Have you recently had to look after a dog that lost its owner or someone it was deeply attached to? Or have you and your dog both had to bear a recent loss, and you wonder if dogs feel grief or miss their owners when they die?
Studies on this subject have shown that dogs do sense their owner’s death. Maybe not as outrightly as humans articulate the idea of death, but dogs miss their owners after being absent from their lives for longer than usual.
This is especially when things change, signifying that their owner may be gone for good. Read on to discover how dogs react to the feeling of sudden loss.
Four signs a dog is missing its owner who passed away
It has been acknowledged that dogs do sense loss as humans do when they lose someone they love.
Once dogs realize this, it becomes a period of sadness and distress for them, so they begin to act in ways that we, humans, refer to as grieving.
Loss of appetite and weight
Among the many ways dogs may choose to express their feeling of longing for their owners, some dogs develop an unhealthy appetite.
They may refuse food or make drastic changes to their feeding habit. For example, they may not eat as much or as well as they used to. And even when they do, they struggle to take in only something little.
Consequently, your dog may begin to shed a lot of weight because of this unhealthy feeding habit.
Reduced physical activity
Dogs may find it hard to perform routine activities without their deceased owners, who have always been there to do those things with them.
As a result, they begin to show disinterest in physical activities and may stay completely away from them. In turn, they sleep a lot to avoid involving themselves in these activities.
You may also notice that friendly dogs may begin to show little interest in forming relationships with people.
Moping and whimpering
Dogs also express distress by moping and sulking around places their deceased owner used to frequent, usually around the house.
While dogs may not understand the full concept of death, they would react to the fact that a parent they were attached to is no longer a part of their lives.
Thus, dogs may keep sulking and pacing aimlessly around places that remind them of their owner instead of engaging in normal routines and activities.
Anxiety and depression
Dogs get anxious when they start losing their owner’s physical aura (smell, sounds, and sight) around the house.
They show general uneasiness and sadness because of this sudden and discomforting void left by their owners, which begins to affect their daily lives.
Due to this sudden separation, dogs may show signs of separation anxiety and panic. Coupled with this, some dogs may suffer from insomnia resulting from the stress and anxiety of feeling alone.
This sign for dogs entails disinterest, especially in things that used to interest them. Most dogs would curl up in a place without eating or engaging in any form of physical activity.
Beyond this, you may notice that your dog is constantly lazy and sluggish to do anything. This sign becomes more severe the longer it lasts.
How do dogs react to the death of their owners?
The moment dogs sense their owner’s absence, they can react in several unscripted ways. Dog owners must pay attention to these signs for the benefit of their dogs.
According to the findings from research, we have come to acknowledge that dogs do grieve their owner’s death.
Although it has not been established that they would understand their actions as grieving, dogs would show physical signs following the sudden loss of a parent figure in their lives.
Dogs would react to the changes in their daily routine or people around them, but there is no telling how long it will take a dog to start adjusting to these changes. Some dogs get worse over time.
Create new bonds
Upon realizing that their owner is gone, dogs may choose to react to this by forming new bonds with new or, usually, familiar people, or maybe a family member.
Dogs are naturally friendly creatures. Thus, while longing for their owners, dogs could get really clingy as a way of finding solace in other relationships.
This may lead them to create new bonds and relationships.
Completely alter their behavior
On the one hand, some dogs may miss their owners so bad they find it hard to go on without them.
They could completely alter their behavior and routine because doing these things without their owner may just be another kind of torture for them.
In turn, they could develop health or behavioral issues like showing aggression toward people. They could manifest this alteration by not engaging in their normal activities with anyone else.
On the other hand, some dogs may show no physical or behavioral signs whatsoever even though they miss their owner and sense their absence.
Dogs may do this to protect themselves, or their way of expressing that they miss their owner may just be to keep to themselves.
Dog owners must pay close attention to dogs that don’t show any signs, especially those that were very attached to their deceased owners.
Helping your dog through the grieving process
If your dog is showing any physical signs of grief, it means that they miss whoever they recently lost just as much as you’d miss someone you love that died, so be understanding.
Be considerate of your dog’s situation. Support your dog through it all, and do not force them to heal or adapt to the situation.
Pay close attention to your dog.
Only the feeling that they are loved and cared for will help them get through this. Be very conscious of the signs they exhibit and how much or little the signs develop over time.
Pay extra attention, especially to dogs that don’t show any signs but are attached to their owners, and spend quality time with them.
Create routines to distract them
While spending time with them, engage them in things they love to do. Provide them with various types of entertainment: walks, picnics, toys, etc., or invite people or pets over that could cheer them up.
All these could distract them from their owner’s absence and make them realize they could live a happy life moving forward.
Knowing that dogs in this state will be discouraged and uninterested in any physical activity, you should try your best to engage them.
Set up a meeting with a professional
In extreme cases, when these signs go on for too long and when they keep getting worse or begin to ruin your dog’s health, you should set up a meeting with a professional.
Hence, it is important to pay close attention to your dog to know when it has gone beyond what you can handle. You can decide to go to therapy if your dog exhibits disturbing psychological signs.
Effects of too much grieving on dogs
Behavioral and health issues
Dogs could exhibit some disturbing behavioral signs that eventually affect their mental or physical health or both.
They could become really aggressive, making it hard for them to form new relationships with people. This aggressive behavior could be a sign of separation anxiety and a way of expressing sadness.
Among other things, dogs may breakdown and become socially awkward creatures following the loss of their owner.
Apart from being uninterested in performing their usual physical activities, they may also have difficulty getting too attached to any of their subsequent owners.
Dogs may become less friendly even after they must have stopped grieving the loss of their owners and moved on. They could so easily lose touch with people around them for good.
Some dogs exhibit these signs until they die. Studies have shown that some dogs die not too long after their owner’s death.
They could remain sad and unable to move on till they die. Some dogs fall really ill due to their lack of food intake or involvement in physical activities.
Also, it becomes difficult for some dogs to take another place as home. They keep to themselves and do not get close to anyone until they die.
Several dog owners wonder if dogs feel the loss of their parents, if they actually miss them, and grieve as humans do.
Losing a loved one can be devastating for a dog as it is for humans. Therefore, it is the responsibility of a dog’s parents to take care of and be there for their dogs.
Dogs could react to this sudden separation in different ways, but the way they are treated will affect how well they can move on without incurring any health issues.