Do Dogs Grieve? How Dogs Are Affected by Loss of Other Dogs | Pupford
March 27th, 2023
Filed under Pet Parenting
Loss and grieving are never pleasant topics, but it’s an unfortunate part of having loved ones in our lives.
When we lose a dog family member, it has a significant impact on everyone, including the other dogs in our households.
That brings up many questions... Do dogs grieve? How do dogs experience loss? How do I know if my dog is ready for another pet to come into our home?
Today we’re going to take a closer look at grief in our dogs so you can better understand how to help your pup through a difficult time.
Before we get started, we just want to take a moment to acknowledge all of our pup parents out there who have lost an animal family member. We know it’s not easy, but the Pupford community is here to help support you. But if this article becomes too emotionally overwhelming, go ahead and close it out. We’re here when you’re ready!
DO DOGS GRIEVE OTHER DOGS & HUMANS?
Dogs value companionship and relationships, which unfortunately means they are aware when a loved one is no longer there. In that sense, yes, dogs do grieve even if you do not realize it at the moment.
But just like people, each dog reacts differently to a loss. It also differs depending on whether the loss was sudden or if there was an illness that the surviving dog was able to sense.
Some dogs are affected deeply while others seem to carry on as before. Some react physically, emotionally, and/or behaviorally. Just like we tell other humans, there isn’t one way to grieve that’s “right” or “wrong.”
HOW DO DOGS GRIEVE?
It is helpful to know common ways dogs experience grief so you can help them through it as best as you can. Here are some ways your dog might grieve after experiencing a loss:
- Behavioral changes. Grief can impact a dog’s personality and behaviors. Some dogs feel they have to “step up” to fill the role of the dog who passed away – it’s common to see the surviving dog assume the position of the “leader,” becoming more outgoing, confident, and outspoken.
On the other hand, some dogs become more quiet and withdrawn, as they are not really sure how to navigate their territory without the guidance of their friend.
- Physical changes. Just as humans can experience physical side effects from grief, so can dogs. You may see them become more lethargic, lose their appetite, or show signs of illness as their grief impacts their nervous and immune systems.
- Nothing at all. Some dogs don’t show any outward signs or changes during grief. This doesn’t mean they’re not aware, or that they didn’t love their companion. Dogs have a natural tendency to hide their pain so as to not appear weak to potential predators, so this may be an act of self-preservation.
While these are normal things for your dog to experience and most will be temporary, it’s important to not let them get out of hand. If behavioral changes are causing destruction and aggression, get the help of a certified dog trainer.
Likewise, if physical symptoms cause your dog to not eat or drink, or if they appear sick, consult your veterinarian. Just as there’s no shame in seeking professional help as a person experiencing grief, there shouldn’t be any for your dog either!
HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR DOG THROUGH GRIEF?
There are some things you can do to help your dog through this difficult time of loss. Some might not work for every dog, but knowing some things you can try is a great start.
1. STAY WITH YOUR ROUTINE
Losing a pet is incredibly stressful for both the humans and other animals in the house. Continuing your routine (, walking times, training sessions, etc.) as closely as possible can help reduce stress by providing a sense of normalcy and predictability.
This can also help you as a pet parent cope with your loss as well, as you continue to provide love and care for your other dog(s).
2. INCREASE EXERCISE
Maybe your dog is used to having an all-day playmate to expend energy with. Or maybe their lost companion was a leader and now they are looking for direction.
Either way, your dog might be feeling a little lost, anxious, or even bored. Adding in an additional daily walk, , or a game of fetch may help your dog find their direction and spend their energy productively
3. PROVIDE MORE MENTAL STIMULATION
Similarly, it’s important to provide plenty of during this time to and continue strengthening your bond. Be sure to provide plenty of enrichment toys, add new skills into training sessions, and just spend some extra time bonding with your dog.
HOW TO KNOW IF IT’S TIME FOR ANOTHER PET
One of the most frequently asked questions around pet loss is how to know when to bring another dog into your family. Is it too soon? Has my dog now grown accustomed to being the only dog?
There is no one right or wrong answer, and no right or wrong time to make that decision as a family. But there are a few considerations that, if you answer yes to, may indicate that your family is ready:
- Are you ready for another dog? Bringing a new dog home is a lot of work, whether they are a puppy or an adult. You have to be 110% ready to commit time and energy to acclimate a new dog to your environment, which may include , potty training, basic obedience, setting a new routine, and more.
- Is your dog ready for another dog? Your dog may not have the same relationship with a new dog as they did with their companion who passed. It might be a good idea to schedule playdates or meetings on neutral ground to see how your dog reacts around other dogs – if you can do this with the dog you’re considering bringing home, that’s even better.
- Can your dog be involved in the selection process? This sounds strange, but hear us out. Some centers and shelters will allow your dog to come and meet potential new dog siblings, which helps ensure they will get along. If this is possible, try to choose a dog that your remaining dog shows a positive reaction to.
RECAP OF DOGS & GRIEF
We wish there were some magic words we could say to alleviate the pain of losing a pet. While unfortunately, we can’t do that, we can help you understand how it impacts the other dogs in your home so you can work as a family to get through it together.
While no new pet can truly “replace” one you’ve lost, if you’ve recently brought home a new dog to your family as part of the healing process, we’d love to hear how it’s going and “meet” your new dog – tell us about them in the comments or tag us in pictures on Instagram!