A sleepy chihuahua in bed.

Often a beloved pet isn’t the only one in the household. They may share the home with another dog, cat, or other companion. Sometimes the bond between these animals is quite close, other times, less so. If your pets have regular contact with each other, it’s likely they may experience grief.

Grief has only recently been studied by science, which confirmed what many of us who have lived with pets know. Dogs do, in fact, grieve when they have lost a loved one. Hachiko for example, famously waited for his owner who had passed away at the train station where they normally met until his own death.

Although there are still scientists who insist on describing animal grief in neutral terms and shy way from emotional terms, this post is not about proving animal grief. It is for a grieving owner with a grieving animal, wanting to know how to help their beloved pet feel better.

Show Them Their Friend

It’s not always possible, but if your pup has died at home or you brought your pet home to bury, show them the body. It’s not always easy to communicate to our pets details of our world. Showing them the body helps your surviving pets plainly see the other pet has died.

We did this when Rocco passed away. Their reactions varied, but Leia spent time with the body and greatly cared about his passing. Tank immediately sought out humans, and Sandy Paws kept her distance.

We wouldn’t have known who needed it without giving them that chance.

It Takes Time

Before we continue, remember that a hurting heart takes time to heal. No matter what you try, your dog is not going to magically go back to normal, because normal is with his friend who is now gone. It’s common for pets to feel depressed for months after they’ve lost a loved one. All we can do is try to provide comfort and let them know they are not alone.

Our pups stopped all playing and disappeared under their blankets for quite a while after Rocco passed away. They still haven’t played with each other but seem to be on the mend a month later.

Keep Schedules Predictable

Your pup is already in shock and may be confused as to where their friend is if you didn’t have access to the body to show them. Now is not the time to suddenly change feeding times, skip walks, or change things in other ways.

If you can, be as consistent as possible and save those changes for when they’ve had time to emotionally recover from their loss.

Time For Snuggles

One thing you can adjust is how much attention you give your pups. Humans, and other animals who are known to grieve such as other great apes, cetaceans, and elephants tend to turn to each other for comfort when they grieve. Dogs are no different.

Give your pup all the snuggles they want.

Get Out of the House

If your pup enjoys walks, going to the park, or other fun activities, now is a good time to invite them out. If your dog is a Pillow Princess, it’s also okay to choose something indoors that they like better. If they enjoy a rousing game of fetch down the hallway, or a puzzle toy, or something else that really gets their tail wagging, now’s a good time to do it.

It’s very tempting when you’re in the throws of grief to just let it consume you, and chihuahuas are extra good at giving in to their passions. It’s important to help them through it by inviting them into the world for fun things that they love.

While getting out of the house is beneficial for other reasons (it can combat depression) if your dog hates going out, it may only make things worse. In the end you know your pup and will know what kinds of interactions will help your pup feel better.

Put the Breaks on a New Pup

According to the Old Dog Haven, grieving dogs don’t always respond well to having a new “friend” thrust on them the moment their best friend has died. It’s best to wait at the very least weeks, and probably months, before introducing a new friend.

This gives your pet time to accept the loss of their friend before opening a new chapter in their life. We also personally recommend fostering a pet first to help test the waters on whether your pet is ready for another companion.

Even if you don’t adopt that particular dog, if your pet clearly seems to enjoy having another companion, it’s a green light for you to get another dog. If your dog plainly dislikes having another dog around, you’ve still helped a pet in need and you’ve made no permanent commitments.

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By Andrea

Andrea is a dedicated dog mom of three chihuahuas. She has over a decade of experience as a dog groomer, chihuahua owner, and more recently as a dog trainer. She loves all things canine, particularly chihuahuas.

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