Dogs may not be human but when dogs lose either an owner or another pet, they grieve as their owners do. Dogs can experience many emotions, just like humans. After all, if they have other basic needs in common with humans, such as food and sleep, so why can’t they also feel sadness?
In fact, they have more opportunities to grieve than their owners do, as often they’re not the only family pet. When another dog with which they’ve shared their home suddenly leaves or dies, the surviving dog also grieves.
Do All Dogs Grieve the Same?
The degree of sadness is linked to the personality of the dog, as well as the breed. It’s also affected by the amount of serotonin as dogs with lower serotonin (a neurotransmitter linked with mood enhancement) are likely to suffer depression somewhat more than alpha dogs.
Signs Your Dog is Grieving
- Loss of appetite
- Quieter with less barking
- Loses interest in walks
- Sluggish and tired
What You Can Do to Help
Use a blanket reminder
Keep an old blanket or another article with the scent of the deceased dog. By keeping out an item belonging to the dog that died, your grieving dog can remember his friend’s scent. Or if your dog is grieving over someone human who either left permanently or died, let him smell an old sweater or anything belonging to the person who’s now gone from his life.
Take care rides
Include your grieving dog when you do errands and go on trips. For example, if you’re going through a bank drive-through or any other place where your dog is safe in the car, take him with you.
Take long walks
Take more walks with your dog so he won’t be alone most of the time to grieve. Whether it’s just a stroll around the block or taking him with you to the mailbox, it will be a good bonding time. If you have more time, take long walks or take him to the park to play.
Adjusting to a New Position
Just as with human siblings, dogs set up a “pecking order” when a household has more than one pet. Usually, one is the leader, the others are followers. If the grieving dog was a follower and not a leader he may need to adjust to not having a stronger dog calling the shots. Or, if the grieving dog was used to giving orders, he’ll need to adjust to not having another dog to boss around.
Should You Replace the Deceased Dog?
This can be a good idea, but it’s best not to rush out and add another pet to the family immediately. Wait at least a few weeks or even longer. Also, wait to get rid of the deceased dog’s belongings. Give your surviving dog a chance to tell his furbaby sibling goodbye. Again, if you immediately dispose of the dead dog’s belongings you don’t give your grieving dog an opportunity to work out his (or her) feelings and remember the furbaby that passed scent.
Note that some breeds, such as boxers, do just as well without another dog around. In other words, whether or not to adopt another dog depends on your dog’s breed and personality.
Helping your dog through the grief process will help not only your best friend but will be healing for you as well. Just as with humans, dogs and owners need a shoulder to cry on when they experience a loss.
You may also like to read how to help a child with grief over a lost pet.