UC San Diego study finds dogs can feel jealousy

Study hopes to learn more about jealousy in humans

SAN DIEGO - A UC San Diego researcher has discovered that dogs can feel jealous, just like humans.

"They're socially bonded with others.They have a long co-evolution with humans and they're cognitively really sophisticated," said UCSD psychology professor Christine Harris.

She says we can learn a lot from them when it comes to studying jealousy in people.

"Jealousy is the cause of a lot of human grief," said Harris.

She studied 36 dogs.

"So in humans, we define jealousy as involving a social triangle … so the self, the loved one and a rival," said Harris.

She gave the dog owners a stuffed toy dog and asked the owners to pay attention to the toy instead of their dog to see what would happen.

"They tried to get in between the owner and the dog," said Harris. "A majority of them pushed on the owner, which we think was trying to draw the owners' attention and a quarter of them aggressed against the stuffed dog."

That gave Harris key information.

"It weighs in on that this is probably an innate state," she said.

Harris says jealousy is not as unnatural as one might think.

"Having said that, it doesn't mean that people should go ballistic when they feel jealousy," she said.

10News wanted to know why such a prestigious university would spend so much time researching dogs.

"When I first got this idea of trying it with dogs, I was looking at homicide data and divorce rates due to jealousy and possible gender differences," Harris said.

As for the funding, Harris spent about $10 to buy the stuffed dog and the subjects were all volunteers.

"But it does give us a piece of information to help us understand a fundamentally important emotion," she said.

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