Do Dogs Feel Jealousy?

In a recent experiment dogs were said to have displayed jealousy when their owner paid attention to a stuffed dog that could be made to bark and wag its tail. It was based on an experiment with pre-verbal children who likewise were said to become jealous when their parent attended to and lavished over a doll. So is the dog’s response an evolutionary precursor to jealousy as we see it in humans? Yes. Does the brand of jealousy that an adult human experiences differ in kind from these two examples? Yes.

Lee Charles Kelley has written a very good treatment of this experiment, focusing on the writings of Darwin around the notion of continuity in evolution, which many interpreters of this experiment such as Drs. Bekoff and Coren have cited in support of their positions that dogs can indeed feel jealous.

There’s little need to add to Lee’s argument other than for purposes of going on the record and to point out that such experiments generally demonstrate the opposite of what they are interpreted to mean by the mainstream.

What’s really being evidenced is the overpowering and subconscious effect that physical memories exert on feelings, something humans begin to gain a considerable distance from as we gain language, and to such an extent that our verbal minds differ in kind rather than by degree from animals in this regards.

Were we to substitute a person for either a dog, or the prelinguistic child, in either experiment, the distinction between true human jealousy and its evolutionary antecedent becomes clear. If for example our Significant Other walked about the house fondling, schmoozing and embracing a stuffed paramour of our sexual persuasion, one would not become jealous; one would become disturbed. This is because in conjunction with a capacity to experience jealousy, which requires a thought (i.e. the capacity to compare one moment or point of view with another), one would also be able to recognize that object of our partner’s affections was a stuffed dummy. One wouldn’t feel jealous, one would fear that one’s partner had gone crazy. If someone is capable of experiencing jealousy (an interruption of flow associated with a thought of causation) then one is simultaneously capable of discriminating between inanimate and animate forms. For example, humans play catch with a ball and we derive great pleasure from it, probably through the same emotional/motor responses that motivate dogs to chase a ball with the intensity akin to taking out a rabbit. But no matter how much we may love to play catch, we never go on to think that the ball is an actual prey animal and then have to resist the compulsion to dismember and swallow its fragments like many a ball crazy dog has to be trained not to do. Our playing with a ball differs in kind from a dog’s play with a ball.

As Bekoff says a number of anecdotes equal data. I’ve known thousands of so-called jealous dogs in my life and one of the first things that struck me in the beginning of my career was how site-specific the instances of aggression were. Two dogs that would kill over an owner’s attention in the kitchen, could frolic with abandon when out in the yard as if nothing had just happened even when blood had been drawn. (In fact the vast majority of instances of “jealousy” between dogs happen in compressed spaces.) But we see that when people become jealous, they are jealous wherever they are, they carry it around with them from place to place and from moment to moment. That’s what the conceptualizing intellect does and so context isn’t the defining feature of adult human jealousy. So what is here being labeled as jealousy is in fact insecurity. The dog is fearful that it’s connection to its owner is broken and this is because most owners use their attention as a vehicle for their affection and dogs aren’t wired that way. When sensing a disconnect, a dog relives negative memories from its emotional past and then acts to turn these off. Very young children can fall through the same crack, getting the imprint from their parents that being the center of attention is the metric of connection.

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Published July 28, 2014 by Kevin Behan
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31 responses to “Do Dogs Feel Jealousy?”

  1. Very well done.

    You’re right, I wasn’t interested in countering Bekoff’s view that there’s no difference between human jealousy and the behaviors we see in dogs. My focus was on the fallacy of “evolutionary continuity,” and the continued misquoting of Darwin’s true views on the subject.

    But I have to tell you, if Bekoff or Coren were to read this, I don’t see how they could logically sustain their belief that these dogs were exhibiting jealousy.

    Well done!

  2. Rip says:

    “The dog is fearful that it’s connection to its owner is broken and this is because most owners use their attention as a vehicle for their affection…”

    A good point. What is the way around this problem, if that’s what it is?

  3. Kevin Behan says:

    Very edifying comments on Darwin, these days I think he’d be on our side of the debate.

