We humans are great at unfairly anthropomorphizing our dogs. Disney has made billions doing this through the creation of such iconic dog characters in "Lady and the Tramp," "101 Dalmatians," and my childhood favorite, "Benji."
Dogs are not human, and we shouldn't expect them to behave like one.
Yet, we expect Trixie to "know better" or "feel guilty" and never exhibit natural dog-like instincts. We even give dogs vegan diets that only meet the owner's ideological needs, not the pet's nutritional needs.
However, new research indicates that dogs have far more emotional complexity than previously thought.
It turns out dogs grieve the loss of a companion dog.
Now, I know some of you may be thinking, "Well, duh."
People who study animals for a living have rarely seen those mourning behaviors in the wild, and there is no documented scientific evidence of pet dogs exhibiting grief.
Dr. Federica Pirrone, a veterinary physiologist at the University of Milan, completed the first peer-reviewed study documenting dog behaviors after the death of a canine companion.
Grieving dogs sought more attention (67%), played less (57%), slept more (35%), ate less (32%), and vocalized more (30%)
Survivor dogs were affected so strongly by the death that a new puppy or dog had to be brought into the house. In a nutshell, the study revealed that grieving is a severe form of separation anxiety.
Dogs can't recall memories spontaneously but can do so when prompted by external events. This prompt can be the smell of the previous dog, a shared toy, and changes in the family's behavior.
What's the practical takeaway?
If your dog is distressed because his buddy is gone, Dr. Pirrone recommends maintaining the dog's daily routine. "Moreover, it is advisable that owners stay close to their dog," she said. "Share activities with them and make them feel protected."