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Grief is a human emotion, and we often interpret certain aspects of the dog's body language with sadness or joy. But do we really know that dogs have these emotions? How do you know if your dog is grieving?
Scientists find it hard to accept that a dog has feelings – although the majority of dog owners will certainly disagree with this. The reason is that humans have a language, and we can therefore label those feelings.
However, we now have research that is very specific on grieving. One study, 'The Companion Animal Mourning Project', focused on signs associated with mourning.1 Overall, they found that 66% of dogs experienced four or more behavioural changes after losing an owner or fellow household companion, which indicated grief. These signs included a decreased appetite, a change in sleeping patterns, clinginess (or reduced interaction), as well as less play or interest in activities.
If your dog has recently suffered a loss, signs of dog grief to look for include:
When dealing with a loss, you may notice that your dog retreats to a quiet space and avoids interaction.
As discussed, grief is unique, and there are a number of factors involved, including the age of the dog, its health status, how other members of the household grieve and the dog's relationship to other household members and/or pets. You could reasonably expect, however, that the grieving period will last between two and six months.
Jackie Murphy is one of the UK's leading dog behaviour specialists with over 10 years' experience in behaviour training. She runs the Specialist Dog Training and Behaviour Centre in Borden, Kent.
Find out more about Jackie Murphy.
Healthspan pet supplements are not intended to replace a well-balanced diet for your pet.