We have all heard the sad news about Paul O’Grady and it got me thinking about all his animals, especially his dogs and how they cope. Below is some information on dog’s when grieving a loved one whether it’s someone with two feet or four paws.
For dogs, the loss of a human or another pet can have a traumatic impact on their lives. Much like humans, dogs grieve the absence of someone they love so it’s important we know how to help them.
Dogs experiencing a loss can show signs of confusion, fear or depression. If it’s the loss of their owner, you may notice dogs trying to figure out where that person has gone. If it’s another pet who has passed away, your dog may spend more time in their bed or favourite space, often with the hope that their friend may return.
“Dogs alter their behaviour when they mourn, much like people do. Dealing with loss is especially hard for loving pet owners because they must deal with their own sense of loss while watching their remaining pet grieve,” Dr. Tammie King, Pet Behaviourist says.
“There is a silver lining to this sad cloud. Caring for your grieving pet may help you process your own loss and find quicker healing. It may also strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend as you walk this sad path together.”
What are the signs your dog is grieving?
Some dogs may show visible signs of grief, while others may completely withdraw and mourn quietly.
“Dogs’ ability to form strong social attachments with us and each other means they can have difficulty coping when they are suddenly separated from their companions. If their owner is grieving, the change in their behaviour and their normal routine can also have an impact,” Lisa Hens, RSPCA dog welfare expert tells Country Living.
“This varies greatly depending on the individual dog, and some owners report that, when one dog dies, the remaining dog seems very affected and may stop eating, for example. While others report that the remaining dog seems unaffected.”
Some of the signs that will indicate a change in your pet’s behaviour include…
- Losing their appetite
- They might cry a lot or be searching in areas where they expect the deceased family member to be
- They might be wanting your attention more than usual.
- More time sleeping.
- Changes in appetite
- Loss of interest in going for walks
Helping a dog grieve is tricky because on the one hand, dogs live in the moment so they’re very capable and willing to be fully present in their lives. But, because time is a relative concept in the life of a dog sometimes the moments aren’t always right now but yesterday … or last week … or last month. The imprints of the past often stay with them and it’s up to you to help them erase the sadness and replace it with happy moments. The only way to fill a black hole is to let the light in. Help your dog make new memories.
Finally, be patient. It make take weeks, or even months for your dog to emerge from grief. Just hang in there and honour the process by allowing him to make sense of it all in his own time with your help. Grieving is his way to honour his friend—human or animal—just as it is with people, so allow them the time and space to do that. One thing you have going for you here is that dogs are willing to trust you to help them trade sadness for happiness. They want to be well—on all levels—so grieving isn’t something they enjoy or want to prolong for any length of time.