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Monday, September 6, 2010

Do Dogs Grieve?



Generally I do not like it when people attach human emotions to their dog, especially in instances where humans claim the dog has the forethought to piss on the floor just to spite the owner! This borders on the ridiculous and gives a dog too much credit. If they really did know what spite was, they could do a lot more damage than just piss on the floor to irritate you!

So the question arises, do dogs grieve? Well, putting it in perspective and looking at dog behaviors, I believe they do, but we may notice it more in a certain type of dog. We know dogs suffer from separation anxiety which is seen when an owner leaves them alone and they cry, bark, or become destructive. This does not happen out of spite, it happens out of anxiety at being alone. Dogs that suffer this are more likely to grieve outwardly with the passing of an owner or a pet companion.
When people grieve we tend not to eat well, not sleep well or we sleep more, we feel a bit ill, and lose interest in things we once enjoyed. I believe that dogs go through the same or similar symptoms. You can take Fido for a walk and he’ll go but he may not get as excited as he normally does.

There was a study done by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in 1996 which found that thirty six percent of dogs that lost a companion dog ate less, and that eleven percent stopped eating all together for a period of time. Sixty three percent vocalized more than normal or they became quiet and distant, and some started to cling to a person in the home more often.

I do believe when the time comes that my two females, mother and daughter, will grieve the other’s loss as that is how inseparable they are. These girls can’t even be in separate rooms of the house without crying for each other. Their mother daughter relationship is sometimes amazing to me.

When one of two dogs dies questions for the owner arise. Should another dog be brought into the home to try and stop the grieving process? Should it be a puppy? Should it be an older dog? Since this question is asked often I thought it would be nice to go through some pros and cons.

I personally would prefer to let the dog go through the grieving process but continue to do special things with the dog more often. I believe they need this process just as humans do. However if you don’t see them picking up a bit after extra attention and activities, then it is time to visit your vet as the dog may need some medication to help.

So what would be the pros and cons to bringing in another dog right away and what age dog should you bring in?


Bringing in a puppy: Pro: would be if your older dog accepts the young dog and they get along wonderfully thus somewhat ending the grieving process. The con: this scenario rarely happens! Generally the puppy has such a high activity level that they end up annoying the older dog.


Adopting an older dog: Pro: An older dog of similar age with the same activity level may work as they may respect each other. The con: if it does not work you may find some terrible battles happening. In some instances an older dog brought into the home at this time may see your dog as being weak, and this can lead to some heavy duty fighting to take over the house and reign as the top dog, thus making the one you were trying to help petrified to move in its own home.

What to do, what to do? That is the question!

Bringing in a puppy

It’s tricky to say the least. I have always said it is so much easier to bring a puppy into an already established pack of dogs, or to a home that has a dog already. Puppies can be put in their place much easier by an established dog with little repercussion. However should you decide to go this route there are things you need to do to make the transition easier for the older dog. As well, this does not necessarily mean the grieving dog will stop grieving.


Start training the puppy in commands as soon as you get it home so the older dog is able to see you have the younger one under control and doesn’t have to worry about it.

Don’t allow the pup to jump all over the older dog (as in the above picture!). Older dogs have aches, pains, and sore joints, and a pup jumping on them is going to hurt. A hurting dog will lash out. This could quickly end any possible friendship.

Supervise play and stop it when the pup seems to be getting too wild with the older dog or when the older dog shows exhaustion.
Never leave them in the room together unattended. The potential for something happening is too great. If you cannot supervise the pup, put the pup in a crate so both dogs can get proper rest and both remain safe from harm.

Remember to view the new puppy as you would a human toddler being around your older dog, if you are vigilant, things should go fine. (Toddlers & pups jump on, pull tails, tug ears, yell, etc.)

Adopting an older dog

Should you decide to go the older dog route be prepared for some possible tension as there are some rules to this as well and an older dog may be a bit harder to control.

Have them meet on neutral ground a few times and take them each for a long walk together before you bring the dog home. This lets both dogs see that good things happen when they are together.

Pick up all toys, bones, beds, food dishes that belong to your established dog and put them away before you bring an older do into the home. (leave a few water dishes out in several places) This tells your dog that there are no items to protect which can lead to fighting. Keep them away until you see how the dogs get along inside the home. This can vary drastically from they way they behave on neutral territory and can seemingly change overnight.

Walk them daily and train them daily even if they already know the basic commands. By doing this you are being consistent in what you expect and setting yourself up as the leader of the pack which takes this decision away from both dogs thereby putting them at an even status in the family.

If you see that things are not working as you planned, be honest with yourself, find a home for the new dog as hard as it may be. Your older dog deserves the right and dignity to live out its senior years in peace.

When picking out either an older dog or a puppy try to do a temperament test on them before bringing them into the family as it may make things easier in the long run. To see what is involved in a temperament test click here.

Below, a couple of friends share what they observed in their own dogs which just proves to me that dogs do grieve. I would love to here your stories /comments as well. Until next time, paw pump!

Evelyn: I had a shepherd growing up, she never had a litter and was Mom to all our kittens. She was especially attached to one in particular. The kitten died. She searched all over for her. I got up one day, she had dug her up and was laying with her. My Dad kept burying her. She kept digging her up. It was so sad. He finally had to bury the kitten down the road!
 
Audrey: we had 2 golden’s, you remember them Sal, Ashley and Buddy. Ashley was never the same after buddy died, and although a lot younger, she died soon after. :(

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