Is it Natural for a Dog to Go Off Alone to Die?

By Elizabeth Tumbarello

It can be a sad event when a trusted canine companion dies. It is quite common for older dogs to wander off to die in peace, despite many owners who wish they could be there for them.

Theory of Pack Mentality

Despite being tamed and bred to look the way they do today, dogs are still genetically identical to their wild counterparts. In the wild, dogs are pack animals. One theory on why they wander off to die is so they do not slow down their pack mates or allow the pack to become vulnerable to attack. You are your dog's pack now, so it is thought this instinct is still intact to save you from any threats.

Dog Psychology Theories

Those who believe in animal psychology feel some dogs go off alone to die to spare owners the grief of having to watch. Some animal psychologists also believe this is a way for a dog to maintain his dignity.

Chronic Illnesses

A dog who has a chronic illness will often exhibit the same behaviors as a dog who knows it is going to die. If a dog starts behaving oddly, seek veterinary attention immediately.


Some dogs choose not to go off alone to die. These instances seem to be more the exception and can be very tough on the family. The dog should be made as comfortable as possible.

Dealing With the Remains

Clean the dog and watch for any signs of fluid leakage. A dog's body relaxes after death, and sometimes unexpected urinary or bowel movements may occur. If possible, position the dog in a curled-up position, wrapped in a blanket, and place it in a freezer. Call your local vet or animal control to see if they offer assistance. Be clear on whether you wish to keep the dog's remains.

Coping with Grief

It is perfectly natural to cry after the death of a companion animal. You may wish to avoid people who don't understand why you are so upset, and this is natural, too. Talking about the good times you experienced with your dog might also help relieve some grief.