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The death of a dog is devastating for any owner, but if you have multiple pups, a new study suggests the loss is just as hard for them.

Researchers have revealed that dogs show key signs of grief after the death of another dog in the same household.

This includes an increase in attention seeking, eating less and whining, according to the team from the University of Milan.

While grief has previously been reported in other animals including birds and elephants, this is the first time it has been confirmed in dogs.
Key signs of grief in dogs

The study found that the dogs displayed many key signs of grief, including:
  • More attention seeking (67%)
  • Playing less (57%)
  • Less active (46%)
  • More fearful (35%)
  • More sleep (35%)
  • Eating less (32%)
  • More barking and whining (30%)
In the study, the researchers set out to understand whether dogs show behavioural and emotional changes after the death of a canine companion.

They enlisted 426 dog-owners in Italy, whose pet had died while they also owned at least one other dog.

The owners were surveyed on their own levels of grief after the death, their surviving dog's behaviour after the death, as well as the prior relationship between their pets.

The vast majority (86 per cent) of owners reported negative changes in the surviving dog's behaviour, with 32 per cent saying the changes lasted two to six months, and 25 per cent lasting even longer.

In terms of the specific behaviour changes, 67 per cent of owners said their dog became more attention seeking, 57 said their dog played less, and 46 per cent said their pup became less active.

Meanwhile, 35 per cent said their dog slept more and became more fearful, 32 per cent said they ate less, and 30 per cent reported an increase in whining or barking.

Almost all of the dogs (93 per cent) had lived with the other pooch for longer than one year, with 69 per cent reported to get on well with their companion.

Surprisingly, the length of time the two dogs had lived together did not influence the surviving dogs' behaviour.

However, having a friendly relationship was found to play a key role in the dogs' level of grief, according to the researchers.

Speaking to MailOnline, Dr Federica Pirrone, who led the study, said: 'Changes in some dogs' behaviour, like playing and sleeping, were affected by the quality of their relationship with the deceased one.

'In particular, a friendly and parental relationship between the two dogs was associated with stronger behavioural changes, while no association was found between behavioural variables and an agonistic/mutual tolerance relationship.'

If you think your dog is grieving, Dr Pirrone suggests that there are several things you can do to console them.

'It is advisable that they stay close to their dog, share activities with them and make them feel protected,' she advised.

'As mentioned in our study, a surviving dog's changes in behaviour were greater when they had a friendly or even parental relationship with the deceased one. Most likely this means that the surviving dog has lost an attachment figure, who provided safety and security.

'Therefore, making this dog perceive that they are still supported and protected can be extremely helpful.'
  • Dogs have been shown to trigger the release of the 'cuddle hormone' oxytocin in their owners
  • The chemical lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and relieves stress
  • Our canines also cause our brains to disperse the 'pleasure hormone' dopamine
  • This boosts your mood and long-term memory
  • Eye contact and touch are potent triggers of oxytocin and dopamine
  • This means social dog breeds like labrador and golden retrievers are more likely to illicit oxytocin release
  • Breeds that are more independent of humans like Great Pyrennes may bring out a lower oxytocin response
  • Dogs we perceieve as aggressive, such as bull dogs or German shepherds, initiate the fight-or-flight response
  • This triggers the release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline
  • These chemicals raise blood pressure and heart rate and can suppress the immune system long-term