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A survey of dog owners has found that dogs mourn the loss of other animals they live with. According to 2022 research published in Scientific Reports, 90 percent of dogs showed signs of grief in the months following the death of a four-legged family member. The research found that surviving dogs tended to be less playful, more fearful, and less hungry. They also tended to sleep more and seek more human attention after such a loss.
"Dogs are highly emotional animals who develop very close bonds” with companions, says study author Federica Pirrone, an animal behavior expert at the University of Milan. “This means that they may be highly distressed if one of them dies, and efforts should be made to help them cope with this distress.”
A dog's grief:
- According to Pirrone, a dog’s mind is similar to that of a human child of about two years old. “Separation from a companion could be expected to cause behavioral changes,” she said, interpreting those behaviors as signs of “grief and mourning.”
- Pirrone says the attachment levels between owner and dog did not appear to affect results, suggesting that the data was not skewed by owners projecting grief onto their pets.
- However, because the research relied on self-reported data, the study may have been influenced by how owners interpreted their dogs' behaviors, says social anthropologist Samantha Hurn, who was not involved with the study.