  4. Kevin Behan says:

    From my vantage point there is so much more separation anxiety and aggression in dogs these days because owners are giving their dogs more attention than ever before. I believe a dog derives a feeling of connection from sensing that he is part of a team with a common goal. In the absence of that clear purpose, the irony is that when the dog is taken for granted it’s actually easier for his adaptive faculties to figure out how to fit in and get along on his own. In my model the flow is the thing and this is a function of alignment and synchronization, whereas when one is giving a dog attention they are facing the dog and this is a static-like emotional pressurization that most dogs dissipate via “friendliness” but they’re taking on an emotional load nonetheless. Their instincts then need an excuse to vent at some point (which can take months if not years to come out and so a linkage isn’t made) hence the separation anxiety or aggression.

  5. Ben says:

    Aside Coren and Bekoff’s interpretations, I thought the study itself was overall well done and I especially liked the care the authors took in the Q&A section:

    “The current findings add support to the emerging view [1], [9] that there is a primordial form of jealousy. This emotional state does not presuppose complex interpretations of the behavior of the rival and the attachment figure and its meaning to the self, (although such cognitions clearly can impact jealousy in adult interpersonal relationships). Primordial jealousy appears not only ontogenetically early in humans but may also have emerged phylogenetically early. We use the term ‘primordial’ to reflect a state that motivates jealous action tendencies that are similar across dogs and humans (of course, these findings do not speak to whether the subjective experience of the emotional state is similar).”

    The authors reference a book (Handbook of Jealousy: Theory, Research, and Multidisciplinary Approaches) which states:

    “In uncovering the emergence of jealousy early in life, be it in normal or clinical populations, researchers face a theoretical dilemma. They can either see jealousy as the harbinger of a certain cognitive change, for example interpersonal awareness, or as precluded on logical grounds because the presumed necessary cognitive capacities are not yet in place. If we stop seeing jealousy as an all-or-none phenomenon, but rather as something that takes different forms throughout development, we can also stop seeing these cognitive capacities as all-or-none phenomena. As Hobson argues, it is conceivable, and indeed likely, that only some forms of interpersonal awareness are necessary for experiencing jealousy.”

    So the question of what is necessary to experience something like jealousy, even in infant humans, is certainly still being debated. I do think it’s important to consider the point made in the quotation above that it might not be an all-or-none phenomenon. To me, jealousy *can* be a complex experience but it also has an emotional layer that is relatively simple. The implication that one needs to mentally deliberate as a causal precursor to the experience of jealousy I think is false.

    “One wouldn’t feel jealous, one would fear that one’s partner had gone crazy.”

    While no doubt most people would think they’d gone crazy, jealousy would surely be the emotional counterpart to this thought? Jealousy over inanimate objects is common– no discriminatory capability needed. I’d argue that inanimate objects are often imbued with human qualities in order to justify the emotional experience of jealousy towards that object.

  6. Kevin Behan says:

    “As Hobson argues, it is conceivable, and indeed likely, that only some forms of interpersonal awareness are necessary for experiencing jealousy.”

