Do Dogs Grieve For Other Dogs?


It’s a very sad and upsetting time when a person loses a much loved family pet – but while we go through grief, is it true that any remaining family dogs also grieve for their lost pals? In this Holidays4Dogs article, we will explain what signs to look out for that may indicate your dog is grieving. In addition, we offer tips which may help your dog to feel better after the loss of a pal.

Many different species of animals grieve in their own way, including dolphins, elephants, apes and horses and of course human-beings.  I definitely noticed a change in my dog Peggy after losing my collie, Floss. After 24 hours of losing Floss, Peggy became agitated, unable to settle and whined frequently, (something she would never normally do).

Animals can be visibly upset by the loss of a canine companion.

She was also much more vigilant than usual and hyper sensitive to any noise going on outside.  I began to realize just how much Peggy had depended on Floss, even though outwardly they didn’t seem to be that well suited. Indeed, they weren’t what you would call, the best of friends.

Animals may not actually truly understand the concept of death, especially if they have not seen the other animal die. However, they do know that their companion has disappeared and that his, or her, routine has changed. The bereaved dog may also be aware of their owner’s emotions, who will, likewise, be upset and stressed.

The dynamics involved may mean that a bereaved dog goes through behavioural changes and may demonstrate signs of stress, or other changes in their demeanour.

Dogs living with one, or more canine friends, will constantly take cues from one another. If a dog is suddenly left alone, it can be hard for him, or her, to make sense of what is going on.  Not all dogs will show signs of grief. Some may continue to act just as they always have, but others will show subtle, or more obvious signs that the loss of a pal has affected them.

Signs of grief in pet dogs.

  • Some dogs may become clingier, following their owners around constantly.

  • Searching, sniffing or looking around the house and garden is another common sign a dog is missing his mate.

  • Lack of appetite – many grieving dogs will lose their appetite and refuse to eat treats.

  • Whining. Pacing. The dog may appear unsettled. He may not know where to sleep, or whether he wants to go out or come in, for example.  Many dogs will have relied on another dog as to what to do and when.

  • Separation anxiety. A common occurrence in dogs that have been left alone after the death of a companion.

How can we help when our dogs grieve? 

The main thing to do is, spend as much time as you can with your dog, but allow him to be alone if he seems to want it.  Exercise is also a good mood enhancer for dogs, just as it is for people, so perhaps think about an extra walk a day; it may also be helpful to avoid walking in areas where the two of them went together – if only for a few days.

Keep doors and gates shut so that your dog cannot escape in search of their mate.  I saw Peggy sniffing earnestly and frantically under the gate in the first week that Floss was gone; (again, unusual behaviour). Had the gate been open, I am certain she would have bolted in her quest to seek out the whereabouts of her friend.

Try distracting your dog with games, or a new chew toy.  If they are not off their food, split their meals into several servings, so he has something positive to focus on more times throughout the day.

Some people advocate getting another dog and sometimes this can help if your dog is really struggling.  However, you need to give both yourself, and your dog, time to get over the loss. Getting another dog is still a big commitment should be postponed until you are better able to think more clearly.  Rushing to acquire a new dog, or puppy, may mean you make the wrong decision. In addition, if you are still upset by the loss of your dog, it could make bonding with a new one much harder.

Final thoughts.

Grief is a difficult emotion to deal with and often only the passing of time will help ease the pain. The loss of a pet is one of the hardest things for most dog owners. Sometimes we may be so wrapped up in our own grief we forget to wonder if our remaining dog grieves. Time is a great healer, whether for human or animal. Eventually, we can look back fondly on our lost companion, while taking solace in living pets, both present and future.