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Dogs express deep grief when loved ones are lost

Dhicon_thumb By DogHeirs Team | July 09, 2012 | Comments (12)

Hachiko is a legend in Japan for his unswerving loyalty
Read: Hachiko was revered for his incredible loyalty to his owner, even long after his guardian's death.

Dogs mourn the loss of companions, whether they are human or animal. Like people, grief is one of the basic emotions dogs experience according to Dr. Sophia Yin, a San Francisco veterinarian and applied animal behaviorist. They also feel fear, happiness, sadness and anger, as well as possessiveness. She, and other scientists are studying the human-dog bond and trying to learn more about how dogs feel and think.

created on: 2012-07-09
Read: Hawkeye grieved for his guardian, fallen Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson.

Yin says dogs in mourning may also show similar signs of grief when they are separated for long periods from the person they are bonded to. Most commonly, dogs who are grieving display depression. They also sleep more than normal, move slower, eat less and are not as interested in playing.

The dog of Lao Pan stayed by his graveside
Read: A dog stayed by the graveside of his deceased guardian without food or water for a week. Concerned villagers fed him and built him a shelter near the graveside.

Barbara King, a professor of anthropology at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia says the strong interspecies bond between dogs and people has had a long time to evolve. Dog-human connections dates back 15,000 years. Given that amount of time, dog and human friendships have developed extensively and each is highly attuned to the other, she says.

Kush grieved for his owner after he was killed in a tornado
Read: Kush was discovered next to the body of his guardian, who was killed during a tornado.

King points out that in her research, she found that in households with two dogs that have lived together for years, some owners reported that when one dog dies, the other gets depressed.

Russia's Hachiko
Read: A grief-stricken dog guarded the body of his dead mate in biting cold for two weeks.

Although skeptics might point out the change of daily routine, or the dog being empathetic with his/her owner's grief would cause depression, King thinks differently.

Stray dog refuses to leave dead friend's side
Read: A stray dog in China stayed by his dead companion after she was struck by a car.

"The surviving dog is searching around the house for a lost companion - looking in favorite places, going to places that they spent with their friend, very pointed actions that tell you the dog is missing his friend," she said.

Read: Devo the pitbull stayed by his fatally wounded friend for 14 hours before being rescued.


Footage from a traffic camera overlooking a busy freeway in Santiago, Chile captured a dog performing a heroic act — pulling an injured friend from oncoming traffic.

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View more articles in: General Health

