If you had more than one dog and one passed away, it is important for you to realize that the dog left behind may go through a grieving process. Just as humans mourn the loss of an animal companion or a human loved one, there is a great deal of evidence showing that dogs go through a grieving process as well. Therefore, it is important for you to be aware of this fact and to take the steps necessary to help your grieving pet get through the loss as best as possible.
Recognizing a Dog in Mourning
Recognizing that your dog is in mourning can sometimes be difficult. After all, they cannot talk to you and tell you how they are feeling. At the same time, a dog in mourning will typically exhibit some specific behaviors. Some of these behaviors may include:
o Aloof behavior
o Loss of focus
o Disoriented behavior
o Lack of appetite
o Lack of interest in surroundings
o Disruption in sleep patterns
o Becoming “distant”
o Becoming overly clingy
o Excessive vocalization
o Being quieter than usual
If your dog was unable to see the deceased dog after it died, such as may be the case if you take the dog to the veterinarian to be euthanized and you choose not to bring it home, your dog may also wait anxiously for the other dog to return. In fact, it is not uncommon for dogs to go through separation anxiety when another canine companion dies.
Helping Your Mourning Dog with the Loss
If your dog is showing signs of grief after losing a canine companion, it is important for you to try to help it work through its grief. One way to do this is to provide the surviving dog with more affection and attention. Trying to engage your pet in an activity it enjoys will help take its mind off the loss, but be aware that some dogs in mourning will be resistant to playing. The key is to keep trying and to continue to provide your dog with attention. Most dogs in mourning will return to their normal activities in about two weeks, though some can take up to 6 months before they fully recover from the loss.
If your dog is expressing its grief in an undesirable way, such as howling or otherwise vocalizing excessively, you should use caution when giving it attention. If you provide your pet with attention or give it treats in order to stop the vocalization behavior, you will be reinforcing the behavior and your pet may continue the behavior even after the grief has past. Therefore, it is important to provide your pet with the affection and attention it needs while it is engaging in appropriate behaviors. So long as the undesirable behavior is related to the grieving process and you do not reinforce it, the behavior should subside after your dog is done mourning.
If your dog seems to be severely depressed and is not moving through the mourning process at a good pace, you may want to consider talking to your doctor about giving your pet anxiety medication. Otherwise, remember that with time comes healing and, with the help of your love and affection, your pet will likely return to its normal self.