As the owner of two dogs, one of whom is older than the other, a thought recently crossed my mind about what to do on the day the older one dies. What is the right thing to do, for example, should I let my dog see my dead dog? Will the other dog grieve and miss his pal?
To get the bottom of the issue and to help you too, I asked the experts and did my own research. Here’s what I found out about dogs realizing other dogs are dead, and whether you should let them say goodbye.
Should I let my other dog see my dead dog? Letting your other dog see your dead dog is a personal choice, but something to consider is the circumstances of the death. Providing the dead dog isn’t diseased or in a horrible state, then it’s ok. But be prepared to help with the grieving process.
Bear in mind, this is a very personal opinion, and you will need to make your own choice as to whether you should let your dog see a dead dog. However, the following bits and pieces I discovered might help you arrive at the best conclusion.
The cause of death aside, it’s okay to let your dog see another dog dead but only if you can handle watching them “mourn” their mate.
Stay with me as I let you in on ways you can offer support to your grieving dog. In fact, how can you tell if your dog has been affected by the demise of its furry friend? Keep reading to find out.
Can my dog see my dead dog?
Five years ago, my close childhood friend lost one of her dogs. She owned two and had raised them together for some years before death struck. The dog died in the house after suffering from an internal injury.
Rather than keeping the news to herself, she opted to “share” it with her remaining dog.
She wanted to let her dog say goodbye to other dog and felt this was the best way, but letting it see the dead dog.
While I didn’t make sense (back then) of why her decision was necessary, curiosity did get the best of me.
I did a bit of research online and discovered that some dog owners noticed their surviving dog stopped searching for their absent mate after seeing their dead body!
Believe it or not, it’s okay to show your furry friend the body of a dead dog if:
- One, they shared a close bond.
- And two, if the dead dog didn’t die of an infectious disease which could risk the surviving dog.
How long do dogs grieve loss of another dog?
There is no right answer to this, as a study has shown that different dogs take different lengths of time to grieve. The American Kennel Club published this detail:
“A study published in the November 2016 edition of Animals found that canine grieving behaviors and how long they last can vary from dog to dog, according to Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, an advisor for Pup Life Today. Typically, their behavior returned to normal within two to six months.”
Dogs will dogs miss each other when one dies as they form deep bonds with other dogs, especially if they’ve been around each other for a while. Showing your dog their dead dog friend’s body will save them the agony of constantly wondering why their friend’s missing.
It’s in your dog’s best interests, as you’ll be (in some way) explaining to them why their companion won’t be around in the future. And if you do choose to let your dog see the dead dog’s body, you should also decide if can take it seeing your dog’s heartbreaking reaction.
That said, dogs don’t process the concept of death the same way we humans do.
A dog seeing the body of its dead canine mate can be compared to the experience of a 5-year-old child viewing the body of a family member at a funeral. The child may not truly understand what’s going on, but they’ll know something’s wrong.
In the same way, your dog may not fully understand that their friend’s death is permanent, but they’ll certainly sense something terrible has happened to their furry buddy. That way, you can begin helping your dog work through the grieving process.
How dogs mourn other dogs
While we may not know for sure if dogs do feel the intense sadness that we humans feel when someone close to us departs (there’s no concrete evidence pointing to this), one thing is for sure: You’ll notice grief-like behaviors in your dog such as these:
- Changes in their appetite.
- Acting unusually clingy on seeking more of your attention.
- Isolating from other people or pets in your household.
- Displaying fearful behaviors.
- Little-to-no interest in participating in activities they previously did.
- Change in their sleeping patterns — For instance, sleeping too much or less.
- Suddenly exhibiting unacceptable behaviors — for example, peeing in other places other than where they usually do.
- Looking for the dead dog in areas where they used to hang out.
- Excessive howling or whining.
When not to let your dog see a dead dog
If the dog died of a contagious disease, your dog risks contracting the disease if they get close to or into contact with the body.
Unlike humans, dogs don’t know how to stay calm when around the lifeless body of their canine counterparts. They tend to get too close — sniffing the dead body, or even trying to turn the body with their paws to “wake up” their mate.
So, before you let your dog see another dog’s body, be sure that the cause of death wasn’t an infectious disease.
How do you help a dog cope with the loss of another dog?
