The loss of a beloved human friend or a fellow furry friend can have a profound effect on a dog. By nature, dogs are social creatures who have the ability to develop deep bonds and friendships with the companions they share their lives with. Because your buddy can't tell you how he's feeling, be in tune with his behavior so you can help him through the dark days and lead him to sunny days ahead.
How Do Dogs Mourn?
Changes in Behavior
Just like their human counterparts, dogs may appear "spacey" or listless when they are in mourning. While Max is normally cheerful and attentive, greeting you each morning with a happy face and ready to start the day with gusto, his mood and behavior may change to somber and disoriented when mourning. Where there were once sloppy kisses, you may now have a disinterested dog who lays down for most of the day, sleeping or staring off into space. On the other hand, he may be clinging to you and following you wherever you go.
Grieving a Person or Another Animal
This can be a heartbreaking thing to witness. We can't tell our animals that another animal who we have loved and shared our lives with has passed on. Your dog's sad eyes may stare out the window or at the door, looking for any sign of return of the animal or human companion they spent all of their days with. He may roam around the house, visiting areas where their lost companion once frequented in the hopes that they may meet them again in that very spot.
Dogs can suffer from depression, and when it happens, they depend on the love and care of their human friends and caretakers to see them through it. The dark cloud of depression may linger over your once happy and joyful fur buddy, leaving him wanting to do nothing more than sleep. He may be uninterested in the usual fun activities that he used to love doing. A depressed dog may even feel so down that it can make him feel ill. He may spend more time alone rather than cuddling with you in his usual spot. Consulting your veterinarian may be necessary if your dog refuses to eat.
Helping Your Dog
Time has the power to heal wounds and it's important not to try to push your dog into returning back to normal too quickly after such a big shift has taken place in his life. However, it's important that you gently and consistently coax him into once again partaking in activities he loves doing, such as taking a walk in the park or going for a car ride with the wind blowing on his face. However, if he displays absolutely no interest in his favorite activities, don't force it. Just keep trying day by day, and chances are, he'll find joy in these old activities once again. Above all, make time to be there for him, even if it means just letting him lay next to you. If you're thinking of getting another dog eventually, allow enough time to pass before bringing a new family member into the mix. Your dog needs time to grieve and to feel secure and loved before having to deal with another major change in his life.
By Pamela Miller
About the Author
Pamela Miller has been writing for health, beauty and animal health/welfare publications for seven years. Miller holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Communication from MTSU.