Do dogs grieve the loss of their loved ones?

It is a truth that is universally acknowledged, that a dog is a man’s best friend. They give us affection, loyalty and companionship for life. If you have seen the movie Hachiko: a dog’s tale, I am sure that you would have been weeping buckets just by watching Hachi waiting for his dead master to return back to him everyday till the poor dog died. So, grieving is a process that is not just limited to us humans, it even extends to our canine buddies.

Consider this, once a dog’s owner dies the initial phase will be sad and confusing for the pet. It will be difficult initially for them to adjust to the change even if any prior arrangements had been made for the dog to be under the care of a trusted person.

It is normal for the dog to grieve the loss of their loved one as they might not understand the absence of their owner. But they do have the same emotional feeling as we do of missing a person who is no longer a part of our daily life.

We cannot exactly communicate with dogs to explain the sudden demise of their loved one but there are certain indicators like change of routine or the absence of the owner’s sensations like sight, sound and smell that help them figure that their owner is no longer present.

A dog that is grieving its loved one will show their distress through a change in behaviour that is different from their regular routine. Since no two dogs grieve the same way it is important for you keep a watch on a grieving pet and look for signs that can affect their health.

A grieving dog will generally be sad. Anxiety and stress will also be present. Here are the signs that you need to look out for:

  • Pacing
  • Biting
  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Fidgeting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Tends to cling
  • Loss of interest in physical activities they used to enjoy before

A fine example of a grieving dog is Danny, a German Shepherd, a Service dog to a Canadian police dog handler Constable Dave Ross. Constable Ross, lost his life in the line of duty and during his funeral his loyal dog Danny whimpered next to his casket. This does tell a lot about the level of bonding a dog and his master shared and how the dog grieved the loss of his loved one.

Once you understand that a dog is grieving the loss of their loved one, being sensitive to their needs is the right way to help them recover. Here is what you need to do:

  • Get to know the dog’s regular routine and do your best to stick to them.
  • Spend more time with them and make them feel comfortable.
  • Give them extra affection. A gentle touch can do wonders for a grief afflicted pet.
  • Play their favourite games and increase their exercise.

We cannot gauge how long a dog can grieve but with the passing of time most dogs do recover emotionally. But if you notice signs of deteriorating health physically or emotionally then you must consult the vet just to make sure that the symptoms of grief do not mask other serious health conditions.

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