    Great points. The above mention of “interpersonal awareness” brings us to the crux of the discussion. From my point of view, the reason I think there is so much paradox and ambiguity about the distinctions between human and animal experience, is because at the moment there isn’t an accurate definition of emotion and the Self. There are two assumptions we can make, emotion as a mental, cognitive experience, and the sense-of-self as a function of a sense of being separate from one’s surroundings. “There is ME and there is OTHER THAN ME. Or we could make the other set of assumptions that emotion is a state of attraction that is physical and subconscious if not unconscious. It is monolithic and expresses in the mind as a positive “force” of attraction, rather than being many faceted. In this view jealousy wouldn’t be an emotion since the experience isn’t wholly pleasurable. Rather it emerges from the collapse of a state of attraction, and these invoke the sensations of falling/crashing, which then precipitate instincts and in humans thoughts as in “how am I going to go on if I lose this person.” The jealousy could even evolve into a morbid grief because the human mind perceives a future horizon that stretches to an infinite point in Time. In my view of the animal mind, the “Self” would be constructed as a function of the surroundings, in other words, the animal mind (the human animal included) considers objects-of-attraction as if they are part of their very Self. So there is a great continuity between the animal realm and the human animal, but what sets the human apart is the capacity to entertain a sense of Self as being separate from the surroundings, which is why we connect things linearly according to a chronological narrative rather than by dint of energetic principles. So what I’m saying is that Jealousy isn’t a single thing, a primal emotion, it’s a composite of emotion (state of attraction), plus a feeling (state of suspension), plus a collapse, plus sensations from the collapse, plus instincts triggered by the sensations, plus thoughts. I do believe that a person has to mentally deliberate (which can be an instantaneous, reflexive action of the intellect) to be capable of jealousy. I don’t see how someone could be jealous of an inanimate object without being mentally deranged in some way.
    The dog has the elements all the way up to the thought, anything that compares one moment in time to another, a future consequence of losing a loved one, and one point of view to another, “Why doesn’t my partner (Being A) love me (Being B) as much as this other person/dog (Being C). One has to perceive’s one’s Self as separate from its surroundings. This would be the domain of an Ego.
    In the experiment, the dog perceives the stuffed dog as a real dog because the owner’s attention to the stuffed dog triggers physical memories of the owner diverting their attention from the dog. The stuffed dog becomes an extension of the owner (just as a real dog is also an extension of the owner if the owner attends to it) and the dog now experiences a collapse of a state of attraction to his owner since his sense of Self can’t encompass the stuffed dog plus the owner any more than it could a real dog. The dog can’t hold all these elements into a state of suspension, there’s too much charge for the connection to his owner to conduct and the sensations of collapse trigger coping reflexes. Now if I were to attend to a stuffed dog, my dog would want to grab it and push it into me because that would be the physical memories that would trigger in my dog. And when he was young this was something I had to deal with when I would get rowdy with real dogs and I had to teach him to divine some nuance in my manner (i.e. increase the connection between us to encompass the added energy of a real, rowdy dog) so that he could gain the distinction in my manner and gain a set of new physical memories. But in point of fact a dog doesn’t make a distinction between animate or inanimate objects, if an object is emotionally relevant to the dog because it has somehow been invested with a charge, then physical memories are triggered and this is how dogs are capable of generating coherent responses, which are then interpreted by most, and understandably so, as being the function of mental cogitation and narrative building.

  7. Ben says:

    Speaking of definitions, it would also be worth nailing down a good definition for jealousy in this discussion. The authors of the study make a distinction for theirs: “We use the term ‘primordial’ to reflect a state that motivates jealous action tendencies”. They aren’t imbuing dogs with any thoughts here, but applying the label of ‘primordial jealousy’ to the set of behaviors they saw (and that are typically seen in humans and identified as jealousy).

    I do see your point– if we’re going to say dogs can distinguish between animate and inanimate objects like humans, why do they tear apart their toy balls, mount pillows, or any other number of behaviors that seem to indicate they do not? What mechanism controls what is/is not and when? This presumably would lead one down the road of considering a degree of ToM. However..

    My point though is that there can be cognitive processing going on that stimulates emotional responses and behavioral actions with no guided deliberation needed, EVEN for something like jealousy. If I see my fiancee with another man, I will start to have an emotional reaction *before* I have any internal mental dialogue. In other words, if internal deliberation were taking place it’d go something like “That is my fiancee. There is another man. They are in close proximity.” Now, those sensory inputs will definitely be cognitively processed, but will precede conscious awareness and active deliberation. I know this has been shown to be the case in experimental setups. In other words, there is neurological machinery that handles interpretation of the stimuli and prompts behavioral responses typically associated with jealousy with no guided deliberation needed. The explosion of mental dialogue after the fact is, neurologically speaking, far behind what is actually driving behavior.

