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Do Dogs Grieve When Another Dog Dies?

How to help your dog cope with the death of a housemate dog.

By
Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
Episode #115
Grieving dog

Recently, Deborah wrote to me about her two dogs, Greta and Oyster. The family adopted Greta two years ago, when they already had Oyster. Deborah says it was “love at first sight” for the dogs, even though Greta’s afraid of other dogs in general. Deborah brought her dogs to work, and a colleague’s dog, Lucy, would hang out in her office with Greta and Oyster.

Sadly, Oyster died, and now Greta’s afraid to pass Lucy in the office hallway. It seems as if Oyster gave shy Greta confidence, and Deborah wonders how she can best help Greta now that her companion is gone. This week, a look at how dogs react when a housemate dog dies, and what you can do to help them adjust.

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Do Dogs Feel Grief?

Most dogs recover quickly from the death of a housemate dog.

Probably most people assume that if housemate dogs are friends and one dies, the surviving dog will feel grief, or a canine equivalent. In my experience, this isn’t necessarily so. Our dogs Muggsy and Izzy were the best of friends. They’d greet each other eagerly after any separation, and they played and napped together. Conflict was rare. For a few weeks after Muggsy died, Izzy would respond to the sound of his name by alerting and looking around. But she ate and slept normally and enjoyed her outings to the park as much as ever.

Last year, Izzy herself died at a ripe old age. Our dog Juniper had never known life without her. The dogs hadn’t played much, because their styles weren’t compatible, but they had a good relationship. Juni never really seemed to notice that Izzy was gone. Pretty shallow, right?

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About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).

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