Who hasn’t heard of those heart-breaking tales in which a dog sits months or years on his master’s grave, arguably waiting for a comeback that will never happen?
Besides the deeply sad nature of these situations, it is difficult to understand this behavior, which motivates a dog to remain like this in front of his late master’s burial place.
Is he aware of the irreversibility of death? Has he lost the desire to live far from his beloved master?
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Do dogs understand death?
According to animal behavior experts, a dog lacks the cognitive skills to understand death’s permanent and irreversible aspects.
If he finds himself facing the lifeless body of his master, he will generally tend to attempt to take his vital signs by trying to make him react before giving up, helpless.
Many rescue dog handlers claim that their four-legged companions react differently when faced with a lifeless body and when they are faced with a living person.
Therefore, dogs are perfectly able to tell the difference between a corpse and a living person but would struggle to understand that the state of the corpse is irreversible.
For some scientists and behavioral experts, dogs’ intellectual capacities are similar to those of human children between the ages of 2 and 3.
They, therefore, do not have an understanding of death itself but can see that their master is “gone.”
These dogs who stay on their master’s grave
The phenomenon of dogs who remain on their master’s grave without moving is particularly challenging, especially because of its dramatic nature.
It is extremely difficult to understand what motivates such behavior in our companions: are they waiting for their beloved master’s return, or have they lost the taste for life?
The first theory is more likely for experts, with dogs remaining incredibly loyal and loyal animals, who constantly watch their master out of the corner of their eye and usually start looking for him as soon as he comes out. of their field of vision.
It seems that the dogs who remain on the burial of their late master are indeed awaiting their return and, so as not to miss it, choose to camp where they feel their presence.
Hachiko’s highly publicized story, the dog who went to the train station every evening while waiting for the return of his master who died for 7 years, perfectly illustrates this theory of the faithful dog who does not conceive of the finality of death. .
Also, dogs have been shown to have excellent memory , an aspect of their cognitive skills that humans have long doubted.
This memory, coupled with a highly developed social instinct that pushes them to attach themselves strongly to their social group and, a fortiori, to their master, makes it possible to suppose that they do not forget either their habits or their feelings experiencing. alongside their masters.
Therefore, it is not so surprising to see dogs mourning the loss of their masters, unable to move on, haunted by the memory of this loved one and tormented by the irresistible desire to see him again.
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Helping a dog overcome grief
Mourning in dogs is a subject that is not talked about much, but which deserves to be studied to save our devoted companions great emotional distress and a life spent waiting for the return of a master who will never return.
Taking care of a grieving dog requires a lot of patience and love and some knowledge of canine behavior that will help the animal overcome its distress.
The ideal is to keep the dog’s habits as well as possible, so that he can understand that life goes on, understood to continue “as before”.
Confused by losing a loved one, the dog does not deserve to lose the only landmarks he has left, such as his times and places of walk, his eating habits, his favorite toys, etc.
However, you should not pass everything to a grieving dog: continue to impose on him the same rules of life that he followed with his master and, above all, keep him occupied to change his mind.
Finally, as in humans, only time can soften the pain associated with losing a loved one, and a grieving dog requires great patience and understanding.
The understanding of death in our animal friends is the subject of many studies, which is turning more to more evolved species such as elephants and great apes.
We could observe real funeral processions, funeral rituals, and even a certain animals’ capacity to foresee their death to come in these species.
The stages of grief appear to be very similar in animals and humans, with a period of misunderstanding and denial that precedes acceptance of death and return to normal life.
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