Dogs are deeply affected by the deaths of canine companions. Their eating and playing less and seeking attention more following a loss. This is according to large scientific study.
Signs of grief have previously been reported across many species. It has included great apes, whales, dolphins, elephants and birds.
There were some prior indications, among the canid family. Some wild wolves have been reported burying the carcasses of two-week-old pups. A dingo mother had been observed transporting its deceased pup to different locations in the days following its death.
But the evidence was overall sparse. When it came to domestic dogs, confined to anecdotal reports from owners. It run the risk of anthropomorphism and over-stating the case.
The new study has been published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports. It has involved a survey completed by 426 Italian adults. They owned at least two dogs, one of whom had died while the other was alive.
Negative changes were reported by 86 percent of owners. A quarter said these lasted longer than six months.
These behaviors included more attention seeking, reduced playfulness and reduced overall activity.
Surviving dogs also slept more. They became more fearful, ate less and whined or barked more. Scientists found that the length of time the two dogs had lived together was not an important factor in determining grief.
It was the quality of the relationship the pair had shared that mattered. How much the owner felt the loss also played a significant role. It suggested that the surviving dog was also responding to the human’s emotional cues.