Do dogs grieve for another dog?

Yes, according to 10 sources. And one of those sources is a recent study. There are numerous examples of dogs grieving after the death of their owner. For example, four years after his owner’s death Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye terrier, guarded the grave. It was an example of dignified canine mourning and it made him famous to the people of Edinburgh in the late 19th century.

Dog mourns loss of his friend who was killed in an accident
Dog mourns loss of his friend who was killed in a accident – China. Video screenshot.

The examples of dogs grieving for their human owner must prompt the question as to whether they grieve for the loss of another dog to whom they were close. A study claims to have found the answer and it probably is the one that people expect namely that dogs do appear to mourn for their fellow canines.

The study is called: Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) grieve over the loss of a co-specific. The word “co-specific” means a friend in layperson’s language.

They sent out what they describe as a “validated online Mourning Dog Questionnaire” to Italian dog owners who owned at least two dogs of which 426 completed the questionnaire. One of their dogs had died and the questions related to how the other dog responded.

In the summary to the study, they state:

“According to dog owners’ answers, the surviving dog after the death of the companion dog changed both in terms of activities (“playing”, “sleeping”, and “eating”) and emotions (fearfulness), which occurred as a function of the quality of the relationship between the two animals.”

One behavioural change was to eat more and play less. This looks like comfort eating something which humans do quite a lot.

They found that the time the two dogs are spent together did not have any effect on the behaviour of the surviving dog. The findings indicated that a dog may show grief-related behaviour and emotional patterns when a dog with whom they were friendly dies.

The research is reported in The Times newspaper today February 25, 2022. Dr. Frederica Perone, from Milan University, the person who I believe is the lead author of the study, said that the simplest explanation was that they were suffering grief. She said:

“This is what dogs’ reported behavioural and emotional changes will indicate”.

She says that this should not surprise people because dogs are pack animals. They rely on strong social structures when living and surviving in the wild. Biologists have reported wolves burying cubs and also dingoes carrying their dead for days.

The research should encourage owners to support the surviving dog under the circumstances.

Grief is a higher emotion. There has been a lot of discussion about whether companion animals can experience the higher emotions such as grief. The concept of animals experiencing emotions and pain and therefore being sentient creatures has gained traction over the preceding 5 to 10 years. The experts are unsure as to whether companion animals can experience the full range of higher emotions but this study does indicate that they do experience grief.

Note: This is a video from another website which is embedded here. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.

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Post Category: Dogs > dog behaviour