Scientists have observed and analyzed dog behaviour and confirmed that dogs experience and express grief. What surprised them was that dogs grieve not only for their human companions and canine housemates, but also for other animals they have lived with.
One of the most common behaviours grieving dogs are manifesting is continually checking the places where their lost housemate used to sleep. They also tend to become more clingy or needy. Some dogs whine or whimper for their lost friend, and many lose their appetite or eat much slower than before. It’s also very common that dogs who are experiencing grief start sleeping more and become less energetic during playtime.
Looking at it, dogs aren’t that different from small kids and humans in general when grieving. But while humans have some understanding of death, dogs may not know what’s going on and just miss their friend. That’s why we are there to help them through the grieving process.
Keep the routine going
Losing a friend is already a big change they may not understand, so keeping the routine could help them re-adjust to the new reality. Dogs are creatures of habit and changes may stress them out. Therefore, keep feeding them at the same time, go for a walk to the same places you used to go, and play the same way you did before.
Make sure they are healthy
Everyone reacts to losing someone differently, and some get affected more than others. Losing appetite and sleeping more is a usual reaction, but make sure to keep an eye on your pet. Not eating properly or getting too depressed could negatively affect your dog’s health. If this behaviour goes on for a longer time, visit your vet and ask for advice.
Be careful not to reinforce unwanted behavior
Though it may be heartbreaking to just watch and listen to your pet crying, you shouldn’t comfort them at this time. If you try to give them a treat to cheer them up every time they whine or whimper, they may get the wrong idea and you will have to deal with some new unwanted behaviour patterns.
That’s why you should comfort them while they are sleeping, or try to distract them by playing with them or taking them out for a walk.
Changes in social order
For our dogs losing a canine friend means losing a part of a pack. If you have more than one surviving pet, you may see changes in their behaviour. Especially if they have lost an alpha of their pack. This means that a new order and new pack leader needs to be chosen. Or if you had just two dogs, the one that’s left will most likely step up and start exhibiting new behavior patterns. This may include more barking, stealing food or more aggressive play.
Distract your dog
The best way to comfort your pet in the time of grief is to distract them. Provide them with more exercise and stimulation. Buy them toys that will keep them occupied, and take them for a longer walk. You should also play with them more often and try to teach them something new.
Don’t be overprotective
Losing a pet is very sad and stressful, but you should not change the way you are towards your remaining dog because of it. Wanting to check their health is normal and good, but overreacting and keeping them on a tighter leash (maybe even literally) will not do them any good. If you are doing this, ask yourself if you are doing it for them or for yourself.
While some tend to overreact and want to keep their eye on their pet all the time in fear of something happening, others may distance themselves. Even though it’s hard dealing with loss and you may think distancing yourself from your other pets might make things easier, it won’t do good to you or your pet. It’s better to go through the grieving process together and offer each other love and support.
Also, losing a canine friend is already stressful for your remaining dog, denying them affection at the time they need it the most will affect them negatively.
Getting a new housemate
You may think that bringing a new dog to the family could resolve some issues, and you may be right. If your dog is ready to accept a new companion, it may make you both less lonely. But before you make this decision, think it through carefully.
Firstly, make sure you are ready for another dog. You may have forgotten how it was at the beginning with your previous pets. Adjusting to and socializing with a new family member takes time. You need to make sure you are ready for all the processes this decision entails.
Even if you feel ready, you should consider your dog as well. It may not be ready to accept a new friend. Your dog has already gone through some unexpected changes and it could be too much for them to get a new family member right away. Make sure that your dog will be friendly and accepting towards a new member before you make a decision, and include them in selecting a new dog.
There is a reason people say that time heals all wounds. It will take some time to get used to living without a friend. But if you are patient with yourself and your dog, and continue living like you used to, and show love and affection, everything will work out for the best.