    As for inanimate objects.. a stereotypical situation: a woman jealous over her husband’s classic muscle car that he spends all his free time working on. Of course rationally she knows it is an inanimate object, but I don’t think her emotional experience is going to be much different than if her husband were flirting with another woman at a bar. The former may take longer to take hold, but what’s important to note is that the emotional experience may end up being the same when she sees him working on the car. Phrases like “I hate that damn car!” in such a situation are irrational but speak to how intention and other qualities are imbued into everyday objects. We mentally make things “alive” in order to make them emotionally conductive for us.

  8. Kevin Behan says:

    Ben: “Speaking of definitions, it would also be worth nailing down a good definition for jealousy in this discussion. The authors of the study make a distinction for theirs: “We use the term ‘primordial’ to reflect a state that motivates jealous action tendencies”. They aren’t imbuing dogs with any thoughts here, but applying the label of ‘primordial jealousy’ to the set of behaviors they saw (and that are typically seen in humans and identified as jealousy).”

    I agree the authors are being very cautious and are being as logical as they can, but conjoining primordial with jealousy is already leaping to a conclusion. In my view ‘primordial jealousy’ is an oxymoron. They are already ascribing intention to the actions of the dogs in their experiments and that is not in the strictest sense going only by the behavior. Furthermore I can’t see how they are going to end up with a viable definition for jealousy without first having a definition for emotion, feelings, instincts and thoughts with clear demarcations between these because they’re still working from an assumption that the animal entertains a sense of self identical to a human, and that emotion is the same as an instinct and a feeling is the same as a thought. The other line of logic is only available if one makes the assumption of animal behavior as a function of attraction rather than intention, and a Sense-of-Self as integration with the surroundings as opposed to a sense of separateness from the surroundings. I would argue what’s primordial is attraction/suspension/collapse and I’m doing so through a strict definition of the terms emotion–feelings–instinct and thoughts, which leads to a clear distinction between what’s primordial and what’s more evolved, i.e. the capacity to compare two moments in time, or two points of view.
    That’s a helpful example with your fiancee. If the bond is strong between the couple, then the sight of fiancee with another man won’t precipitate a collapse and the jealousy problem won’t come up. So the connection or bond is what sets the stage for the cogitation thereafter. And then even if indeed the connection is very strong but your fiancee is required to spend a lot of intimate time with the world’s sexiest man, someone who when we compare ourselves (money, looks, confidence, etc.) to we find ourselves wanting, then over a period of time there can indeed be cogitation (through Time travel and hypothetical thinking) which can prompt a collapse and a state of jealousy could arise, but that possibility can’t happen with a dog. If a dog sees their owner giving affection to someone or something else and doesn’t feel unsettled, and then time goes by the dog won’t begin to question their connection because given a dog’s Sense-of-Self as a function of its surroundings, the dog will automatically attributes all the good things that it subsequently experiences as due to each element of its group. Even if the dog’s role in its original owners’ life is completely displaced by a spouse and a household of children, the emotionally healthy dog will perceive the addition of each new member as more energy and so no collapse is possible.
    In the car analogy it is of course possible that the animal in the human can bleed into the intellectual frame of reference and then the physical memory of irritation toward the husband can be projected onto the car, in other words she can be regressed to her infant like prelinguistic mind, but even so the source of attribution will remain the husband. And again we’re also talking about an underlying emotional bond that’s not high capacity. So she’ll see the car and unless she’s stark-raving mad, in reality she will still be mad at her husband, not the car (and will quickly be able to find that linkage within her) like she would be another woman who were to come between them.
    At any rate, this is why I wrote in “Natural Dog Training” that the bond is the true training agency, the entire group comprises the individual member’s mind, it’s the basis for how the canine mind learns. The perception of all stimuli are colored by that bond and whether or not it can conduct full flow.

