Here’s something I never EVER thought about. Do dogs grieve? Yes, I believe they do. But here’s the million dollar question – how do you help dogs through grief?
I had no idea. Harley was grieving, but I didn’t know what to do. When I looked at him, it was like looking into my soul. His mournful expressions tore me apart. Soon I realized this was a mirror reflection of what he saw in me…
I started looking for answers. I read an interesting article by Kathy Diamond Davis (from the Canine Behavior Series): WHEN YOUR DOG MOURNS THE LOSS OF ANOTHER DOG. One paragraph in particular, was a real eye opener:
Realize that without the other canine pack member, your dog’s position in life has now changed. You may now have a former leader dog without a follower. Or you may have a former follower dog without a canine leader. You will need to help your dog find the way to a healthy new position in the social order.
I could relate. There’s been a sudden change in the structure of our pack hierarchy…
Surely this was not something I had ever thought about – yet it “instantly” made sense to me. Harley was first and believe me, he was the leader! So now what was a Doodle Mom to do?
If you’ve previously done positive training with your dog, you’re in a great position to help the dog now.
Whew! I’m a huge fan of positive training, so I am at least on the right track.
Positive training to a reliable level of response usually creates a strong bond between handler and dog. It also creates clear communication between the two of you. The bond and the communication make it completely natural for the dog to look to you for leadership.
Seems surreal that I might finally get to be in charge!
So here’s how I’m trying to turn things around. I decided to focus first on “how to make it better.” Rather than wallow around in my dark place mumbling “whoa is me” – I redirected all of my energy and attention to Harley’s healing. Here are some suggestions that seemed like an excellent fit for us:
- Take the grieving dog on more outings, if the dog enjoys outings. Maybe it’s just a walk to the mailbox. It could be a ride along in the car to a drive-through window at the bank or fast food place. Maybe it’s a stroll in a pleasant park, or down the block to chat with neighbors. Outings deepen the dog’s bond to you, and make the dog’s life more interesting.
- Create rituals the dog can look forward to each day. Spend 15 minutes grooming the dog or, if the dog has short hair, giving it a rubdown.
- Using your positive training, teach the dog a little trick or-even better-a little task the dog can do for you in your daily routine. The genuine pleasure you will take in the dog’s help will come through clearly to the dog. Play games together, such as hide and seek.
- Feed some of the dog’s daily calories through some kind of active process. You could put the food into a food-dispensing toy. You could hide pieces of the food around the house or yard. Or you could use food during training for tricks or other skills.
There was of course, additional information dedicated to adding another dog to the pack, I’m not ready to think about that let alone research it. Just not ready yet.
And finally when it comes to helping the family heal, I loved reading about:
What YOU DO to help your dog adjust to the life changes of losing a canine companion can be wonderfully healing for you.
When I realized how lost Harley was, my focus shifted immediately. I‘d found my purpose. I could no longer afford the luxury to grieve all day long. I had a Doodle to save!
I believe Harley is grateful that I’ve turned my way of thinking around, now he wants to play, and I’m playing with him. In fact, the other day the kids from next door came over with a Frisbee. When they asked if Harley liked to catch Frisbees, I said “no” but then I had to confess.
I don’t know how to throw a Frisbee. #truestories
The kids were great instructors – in no time I was throwing like a champ. Harley’s not catching it in the air yet, but he’s chasing…..
and bringing it back…..
I’ve since purchased a few, so look out – I just might have a Frisbee Doodle on my hands…
I’m sharing as I learn – as Harley and I “go through” with the hopes it may help someone else.
If you’ve lost a dog and have advice/successful tips on how to help the dog left behind to cope, heal and move forward – please let us know. Your experience with helping dogs through grief could be beneficial to someone…
…to include me…
Here are a few other sites I’ve found to be an interesting read:
Thanks so much for reading, thanks so much for caring…