When it becomes obvious that your dog doesn’t seem okay after seeing their buddy’s dead body, the best you can do to help them is be there for them. By doing so you can help a dog cope with the loss of another dog.
If they were close for years, it might take some time before your dog gets over the other’s absence. And if the bond was almost non-existent, your dog will get back to its usual self in no time!
Keep in mind: If you’re worried the grieving period is affecting your dog’s overall health, it’s best to contact your vet to know the way forward.
So, how can you support your dog mourning a loss of another dog during the grieving process? Let’s take a closer look:
1. Try and stay strong
If the dog’s death also hit you hard, try your best to act normal around your surviving dog, no matter how tough it may be. Dogs can easily read and interpret our emotions.
When your dog notices you constantly have a sad demeanor, they’ll most likely feed off your sadness, prolonging their grieving.
2. Give them extra attention during this period
Go out of your way to bond with your grieving dog. For instance, snuggle them when they come to sit on the couch with you, allow them to sleep on the bed with you when they show interest, and pet them as you whisper words of reassurance and consolation.
But remember — don’t overdo things as you may be (without knowing) encouraging your dog’s depressive behavior.
Handy Hint: What to get a friend when their dog dies.
3. Celebrate “normal” behavior
Cheer up when your dog accomplishes a regular activity. Say, for example, finishing their food. You’ll slowly reignite their enthusiasm for life.
4. Stick to a routine throughout the grieving period
While your dog may be going through a lot and won’t be in the mood for many things, don’t shuffle up their routine too much.
Try as much as you can to maintain structure in your furry friend’s daily life. Doing so will go a long way in distracting them from the negative emotions.
5. Be patient with your grieving dog
If they’re acting like they want some space, honor their wish. With time, they’ll heal and get back to their usual self.
6. Take some time before introducing a new dog
You may be tempted to get another dog a few days after the other’s death just so your surviving dog isn’t stuck in the cycle of loneliness.
However, it’s advisable not to act on this thought right away.
If your dog is still upset, they might start acting territorial towards the new family member.
Plus, bringing in a new dog almost immediately will mean diverting your attention from your grieving dog to the new dog (to make them feel welcome) at a time when your dog needs all your attention.
Handy Hint: I’ve recently looked into whether dogs understand when their owners die. It’s a compelling, yet sad read.
Do dogs grieve other dogs?
Yes, they do. Our furry buddies are emotional creatures. They will display grief-like behaviors when they realize a companion mate won’t be around anymore.
Do dogs understand death?
This all begs the question of do dogs know about death or understand their own mortality. I can’t tell you for certain, so over to some experts.
In her 2013 book, How Animals Grieve (view on Amazon), Barbara J. King is quoted as saying the following:
“We can’t understand how an animal understands or thinks about death. We can only evaluate what we can see, and when someone in a dog’s life dies, dogs will react with behavioral changes.”
What we can take from this is that dog will act sad when another dog dies. Based on this, it can lead us to the conclusion that when a dog sees a dead dog, it has an understanding that the dog won’t be coming back.
Then there’s an article that was published in The Scientific American in 2015, “humans are not the only creatures who mourn”. The text concludes that:
“When one animal dies, the survivor alters his or her normal behavioral routine—perhaps reducing the amount of time devoted to eating or sleeping, adopting a body posture or facial expression indicative of depression or agitation, or generally failing to thrive.”
As you can see, there currently is no science despite experts having their say.
All we can do is assume dogs realize when another dog died. And we do that based on the apparent grief we see them display with their behavioral changes.
Anecdotal evidence of dogs realizing when another dog died
One example of a dog appearing to understand death appeared on the Psychology Today website. The author, Steven Kotler, relayed a story where one of his rescue dogs died, and how another rescue dog reacted.
The dog that died was placed on a blanket, and the surviving dog kept pulling a blanket over the dead dog’s head. It looked to Kotler and his wife almost like burial type behavior. The actions were repeated, leading him to think that dogs do understand death and realize when another dog has died.
Do dogs mourn the death of other dogs?
Yes, dogs will mourn the death of other dogs. But only if they had an inseparable bond with the other dog.
To conclude, it’s okay to let your dog see a dead dog. By doing so, the surviving dog will have a clue about why they won’t see the other dog around anymore. However, only let them see the dead dog if it didn’t die of a contagious disease.