  9. Julie Forlizzo says:

    After I have spent time with a dog, whether for behavior or training, I have found that not using human thoughts and injecting them into the dog, it allows the dog a freedom to align with me, maybe even bond. Anytime I return a dog to its owners, as I am leaving, the dog inevitably strains against its leash as I turn to go to my car. And the owners always say the same thing, “My dog loves you more than he loves me.” I always hope that the owners are not expressing jealousy. If anything, I feel a twinge of jealousy that they own this phenomenal dog and I don’t. But here again are human thoughts and emotions twirling around. Dog owners love their dogs so much, that they want to believe their dogs will become jealous, because in usual human form, jealousy is just part of loving (at least if jealousy is kept under control). But how does a dog feel jealousy and furthermore, how does he keep it from getting out of hand? Will he bite his human in a moment of jealous rage, or will he just wag his tail and whine for a few moments? How does a dog begin this moment of jealousy and how long does it last? Does a human have to redirect his dog to something more exciting in order to “change the subject”? That’s an awful lot of thinking on the dog’s part and that’s a huge “problem” for the dog to have to solve. So many owners are adamant that their dogs feel jealousy. I can see a dog being attracted to one of its owners over another, or perhaps seeking “confirmation” that he is part of the group. As far as studies with apes, from what I understand, apes that have learned sign language have expressed jealous moments. I wasn’t there and did not observe what the researchers observed. But I believe that even researchers experience jealousy in the sense that their studies are more profound than another human’s studies, and they have such a need to be right and the other person to be wrong. Perhaps this is pride more than anything. Perhaps we can learn from our pets to not think so much and just enjoy the moment. Jealousy absolutely requires a thought and ends up emotionally charged by the circumstances. Maybe someone went into a jealous rage about something way back many years ago, and that rage may have caused them to receive the attention they were seeking, so jealousy becomes a tool later on in life, thus manipulation is manifested. And who among us does not manipulate? Are researchers not trying to manipulate us into believing one point of view or study over another’s? Jealousy can only lead us down uncomfortable paths if we don’t control it. So, again, how does a dog control it? Is he capable of putting the brakes on and if so, at what point? I can only state that using less human thoughts around dogs affords us a freer life with them.

  10. Julie Forlizzo says:

    BTW, I have read Coren’s book, which left me with more questions than answers, and I’m not saying he hasn’t done his homework. On the other hand, I have seen Bekhoff’s seminars, read his book Animal Manifesto, and have communicated with him. He has such a high regard for animals, that sometimes I think he wants them to be just like us. I’ve seen him interact with his dogs, and his gentleness is beyond words. Bekhoff has a tremendous heart, and I believe that anyone who finds himself in a debate with him will discover that he is rational and compassionate, and more than willing to learn new facts. I am not a Darwinian so I have to disregard a lot of this blogging, but if something makes sense and it works, I stick with it. Kelley makes some great arguments, along with Kevin, so I follow with interest. If Bekhoff and Coren can explain how a dog can experience jealousy and deal with its consequences, I’d love to hear it. Jealousy does have consequences. It just seems like a big burden for our poor dogs. Also, I believe Bekhoff is coming from a good place in his heart, and that may be causing some err in his judgment.

  11. Ben says:

    Very helpful elucidation and good points– thanks for the follow-up.

  12. Kevin Behan says:

    I think the acid test is to put a person into the formula and see what we end up with. So if animals are capable of morality, then they are capable of murder, and this doesn’t square with a fair reading of behavior. If dogs are to be granted a personhood, will they then be indicted and brought to trial for a serious transgression? I can sympathize with the urge of the theorists to teach people that animals aren’t dumb brutes, and I couldn’t agree more, but as Lee used to write (perhaps too effectively) on Psychology Today the romantic approach ends up doing more harm than good.

  13. Ben says:

    That’s true if you subscribe to the Kantian notion of morality presupposing free will.

  14. b... says:

    KB: “They are already ascribing intention to the actions of the dogs in their experiments and that is not in the strictest sense going only by the behavior”

    Right. The logical leaps in conclusions and absence of true controls in these behavioral studies make them hard to take seriously. They’re really along the same continuum as more obvious errors in cause & effect analysis. If we saw a dog bite a remote control, most of us wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that the dog intended to change the channel. And when a dog picks up a pen in his mouth, we don’t assume that he intends to write us a note.

