Prepare for the Loss of a Dog

Posted in Training Tips

Last week I was at a new Home Dog Training client in Parkland to help him with his Golden Retriever named Dakota.  All Dakota needed was a little direction to understand that she needed to give my client respect and focus.  All my client needed was a clear understanding of how to communicate his wishes with Dakota.  As we were finishing up for the day, my client mentioned that he had another Golden Retriever that was thirteen years old and nearing the end of his life.  His older Golden had been with the family since he was a puppy and the entire family, including Dakota, were very attached to him.  He asked me how they should go about the end of life process and what they should expect.

Home Dog Training South Florida

I told my client that it is not easy to comfort humans who have lost much-loved pets, but at least we can talk them through it and help them to vocalize their feelings. Comforting a dog that has lost a mate takes much more thought and effort.

Dogs grieve the loss of another dog to varying degrees, depending on the relationship and bond they built over their time together, exercising and entertaining one another, and where they saw each other in the pack, leading and following.

Some dogs will refuse to eat; some suffer the loss more dramatically by trying to escape, apparently to go in search of their lost mate. Some seem to instinctively know what has occurred and behave in a more needy fashion than usual, following you from room to room, demanding attention or affection.

I explained to my client that since he was aware of the approaching departure of his older Golden, he should soften the upcoming transition by spending extra time alone with Dakota, engaging in activities that she enjoys, such as walks or playing fetch. His aging Golden Retriever will probably enjoy some peace and rest.

Whatever form your dog’s grief takes, you have to ensure that special thought is given to helping him cope with his loss. Lots of walks can be very helpful; try not to leave your dog alone too much and keep his routine as consistent as possible. Fresh air and exercise can benefit you both. Instigate play, or try providing an interactive toy that delivers a treat such as KONG® toys. You will be grieving too—after all, you have also lost a friend—but you need to keep your spirits up as you still have a dog that needs you now as much as ever.

Some owners begin to alter their own behavior; they stop taking the remaining dog for walks or stop behaving like a leader. The dog’s whole routine is changed, which is very stressful for a dog and will add to his loss and compound his problems. It is extremely important that the leadership you have provided your dogs over the years remains, as dogs that lose a mate often suffer from what their owners fail to do. If you stop showing clear leadership, your dog has not just lost a mate, but also his leader. By remaining calm and consistent and providing clear direction, your dog will feel more secure in the stable environment you are maintaining.

Think carefully before bringing another dog into your household, as this can be counter-productive. Your remaining dog may not bond with the new dog because he hasn’t finished grieving. Remember—it is not easy to mend a broken heart, human or canine, so wait it out. Right now, your dog needs your love and understanding. Be patient and supportive and he will return to his normal, fun-loving self.

I then wanted to review some simple tasks to remember. They were:

  • If possible, prepare your dog for the departure of his friend.
  • Continue taking lots of walks and playing games that your remaining dog enjoys.
  • Provide your remaining with interactive toys.
  • Keep your normal routine as much as possible.
  • Be sure to show your dog that you are still his leader.
  • Don’t rush out and buy another dog; broken hearts don’t mend easily, so try to give it some time.

The most important part when one of the pack is approaching the end of their life is to minimize the approaching event and slowly transition to the new social dynamics. Robin and I are always here to answer any Dog Training questions you may have.  Please pick up the phone and dial (954) 424-0170.  Please visit our complete set of dog training articles at Dog Training Blog at Best Dog Trainers Parkland South Florida.  All of our contact methods and information is available at Dog Training Help Center Parkland South Florida.

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