When a person experiences the death a loved one, we might know that she feels grief based on what they say. However, in most instances it’s what she does or how she reacts that tells us she’s actually suffering. She might lose her focus, become disoriented and listless, doesn’t eat well and becomes disinterested in anything that happens around her. She might also cry or go without sleeping more than usual.
An animal that’s experiencing the loss of a companion may also react similarly. When your dog mourns the loss of an alpha dog, it can be heartbreaking. Even though it is not visibly known how much dogs understand about death, it is very clear that your dog can become very depressed after losing a companion. When the alpha dog dies, owners will notice a few changes in the dogs that are left behind. They might become lethargic or aloof. Some may become clingy or stop eating. Based on the outward signs, it’s clear that dogs do grieve when their companion dies.
HOW TO HELP A MOURNING DOG
While long periods of mourning aren’t normal in most dogs, simply understanding and showing patience to a dog in mourning period can help anguished dogs cope. Here’s a comprehensive guide on what to do when the alpha dog passes away in the household. I wish I did my research sooner. I hope this will help another parent.
More Time and Attention
One important way to help your dog recover is by spending more time together’ cuddle more, take longer walks or even devote an extra twenty minutes to throw around the tennis ball. In case your dog won’t eat, do not tempt her with the human comfort foods like ice cream or pizza. Instead, you should stoke her appetite by offering doggy treats and minimizing stress (no changes to her territory or house guests). Try taking the dog to any dog park. If your dog looks like she wants to play, you should schedule doggy play dates. However, if your dog decided to stay away from other animals, you should respect her need for time to stay alone.
A New Position
When your pet is mourning the loss of an alpha dog, she is mourning a pack member as well as the loss of their previous pack position. Your dog might now be a follower without the leader. As a result, it is important to help your dog find a healthy and new position within your home.
If your dog is mourning, you should provide her with more attention, activity and affection. Try keeping her mind off the loss by doing the things that she likes. You can buy her toys that are specially-designed for mental stimulation. You can also take her for a walk, bring her on the car trips or even invite people over.
Even though your dog might be older, she can keep on learning for her whole life. Teach her easy games or new tricks. You should also set aside few minutes daily to bond with your dog. Spend around 15 minutes brushing her or giving her a massage – she will start looking forward to this new routine.
Patience is Key
Remember the old adage “time heals all wounds”? This saying applies to your dog as well. Do not fret in case your dog doesn’t instantly respond to the extra attention or new activities. Just wait patiently and she will eventually come around.
During your dog’s mourning process, don’t give her attention when she is exhibiting behaviors that you don’t like because this will reinforce the negative behavior. If your dog is barking, howling or whining, don’t distract her. Just give her your attention when she is resting quietly or sitting.
Time for a New Dog
Animals are also sensitive to the human emotions. As such, you should try minimizing extravagant displays of grief in front of your dog. If you are tempted to replace the dog that passed, hold it off. You should wait before making new additions so as to give your dog (and you) enough time to adjust. Your dog is accustomed to her former companion thus introducing an attention-seeking and hyperactive puppy can be emotionally and physically stressful.
Also, it is important to realize that your dog will eventually adjust to life without an alpha companion and she might actually thrive on her own.
No one knows exactly how long a dog’s memory is. However, based on anecdotal evidences, it’s clear dogs do remember their companions for quite some time. Whereas the process might take a few weeks or months, almost all owners will eventually notice a return to normal activities. However, if mourning signs last longer than normal, you should take your dog to a vet to rule out any underlying medical problems.