    Just because they use statistical analysis doesn’t make them accurate.

    Unless we evaluate the experiment purely in the framework of attraction, we inevitably end up with a morass of conflicting interpretations. For example, what about some dogs that would start licking the stuffed dog rather than snapping at it — if we employed the framework of (human) intention, we might say that those dogs became “affectionate” rather than “aggressive”. So are they still “jealous” or something else now? Or what if they began to dig on the stuffed dog or covered it with their paws? What human projection would we assign then? Everyone could argue for their choice.

  15. b... says:

    If we’re to believe the study’s conclusion that the capacity for jealousy is an innate trait, then how do we account for the dogs that didn’t respond with ‘jealous’ behavior? The study doesn’t actually prove that dogs are ‘hard-wired’ for jealousy, as the media reported. It just proves that some dogs will respond with these behaviors when triggered.

    A group of dogs with various undocumented histories is not a valid control for such a study. Of course this is the problem with many of these studies — they neglect the effect of cacophony of misguided training advice on today’s dog. More and more owners are looking for a genetic/medical scapegoat for the wild (literally, since they revert to instinct vs. drive and group mind, as Kevin has written elsewhere) behaviors they’re increasingly faced with.

    It would be more enlightening (and sensible) to examine what factors in their upbringing and handling may have contributed to this reactivity and what may have prevented it in the non-reactive dogs.

    And however sincere Bekoff’s love for animals, I don’t think he’s doing dogs any favors by justifying the rampant anthropomorphism of dog owners and researchers. This is precisely what leads to the overstimulated and confused dog of today — they have no idea how to be the furry little humans we so desperately want them to be.

  16. Julie Forlizzo says:

    “Everyone could argue for their choice.” I like that statement, because that is exactly what dog lovers do. I have never met a dog owner who didn’t want their dog to be jealous, or experience separation anxiety when the owner is away from their pet. They seem to “enjoy” the fact that their dog just cannot live without them. After all, they feel they have invested time and money into their dogs, so surely the dog must appreciate them even to the extent of jealousy, or their dog is “protective”, etc.. Many people like when their partner is jealous, so they live this nonsense through their poor dog. And when I say separation anxiety, I don’t mean to the extent that the dog is harming himself while trying to break free from a crate. Of course, that is the time when a trainer gets called or the dog is found a new home. But dog owners, in my experience, love making up stories about what their dogs are thinking. When they are told that their dog is not jealous or is not dying for their return home, the hair on the back of their necks stand up. “I know my dog” is always the response. When it’s all said and done, I believe it’s our prideful nature that gets in the way. So Coren and Bekoff are arguing “for their choice” because how dare their dog not feel jealousy when their gaze is on someone else or something else. Human jealousy is a choice and with it comes pride right on its heels. Scientists and biologists are some of the most prideful, and how dare a dog trainer tell them their research is leading them down the wrong path. But I will repeat myself that Bekoff is a compassionate man. He wants to protect animals from humans, and rightfully so. Perhaps he should remain on his path of spreading compassion. I think he means well.

  17. Julie Forlizzo says:

    In response to “b” about Bekoff, I agree. He is entering dangerous waters in a big sense. But a human’s heart goes a long way with me, so I continue to err on his side when it comes to his heart. His study of dogs freaks me out for the same reasons you just spoke of. Well said!

  18. Kevin Behan says:

    I don’t have any grounding in the great philosophies so don’t know where these ideas related to emotion as a “force” of attraction fall in such discussions. But what I’ve learned from dogs is that there is such a thing as Will, a biological life force (most likely with an attendant spiritual dimension which I don’t concern myself with in trying to understand the behavior of animals) and that nature conforms to this power of Will. But it’s quite akin to the nature/nurture debate which I resolve with the expression, the nature of Nature IS to nurture rather as seeing one as opposed to the other. In the same vein: no dog is an island, and paradoxically, the degree to which the dog integrates with the Network, is the degree to which nature will bend to its Will. In other words integration and integrity, autonomy and interconnectedness, are not opposites but complementary, a Yin and a Yan I suppose. So is any individual free to arbitrarily choose to do whatever they want? No, but any two individuals, and the more involved—the more powerful the effect; can freely choose to do anything.

