Dog Behavior – Is It Grief or Relief?
Many of us have experienced the loss of a dog and those of us with multi-dog households have dealt with not only our own mourning but possibly our dogs mourning the loss of their sibling.
None of our dogs have been ‘close’ to each other – it was more a mutual respect and agreement to co-exist. When Sally, Tino & Becca each passed, the remaining dog didn’t seem to mourn, but just went about their business.
We’ve previously written about Tino’s perception of sickness & loss of a neighbor dog, but other than that experience we haven’t noticed any real changes in our dogs behavior when their sibling dies.
A few months ago, my sister lost one of her dogs, Tally to hemangiosarcoma. Her second dog, Taj has exhibited a real change in behavior since Tally’s passing. Taj & Tally had a complicated relationship. Tally came to the household as a young pup when Tally was already 5+ years old and well established as head-of-household. Two female dogs in a home can be a challenge and these two were no exception. While they existed in fairly peaceful harmony 95% of the time, that 5% was always a possibility. They had a couple of battles that were real doozies. Never any serious injuries, but scary just the same.
Taj has been quite sick over the past year starting with a severe case of pneumonia that landed her in the hospital for over a week. After that, her senior years were really evident. At 13, she was noticeably weaker, slower and the pneumonia really set her back. But, since Tally’s death, Taj has experienced a revitalization. She has gotten stronger, more relaxed and is more playful.
Another friend of ours who had two dogs with a conflicted relationship reports a similar behavior change since the death of one of them.
I uncovered some research about dogs mourning the loss of a sibling, but very little about dogs behavior, stress, or health changing for the better after the loss of a sibling, but obviously it happens and it seems to make sense. If there was a conflict or an undercurrent of animosity between the pets, then when that irritant is removed, there is a sense of relief. It would be the same with humans.
How about you – what has your experience been?