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Comments on this Article

Thanks Liz, Yeah, Oliver spends time there quite often, I spend a lot of time there and, if I'm going out after visiting her, I usually leave Oliver there then pick him up after, so he doesn't have to be home alone (well, with Sophie, my other dog, but she doesn't visit MIL's coz she's nuts). In fact he was there for a few hours today and was OK. She said he's usually fine during the day, but, it was at night that he was loopy. She didn't do anything different, but, when FIL was alive he used to take Oliver outside and throw the ball for him. My Brother-in-law did that this time, so Ollie still had the ball thrown for him... I've spoken to my best friend, who's a vet, about it and she's recommended a pheromone collar, so I'm waiting for that to get here and then I'll be leaving him there for longer times, picking him up later and later, into the evening, before leaving him there for just one night. Hopefully it'll all work... I really appreciate your comments, though :)
Dogs are for sure awesome to be with.. they can be your loyal friend... your best friend, your companion and more... my dog saved my life.. and I am grateful for him... I hope he knows that... at times I wish I could do something to give him back.. in a way.... to let him know that I am grateful for his loyality... He does have some problems.. but it is something I can handle for now. I wish I had done some things differently though... but nevermind... he and I have the best relationship despite some setbacks.... I could never ask for a change in him.... (just me that knows now what to do as he is my first dog).... nevertheless.. nothing I could ever ask of him to change... he is the best .. the perfect dog for me 10 times over. I know how dogs can be so loyal and how they can get so attached to their owners.. I have read stories and seen stuff like this. It breaks my heart to see dogs hurt too... even though they are dogs... they do hurt and they do need time to heal.... or help to get over some things. I know they have feelings and emotions.... they may not be able to communicate but they CAN feel and have emotions.. I see it everyday in my dog I know HIS moods and his behaviors to know what he is feeling ... sometimes I think he can THINK too haha.... it is just we cannot communicate like humans can.... it would be nice!!! :) I can't even imagine what to do without a dog... I have had dogs since I was little girl on my dad's farm, then my mother got one... then I finally got my own dog. I know I will always have to have a dog with me!!!
Larysa I have a question... did your dog ever go to your MIL without the FIL by himself for a few hours? I am wondering... if he sensed that FIL is not there anymore... It could also be because you are both spending more time together that has gotten him so attached to you.. but don't feel bad. I have a dog that spends almost 24/7 with me except when I go out.. he has serious separation anxiety too.... he won't play, he sits by the door waiting for me so my son tells me and my son is learning to try to encourage my dog to sit on my sons lap or sit near him and he would play with him.... but at times my dog will not do anything when I am not home. I know of many other stories. I am unable to work too because of health problems... so... I understand you 100 percent. I am so sorry your dog had sep. anxiety when he was with your MIL... I am so sure it has to do with the FIL being gone... I could be wrong.... who knows? I hope it works out in the future. I also wonder what the MIL did if anything different? Maybe ask her if she did something different this time as compared to the other times she has had him around (including with FIL).
My dog, Oliver, seems to have developed a separation anxiety complex over the last year or so... He's now 6 years old, and a magnificent dog (just qualified as a therapy dog and my almost-constant companion). I used to work, and he was home alone - no problems, but, I had to stop working, due to disability, two years ago and am now home most of the time. Three years ago, we went to the USA for nearly 7 weeks, and Oliver stayed with my Mother and Father - in-law, and we had no problems. He's stayed there a couple of other times with no issues. Oli and I spend at least two mornings a week there visiting and keeping my M-I-L company (FIL has now passed)... Last weekend, I had to go interstate to my sister's wedding, and, as usual, Oli went to MIL's house for 5 nights. I was horrified to learn that he'd CRIED the first three nights, apparently he just walked around the house half-howling. (Drove MIL nuts!!!). Mum said he just seemed depressed. Only ate about half what I'd expected for the time period... When we finally got home, he was so excited he yelped the whole time I was walking from the car to the front door and nearly wet himself when I finally got in the door. I will be discussing this with a vet and seeing what can be done...
My condolences to those of you who have lost beloved pets. I recently acquired a dog from a lady who had him since he was 8 weeks old. She had him for two years before having to rehome him due to a change in circumstances. It was obvious that they were deeply bonded and I have spent all my time, since getting him, trying to bring him out of the depression that began a few days after I got him. It has been heartbreaking watching him suffer. He lost so much weight that I tried getting him a playmate but that didn't work out. He is finally starting to show some minimal signs of interest in life again but only time will tell whether he will ever give me the loyalty and love he gave his first owner.
Thank you, Tracy. Just be sure to give everyone a chance to say goodbye. I never got to see Annie beforehand. My brother called me to warn me about it happening, but he never told me when they were taking her. I still have issues with it, and I'm actually tearing up thinking about it.
Thanks Tracy. I feel for you in the coming months - it's the most difficult decision in the world and so hard to know when to make it. As long as your dog is happy and pain free, treasure every moment!
Sorry for your losses Riley and Sharon, kindle changed. My spelling
So sorry for your mossed Riley and Sharon. The oldest of my 3 dogs recently.diagnosed with Cushings Disease. I fear lodingehim down the road more than words can express.and fear for my sweet girl dog e Meg when that time arrives since they have unbelieveable friendship. They often stand so close together.they appear as one dog with two heads ..
Our lovely mastiff, Tinkerbell died in May of Lymphoma at age nine. Our little 4 year old Shitzu, Gem sat and waited at the window for her to come home for over a month. She went completely off her food, was uninterested in any form of play and couldn't even be bothered getting up in the morning. All through Tinks illness, Gem laid at her side and she's lost without her. We just got a new mastiff puppy which I thought would cheer her up - she always used to love other dogs but she won't accept him at all. If he goes near anything that used to be Tinks or lays in one of their favourite spots, she goes absolutely mad. I know in time their relationship will get better, but it's been nearly 4 weeks now and it's as if she's still protecting Tinks territory. We were all devastated when Tink died but at least we could understand it - it was heartbreaking watching Gem. People tell me that I'm being silly - maybe I am?
My dog Annie went into depression when my brother's dog, Ginger, was hit by our school bus. We went out about a week later and got her Niki to play with. Sadly, a few years ago Annie needed to be put down- At age 12 she had developed arthritis, cataracts, a cyst twice the size of a softball, and had seizures since she was a puppy.- Niki went so far into depression that she wouldn't even eat the brand of food the two had shared. She's doing better now, but hates other dogs and won't let them get near her.
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