Can Dogs Feel Sorrow?

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Introduction

Dogs are exceptional creatures with pure hearts of gold and are our loyal companions for the length of their life. When a companion pooch in the home dies and makes their final journey to the rainbow bridge, the effect on those left behind can be devastating.

Our connection with dogs has been crafted over thousands of years and when the chord is cut, a feeling of immense sorrow can prevail. Pooches mourning for their stablemate will exhibit similar emotions to people who have lost a loved one. A grief-stricken dog may feel sad without their fur-baby friend. Its a difficult time for owners and their dogs when a valued member of the family passes away.

Introduction of Can Dogs Feel Sorrow?

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Signs a Dog Can Feel Sorrow

When a pooch dies, the ambiance in the home is one of deep loss and while its guardians mourn for their fur-baby, so too could their Lab Retriever, who shared a special bond with their now deceased Whippet.

Noah, your loyal Lab, is missing Belle and whines when he walks through the home wondering where she is. Belle was taken to the vet when it was clear the cancer had won and her pet-mom thought it might be better if Noah didn’t see her pass. He noticed when his pet-mom came home without Belle, carrying her leash and collar - tears welling in her eyes.

Noah howled knowing something was wrong as his pet-mom tried to him comfort him, crying uncontrollably into his fur. He whimpered, sensing his pet-mom's pain and just laid there as she grieved for Belle.

Noah, with his powerful sense of smell, would have inhaled the scent from the vet and may have known Belle was not coming home. As he lay in her pet bed, his guardian could see he was feeling the loss. Together, they would grieve for their Whippet pal who had brought such joy to both of their lives.

Dogs mourn their loved ones in the way we do ours. They notice their doggy friend is gone and can pick up on the sadness in the home. In the coming days, Noah lost his appetite and there was a weakness in his gait as he moved listlessly from room to room. His tail was hung low and he stared aimlessly out the window, a thing both dogs used to do when their pet-mom went out. She was now wondering if the vet should have come to her home so Noah could have been with Belle until the end.

For weeks he lay in Belles pet bed and when his pet-mom tried to take it away he got upset and barked at her to leave it. Concerned for Noah's state of mind, his pet-mom went online and found some stories about good folk who had lost one of their dogs and found how much the other had grieved.

A reader on Sight Hound Underground told how her Whippet stopped drinking water when her Ridge-back passed. These two woofers had been together for 10 years and the vet said her dog was grieving and perhaps to get another dog.

Kathy, another reader on the site, said whenever one of her Greyhounds had to be put down at the vet, she would bring back their blanket and place it on the deceased pooch's bed. As if showing a mark of respect, each dog would lie on the pet-bed. This was a way for the living to understand what had happened and say goodbye.

Dogs can grieve in their own way by disengaging from their guardian or demanding more attention. They might sleep a lot more and check the places where their friend used to hang out. Their hearts are broken and will need the patient love of their guardian to get them through. Losing a loved one is never an easy time, as the grieving process is part of moving on.

Body Language

Signs a dog can feel intense sorrow include:
  • Staring
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Howling
  • Weakness
  • Low tail carriage
  • Whimpering

Other Signs

Signs a dog is grieving are:
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Eating less
  • Listlessness
  • Keeps checking the places their friend used to be
  • Not drinking water
  • Lying in the other dogs pet bed

History of Animals That Mourn Their Dead

History of Can Dogs Feel Sorrow?

The eerie wailing of wolves mourning a member of the pack can be a chilling sound. This ancient creature of the wild is the father of all dogs and is an emotive soul that respects the passing of a pack member.

Living With Wolves offered a rare insight into the grieving process of wolves and tells us that in some cases, it can cause the entire pack to fall apart. If one of the breeders dies naturally, the pack is generally retained, but if human intervention caused the death, it can mean the end of the pack.

When a wolf dies, the remaining members of the pack can lose their mojo, appearing depressed with a low body stance. It can take up to six weeks for grieving wolves to return to normal life. It may come as a surprise that wolves and dogs mourn their loved ones in a similar way to us. They are social beings that connect with each other like a family.

