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If you have ever tried playing with someone else’s dog in front of your own, then the results of a recent canine study may not surprise you.
Dr. Christine Harris, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego, conducted an experiment in which dog owners interacted with fake, barking dogs, in front of their own. The reactions of the neglected dogs indicated jealousy, or so Harris thought.
Though many of the owners’ dogs ran over to the scene and nudged away the stuffed dogs, some scientists, such as Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, do not believe that this suggested desire for attention necessarily comes from jealousy. The study confirmed only that “dogs seem to want an owner’s attention when there is attention being given out,” Horowitz told the New York Times.
Jealousy is the third leading cause of non-accidental homicide, as noted in the study. It is a complex emotion that scientists continue to research, striving to understand it in order to control its consequences.
In the meantime, Brian Hare, director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, noted a more immediate application of the study results. “Attention seeking can lead to jealousy-like behavior in dogs that includes aggression in some cases, so for dogs with suspected aggression problems, it may be important to avoid situations where they feel ignored.”