Dogs do have emotions as deep as grief. As loyal and loving as dogs are, there is plenty to show in their behavior that our dogs do indeed grieve the loss of a companion, whether human or other. Grieving can be about change too, such as a major move. No matter the reason for their grief, there are signs you can learn to recognize and methods you can use to help your grieving dog.
Recognize and Acknowledge
Since our dogs cannot speak to us in words, it’s important to learn to understand the language they do use – that of behavior and body language. As responsible pet owners and loving companions, over time we can learn how to recognize changes out of the norm. In the case of a lost companion, the source is obvious, but grief can be caused by other things as well. What signs does your dog show when they are depressed or grieving?
Be aware of changes in eating habits, such as loss of appetite or refusal to eat or drink. Withdrawal, clinginess, whining and lethargy can all be signs that your dog is not feeling their normal zest for life. When a dog who normally loves to play shows little or no interest in the activities after they lose a loved companion, they may be showing you they are sad, or even frightened by the loss or change.
Misbehaving may be an extreme way your dog shows that they are upset. If your dog is suddenly tearing things apart, running around almost manically, barking too much, howling or whining excessively, that may be how they are expressing their feelings about the loss or change. Grief is emotionally painful.
Refocus and Distract
If you can get your dog to be involved, encourage them to play, go for walks and interact with them. The distractions and attention can help your dog refocus. It may take some motivation to get them up and going, but don’t give up. Offer them some CANIDAE PURE Chewy dog treats, along with lots of praise and encouragement. Get them a new toy. Take your dog somewhere to socialize, such as the dog park or a walk in a new neighborhood. Keep them connected and involved.
Be loving and gentle when your dog is grieving. Let them grieve. Grief may be for a loved one who has temporarily left, not just for someone who has died. Think about how you feel when someone passes or moves away, or when a loved one leaves on an extended stay such as a member of the military who is deployed. That lost or missing companion is important to your dog as well. Give the dog special attention and spend time with them, even if it is only to sit quietly together.
Companionship is healing and reassuring. They need to know that even though they are grieving, things will be okay and will proceed as usual. Routine is important to dogs. It is the changes that can upset them. If a companion is gravely ill, allow your dog to be there through the process. It helps them.
Keep in mind that like every human, every dog is different. Some may show grief from loss or change in varied ways. Some show actual sadness. Others may show it by misbehaving or with strange behavior not normally exhibited by them. How they act or react is an individual thing. Don’t ignore any changes.
Without verbal language, your dog is telling you something is amiss. Dogs are social creatures. When they bond deeply and lose the person or companion they are bonded to, they may grieve. Patience and understanding is vital in dealing with what your dog is feeling and how they are reacting.
Read more articles by Laurie Darroch