Q: One of our dogs recently died of old age, and now the other dog is extremely lonely and clearly misses him tremendously. What can we do?
A: I am so sorry to hear about your loss! Dogs can form strong emotional bonds with other companion animals, and it is well documented that they display behaviours that we would interpret as grief when a companion animal dies. There are a few things you can do to assist your pet through this time.
Keep home routines the same, where possible. If your pet is used to off-property outings, and enjoys these adventures, add a few more of these activities.
Spend a little more time with your dog – without going overboard.
Encourage your pet to partake in some fun, enriching activities in your home. He may not be that interested in the beginning, but persevere – slowly – respecting his choice to engage or not.
Above all, be there to support him and give him one-on-one quality time.
Although there is no factual evidence, some owners have stated that keeping a blanket from the deceased pet seems to bring comfort to the pet in mourning.
Don’t be in a rush to get a new pet. Both you and your dog need to adjust to the life changes.
I would also suggest fitting your dog with a pheromone calming collar. This is a natural product, which merely takes the edge off anxiety to help your dog through this process.
Love and grief are a package-deal. Be kind to yourself and your dog. The fond, happy memories will eventually overshadow the longing and pain.
Samantha Walpole, behaviourist