Science is a wonderful thing.
It can determine the age of the universe (13.798 billion years, if you’re counting from home).
Or it can find out if your dog gets jealous.
Seriously, a study released last week proves that Fido doesn’t like it when you scratch behind some other dog’s ears, even if the other dog is a stuffed animal.
Researchers at the University of California (it’s not, like, Harvard) did an experiment with 36 dog owners and their dogs. First, owners were told to play with a little stuffed dog that barks and wags its tail (Tickle Me Fido?), followed by one of those Halloween jack-o’-lantern treat buckets, followed by reading aloud from a children’s popup book.
As you might expect, the dogs were only moderately perturbed by the book and the jack-o’-lantern, although 42 per cent weren’t sure about that jack-o’-lantern. But they went all canine when their humans started messing with another dog. In fact, 78 per cent tried to push the toy dog away, and one in four actually snapped at it.
As interesting as this is, dog owners don’t need science to tell them their dogs get jealous.
Before the kids came along, we had a dog named Mabel. People would ask, “Where did you come up with a dumb name like Mabel?” I replied that I should have called her Dinner, as that’s the only name she’ll answer to.
Mabel was not the most affectionate animal but she showed her true colours (black and tan and green all over) the day we brought the first baby home from the hospital. No nudging with her nose or snapping — she just walked into the nursery and deposited a load.
In case there was any doubt about her intentions, 18 months later, when we brought home the second baby, she did exactly the same thing — the only other incident of incontinence in her 17-year existence.
Then there was her body language. Whenever the kids were in the room, Mabel would deliberately turn her back and pointedly ignore them. They grew up traumatized.
Of course, faced with the data, the scientists are showing admirable restraint. “We can’t really speak to the dogs’ subjective experiences, of course, but it looks as though they were motivated to protect an important social relationship,” said Christine Harris, the lead researcher.
Well, duh. Not to mention an important meal ticket. After all, there’s more at stake here than a scratch behind the ears.
When you’re a dog, you need your best friend more than- he or she needs you. So the last thing you need is some other animal — or stupid jack-o’-lantern — competing for tasty snacks that are rightfully yours.
It’s a dog’s life. And there’s no room for another one.