Losing a beloved furbaby is one of the hardest things we have to deal with. We’re never ready for them to cross over the rainbow bridge. Dog grief is much the same s human grief, so, you are not alone in your pain, especially if you have other dogs in the house, and sharing your grief with them may help both of you cope with the new normal.
Over the years we have had quite a few dogs pass through our hearts and losing one never gets easier. My first real experience with actual dog grief was when my first Golden Retriever, Rusty, died. He was 14 years old and my husband and I had just gotten married months before. We had a 2-year-old Siberian Huskey, Loki, at the time as well. It was probably the most peaceful passing I’ve EVER seen and I truly hope all my dogs go the same way. He laid down in the grass and was gone. We thought he was just sleeping as usual, but Loki did something strange. I’m not sure if Rusty was still with us at the time or not, but Loki laid down right beside Rusty and didn’t move for a really long time. Then began to literally howl. Last summer we had to put our 13-year-old golden, Lilly to sleep. At home we had Lilly’s daughter, Khaleesi, Thor, and my two human children. It didn’t matter how prepared we were, it still feels like getting hit by a Mac Truck! Poor Khaleesi had never been away from her mother. At first she was constantly barking for her mother and for months following exhibited many of the classic grief patterns. To this day she is an extremely clingy girl with borderline separation anxiety.
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Dog Grief: Do Dogs Grieve Like Us?
Many studies have been done to answer just this question! The answer is an overwhelming YES! Although we will never be sure if dogs understand “death”. They certainly understand their companion is missing and they absolutely notice when they don’t come back. While grieving people and other dogs is common sense dogs can also develop deep meaningful bonds with practically any other pet in the home and will mourn their loss deeply.
How to Tell Your Dog Is Grieving
General signs of dog grief are:
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of appetite
- Sleeping more
- Uncharacteristically aggressive
- Urinating and defecating in home
- Vocally calling
- Extra clingy
Just like people, different dogs handle grief differently. Some fall into a deep depression while others hardly loose a beat. The important thing to remember is that this is all a normal part of grieving and not to punish bad behavior just reinforce training and lots of love.
How to Help Your Dog Through Their Grief
They need lots of love and understanding while they are coping with their sadness. Some dogs can take up to 6 months or more to start to feel better, so give them the time that they need. That being said, there are some tricks to help him through.
Hey! That’s New
Change up and start a new routine; go for a walk in the morning instead of the evening, take a different route on your walks, go to a different dog park. New smells and unexpected activities will get their minds to focus on the new.
Dogs aren’t stupid but they are simple; totally unable to multitask. Only one thought can occupy their brains at a time therefore occupying their thoughts with extra treats, play time, and new toys literally leave no room for their grief.
When All Else Fails
If your dog is becoming more and more depressed aids are available to help him. Calming pheromone collars and sprays can be a great help to get Fido back on his feet.
Don’t Do It
I cannot stress this enough; DO NOT BUY YOUR DOG A NEW FRIEND! You are never going to be able to replace the one he lost and there is no guarantee how they will get along. By all means, if you are ready and can open your heart again than go for it, but if you are just considering to help Fido, forget it. Any new addition needs to be a part of the family not a band-aid.
Grief is a difficult process and a journey that is different for everyone. One thing that is for certain; it is much easier to traverse with a friend, especially a four-legged friend. It’s never easy losing a loved one, not on you and not your other furry friends. Give yourself and Fido time for your hearts to heal. Healing is definitely better when done together