Sad dog grieving

Do Dogs Mourn Other Dogs? Unraveling Canine Grief  , Dogs may be known as man’s best friend, but they can also form close bonds with members of their own species – and even mourn the death of their canine companions.

And 2022 study of 426 pet dogs found that after the death of a pet dog, the surviving dog often showed behavioral changes. Increased “attention seeking” tops the list, along with lethargy, fear, decreased appetite and more vocalization.

“Do dogs mourn the passing of another dog? Some do, but not all. For some, it’s like water off a duck’s back. It just changes the dynamic in the home,” says Nicholas Dodman, a certified veterinary behaviorist, professor emeritus at Tufts University, and co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit Center for Canine Behavior Research. “But when there’s a close relationship, when the good friend passes, the (surviving) dog gets very low.”

Symptoms of a grieving dog

How dogs grieve depends on the individual, according to another study. This is consistent with Dodman’s observations.

According to Stephen Feldman, president of the nonprofit Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) in Washington, D.C., losing another dog can cause separation pain and produce grief behavior in the surviving dog.

“We know that dogs are social creatures, just like humans, and can bond with other dogs living in same householdFeldman says. “It is also theorized that emotion from the owner’s own grief causes some dogs to change their behavior and reflect that grief.’

Read more: Dogs and their owners share similar personality traits

How to help a grieving dog

Dodman remembers several of his patients showing such signs of depression after the death of another family dog. They appeared dull, “empty-eyed” and showed no interest in normal activities such as playing and eating.

Concerned owners may spend more time petting their dogs and trying to engage them in games or longer walks, as exercise generates serotonin. When dogs develop separation anxiety and no longer want to be left home alone, diets, supplements or anti-anxiety medications can help.

In extreme cases, Dodman recommends asking your veterinarian for a referral for a certified applied animal behaviorist or bring home a new dog.

“I think a puppy is the best therapy for a depressed dog,” he says, adding that it’s important to have a compatible relationship. (Many animal shelters and rescue organizations offer “meet and greets” for potential adopters and their pets.)

Clearing the confusion

Dogs have grief that is recognizable to us, but not identical to the way humans grieve, according to Philip Tedeschi, founder and director emeritus of the University of Denver’s Institute for the Human-Animal Connection and co-director of the Institute for Feelings and Protection of animals.

Sometimes this includes suffering from not understanding what happened to their companion when they leave home and never return.

“Human beings can make death very complicated,” says Tedeschi. “We added that sense of permanence to it.”

So after one of his dogs is euthanized, he brings his living pets to examine the body—and recommends others do the same.

“Often they’ll sit there with them and be with them for a period of time, and then you’ll see them eventually be able to get up and walk around and move away from the body. They will scrutinize them, but eventually they will feel that they can separate. And that allows, I think, at least to understand what happened,” says Tedeschi.

After all, admitting that dogs are sentient beings with emotions—including the ability to grieve—will help everyone in the family recover from the death of a beloved dog. Feldman notes that canine grief behavior demonstrates the social interconnectedness of humans and their pets and the importance of maintaining the mental and social well-being of our dogs.

“Just as dogs support us during the grieving process, we also have a responsibility to support them,” concludes Feldman.

Read more: How do we know if dogs have a sense of time?

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