Do dogs grieve when another dog dies? It’s maybe not a simple yes or no.

By | February 5, 2016

For households that own more than one dog, there will inevitably come a time when one dog will pass on, leaving the other dog behind. This ultimately leads us to ask the question “Do dogs grieve when another dog dies?”. There are many factors that come into play, so it’s not as straightforward as you may think.

All Dogs are not Equal

All Dogs are not EqualBecause dogs are highly intelligent animals, it might not surprise you to learn that it will depend on their personality as to how they react to another dog’s death. Just like humans, some are able to cope with loss very easily and move on, while others need to grieve deeply, and maybe openly, in order to deal with the situation.

Some dogs may show visible signs of sadness, such as

  • “mooching” around, not showing the same excitement, if any, in playing or toys
  • an inclination to go off their food
  • negative behavior – for example, a regression in training or responding to you
  • some dogs may even howl because they feel the loss so keenly

It’s important to note that even if another dog has passed away, if your remaining dog exhibits symptoms such as these, it’s a good idea to get a vet check up. Although they can’t tell you how they feel, and you may assume they are grieving, it’s always sensible to rule out any underlying health concerns.

Other dogs may not show any signs that they are suffering emotionally. Like some people, their way of dealing with it is to carry on with daily routine, and just get used to the additional space in their life.


 

What can you do to help a dog, if they are showing signs of sadness?

It’s unusual for dogs to grieve for overly long periods of time, which is a reflection on their ancestry in the wild. In nature, most animals move on fairly quickly from death, even if they are affected by the loss. They just recognize that they can’t do anything about it. Grief is also more likely to be felt by dogs that are highly bonded – you will know yourself if your dog family are very close, or whether they just tolerate one another.

Signs of dog sadness

Just like you would to another person who is sad, you can help by being understanding and showing a higher level of patience than normal. You may notice changes in behavior, and also recognize that your dog will pick up on your emotions too. Try and stick with your normal daily routines with them, but if they don’t want to participate, then don’t force it.


 

Is it possible to prepare your dog in any way?

It is said sometimes that animals have a sixth sense, and dogs living in close proximity are likely to know if one of their pack members is seriously ill.




As an example of this supposed sixth sense, our German Shepherd appeared to know that another dog had cancer. They didn’t live together in the same house and the other German Shepherd was owned by a friend. However, the first and only time they met, our dog was constantly sniffing the other dog just behind his shoulder blades. We’d never seen him do this before and did think it was strange. It was a few weeks later we found out that the other dog had been diagnosed with a tumor on his spine, just behind his shoulder blades. It wasn’t until some time later, and that friend became my brother in law, that we realized the two dogs were also distantly related and came from the same blood lines. Definitely makes you wonder!

Knowing a dog is going to die

If you know one of your dogs is going to die, and they are very closely bonded, having them together at the time of death can be helpful. Whether it’s natural or euthanasia, it helps one dog understand that the other has gone. Sometimes this can be preferable to the confusion created by one dog suddenly disappearing.

 

 

I also know of a dog behavior specialist who leaves the remaining dog with the body of the deceased – in fact she even leaves the room, believing that the dog can then have a “private” moment to grieve, before coming back to reality. This is almost akin to viewing a body in a funeral parlor – perhaps it’s a chance to say final goodbyes, and who are we to question psychological awareness of our dogs. She has never seen any adverse affects from this process, and firmly believes it’s very healthy for the remaining dog.


 

What about getting another dog?

Given I’ve talked about the intelligence of dogs above, I don’t think you can “fill the void” with a new companion – whether a dog or puppy. In fact, it;s advisable to make sure your dog has had a period to grieve – even if they choose not to show it – before introducing a new animal into the household.

The reason being it changes the dynamics of the situation even further, and could be quite confusing for them. You don’t replace humans when they die, so don’t feel pressure to replace a dog that’s passed away.

It’s also not fair on the new puppy or dog, as they aren’t coming into a happy and stable situation, so it could make things very tricky for everyone concerned. It’s a good idea to respect when your remaining dog might be ready for this, and not just your own feelings. I would recommend waiting until everyone in the family – human and animal- is ready for another pack member.


 

What do to if your dog isn’t “snapping out of it”

Comforting a DogIf you do have a very emotionally sensitive dog, and you are concerned about the length of time the grieving appears to be going on for, please seek out expert help. It may be your dog has developed a longer-term depression, and whilst this is unusual it’s not unheard of. If this is the case, they will need extra help and support from you and a trained professional to help them get their mojo back.

I hope you’ve found this article useful. As you can see, it’s definitely not a straightforward case of yes or no. The death of a pet is very traumatic for pet owners too, so also be kind to yourself if you are in this situation.


 

If you have any comments, questions, experiences or observations you would like to share, please do so below.

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8 thoughts on “Do dogs grieve when another dog dies? It’s maybe not a simple yes or no.

  1. Heathguy33

    This is very informative and I found out a lot just by reading your post. I didn’t know that dogs had so many simalarites to humans. I will now know so useful things to help out dogs when I notice them acting strange or distant.

    I will share this on all of my social media sites to help get this information out to the public. Thanks so much.

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Thank you so much for visiting, and leaving your feedback. I’m really glad you found this useful and it’s amazing of you to share this on your social media sites. It all helps other dog owners, so I appreciate your support.

      Have a rgeat day, Mara 🙂

      Reply
  2. Robert

    Hi Mara. Yeah, that was fascinating. I grew up with a German Shepherd myself and it was very difficult when she passed. I really liked the idea of letting other dogs spend a little time with the departed one so that they know that they’re gone and don’t suffer from confusion. I think that’s really important and healthy for them. Thanks for your insights, really good stuff.

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Hi Robert,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts – I appreciates it, especially knowing how hard it is when our beloved dogs pass on.

      Hope to see you on my site again, Mara

      Reply
  3. Dawn

    What an interesting article. I never had to take care of two dogs at one time I always had one dog as a friend through out my life. So I never experienced this before. But I have a friend who had two cocker spaniels where one had died from cancer. Are cockers prone to depression when grieving?

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Hi Dawn,

      This is a good question you’ve asked, but it’s difficult to generalize about specific breeds. Depression could set in for any dog that is unable to cope with grief, and there are other factors that are likely to come into play more so than the breed. For example, how close a tie these two Cocker Spaniels felt to one another, and whether they were related. If any dog owner feels their dog is experiencing actual depression, aprticularly if it’s ongoing, it’s a good idea to take them to the vet for a check up.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mara.

      Reply
  4. Ian

    Interesting post. I think most dogs do grieve for one another.
    If I remember correctly, wolves howl when they mourn but then they move one pretty quickly which is probably a reason why dogs tend not to mourn for too long.

    Are there any specific breeds that are more likely to be more mournful, so to speak?

    Thanks for sharing this, it was very informative.

    Reply
    1. Mara Post author

      Hi Ian,

      There are no specific breeds that are going to be more prone to mourning than others – it really depends on the ties and associations they have with their families and/or other animals. Some dogs have been known to grieve over their owners, and stand guard at coffins, whilst others have been known to grieve over other animals that aren’t dogs. Given their high intellectual capacity, it’s fair to say they are quite human in nature and who or what they are attached too will vary by individual dog, and not by breed. Having said that, some of the larger breed dogs can be more emotionally sensitive at times – German Shepherds, for example – so maybe there’s an argument that they feel deeper attachment, but that’s not necessarily equated with feeling more grief.

      Thanks for your comment,

      Mara.

      Reply

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