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Does my pet grieve?

Stories like that of Hachiko, the Japanese Akita who for nine years continued to show up at the train station where he had met his master before his sudden death, gain popularity for a reason. We’ve all heard of or experienced something similar.  My own labrador began behaving anxiously after I had to put her two friends down, worried when I’d leave her anywhere. These reactions beg some fascinating questions about what could be going on inside our canine companions’ minds. Do they dream? Do they love? Can they sense when we’re sad? While we may never know for sure, research has shown that dogs do experience some emotions, and grief is one of them. 

Just like with a human, there are some ways we can help our furry family members through the grieving process: 

● Have your other dogs present when euthanizing a pet; this way they will understand that their friend is gone.
● If you have two or more dogs, make sure they have independent lives.
● Make sure you are the pack leader and not another dog. I have seen dogs become very lost if their alpha has passed away. 
● Get your dog out for walks and playtime with you and another dog friend.

If you decide to get your grieving dog a new companion, bring your dog to the shelter or kennel and introduce the two first. Consider the sex of the dog - opposite sexes are usually the safest bet if you want to avoid any challenges to your dog’s dominance. 
Age can be another important factor when choosing which dog to bring home. If your present dog is older, he may be energized by a younger dog, but he may also be stressed by one. Watch how the two interact to determine how your dog reacts. 

Remember, when you are grieving for the loss of your pet or loved one, so is whoever else has been left behind -- even dogs! They may need you to be the strong one and help them through this difficult time, just as they will help you. 

By Valerie Masi
Owner, Best Paw Forward Dog Training

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