If you’re like most pet-owners, the thought of a grieving dog puts a lump in your throat. But the fact is, our furry friends experience loss just like we do. And while we can’t explain their owner’s passing to them, there are certain things we can do to help ease their anxiety about why things have suddenly changed.

Do dogs grieve the death of their owners?

Russell Hartstein, a Los Angeles based certified dog behaviourist, says, “When an owner passes away, it can be a confusing, sad and difficult period, even if arrangements have been made for the dog to be taken care of by someone else.”

Until now, it’s never been certain whether a grieving dog experiences the same sense of loss as we humans do. But thanks to recent brain imaging studies, we can be sure because the scans show similar areas of a dog’s brain lighting up when they’re feeling emotions parallel to human grief.

Barbara J. King, author of How Animals Grieve says, “My definition of grief is that a surviving animal shows distress through behaviour that is markedly divergent from its routine.”

While it can be challenging to know precisely how a dog is processing grief, there’s no denying the sadness expressed through their behavioural changes.

Dogs in mourning

You’ll want to grab a box of tissues before watching this YouTube compilation, “Dogs crying for their dead owners”.

Signs of dog grieving

If you’re caretaking a dog whose owner has recently passed, it’s essential to be aware of the signs of anxiety and stress so you can provide adequate care. By being mindful of common behaviours associated with canine grief, you can create a more comfortable environment for your furry friend and help them cope with their loss.

The most common signs of canine anxiety to look out for include:

  • panting
  • whining
  • barking
  • pacing
  • fidgeting
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • lack of energy
  • listlessness or clinginess
  • loss of interest in physical activity

Grief support for dogs in mourning

Dogs are incredibly intelligent and intuitive animals. While they may not understand the concept of death, indicators alert them that their owner is no longer around. For example, the sudden change to their routine, the absence of their owner’s presence (sight, sound, and smell) or the increased people activity and emotional distress in their home. These all convey something is very wrong.

You can help ease anxiety and create a lasting bond to see your furry companion through this challenging time by following these tips:

  • Stick to the same exercise and feeding time routines.
  • Provide additional comfort by spending more time together.
  • Give extra affection because touch increases your bond.
  • Play the dog’s favourite games or introduce new toys.
  • Increase exercise.

Canine grief busting toys

Looking for a way to help a dog process the loss of its human companion?
There’s nothing like a new toy to lift their spirits and stimulate their interest in exercise again. 

How long does a grieving dog mourn the loss of its owner?

Like us, dogs go through a mourning period. How long depends on the individual dog.

Sally Morgan, a holistic physical therapist for animals and humans, says, “I do not doubt that dogs miss us as much as we miss them, and like us, they need time to heal from a deep emotional loss.”

With time, most dogs recover emotionally from their loss. But it’s important to make sure your furry friend is healthy both physically and emotionally. At the first sign of decline in physical or emotional health, consult a veterinarian to ensure the symptoms of grief aren’t masking those of another illness.

Photo 73567505 © Sergey Kovalev | Dreamstime.com

Tell us your canine grief companion story

If you’re caring for a dog whose owner has recently passed, we hope our tips help you reduce their anxiety and stress. After all, dogs are incredibly intuitive animals and can sense when something is wrong. By being patient and providing plenty of love and support, you can help your furry friend process the loss of their beloved human.

Let us know if you’ve had to care for a dog who lost its owner. Share your story in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

Canine grief companion gear

Are you new to being a canine grief companion?

If so, these items will get you started off on the right foot. With lots of walks, treats and pats your furry friend will make a healthy canine grief recovery.