Is my dog in mourning?
(Q) My five-year-old German Shepherd bitch is reluctant to eat since our beloved Golden Retriever died. Is she mourning?
(Q) Vet John Burns says: I think this is possible although you don’t say how long it has been going on for. You also don’t say if she is eating anything at all. It is possible that she no longer has competition so she is less inclined to eat. Another possibility is that she is becoming conditioned to your own behaviour. Are you in mourning and is she picking up on this? Or are you making more fuss of her and she is adapting to it?
If she seems otherwise well there probably isn’t too much to worry about. It might be worth having her checked over at the vet’s to eliminate any health problems. You could try tempting her with some tasty food, such as a moist variety, if she is used to dry.
(A) Behaviourist Claire Arrowsmith says:
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that animals who live within a tightly bonded group in the way dogs do, will go through a process akin to mourning when a companion dies. If your GSD has always had your Goldie around throughout her life, then her absence will be noticeable. If your GSD gained a lot of general confidence from having the Goldie around then this may have caused an increase in general anxiety which will naturally reduce her inclination to eat. You might have to change the eating routine entirely for a while; perhaps using the food during training, from activity toys or feeding elsewhere. Try not to appear too focused on the eating pattern since this could potentially put her off. She might prefer you to leave, or to sit quietly in the area as company.
Some dogs struggling with change find it easier if they are exposed to the canine appeasing pheromone (Adaptil).
Of course, you cannot assume that the lack of appetite is due to the loss and so arranging a check-up with your vet would be sensible.
I’m sure that you are going through your own mourning period and a sensitive breed like the GSD will also be detecting your own sadness. Take time together to bond and enjoy interacting with one another in the absence of your Goldie and I am sure that it will become easier in time.