DOGS ARE intensely jealous animals that experience a range of complex human-like emotions, a new study at the University of Portsmouth has revealed. However, many dog owners will say that their best friends have always harboured such emotions.
The study of 1000 domestic animal owners in the south of England also uncovered examples where jealous dogs acted as 'uninvited chaperones' between couples sharing romantic moments.
The research was carried out by University of Portsmouth psychologist Dr Paul Morris and colleague Christine Doe, and will be presented at the BA Festival of Science in Norwich, on Thursday 7th September.
It challenges the long-held scientific belief that only humans and their close relatives chimpanzees are able to experience secondary emotions such as jealousy, guilt, shame and pride.
Dr Morris, who is an animal behaviour expert, said dog owners showed 'remarkable consistency' in reporting jealous behaviour.
He said dogs could feel intense pangs of jealousy and animosity when in a 'love triangle' involving their owner and another person or animal.
"The study set the typical behavioural index of jealousy as pushing between the carer and the third party, and this is what happened more than 80 per cent of the time," Dr Morris said. "The significant aspect of these findings is that most academic theorists agree this behaviour is appropriately labelled as jealousy."
Dr Morris said it was readily accepted in the scientific community that dogs, cats, horses and other non-primate animals experience primary emotions such as anger, anxiety and surprise.
’Secondary’ emotions such as jealousy, pride, embarrassment and shame are considered to be the exclusive domain of humans and perhaps chimpanzees as they have the cognitive capacities required to support the complex range of secondary emotions.
But according to Dr Morris, this thinking might have to be revised.
"Our study provided good empirical evidence that has convinced many scientists that dogs at least demonstrate behaviour that is very like human jealousy," he added. "The data clearly suggest that complex emotions are present in a wider range of species than once thought and that animals do indeed have rich emotional lives."
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