Does My Dog Care That My Other Dog Died?

The death of a beloved dog is incredibly hard on pet owners. When you have multiple dogs and one passes away, it’s natural to wonder if your surviving dog cares or even understands what happened. Dogs form close social bonds and experience emotions, so the loss of a canine companion can be very distressing. Understanding how dogs grieve and finding ways to help them through the mourning process is important for their well-being. While the grief may seem overwhelming at first, there are steps you can take to support your dog and cope with the loss yourselves. This article will explore the signs that a dog is grieving the loss of another dog, and provide information on how to ease their transition.

Do Dogs Grieve?

Yes, there is strong scientific evidence that dogs do grieve the loss of companions. A 2022 study published in Scientific Reports analyzed dogs’ behaviors following the loss of a canine companion and found clear signs of grief, including reduced activity, increased stress, and changes in appetite (Uccheddu, 2022). The researchers concluded that dogs formed bonds similar to human friendships and experienced grief when those bonds were broken.

Another scientific study published in the peer-reviewed journal Animal Cognition in 2019 provided experimental evidence that dogs exhibted depressed behavior, vocalizations, and searching after the disappearance of their companion. The researchers stated “Our findings provide evidence that dogs manifest clear behavioral patterns associated with grief” (Uccheddu et al., 2019).

According to veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall, dogs absolutely grieve the loss of a companion, showing symptoms like lethargy, loss of appetite, restlessness, and vocalizations. The strength of their grief depends on factors like their dependence on the deceased dog and the strength of their bond (Mills, 2022).

So the scientific consensus based on observational and experimental studies is that dogs clearly do experience grief at the loss of animal companions they had close social bonds with.

Signs of Grief in Dogs

Dogs exhibit many behavioral changes when grieving the loss of another dog that was close to them. Some common signs of grief include:

– Withdrawal from people and other pets. Grieving dogs may isolate themselves, avoid social interaction, and seem sad or depressed. Source

– Decreased appetite. A grieving dog may have little interest in food or treats. They may lose weight due to lack of eating. Source

– Lethargic behavior. Grieving dogs tend to sleep more, move less, and have lower energy levels. They may seem listless or restless.

– Searching behaviors. Dogs may frantically search for their deceased companion or wait by doors hoping for their return. Source

– Increased vocalizations. Whining, barking, and howling are common as dogs cope with loss and adjust to the absence of a bonded companion.

– Aggression or neediness. Some dogs may become uncharacteristically aggressive or needy while grieving.

These changes in demeanor reflect the distress dogs feel when missing another pet. With patience and compassion, dog owners can identify grief and support their pet’s emotional needs.

Coping With Loss

Like humans, dogs go through a grieving process when they lose a close companion or family member. According to the AKC, the stages of grief are very similar for dogs and humans – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (source).

When a dog first loses a companion, they may show signs of denial by looking for their friend, refusing to eat, and acting restless or clingy. As reality sets in, a grieving dog may become angry and act out with behaviors like barking, whining, or destroying furniture.

Bargaining represents the dog hoping for things to go back to normal. They may wait patiently by the door for the deceased to return or retreat to their favorite shared spots. Depression follows, indicated by lethargy, loss of interest in toys and treats, and spending more time sleeping.

Finally, dogs reach a stage of acceptance where they adjust to life and routine without their companion. This process varies by dog but usually takes weeks to months. Patience, care, and maintaining normal routines can help dogs through the grieving process (source). With time and support, dogs can find joy and meaning even after a painful loss.

Supporting Your Grieving Dog

Losing a companion can be very difficult and disorienting for dogs. As pack animals, dogs form strong social bonds, so the passing of a companion dog, animal or human, can leave them depressed, anxious, and unsure of what to expect. There are several ways you can help support your dog during this hard time:

Keep routines consistent. Sticking to regular schedules for feeding, walks, playtime, etc. helps grieving dogs feel more secure when everything seems uncertain. Maintain their normal routines as much as possible.

Give them extra love and affection. Dogs will need extra reassurance, so spend more quality time together through cuddles, grooming, or just your presence. Touch helps relieve stress.

Engage in more playtime and exercise. Keeping your dog’s mind and body active helps them cope and lifts their mood. Take them on energetic walks, play fetch or tug-of-war, give chew toys or puzzle games.

Consider doggy daycare. The social time and activity with other dogs provides comfort and distraction from the loss. The play and interaction is therapeutic.

Use calming aids if needed. Anxious dogs may benefit from pheromone collars, calming treats or supplements, or prescription anti-anxiety medication in extreme cases. Talk to your vet for advice.

Be patient and understanding. Grief takes time to heal, so allow your dog to work through this process in their own way. Show them patience and compassion as they adjust.

Overall, be there for your dog with comfort, security, and patience. With time and support, they can recover from their grieving. Some key tips are maintaining normalcy in routines, providing affection and reassurance, keeping them active, and using calming aids if anxiety is severe. Being a steady, loving companion will help them heal.

