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
Because 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.
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!
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”
If 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.