9 Loving Ways to Help a Grieving Dog
Dogs are emotional pets and form strong emotional bonds with their owners and other pets. When another pet dies or when someone the dog loves dies, they experience sadness just like humans do. Dogs also feed off your sadness when you’re grieving a loss.
Just like humans are different in expressing sadness and grief, dogs are just the same. So, how can you tell if a dog is grieving, and are there ways you can help them during such a difficult moment?
Signs a dog is grieving
When a dog loses a close companion, be it another pet or a family member, their absence creates a void in their life. During such a time, the dog will show signs of grief or sadness that can last for months.
Notable signs a dog is grieving include:
- Loss of interest in favorite fun activities
- Withdrawal from people and other pets
- Becoming overly clingy to the owner or family members
- Disinterest in food and favorite snacks
- Sleeping too much and being lethargic
- Unusual aggression or destructive habits
- Searching for the deceased companion in places they frequented
If your dog is displaying more than one of these signs then they are in grief and needs more care, love, and attention. The big question then is this; how can you help your grieving dog during this time?
Research associated with grieving in dogs
There are a few studies that have been done as humans seek to better understand how dogs and other pets respond to the loss of their loved ones. Notable findings from different studies include:
- Grieving dogs showed decreased appetite after the loss of a companion. Some dogs refused to eat at all
- Grieving dogs showed changes in vocal patterns. Some vocalize more while others become quieter during grief
- Grieving dogs experience at least four behavioral changes following the loss of a companion, be it another family pet or a family member
- Some dogs sleep more than usual while others suffer from insomnia. With regards to sleep patterns, some change their sleeping area after the loss of a companion
- Dogs can become more affectionate with other pets and their owners after the loss. A few dogs can become overly clingy.
Ways to help a grieving dog
Before we highlight how you can help your grieving dog, please understand that dogs grieve differently. Some may become more withdrawn and aggressive while others will seek more company and become close to their owners or even other pets. That said, you can help your grieving dog in the following ways:
a). Spend more time with your dog
Spending more time with a grieving dog is a sure way to help reduce the loneliness and the sense of confusion. You can take your dog for a walk, engage in fun activities your dog is comfortable with, or take them on a hiking trail away from normal day-to-day activities.
b). Show more love and affection
If your dog is comfortable with cuddles and feeling human touch then make a point to do so more often. Making eye contact is also important as it gives a reassuring sense of calm, comfort, and security.
c). Enjoy more family time together
Rather than staying in isolation away from each other, organize fun, playful time with the rest of the family members. You can also invite a few friends over and keep your dog engaged in fun activities. The more engaged your dog is the easier it will be for them to cope and move on.
d). Provide entertainment when you’re away
Keep your dog’s immediate environment as fun and entertaining as possible if you know you will be away from home for more than a few hours. Hide treats in your dog’s favorite spots or toys to keep him occupied and engaged in your absence.
e). Reinforce good behavior
Some dogs may become more “manipulative” during the grieving period. Identify positive behaviors and reinforce them with treats and try to ignore the negative behaviors. You should also reward your dog when he complies with your instructions.
f). Do not be quick to replace a lost pet
You should not be quick to bring in another pet as a “replacement” for the one that died. You might think your dog needs another companion immediately after the loss. However, dogs develop strong bonds with their canine companions, which means it will take months before they are ready to form a meaningful bond with another dog. The introduction of a new dog immediately after the loss may add more stress to your dog.
g). Be patient with your dog
As already mentioned, a grieving dog will experiences changes in behaviors, appetite, and sleep patterns. Do not force your dog to do the things you consider “normal”. Instead, give your dog the time and space to come to terms with the loss of a companion and the support it needs during the grieving phase.
h). Maintain some form of normalcy
Routine is very important for all pets, including dogs. Stick to a set routine of completing tasks as this will help provide some form of normalcy for them. Is your dog used to the morning walks? Does it love to play outdoors in the afternoons? Maintaining the routine and doing these things at their appropriate time will help your dog cope with the loss.
i). Consider medical therapy
Medical therapy can be a great way to help a grieving dog, especially if your dog is experiencing a difficult time following the loss. Your veterinarian can recommend medications to help your dog during the grieving period. Make sure the vet conducts blood and urine tests before prescribing your furry friend any medications.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let us now have a look at a few frequently asked questions about grieving in dogs:
a). How long do dogs grieve the loss of another dog?
According to studies, dogs grieve the loss of another dog for 2 to 6 months. However, the grieving period depends on factors such as the dog’s temperament and how close it was to the dog that died. The closer they were the more time the dog will take to overcome the feelings of loss and loneliness.
b). How do you help a dog cope with the loss of another dog?
To help your dog cope with the loss of another dog, spend more time with them, show more love & affection, go on therapeutic walks together, take time before introducing another dog, and keep reminders of the late pet to give your dog a sense of comfort.
c). Do dogs get lonely when another dog dies?
Yes. Dogs get lonely when another dog dies because they form emotional bonds that can last a lifetime. The loss of a companion such as another dog will leave them lonely and sad. A dog’s loneliness can be expressed in different ways including withdrawal from other pets, being overly clingy to the owner or family members, and disinterest in favorite fun activities and snacks.
Dogs are quite similar to humans in how they mourn the loss of their loved ones. They are emotional animals that form strong bonds with humans and other dogs. If your dog is grieving the loss of another dog, the tips highlighted above will come in handy for you to help them cope with the loss.