  19. Carol Speier says:

    Another Scientific American article, July 29, 2014 “Rats Experience Feelings of Regret”

    “New study reveals rat’s remorse–another way other animals are like humans”

    Why it is necessary to spend so much time trying to find ways that animals are like humans. It seems as though potential similarities are primarily used to provide a basis for animal experimentation, the results of which are applied to human behavior. We use animal behavior to explain our behavior….hmmmm.

    I would much rather observe and enjoy the differences in behavior. In studying an animal’s behavior, it is not necessary, and it is often inappropriate to explain the animal behavior in terms of human behavior. We humans like to categorize things. Lumping these behaviors, that we consider to be similar, into one box, leads us to sometimes erroneously attribute them to the same causes, and to speculate that they would have the same effects.

    A rat is a rat. A dog is a dog. A human is a human. They behave differently for different reasons. Any similarity in their behaviors is not necessarily based on the same cause or circumstance. When compatibilities exist, we have a basis for building “relationships”, and perhaps we can take more enjoyment from sharing our small patch of the planet.

  20. Carol Speier says:

    Perhaps more on topic: Several years ago two of my adult Akitas got into a fight shortly after I entered the room. They came to me for attention, their eyes locked, tail wags turned into growls and progressed from there. It was fast. I had missed any possible opportunity for separating them safely. Somehow, I got the idea that since the fight started when I entered the room, perhaps it would do no harm to exit the room. Within seconds of my leaving the room, the fight ended. In fact, the dogs behaved as though it had never happened. I seemed to be the catalyst. Reading the posts here, brings me closer to a more accurate explanation for that event. My thanks to all of you.

  21. Julie Forlizzo says:

    Kevin, why is it that two dogs will fight when a human is nearby, and when the human leaves, the dogs seem as though nothing ever happened? I think Carol Speier makes a good point. Most dog owners would interpret this as jealousy between dogs.

  22. Kevin Behan says:

    This question brings us to the distinction between the dog and human mind. The dog perceives through a group perspective, in other words its sense of self is a construct of its surroundings, not as something self-contained (ego) that it sees in relief against the surroundings. Through this construct of a self there are completely different emotional dynamics depending on which entities are present. So two dogs that fight in presence of owner is because there is too much energy in that frame of reference for the respective emotional capacities of the dogs (the effects of a lower emotional capacity will show up in every other aspect of their behavior as well but these are mistakenly attributed to personality). Later when they are outside because the space is expansive rather than compressed, thermodynamically, emotion can move and the emotional capacities of the dogs is far higher. What ties moments together in the dog’s mind aren’t concepts but rather physical memories that are triggered in the various contexts and this makes it appear as if the dog sees things linearly as do we. The reality however is that we too are subject to physical memories (physical memories of motion and suspension are the basis of all feelings) but then we immediately think about what we’re feeling and confuse the two as being synonymous. Then we reflexively project these thoughts that we’ve attached to our own feelings, onto the behavior of dogs that trigger those physical memories in us. The only way to see through this mirror of our intellect is to study behavior as a function of attraction. That raises the curtain on what’s really going on before us and within us.

  23. b... says:

    Speaking of choosing your own interpretation…
    Quite a tale is woven here:

    Perhaps I’m confusing principles here, but in regards to the example of “self-control”…
    if a dog is in down-stay, and breaking it causes handler to appear and reissue the command, wouldn’t learning theorists say that dog is rewarded with attention for breaking down-stay? Aren’t the dogs then exercising the very opposite of self-control/willpower by eliciting attention reward by acting on their impulse to get up?

