There are many reasons a dog may experience grief; they may lose a devoted family member to death, there may be a divorce in the family, a devoted child may move from home. All of these can lead to grief in a canine companion with many different symptomatologies.

Here’s some advise that Daniel Stevens, author of the great book SitStayFetch – Dog Training To Stop Your Dog Behavioral Problems! gave to a woman whose dog was experiencing grief after a divorce. You can apply these same methods to your own dog.

I can imagine that it is quite a difficult situation for Basil and yourself. You are quite right to think that Basil’s behavior changes are associated with the loss of his master. This is actually reasonably common behavior when a family member leaves or passes away.

Besides the growling at visitors and urinating inside the house, other common symptoms of grief can include your dog:

– becoming depressed,
– not sleeping much (or sleeping a lot),
– chewing their paws,
– whining,
– becoming morose.

It is very important that you stick as much as possible to your normal routines, both with respect to your dog and your daily life. You will have to be quite patient as it may take some time for Basil to become his old self again.

The protective behavior that Basil is portraying, especially when men approach you, is likely to stem from his fear and anxiety at not having his protective master around. Also as he is now more dependant on you for food, shelter, etc you have become much more valuable to him. Therefore he feels a greater need to keep you safe, which in turn leads to his being aggressive towards approaching visitors as he mistakenly thinks his innate guard dog instincts are required.

As your husbands scent reduces Basil’s feelings of insecurity are likely to increase. Therefore he needs his own form of reassurance, which he gets by urinating and leaving his own scent around the house. This behavior can be overcome to a certain extent by using a dog appeasing pheromone diffuser. These types of scent diffusers are available from either your vet or well stocked pet store. They work by releasing a canine scent that indicates to him that rooms are safe and secure. Look for D.A.P. products at PETsMART

To overcome Basil’s lack of appetite, try offering him his most favorite food and treats to tempt him into eating more.

Punishment is not a good option as it is likely to just increase his insecurity, when in actual fact you should be trying to regain his confidence and decrease his anxiety. It is also important that you try to get Basil to form good relationships with other people from inside and outside of the household.

If Basil is still displaying the symptoms of grief in a months time then I would suggest that you take him to a dog behavior counsellor to have him fully assessed.

Sit Stay Fetch


If you would like to know more information about Daniel Stevens’ tested and true training methods, please check out SitStayFetch – Dog Training To Stop Your Dog Behavioral Problems!

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