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How to Help a Grieving Dog

July 18, 2022 3 min read
sad pug lying on rug

Dogs experience emotions, and that can include grief as well as happiness. Dogs are especially prone to mourning after the loss of a beloved animal or human companion. If you suspect that your dog is grieving, here are things you can do to help a grieving dog besides showering them in belly rubs and bully sticks for dogs:

Be patient with them.

Just as with humans, dogs need time to grieve and naturally process their feelings about the loss of an animal companion or another sad event. Most dogs take between two and six months to process their grief, so if it’s only been a few weeks, be patient with them and give them time. Every dog is different; some will take longer than others to work through their grief.

Spend some extra time together.

Increasing the quality of time that you spend together can help comfort your dog in their grief. Think of some of their favorite activities and plan time to do them together, whether that’s going for a walk or trying out a dog treat subscription box. Even just watching TV together on the couch while you cuddle can be quality time if that’s what your dog loves to do. However, you should also regularly play together to encourage the production of feel-good hormones such as serotonin, so don’t let your dog become a complete couch potato.

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Praise them for healthy behaviors.

Dogs may express grief in many different ways, including loss of appetite, howling, peeing inside, and other behaviors. Instead of giving them attention — even negative attention — for these behaviors, focus on encouraging their positive behaviors instead. Praise them when they eat, and don’t yell at them when they refuse to. Ignore howling whenever possible. Instead, pet your dog when they are calm. This will encourage them to keep doing healthy, positive behaviors rather than vying for your attention with inappropriate behaviors.

Pay attention to your emotions.

Dogs pick up on human emotions, which in turn affects their moods. It’s totally understandable if you are also grieving the loss of your beloved animal, but try not to grieve too much in front of your dog if they already seem depressed. Instead, offer your dog love and affection to make them feel secure and happy.

owner hugging small pup

Maintain a normal routine.

Maintaining a sense of normalcy is really important for grieving dogs, especially if they are trying to adjust to the loss of a companion, which is already a big change to get used to. Continue to follow your daily and weekly schedules, including walking them at the same time and feeding them the same food. Hold off on making any big changes until they are feeling better and can adjust more easily.

Distract them when possible.

Letting your dog sit and mope around isn’t healthy for them or for you. Instead, try to distract them with fun activities, whether that is going to the dog park or taking a special day trip together. If you are going to be gone for a while, put on some music or the TV so that your dog doesn’t feel so alone, and give them a puzzle toy with dog bones inside to distract them while you leave.

border collie looking up from floor

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Consider adopting a new dog.

Whether or not to adopt a new dog is a highly individual decision that depends entirely on your dog and the rest of the household. Some dogs crave companionship to the point that adopting a new dog may help them bounce back more quickly. Other dogs are already undergoing a lot of stress during the grieving process and thus aren’t prepared to cope with the pressure of adjusting to a new dog. And, of course, you might not be ready to bring a new dog into the family either. Carefully weigh the decisions before adopting a new dog, and don’t assume that it will automatically help your grieving canine.

See a vet if necessary.

If your dog’s mourning period is lasting for months, or if it’s adversely affecting their health, it might be time to take them to the vet for a checkup. Vets can identify the signs of depression in dogs and make recommendations for an appropriate course of treatments, which can include lifestyle changes and medications. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your vet to help your grieving dog.

Want to cheer up your dog with high-quality treats? At Best Bully Sticks, we make single-ingredient treats for dogs that are good for their minds and bodies, including antlers for dogs and collagen chews for dogs. U.S. orders over $79 ship free, so don’t be afraid to spoil your dog with a big haul!

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