Any pet parent knows that animals feel emotions. Grief is no exception, particularly to pack animals like dogs. Dogs have been observed grieving the loss of other dogs and even performing certain rituals among their dead, such as covering them with blankets.
Dogs and the Concept of Death
Because dogs cannot tell us in words how they feel, and because different dogs have different personalities, there is no consensus as to whether they understand the death of another. Many dog experts and owners, however, notice changes in behavior when a death occurs that belie an emotional state. Some believe that the intensity of the emotions dogs feel depends on their family, their relationships with the deceased and human members of the family, and the emotions family members express over a death.
Signs of Grief
Grieving dogs exhibit may of the same behaviors as grieving and depressed people. Often there is a loss of appetite and disturbed sleep. Sometimes they sleep more or less or at different times than normal. They also can appear lethargic or withdrawn and lose interest in playing or going for walks. Some dogs become disoriented or clingy, or they might wait by the door for the other dog to return.
Helping Dogs Cope
The best medicine for a dog's broken heart is to keep life as normal as possible. Stick to her routine with walking and meals. Give her lots of attention and physical contact -- petting, stroking and grooming. If possible, take her places where other dogs or dog lovers are. If she has lost her appetite, offer her some favorite foods and the occasional treat, but avoid using treats as a way to quiet her barking or whining. It may just breed a new bad habit.
Don't Get a New Dog Just Yet
Though dogs thrive in the company of other dogs, even in mourning, do not assume that simply getting another dog in the house will fix her troubles. Dogs adjust well and may, in fact, be happier in the long run without another dog around. Many dogs live perfectly happy lives with humans as their only pack mates. But if you do get another dog, work out any behavior problems with your current dog. This will keep her from teaching the new dog bad habits.
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