  24. b... says:

    And in the “aggression” example…

    If self-control is the sublimation of an instinct or impulsive desire, then from a cognitive standpoint wouldn’t it actually be more accurate to say that the dogs that avoided the aggressive caged dog (instead of approaching) were actually acting on their impulse for self-preservation and failing to sublimate it to serve socialization, which would be higher up in the cognitive hierarchy? Or is the author implying that *attraction* (and connection to another dog) is the more basic and innate instinct/impulse/desire that must be sublimated to demonstrate self-control? Hmm…

  25. Julie: “I have seen Bekhoff’s seminars, read his book Animal Manifesto, and have communicated with him. He has such a high regard for animals, that sometimes I think he wants them to be just like us. I’ve seen him interact with his dogs, and his gentleness is beyond words. Bekhoff has a tremendous heart, and I believe that anyone who finds himself in a debate with him will discover that he is rational and compassionate, and more than willing to learn new facts.”

    I agree, up to a point. The troubling thing for me is that when I gently pointed out a simple error in his position on “evolutionary continuity” in the comments section of both the jealousy post, and the earlier one he wrote on evolutionary continuity, he quickly deleted my comments and disabled the comments function altogether!

  26. Julie Forlizzo says:

    Lee, Bekoff is on a mission like all experts in the science arena. Your literature makes me think twice, which is good because I lack so much knowledge and experience. I’m learning from everyone for that matter. But I have posted in the past that egos are flying every which way. Don’t know what to believe anymore. Could it be that Bekoff is also an egotist? I suppose. Your commentaries should have remained posted. I’m a bit disenchanted that Bekoff deleted it. Everyone’s fighting to get to first base. All you experts should be heard equally. Perhaps somewhere in all of this lies the answers. Bekoff is coming from an animal welfare point of view and if he can get his readers to see his side, he feels certain the world would be a better place. It’s an uphill battle for him and people like him. Thanks, Lee, for the update.

  27. Kevin Behan says:

    A further point on this; critics who link intelligence with human thought, believe that I’m saying dogs aren’t intelligent and therefore don’t experience a rich emotional life. To the contrary, I’m saying dogs are intelligent not because they think like humans, but because they do experience a rich emotional life.

  28. Julie Forlizzo says:

    Kevin, when I tell a dog owner that dogs don’t think, rather they feel, it seems as though a wall goes up. Dog owners have a hard time understanding or accepting that their dog is not “thinking”, because every dog owner’s first words are “My dog is TOO smart” or “My dog messed in the house to irritate me.” I’m sure you’ve heard it all by now. How on earth do you approach people who won’t accept the fact that their dog is not “thinking”? NDT made so much sense to me when I first started learning from you. Every dog owner I come across believes their dog gets jealous. In layman’s terms, how do we even begin to break down that wall? I always start with the dog’s HEART, and that seems to settle the owners down somewhat. I understand the rich emotional life, but how do you convey that to the average dog owner?

  29. Kevin Behan says:

    I don’t have any easy answers, can only explore why it’s so hard. We have to always remind ourselves that anything to do with dogs, is not about dogs. Basically it traces back to archetypal, primordial fear of emotion and feelings that is embedded in the human psyche because this is the part of our nature that remains wild. In the early years of my career this fear manifested as the need to be in control (male polarity) and so the dog was an easy way to feel in control of emotion. But there has been a shift since then and so now the fear manifests as guilt (female polarity) which is merely just another means of trying to control emotion. Therefore when one is trying to teach someone that dogs don’t think, yet are intelligent and can feel, this is inherently threatening to the relationship one has cultivated with the nature of their own emotion, i.e. that thoughts are the superior agency of intelligence and must be in control of feelings. You’ll notice that the modern learning theory being guilt ridden about dogs, is consumed with dog advocacy, vilifying those who make credible arguments as science deniers when in fact they should revel in discussion since they claim that the light of day is edifying and this gives them the chance to let in the light of day. This is because they are approaching the discussion through a moral plane (in order to ameliorate guilt) rather than a pure analysis of the evidence on dogs. They don’t enjoy the discussion because the discussion for them isn’t about dogs. So the wall you’re running into is the barricade that has been erected to keep emotion “in its place.” All we can do is keep on pushin’!!

  30. […] Do Dogs Feel Jealousy? | Natural Dog Training […]

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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