Q: Recently, my mother-in-law’s dog, Riley, passed away. Riley and her other dog, Sasha, were not extremely close; they tolerated each other and would play on occasion. However, since Riley’s passing, Sasha hasn’t been eating or acting normal. We are not sure what to do. Is this grieving normal?
–Robin Jacobson, Finksburg
Dogs grieve for each other frequently. The fact that we as humans didn’t feel they were particularly close is irrelevant. Dogs form packs and bonds in a much more subtle way than we do.
Sasha may have felt safer with Riley there, or perhaps Riley set the “rules” or motivation for feeding times. Watching another dog grieve the loss of a beloved pet can make it so much harder for us.
There are several things we can try to do to aid in the grieving process. First, change all of the feeding and water bowls. Not just Riley’s, but Sasha’s as well. The same goes for toys, blankets and bedding. Creating a new environment and scent will help Sasha understand this is all hers now.
Also, creating different patterns for her will help, for example, feeding her at a different spot, perhaps walking her in a different direction than usual, talking to her in an upbeat, excited voice, etc. If your mother-in-law is thinking about getting another dog in the future, please have her consider getting one to match Sasha’s energy and tolerance. An older rescue may be a much better fit.
Q: Our terrier has recently become aggressive to dogs she doesn’t know. When we are in Baltimore, she goes to the dog park every day. Charlie loves to play with dogs of all sizes. During the summer, we stay at our beach house in Bethany. Charlie is ferocious when she sees other dogs on our walks. We know she loves other dogs, but we’re a bit fearful that she may become aggressive with her friends at the dog park when we return home in August.
–Bev Himmelstein, Bethany Beach, Del.
This sounds more like leash aggression than dog aggression. The difference being that Charlie is protecting what she is “attached” to — the human on the other end of the leash. Terriers by nature have intense and somewhat controlling temperaments. The big dog in the little body phrase comes to mind.
If Charlie is off leash, she has control over the interactions, the sniffing, playing and possibly a dog’s interaction with her humans. While you are away, look into dog daycares in the area. There are several. This will allow her to play in an open yet more controlled setting. She will also be able to see and be one of several dogs coming and going on leash.
If this isn’t a possibility, try to set up a few playdates with other dogs off leash. After about 20 minutes, go for a walk together. When dogs are in a group or pack-type setting, they feel safer “migrating,” or walking within the confines of a pack.
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