When to Seek Help

While grief and sadness are normal after the loss of a canine companion, there are times when a dog’s behaviors warrant intervention from a veterinarian or professional trainer (1). Here are some signs that your dog may need additional support and care during the grieving process:

  • Refusing to eat or drink for more than 24 hours (2)
  • Excessive lethargy and loss of interest in normal activities for more than 2-3 days (3)
  • Aggressive behavior like growling or snapping, especially towards family members (4)
  • Self-destructive behaviors like excessive licking or chewing (5)
  • Seeking isolation and hiding for long periods (6)
  • Uncharacteristic housetraining accidents (7)
  • Pacing, whining, or loss of sleep (8)

While some of these behaviors may be temporary as your dog processes grief, ongoing issues can be signals of severe distress requiring veterinary or training guidance. Contact your vet if you have any concerns about changes in your dog’s health, appetite, or behavior lasting more than 3-4 days after a loss. They can provide an exam, prescribe medication if needed for anxiety or depression, and refer you to a qualified trainer or behaviorist (9). With expert care and your comfort, most dogs can move through grief in a healthy way.

Funeral and Memorial Rituals

There are many ways to memorialize a deceased pet and provide a sense of closure for surviving dogs. Some ideas include:

Holding a funeral or memorial service – This gives surviving dogs a chance to see and smell their deceased companion one last time. It also provides an opportunity for the human family to grieve together. Some choose to bury their pet afterward, while others opt for cremation. According to this article, rituals can help dogs find closure.

Creating a memorial space – Make a little shrine or memorial garden outside with a marker, photos, candles, and your pet’s favorite toys. This gives surviving dogs a dedicated place to visit and remember their friend.

Doing a ceremony – Some pet parents perform religious blessings or spiritual ceremonies to honor the pet’s life and help their soul transition. This can provide comfort to grieving dogs who sense the ritual.

Spreading ashes – For dogs who were cremated, spreading their ashes in a favorite park or hiking trail can provide closure. Bring surviving dogs if possible, so they understand their friend’s ashes were laid to rest.

Planting a tree – Plant a tree or shrub in your pet’s memory, either burying ashes at the base or just dedicating the plant to them. Surviving dogs may find comfort in having a living memorial.

Introducing a New Dog

The death of a beloved dog is incredibly difficult, and every owner grieves in their own way. There is no set timeframe for when you “should” get another dog. Some people start looking for a new canine companion right away to help fill the hole left behind, while others need more time to grieve before considering a new dog. Both approaches are completely normal.

It’s important not to rush into getting a new dog before you’re emotionally ready. Take time to process your grief and wait until excitement outweighs trepidation when thinking about a new dog. It’s also common to feel guilty or conflicted about “replacing” your previous pet. Rest assured your departed dog would want you to be happy. When you’re ready, welcoming a new dog into your life can provide comfort and joy after loss.

When introducing a new dog, take it slow. Set up a separate space at first, like a crate in another room, so the dog has their own territory. Try short meetings on neutral ground, keeping interactions calm and positive. Monitor body language and separate them if needed. Be patient as they get to know each other and don’t force interactions. Provide each dog with individual love and attention.

Getting a dog of the opposite sex can help differentiate them. Considering a different breed or slightly older dog works for some. Maintain your previous dog’s routines and rituals at first to provide stability. Over time, create new shared experiences and rituals to bond the dogs. With patience and proper introduction, the new dog can help heal your heart.

Coping With Your Own Grief

Losing a beloved pet can be incredibly painful. It’s important to acknowledge the grief and allow yourself to fully mourn the loss. Some tips for coping with grief after your pet dies include:

– Allow yourself to cry and express emotions. The grief may feel overwhelming at times. Don’t bottle up emotions.(1)

– If you live alone, the silence can be hard to bear. Consider asking a friend or family member to stay with you during the initial grieving period.(2)

– Create a memorial spot with your pet’s photo, collar, or other special items. Light a candle or visit the spot when you need comfort.

– Don’t let others dictate how long you should grieve. Take all the time you need. Grief has no timeline.

– Consider joining a pet loss support group to connect with others going through similar grief.(3)

Grieving is a normal, healthy process after losing a cherished pet. Allow yourself to fully experience the emotions and find ways to commemorate your pet’s life.


Losing a beloved canine companion can be extremely difficult for both you and your dog. While dogs may not grieve in exactly the same way humans do, they absolutely feel the loss when a close companion dies or leaves home. Signs your dog is grieving may include loss of appetite, lethargy, anxiety, restlessness, and searching for the missing companion. The good news is there are many things you can do to help comfort your grieving dog during this difficult transition. Extra love, patience and compassion will go a long way. Consider allowing them to say goodbye, establishing a new routine, and providing ample socialization and exercise. With time and support, your dog can learn to adjust to life without their companion. If signs of grief persist or worsen, consult your veterinarian. Be patient with yourself as well – losing a pet is devastating for many owners too. Cherish your memories, memorialize your deceased companion if it helps you cope, and know that your dog’s unconditional love lives on in their legacy.

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