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How to Help a Grieving Dog

Updated on December 31, 2014

Dogs Are Capable of Grieving Too

Humans are not the only ones to mourn the loss of another person or animal, and dogs are a great example of being a species capable of grieving. If you have recently lost a canine companion, you may not be the only one in the household suffering. Your dog left behind may join you in the mourning process even though dogs generally grieve in different ways than humans. Since dogs live in the present, they may not be collecting memories of the past, but rather may be looking for their lost friend. They also may be simply absorbing your sorrow and feeling under the weather because they can sense your negative energy. 

How to Care For a Grieving Dog

• Keep His Mind Occupied

If your dog seems to be looking for his lost friend, it helps to keep your dog's mind occupied. Dogs tend to recover from a loss much quicker than humans if given the opportunity. Try to engage your dog in a new activity such as agility or clicker training. Take a long hike in the mountains and admire the beautiful sights surrounding you. These activities will definitely benefit both as they will give an opportunity for strengthening the bond and giving life a fresh new start.

• Help With Ranking

Often, the dog left behind is not doing well, because the loss of the other dog has caused a change in hierarchy. If your dog was the most submissive one, he or she may feel like she must take charge of the situation from now on, which can be stressful. Try your best to help your dog feel more confident by establishing a routine and boosting her confidence. Sometimes, in multi-dog households, fights may erupt.

• Remove These Items

Try to remove as much as you can items that smell like your deceased dog. Try to remove the bed your dog was sleeping on, put away collar and leashes and store away the food bowl. If your dog was never able to actual see or smell the dead body of the dog that passed on to better life, your dog will likely be looking for his best friend and be unable to come to terms why the home still smells like her and yet she is nowhere to find. This is why veterinarians often recommend to bring the other dog along for a dog's euthanasia appointment: it seems that the dog left behind is able to sense death and come to peace with it with a sense of closure.

• Start a New Life

Take advantage of the fact that dogs live in the present and live to your dog's philosophy. This will help each other. Instead of suffering from the loss and missing the lost dog, embrace life and try to live in the joy of the present. This does not mean forgetting the dog that passed on, just means loving life and enjoying it to the fullest, day by day. You will notice that with your attitude changing , your grieving dog's attitude may change too and you will both recover must faster.

Grieving does not have to be a long process. If you miss the other dog dearly, try to refrain from the temptation of getting another dog for now. Wait until you are both feeling better so to be in better shape. Work on building a new bond together and embrace life one day at a time.


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    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      Candyapple77, I am terribly sorry to hear about your sister's passing, and send you my deepest condolences. I cannot imagine what you and your family must be going through, and of course your sister's dog as well. To answer your question, it's difficult to estimate how your dog may react because dogs as people mourn in different ways. For instance, I own a small boarding and training business and I can tell you that dogs react differently to the scent of the owner. Now, death of an owner and being dropped off for boarding may seem quite different circumstances, but dogs don't know if and when their owner will return when they are dropped off so their reaction can be similar. All they know is that at the moment they are anxious because they don't see/hear/feel their owner. Some owners will leave something with their scent on like a shirt for their dog during the stay. For some dogs, the scent of the owner when he is away provides them comfort, especially the first days after being dropped off. As the days pass by and the scent starts fading away during long stays, the dogs adjust and no longer rely on that shirt for comfort. They know I am their new caretaker for the time being and that they can rely on me for food/walks/play and cuddles. However, I occasionally stumble on a few dogs who get more upset by the scent of owners. In particular, a dog who suffers from separation anxiety will whine much more when he catches the scent of the owner and he'll get frustrated because he smells the owner but the owner is not there. So it's hard to predict how your dog may react. Some tips I can give is to reassure the dog that you or whoever will takeover will still take care of her. Try to stick to the same routines your sister had her used to, go on walks, perform the same commands that she was used to, feed the same foods give the same toys. A DAP diffuser may further help. I hope this helps, my thoughts go out to you in this difficult moment.

    • Candyapple77 profile image

      Candyapple77 2 years ago

      thank you for your information. We were wondering if we should give our dog a pillow of my sisters. My sister was murdered at her home and the dog was home. The dog is only just turning 2 and we have know idea what the dog went through :( We love her and do everything that is talked about but we notice a few things that she is doing that is abnormal but could be normal for grieving. We are slowly going through things that belonged to my sister and don't know if we should give her this pillow or not?

    • profile image

      Joanne 6 years ago

      I'm sure it is as awful on our pets as it is to us, to lose a friend or a partner. You have a lot of great tips. My kids recently lost a dog, Marla and the other dog, Farlo was crushed. At first Farlo would go all over the house looking for her. Then he would run to the door when someone came in, to see if it was his sister dog. The worst was when he would just sit in front of my kids and stare at them, seeing the look in his eyes. He took over her role of the protector. MarlA was the dog that would bark and then he would follow her lead. Farlo would always be under the bed sleeping while Marla was on patrol. There are three children in the family and with every baby that was born, Marla was right there during every feeding. She was a precious dog and was loved very much. I loved her smiles when we would go over to visit. The kids finally had to get a puppy, Farlo was getting to depressed. All is good now.

    • profile image

      lindatymensky 6 years ago

      Thank you for this wonderful article on a subject I knew almost nothing about. One of my dogs is getting ready to pass and I didn't realize I might have to help my other dog, who is uber sensitive, with the process. I just thought I was the only one upset. I remember, though, when I adopted my last dog, he looked and looked for weeks for his previous owners and their other pets. It was so sad.

    • SUSIE DUZY profile image

      SUSIE DUZY 6 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

      Recently I went to visit my friend whose dog had passed away. I brought my dog along, who had played with and even stayed overnight on many occasions with this friend. My dog first looked all over for her friend and then became very sad. I thank you for these tips, well done.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I'll havwe to keep this in mind although we usually only have one pet at a time.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      A great hub and yes you are so right, dogs to grieve . My little Schnauzer didn't eat for days after her lifelong pal Major the Doberman died.

      Thanks for sharing this one with us.

      Take care


    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      So useful and so true... AUNT BABY was so naturally ladylike (after her terrible teens) with her older brother ALVIN-- when he died, she was initially so tentative at being "Top/Only" Dog... every dog is so rare and unique ~~ while I miss the Big Guy every day, my Little Girl is like no other... Great HUB~~thanks!