- When someone or another pet in the home dies, dogs may show signs that could be interpreted as grief, including crying or searching, appetite loss, a sad demeanour
- Keeping your dog’s routine as close to normal as possible will help them cope with loss
- If a fellow dog has died, getting a new dog or puppy may be a good thing for your dog, if introduced to each other carefully
When an owner or fellow housemate passes away, dogs show signs that could be interpreted as grief. They may experience:
• loss of appetite
• change in sleep patterns
• a need for extra attention
• a generally sad demeanour
But you should also note you may not witness any of these changes.
Do dogs grieve?
Many anecdotes suggest that animals do feel what humans call ‘grief’, including an understanding that the deceased is not coming back, but there is little scientific evidence to back this up. What we do know is that many species are affected by loss and experience feelings of sadness and loneliness.
When a person or pet with whom a dog has spent a lot of time passes away, their regular routine is likely to change. Dogs can become upset or stressed by this disruption and you may notice a change in their behaviour, including the signs listed above.
Dogs may also react if they become aware that you are grieving. Humans’ behaviour changes when they are visibly upset and your pet may pick up on this or experience confusion.
Dogs may show no signs at all when another pet in the home passes away. If there was no particular bond between the deceased pet and the surviving dog, you may find your dog appears unaffected by the loss.
How can I help my grieving dog?
The best thing you can do is be there for your dog. Dogs are creatures of habit, so keeping their routine as close to normal as possible is a good way to avoid the stress of disruption. Keep meal times the same and don’t change their diet. Make sure they are eating, drinking and toileting properly.
Dogs may experience anxiety when a person or pet they spent a lot of time with no longer comes through the door at the same time each evening, or isn’t there to share in the excitement of going out for a walk. It’s ok to comfort your dog if they come to you for a cuddle.
Praise your dog for calm behaviour and ignore the behaviour that it’s best not to encourage. It’s utterly heartbreaking to see your dog waiting hopefully for a family member who you know is not going to return, but try not to fuss your dog while they wait as you will encourage them to continue waiting. Instead, either leave your pet be or encourage them away from their waiting spot to come and play with you instead.
Pheromones may help to calm dogs that are stressed. Ask your vet about these.
Take the time to focus on your bond with your surviving pet. Think about what makes them happy and do more than that. For some dogs this might be getting lots of fuss, and for others it might be training, play or longer walks. Human or animal, loss affects us all, but we cope best when we care for each other.