How Do Dogs Grieve & How You Can Help Them To Heal?
Dogs are said to be a man’s most loyal companion. They are considered as a man’s best friend. Furthermore, they stay loyal to their master throughout their life. Over time, they develop an emotional bond with their owners that are inseparable and unbreakable. This phenomenon can be seen in the painting of Sir Edwin Landseer 1837, which is known as ‘The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner’. In this painting, it is evident that the dog is grieving over his owner’s death and it shows the depth of grief, a dog is capable of feeling.
In another case, a picture of a brown Labrador retriever lying next to his owner’s coffin went viral over the internet. The coffin was of Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson and the dog named Hawkeye was his companion for several years. In the picture, you could see a heart-broken dog that is depressed and sad over his owner’s death. All of these examples show that dogs feel sad and they are capable of feeling pain and grief. Therefore, it’s necessary to explore more to understand the pets’ psychology.
Many behavioral scientists have also suggested that dogs are capable of feeling grief, sorrow, and depression due to several reasons. According to several research studies, a dog’s mental capability is similar to a human who is aged between two to three years. Therefore, we must treat dogs as children and we should help them get over their depression and sadness. However, the question is how can we help them and how can we understand them in such situations. We have gathered all the necessary information that you may require while helping a grieving dog. This will definitely help you understand a dog’s psychology and you can use it to help them.
Common Reasons Behind A Grieving Dog
There could be many reasons behind a grieving or sad dog. Most common reasons are mentioned below to help you identify the cause of their grief. Once you have identified the reason for their depression, you can help them deal with it effectively. So, let’s take a look at them.
1) Death of a loved one or another pet.
2) Moving of residence to a new place.
3) Introduction of a new child or pet in the family.
4) Left alone for long durations.
5) An abusive owner who treats them badly.
6) Separation from family or owners.
7) Taking away the puppies at an early age from them.
8) Sickness or a recent surgery and treatment may also make him sad.
Other than these, there could be many reasons behind a grieving dog. You can identify them easily if you observe them closely and patiently.
Quick Note: dogs can be sad for different reasons (not just grieving, so I covered them all).
How do dogs grieve? How do you know?
It is difficult to understand a dog’s feelings and if you are a new pet owner then it can be more challenging. However, you can look out for these common signs that show that a pet is depressed or sad. A dog will show his grief or sadness through these signs and actions. Look out for them, and take necessary action immediately.
1) Loss of appetite and less water intake.
2) Sluggish reactions or response to humans or other pets.
3) Loss of interest in playful activities.
5) Staying in isolation and avoiding people.
6) Change in sleeping habit.
7) Showing laziness and being lethargic.
8) Repeated roaming from one room to another.
9) Sniffing different things continuously.
10) Being clingy to their owner.
There can be several other behavioral changes in your dog that only you can identify. Keep an eye on them. Once you see these changes, use the methods mentioned below to help them cope with any kind of grief and sadness.
How to help them cope?
Every dog is different exactly how every human is different. Some dog may grieve for a long period and others might grieve for a short period. Also, some may not grieve at all. Whatever the case may be, these methods and tips will help you deal with a grieving dog.
1) Console them
First and foremost, you must console your dog by petting them. Make them feel comfortable and be around them as much as possible. Play with them, take them for a walk, or you can take them with you while you ride a bike. If they are sitting idle in a corner then go to them and show them love and affection. Make a happy surrounding for them and tell all the family members to be cheerful. A dog can sense the tension in the environment and they can feel other’s stress. So, don’t stress yourself or your dog. A dog can quickly recover if he is in a calm surrounding and if people around him are happy.
2) Distraction is the key
A grieving dog needs a distraction and there are many ways to distract them. Either you can get a new toy for your dog or you can take him out for a walk. You can also take him to a dog’s park. The more he socializes, the better he will get with time. You can give him tasty treats and food items too. Also, you can extend the playtime and let your dog indulge in playful activities.
3) Observe and monitor
Keep an eye on your dog so that you can observe his actions. Check how he is coping and keep giving them more love and affection. Some dogs may need some time to get healed and you must give them space and time to heal. Look out for any changes in their behavior or reaction so that you can deal with it effectively. If there is no improvement then you must visit a veterinary behaviorist for treatment or guidance.
4) Natural grief remedies
You can give some natural remedies for grief to your dogs like relaxing aroma incense or stress-relieving mix. Moreover, there are many homeopathic remedies available in the market. They are extremely soothing and it has calming effects on the dog. Some of them are spirit essences loss remedy, the bach flower and honeysuckle remedy, etc. Either try out the natural remedies or consult a doctor for proper medication recommendation.
5) Get him a companion
After few weeks of grieving, if you see no improvement then introducing a new pet to your family can do the trick. Bring a kitten or a puppy to your home and let them help your pet fight with grief. A new member of the family can distract them and they will soon recover. At times, they need a familiar companion to feel comfortable and accepted.
You can either try all of them or just a few of them. Observe, what is the best option for your dog. Furthermore, you can use the quick tips that are mentioned below.
1) Take them out to a dog’s park so that they can socialize with other dogs.
2) Play calm and soothing music for them at home.
3) Spend extra time with your pet so that they don’t feel lonely.
4) Give him special treats and toys so that they feel excited to see them.
5) Play audiobooks at home or use dog videos so that they can feel calm.
6) Be patient with your dog so that they recover properly.
All of the information stated in this article is sourced from various research studies and journals. They have helped numerous pet owners and you can be one of them too. Also, the methods that are mentioned above are tried and tested over several years. All dog trainers and experts suggest them to pet owners. So, try them out and help a dog overcome sadness, depression, and grief. In return, you will get a loyal companion forever.