Will My Dog Care If I Die?

And would he even know if his owner dies?

will my dog care if I die
DIONÍSIO NETO

It’s kind of a grim thought, but you might wonder from time to time if your dog would actually miss you if something ever happened.

For example, do dogs get sad if their owners die?

We spoke with Amy Shojai, author and certified animal behavior consultant for cats and dogs, to find out if and how dogs perceive death, and what their grief might look like.

Do dogs understand death?

It’s not really clear if dogs actually understand death. What we do know is their heightened senses may be able to detect physical changes that happen to a person after they die.

“The absence of life changes the way the body functions, the way it smells, and so on, and dogs detect these changes in ways we can't understand,” Shojai told The Dodo. “The chemicals/scent given off by living creatures is different than that of a dying person or someone that has passed away. The body sounds also change.”

For example, if your dog’s hearing can pick up on your breathing or even your heartbeat, it’ll also register when those sounds stop.

“There also may be other signs we're not able to understand in terms of visual changes,” Shojai said. “We believe that some animals (including dogs and cats) have the ability to see in the infrared spectrum, so there might be changes as the body ceases to live that pets detect and we can't.”

Dog grieves at his owner’s coffin | DIONÍSIO NETO

Do dogs grieve?

Dogs do grieve when they’re missing someone they care about, whether that’s their human or even another animal friend.

“Some might cry out and search the house for their missing loved one,” Shojai said. “Or they might pine, hide themselves, refuse to eat, and mope.”

Some dogs may even visit their owners’ coffins or gravesites, just to feel close to their dearly departed BFFs. Like this pup, Belinha, who stayed by the side of her parent's coffin during the entire funeral service and somehow knew exactly where she was buried despite not attending the burial. And Cesur, a dog who travels to his parent's grave every day. 

But all dogs are different and may express their grief in different ways, even if that means not expressing their grief.

“There's no one-size-fits-all or ‘right way’ to grieve or ‘get over it,’” Shojai said. “Some dogs might seem to have no change whatsoever. And that's okay.”

Will my dog care if I die?

Whether or not a dog gets sad if his owner dies really depends on the relationship they had.

“In most instances, people who love and adore their dogs get that emotion returned by their canine companions,” Shojai said. “Dogs that have strong attachments to their people act sad and concerned when separated from us and express doggy joy upon our return when we reunite.”

While it’s super sad and morbid to think about, your dog will probably care if you die, especially if you always make him feel happy, cared for and loved.

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