Dogs and death. do they really mourn

Many dog owners ponder this question. It’s an interesting and intriguing idea. Do they grieve the way we do? Or do they even grieve at all? It’s probably one of those questions that will always remain a mystery. But we can get some clues from our canine friends and maybe even draw a couple of conclusions.

When a dog shares his life and home with another being, whether a human, another dog, cat or other animal, a strong bond forms. The dog has lived his life with his pal and his pal’s scent is all around his environment. His human feeds him, plays with him, spends time with him and a lot of times sleeps with him! His animal pal, whether another dog, a cat or some other animal that he has bonded with, also plays with him, sometimes eats with him, and in general spends time with him. This way of life between the dog and his pal forms a strong friendship.

A lot of times the dog with form multiple friendships. An example would be between his human pal, and maybe another dog in the family. Or perhaps several humans in the family. Regardless of this, his pal’s scent is everywhere. It’s hard for us humans to comprehend this, but a dog’s scent is so powerful, that it is just part of his whole life. Dogs use their sense of smell a whole lot more than we do. They establish their territory (your house, your car, his crate), with their nose, so smell is very important to them. I once heard that dogs smell things and objects like we read a newspaper!

When that daily scent of his friend is suddenly gone, and the daily routine is absent, the dog must certainly become confused and actually disorientated. We think that dogs don’t actually understand the concept of death, much like small children, but he knows that his pal isn’t there, and his scent is gone from his environment. So because he doesn’t understand what happened, and because he can’t play or smell his friend, and his daily routine is completely and abruptly turned upside down for him, he might just lay around all day. His familiar smells are gone. He might not eat or drink. He might just plain look miserable to us. We probably will interpret this as sadness or grieving.

Now, with no human or friend to play with, and the loss of their scent, some owners say that the dog does feel some sort of grief. Remember the story about the Skye Terrier “Greyfriers Bobby” in Scotland who stayed and slept near and on top of his master’s grave every night for 14 years after the man died? People have said that the dog was grieving for his master.

Many might say that this is just anthropomorphism, which is attributing our own human qualities to our pets. But others say that dogs can become profoundly depressed, and deeply mourn the loss of their loved one. Some dog owners even say that dogs can die of grief. But perhaps all we can do is take clues from our pets and come to our own conclusions.

But one way to comfort a pet whose friend has passed might be to introduce him to a wide variety of other people and other animals (thus lots of different smells!). It might happen that he will take to another human or animal. This could perk him up and even get him to start eating and drinking regularly again. Perhaps even to play! Whatever we conclude from this intriguing subject, we owe it to our faithful dogs to take care of them and to be sure they’re happy and healthy in their life and even in our death.

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