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Dogs and Grief

Helping Your Dog with the Loss of Another Dog

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Dogs and Grief
Photo ©iStockphoto.com/HannamariaH

Losing a pet is a sad and stressful situation for everyone - including the other dogs in the household. If you are dealing with the death of one of your dogs, there are several things you can do to help your remaining dog through the difficult time.

What to Expect

Just like people, all dogs react differently to loss. Here are some common dog reactions to the death of another dog:

  • Physical symptoms. The dog left behind may have physical symptoms in response to the loss. Some commons symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, and sometimes even illness.
  • No signs. Other dogs may not show any signs when he loses a companion dog.
  • Personality changes. Still other dogs may seem to change some of their behaviors. If the dog that passed away was the leader of the pack, the dog left behind may feel it's now his responsibility to take on that job. You may notice him barking more at passersby or acting more outgoing and confident.

Stick to Your Routine

No matter how your dog reacts to the loss of another dog, chances are he's feeling stress over the changes in the household. One of best ways you can help him adjust to the loss is to stick as carefully as possible to his normal routine. Continue feeding him and walking him at the same times. Sticking to his usual schedule can help a great deal in reducing his stress.

Provide More Exercise and Stimulation

Chances are the dog that passed away played a large role in the day-to-day life of your other dog. They may have played together or napped together. Losing this may leave the remaining dog feeling bored and anxious. You can help your dog deal with the boredom and anxiety by providing him with more exercise and mental stimulation. Some things you can do include going for an extra walk each day, providing plenty of interesting toys, starting an obedience program, and playing extra games of fetch or tug-of-war.

Should You Get Another Dog

One of the first pieces of advice many people hear when they lose their dog is to run right out and get another one. Before you get another dog, there are some things you should consider.

  • Ask yourself whether you're ready for another dog. Your life may have changed a great deal since you first brought your dogs home, and new dogs are a lot of work. Make sure you are absolutely ready for this commitment before bringing home a new dog.
  • Make sure your dog will accept another dog. Just because your dogs were inseparable until the day one of them passed away, does not mean the remaining dog will have the same relationship with a new dog. You may want to visit a dog park or plan some doggie play dates with other dogs to see how your dog reacts before bringing home a new dog.

  • Let your dog help select your new dog. If you do feel that you and your dog are ready to add another dog to the family, let your dog help you choose a companion. Many shelters and breeders will allow you to bring your dog to meet their dogs. Allowing the dogs to meet first gives you the chance to find the best companion for your dog.
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