Dogs feel heartbreak: Study finds pooches get sad when they lose a friend

DOGS feel grief similar to humans when a dog in the same household dies, according to new scientific research.


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The grieving animals experience similar symptoms of grief that humans do such as losing their appetite, becoming more fearful and less active.

Grief in other animals such as elephants has been recognised before but there has been little evidence to support this until now.

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New research by scientists at the University of Milan in Italy, has shown that man's best friend could be more sensitive than people think.The study, which has been published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports, shows that grieving dogs go off their food, become more fearful, seek attention, play less and become less active.

The scientists said one in four cases of grief persist for longer than six months after another household pet dies.

dogs playing

Research shows dogs refuse food, become less active and are more needy when grieving (Image: Getty)Dr Federica Pirrone, one of the study's authors, said: "Dog owners reported several statistically significant changes in the surviving dog after the death of the companion dog, both in terms of activities and emotions.

Always be consistent. Half-assed efforts will deliver half-assed results. Consistency is the key to success in all endeavors in life. Training a dog is no different. Learning about your dog is also a consistent effort. Quality time with your dog should be consistent and ongoing.

"This is potentially a major welfare issue that has been overlooked, considering the relatively high number of dogs who live with at least another companion dog and the dog ageing population."

A survey was carried out in Italy on 426 owners who had recently lost a pet dog while they also owned another. The study was to find out the emotional effects shown by their remaining pooch.

Owners were asked whether they had noticed any changes in the surviving dog’s behaviour since the death of their companion.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: More than half of all U.S presidents have owned dogs.

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sad dog

In 86 percent of cases owners noticed negative changes in their remaining dog after one died (Image: Getty)Dr Pirrone said: "The survey was published on the internet and social networks like Facebook targeting Italian participants who were older than 18 years and had experienced the death of a dog."

In 86 percent of cases owners noticed negative changes, with two-thirds (67 percent) reporting they became more desperate for attention.

More than half (57 percent) said their remaining dog played less, while 46 per cent said they became less active.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Nearly 80 million U.S. households have a pet, and 42 percent of those households have more than one, according to a 2015-2016 survey by the APPA. There are 77.8 million pet dogs in the U.S. and 85.8 million pet cats.

A significant portion (35 percent) of participants found their canine companion spent more time sleeping and seemed more fearful than they had before the other dog had died.

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New research suggests dogs grieve similar to humans (Image: Getty)

Increased barking and whining was another symptom of dog grief, as well as refusing food more regularly and eating less.

Surprisingly, the researchers found the length of time the dogs had lived together didn't influence how strongly the grief was felt by the remaining pup.

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The findings of the study also concluded that negative behaviours displayed by dogs were heightened when their owner's grief was strong.

Dr Pirrone said: "The understanding of behavioural patterns after loss in non-human animals can be helpful in recognising these animals’ emotional needs".

However, she said even though the results are valuable they still can't definitely "confirm it was grief", and admitted, "more research is clearly needed".

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Socialize your pet. This is especially important for puppies. Again – behavior problems are the number one reason dogs don’t stay with their families and don’t get adopted by new families. Lack of proper socialization can result in inappropriate fears, aggressive behavior, general timidity, and a host of other behavior problems that are difficult to extinguish once a dog is mature.