How to Help a Grieving Dog

dog lying under a plaid blanket with just its nose sticking out

When our dogs are feeling off or seem unhappy, we’d do anything to help them feel better. Oftentimes, the best way to start helping is to figure out why your dog is feeling down. Here’s what to know about grief in dogs and how to help a grieving dog:

Do Dogs Grieve?

Yes, dogs do grieve. Although we can’t ask dogs how they’re feeling and have them explain it to us, they can show us. And, their behavior indicates that they do experience grief in some form. They tend to grieve after losing companions they have become close to, whether they are human, canine, or another animal.

What are the Signs of Grief in Dogs?

Every dog grieves differently and some may not seem to grieve at all. Many of the signs of grief in dogs overlap with other health issues including depression in dogs. A grieving dog may show a loss of appetite by eating much less than normal or by not eating at all. They may also become lethargic and withdraw from people and activities they used to love.

Similarly to how one of the stages of grief in humans is anger and can result in outbursts, the same is true for a grieving dog. A dog experiencing grief may act out with unusually aggressive or destructive behaviors. They may also start experiencing separation anxiety, having accidents in the house, or vocalizing their grief through whimpers, whines, and howls.

In addition to calling out to the missing companion, a grieving dog may also search for them inside the home and also outside of the home in places their companion would frequent. They may also become unusually clingy and follow you around more than usual. This could be the beginning of separation anxiety or the grieving dog just needing reassurance that you aren’t leaving them too.

It’s important to note that many of the signs of grief in dogs are also symptoms you should never ignore in your dog. So, if you see any of them, you should make a visit to the vet to rule out potential health issues. Plus, if your dog is grieving, your vet can give you some tips on how to help them through it.

How Can You Help a Grieving Dog?

When your dog is grieving, it can be a tough time for everyone. More often than not, you’ll probably be grieving too. As you work through your own grief, here are a few ways you can help a grieving dog:

1. Make Sure They Continue to Eat and Drink

Your dog may experience a loss of appetite while they are grieving. You want to give your dog time to grieve, but you also want to make sure your dog is still getting enough nutrition and sustenance. It may take some nudging or some special tactics from you to keep your dog eating, but it will become easier eventually.

2. Spend Time With Your Dog

Your dog may hide more than usual while they are grieving. It’s fine if your dog needs some alone time. Let them have it, but also be ready to spend time with them when they want it. You want to make sure your dog is getting the companionship they need. It’ll probably be good for you to have the company too.

3. Get Them Moving

A grieving dog may be lethargic, but it’s important to keep up with regular exercise and get them moving. Even if you take a slightly reduced approach to it, it’s important to make sure daily walks are still happening. Playtime or another activity would be a bonus if your dog is up to it. If not, try extending your walks to make sure your dog is getting enough activity.

4. Keep up With Routines

Dogs, and humans too, get used to routines. Routines can help us feel secure and reassure us even when everything else is out of control. The same is true for your dog.

Stick to your dog’s established routines as much as possible. This will help your dog feel more secure as you both move through something that is consistent and familiar.

5. Set up Play Dates

Your dog is missing their companion and is feeling that loss. Although it won’t replace their friend, you can help them feel better by setting up play dates with other dogs and their owners. If your dog is up to it, you can also take a trip to the dog park to get some exercise and make some new friends.

6. Try Something New

Trying out a new activity or visiting a new place can bring both you and your dog out of a funk, at least temporarily. It gets both of you out of the environment you’ve been stuck in and into something new. Although it might not be a long-term fix, a new place or activity can help give your dog a boost.

7. Get Another Dog

If you and your dog are grieving the loss of another dog in the household, you can consider getting another dog. Although you can’t replace what you’ve lost, you can introduce another companion to help your dog feel less lonely. It’s not the right answer for everyone. But, sometimes, this can help create a new normal and give your dog the companionship they are missing.

These are just a few ways to help a grieving dog. Grief, and the reasons behind it, are never fun. But, by being there for your dog and being patient, you can help both of you get through it.