Dealing with Grief in Dogs

When your dog mourns the companionship of another dog, it can be heart breaking. Although it is not known how much dogs understand about death, it's clear that dogs can become extremely depressed after a companion dies. Just like humans who have lost a loved one, many dogs lose their appetite, no longer have interest in their favorite activities, become lethargic or sleep excessively. If you are worried about your dog's behavior, speak to your vet. She may wish to prescribe medication to help ease your dog's anxiety.

A New Position
When a dog is mourning the loss of a dog companion, he is mourning a fellow pack member and the loss of their previous pack position. Your dog might now be a leader without a follower, or a follower without a leader. That's why it's important for you to help your dog find a healthy, new position in your home.

Gentle Distraction
If your dog is grieving, you should provide him with more attention, affection and activity. Try to keep his mind off his loss by doing things that he likes. Take him for walks, bring him on car trips or invite people over. Also you can buy toys that are designed for mental stimulation.

Even though your dog is older, he can keep learning for his entire life. Teach him new tricks or easy games. Also, set aside a few minutes each day to bond with your dog. Spend 15 minutes brushing him or giving him a massage - he'll start looking forward to the new routine.

Patience is Key
Remember the old saying "time heals all wounds"? It applies to your dog too. Don't fret if your dog doesn't immediately respond to new activities or extra attention. Just be patient and he'll come around eventually.

During your dog's grieving process, don't give him attention when he's exhibiting behavior you don't like - it will reinforce this negative behavior. If your dog is barking, whining or howling, don't distract him. Give him attention when he is sitting or resting quietly.

Time for a New Dog?
Now may not be the time to get another dog for a couple of reasons. Older dogs don't like changes in their environment, and adjusting to a new pet can be stressful. Also, it's important to realize that your dog will eventually adjust to being without a canine companion - and may actually thrive on his own.

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