Dogs, just like human beings, experience grief. This may be due to the loss of a loved person or the loss of another dog. I once saw my yellow Lab get depressed after she lost her puppy. We tried everything we could do to save the puppy, but to no avail. Once the puppy was dead, the Lab wouldn’t let go of her baby and almost refused to breastfeed and take care of the rest of the litter as she clings on to the dead puppy.
You might also have seen a dog whose soldier died in combat lay on the casket looking depressed. There are even stories of dogs who made a habit of visiting the graves of their former masters for a long time, or ones who stood guard over the bodies of their loved ones until help came by.
The difference between dogs and humans is that dogs don’t mourn too long. In the time they are in grief, they may lose interest in life and refuse to eat. They stop enjoying activities they used to love, and eat less.
One way to help them is to be patient. Understand them and be there for them in this time. However, don’t pay attention to bad behavior. For example don’t give them treats if they vocalize their grief by howling, because this might encourage them to continue with the negative behavior and turn it into a habit.
Slowly reintroduce the usual activities they engage in. Play and exercise the dog to take his mind off his grief. With time, the new routine will help him heal. Giving him his favorite treats also helps with healing because in his excitement, he forgets about his loss even for a short time.
If the dog is mourning the loss of another dog, wait a while before introducing another dog into the family. Give yourself and your pet sometime to heal and adjust to not having the other dog around. Even in normal circumstances, accepting a new canine member in the family takes time, and your mourning pet is not in a mindset to handle the stress that comes with adjusting to having a new canine family member.
How to Deal with a Dog Who is Mourning