Throughout history, the arrogance of mankind has denied this likeness, preferring to pertain to the belief that we are a species removed from all others that share this earth.

The stories told of dogs like Hachiko, an Akita Inu, that waited for years at a Japanese train station for his deceased owner to return - play on the hearts of humans who acknowledge the integrity of animals. This morning and afternoon vigil created a legend and even though he may not have known his owner had passed away, the bond of love could not be denied.

Dogs that walk by the side of their military companions feel the pain of loss as is evident with Hawkeye, a loyal Labrador that lay on his side during the funeral of his Navy Seal master.

My Guaranteed Plan tells us that elephants perform a funeral of sorts for their dead as they cover the body with dirt and leaves, while magpies bring grass to lie beside a deceased friend, after which they stand silently before flying away. Dr. Mark Beckoff, a professor at the University of Colorado, is renowned for his observations of animals in the wild and believes this is the way magpies pay their last respects.

The Science of Dogs Feeling Sorrow

Science of Can Dogs Feel Sorrow?

Even though wild animals are often seen openly mourning their dead, it’s ironic that science and psychology have no specific stand on whether our woofers actually feel the loss of a friend. The argument is based on the cognitive ability of dogs being similar to that of a toddler, who is not able to perceive the finality of death.

Of course, this could explain why dogs wait for deceased owners and lie by their graves, but what about wolves? They dramatically exhibit their pain and heartbreak when a family member dies, and these are the ancestors of dogs.

KTV brings a ray of light to the subject with a comparatively new study suggesting dogs grieve like us. A researcher for the Funeral Consumer Alliance of Maine goes a step further stating that there is enough evidence to support our dogs honor the passing of close companions.

This thinking essentially changes the theory that Poodles, Corgis, and German Shepherds can’t fathom death the way an adult person could. Stepping out on a theorizing limb, we have to wonder if their magical sense of smell has a little to do with it.

When a pet-parent returns home from the vet with their deceased pups collar, leash, and blanket, the remaining pooch could sniff their personal belongings and get an idea of where they have been and what might have happened. If death has a scent, you can guarantee a dog will pick it up, after all, they can smell drugs concealed in containers.

If the dog at home was sick or aging, their pooch pal would take their cues from its body language and the smell of hormones being emitted. This ability enables our miraculous mutts to be trained as service dogs that predict seizures and potential heart attacks. Our mutts may have a similar brain to that of a two-year-old, but they also have the wolf’s senses and instincts.

Caring for a Grieving Dog

Training of Can Dogs Feel Sorrow?

We know our Pug, Husky, or Doberman can feel grief, so how do we help them navigate the loss of a dear doggy friend. Many grieving pups lose interest in their food bowl, so keep offering it until they get hungry.

You may have a clingy pup and it’s normal to offer comfort, but you don’t want to promote a behavior that could carry on after the grieving has ended. Some woofers have been known to get aggressive or anxious. Their feelings of sorrow could make them act differently.

If your pup is lethargic, pop them into the car and head for the park. The fresh air and scent of other mutts might help them feel better. Imagine if it was a member of your family who’d just lost a partner, you wouldn't want to pressure them to do things at this time. If your dog just wants to sit by you in the park, that’s okay.

The emotional vibe in the home will be condensed by your grieving pup, so keeping a calm atmosphere will help an overly-sensitized dog cope. There is no way of knowing how long this process will take, as grieving has a mind of its own.

Some folks think getting a replacement dog is the answer, but this could have the opposite effect. If it were a person who had lost their precious pup, this can work well, especially if you get a rescue pooch that desperately needs a home.

The problem with bringing a new dog into a grieving home is your upset dog might reject them. Their emotions are raw and a tear-away puppy might get on their nerves. Give it some time before you consider this idea. Your pooch is feeling sorrow and needs to heal from their loss. If things don't improve, ask your vet for advice.

How to React When Your Dog is Grieving:

  • Be gentle with them.
  • Try to keep up their usual daily routine.
  • Comfort them, but be careful not to reward new behaviors like aggression.
  • Take them to the park or for a walk.
  • Understand that their grieving might take time.
  • Try to keep the home peaceful.
  • If you are concerned, talk to a vet.