with pail. A full 78 percent pushed and touched in response to the impostor dog. 42 percent reacted that way with the jack-o-lantern, and 22 percent when their human read the book.
It becomes even more interesting. One fourth of dogs snapped at the robot, and one third tried to place themselves between the robot and their owner.
Conclusion? Dogs definitely get jealous. It’s not your imagination.