My old dog died. How can I help my younger dog?
April 21, 2005 7:15 AM   Subscribe

My 14 year old dog died yesterday. I also have a 3 year old dog who is puzzled and sad; what can I do to help him adjust?

I had to take my old dog Toby to the vet to be put to sleep yesterday morning. It's a long story; I'm very sad, it happened suddenly but yet had been a long time coming. However, as far as my younger dog knows, I put Toby in the car and drove away and then came home without him, crying. I did stay with Toby as he died and let my younger dog sniff me when I got home; does he know now that Toby is gone? Should I get rid of the extra dog beds & sweep & mop all the floors right away or wait? I took away his food bowl this morning and that was weird enough; my other dog kept looking for it. What can I do to help my younger dog adjust? He's never been an only dog before, and he's been awfully quiet since yesterday.
posted by mygothlaundry to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
From looking at your Flickr photos of Toby's memorial, it looks like you've had two dogs before (if not for quite a while). Why not adopt another Baltimore Pounddog? I'm sure that will help out the other (Theo?).

If that's not possible, I would highly suggest increasing Playtime with the younger pup. You may be all he needs.
posted by sublivious at 7:30 AM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: Take him out to the park and play frisbee. Go for a long walk through the woods with him. Start a new training class. Get him active, mentally and physically and be careful not to read your own grief into his behaviour. Good for you for looking out for his mental health, but be careful not to overdo it, and don't spoil him (this can lead to problems down the road, the rules are the rules, as long as they're fair and reasonable and you've trained him well, there's no need to change the rules for this). Dogs are extremely adaptable and he should bounce back pretty quickly, especially if he has new, fun, exciting things to think about and do. Put things away when you're ready, it won't make that much difference to your dog. Sorry about Toby, and kudos to you for doing the right thing when the time came.
posted by biscotti at 7:30 AM on April 21, 2005

The younger dog's not going to get it until he sees and smells Toby's body. Sorry for your loss.
posted by orthogonality at 7:38 AM on April 21, 2005

The younger dog's not going to get it until he sees and smells Toby's body. Sorry for your loss.

Sorry, but this simply isn't true. The younger dog doesn't need to "get" anything other than that Toby is gone, and this will come with time. Dogs don't need to see and smell dead bodies to learn that the other dog is gone, the other dog's absence speaks for itself (they don't need to "understand" death, it's irrelevant in this context, all that's relevant is that the other dog is gone from the home, whether it's dead or not doesn't enter into it), I have had many, many pets who died and the surviving ones never once failed to adapt easily with time (I have many friends who foster dogs and their own dogs never have a problem adjusting when the fosters are rehomed, there wouldn't be a dead body there for them to sniff even if they wanted to).
posted by biscotti at 7:46 AM on April 21, 2005

I am so sorry for your loss. Looking at your pictures made me extremely sad. He seemed like a great dog.
posted by crapulent at 7:50 AM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: Sorry, but this simply isn't true. The younger dog doesn't need to "get" anything other than that Toby is gone, and this will come with time.

biscotti, I think you're basically agreeing with ortho - the young dog won't "get" death without seeing the body, but in your opinion there is no need for him to "get" death.

(re: the body, this is largely true of humans too, especially younger ones who haven't dealt with death before - that's why we have open casket services. It feels pretty abstract until we face a body.)

I agree Toby looked mighty cool, & I wish you the best getting through this. Your younger dog will probably be a bit confused and feel like something's missing for a while, but will adjust, as we all do, to the new situation over time. So, basically, just keep doing what you're doing. Spending time with the young dog will be a comfort to both of you, so that makes a lot of sense. Best of luck.
posted by mdn at 8:08 AM on April 21, 2005

Both of my aunts have always had 2 dogs. As time happens, and one of them passes, both of them have always gotten another dog. I think both for themselves and for the remaining pooch. While "replacement" might seem cold, it has never been intended that way; dogs have always been important members of our family.

After grieving for whatever amount of time felt appropriate, a new puppy or young dog was always welcomed into the family. The dogs have always been the same breed and both dogs have always adjusted accordingly.
posted by bozichsl at 8:44 AM on April 21, 2005

Best answer: When I had to have Number One Dog put to sleep, Number Two Dog went to the vet's office too, and was given an opportunity to see her best bud's remains. She was decidedly not interested, and I felt like a bit of a fool for anthropomorphizing her. I have no idea whether she ever "got" death. In fact, I suspect she didn't have a clue. The body she saw at the vet's office wasn't her life-long friend; it was a thing she didn't know. She did seem a little confused by his absence for a couple of weeks, although that, too, might have been me projecting my grief onto her. She discovered pretty quickly that being Only Dog was very much to her liking as she got more attention without having to compete for it.

I am sorry for your loss. Losing an old friend is sad. Rest in peace, Toby.
posted by Alylex at 9:03 AM on April 21, 2005

Anytime I hear about a beloved pet dying, I kinda wish we woulda bought a miniature horse as a pet instead. Like the ones used for guide horses, they live so much longer.

Sorry for your loss, best wishes for you and the 3 year old.
posted by eurasian at 10:11 AM on April 21, 2005

I'm also sorry for your loss. I still occasionally dream about the dog I had from 1976-1988.

I hope you'll consider picking up a mutt from the pound in a few days. I really think that's the long term win-win-win (you, the 3 year-old dog, and the new mutt) situation. There are millions of dogs out there that deserve you as their owner!
posted by kimota at 10:52 AM on April 21, 2005

We had to have our Great Dane, Alex put to sleep in April of 2004 due to bone cancer. Our second dog, Molly was extremely attached to Alex and had been acting more and more depressed as he went downhill. We took her with us to the vet when we had him put to sleep. She didn't seem to be too interested and was still depressed for a few days. She's really come around since then though. She's far more outgoing than she used to be. Of course, we have two other dogs for her to play with too.

It's harder for the people than for the other dogs I think. So sorry for your loss and good luck with the pup.
posted by moosedogtoo at 11:57 AM on April 21, 2005

This is neither an answer nor help finding an answer--I just want to say that looking at your Flickr tribute brought tears to my eyes. I'm very sorry for your loss.
posted by box at 2:53 PM on April 21, 2005

The body she saw at the vet's office wasn't her life-long friend; it was a thing she didn't know.

I'm with Alylex. I don't think it would have made any difference for you to take the younger dog with you when you had to put Toby down.

I think after an adjustment period, your pup will be fine. In the meantime, lots of affection and happy distraction should help.

This article also had some good suggestions.
posted by Specklet at 3:03 PM on April 21, 2005

I am sorry you lost your beloved dog.

My experience with dogs, and what I've learned from reading about dogs, suggests to me that dogs are extremely sensitive to humans' emotional states, and they are especially sensitive to that of their owners/companions. There was a wonderful study where a human baby, an adult human, a puppy, and an adult dog were each, in turn, placed in a room with a test human, and then surreptitiously videotaped to see what they paid attention to. The adult dog spent some ridiculous figure like 93% of his time paying attention to the test human, by far beating out the baby and adult human, and marginally defeating the puppy. Dogs are very skilful observers of humans, is what I'm getting at. It may be what they are best at.

My own feeling about your question is that dogs and other creatures have a natural way of dealing with death and loss that we overevolved primate types have lost touch with. I suspect, though I can't prove, that your young dog's upset is because he's picking up on the fact that you're upset. You mention that you're upset; I think it's probably impossible to hide this from your dog.

My old dog always knew, at least.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:01 PM on April 21, 2005

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