Do dogs understand human death?

Although dogs don’t experience the range of emotions that humans do, they can still perceive when something isn’t quite right. They are very much aware of when their family is in mourning, even though they may not know that someone has died.

The majority of dog videos on the internet are strictly for laughs, but occasionally, a tearjerker appears.

One current illustration shows a boxer by the name of Mollie sniffing around her unconscious, dying owner in a hospital bed. A family member explained the purpose of the video by saying that they wanted Mollie to see the dying man one last time “so she’d understand why her human never came home.” ”.

In similar videos, dogs are seen guarding the caskets of their deceased owners, attempting to revive their fallen canine friends, and even appearing to weep for their deceased companions. In situations like these, we can never truly understand what is going through a dog’s mind. Still, it makes us wonder: Do dogs understand death?.

What “understand” means to you will determine the answer. Dogs undoubtedly have a connection to death because they perceive it, are impacted by it, and ultimately go through it themselves. But it’s harder to say what they know about it.

One thing is for certain: When a beloved human or another animal close companion passes away, many dogs exhibit depressive behaviors. They might refuse to eat, stay in the house crying, or even go back to the places and things they used to do with the beloved deceased.

Because we dog owners believe that dogs experience the same emotions as humans, we are quick to attribute these behaviors to grief.

But owners of dogs must also acknowledge that their pets are nothing if not creatures of habit. In light of this, what might appear to be grief – or what we might want to believe to be grief when we’re grieving ourselves – may simply be the dog’s response to a sudden change in routine.

When a new baby is brought home from the nursery, many of the same canine behaviors appear; we just interpret them differently, if we even notice them between diaper changes and late-night feedings.

There is no evidence either way, no matter how strongly dog owners may feel about it. So, do dogs experience a profound sense of loss similar to what humans go through, or is canine grieving more like depression brought on by unexpected life changes?

Although we don’t know if dogs have the same range and depth of emotions that humans do, they definitely have us beat in terms of sensory perception. People even frequently believe that dogs possess a sixth sense that enables them to foretell events like earthquakes, epileptic seizures, and, yes, even demise.

The truth is that when your other senses, particularly smell, are enhanced, a sixth sense isn’t necessary. Dogs may be able to detect death or even predict it, but this is probably due to subtle cues that humans are completely blind to.

Given that some dogs have been shown to be able to recognize cancer and other diseases in humans, it makes sense that when they come across a dead body, they will immediately recognize that something is very wrong.

In some instances, people have seen dogs trying to revive the deceased human or animal, indicating they don’t understand the finality of death. The question is, what do they make of it? In other instances, they’ve been observed to lie down next to the body, which people have a tendency to mistake for mourning but which could actually be done for a variety of reasons.

The Story of Boby, the “Inconsolable Dog”

My uncle “Ciccio,” who resided in a small Italian town, once had a white dog named “Boby,” who developed a strong bond with him.

This dog was very smart. Indeed, he was even used as a “courier. He would go with my mother home as my uncle had instructed, spend the night with her afterward.

My uncle Ciccio made the decision to visit the US one day. At the time, thousands of Italians traveled to The Big Apple in search of employment and to pursue the “American Dream.” He found the prospect of working for the large Ronzoni pasta factory to be extremely alluring.

On the day of his departure, my grandmother and mother were supposed to take over Boby’s care. The unexpected occurred as my uncle got in the car to head to the harbor: Boby chased his car through town until his little heart and little legs could no longer withstand it.

This was unusual because Boby had frequently seen my uncle leave in his car without pursuing him. It was as if Boby had a gut feeling that this time would be different.

A short while later, as he watched the car drive away, he made a U-turn and went in the direction of my grandmother’s house. Days of happiness for this dog abruptly came to an end, and they were replaced by days of sadness during which he constantly yearned for his uncle Ciccio.

He missed my uncle deeply. So much so that, despite my grandmother’s best efforts to feed him delectable bites of food, he decided to stop eating and started acting sad and withdrawn. He eventually got weak and died. His 14-year-old heart simply couldn’t handle this change and collapsed.

Although it’s unlikely that this little dog knew that uncle Ciccio was still alive and well on the other side of the ocean, his behavior was typical of many dogs who lost their owners due to an accident or illness, so I suppose a dog can “mourn” whether or not the owner is still alive.

Then there is Hachiko, the best example of a dog’s loyalty and capacity for grief. Similar to Boby, this dog only knew that his owner had disappeared and reacted as such by waiting for him at the Shibuya train station for nine years. He didn’t starve to death like Boby did, but his heart must have been broken nonetheless.

One year anniversary of Hachikos death.

Evolutionary Advantages of Dogs Knowing Death

When we consider the many behaviors of our dogs, we can occasionally gain a deeper appreciation by looking at their earlier history, back when they were living in the wild.

We can’t deny that strong instincts still rule in man’s best friend despite centuries of domestication.

Dogs still exhibit many behaviors from their ancestors’ times as hunters and scavengers, despite being fed from a bag in shiny bowls and sporting rhinestone-studded collars.

This is demonstrated by a number of behaviors that domestic dogs continue to exhibit despite no longer being required for survival in the modern world. Here are a few examples;.

  • Dogs circle before lying down for the purpose of patting down tall grass and scaring off critters even though they sleep on comfy dog beds.
  • Dogs shaking their toys to “break their neck” as if they were imaginary prey animals.
  • Dogs burying their bones as an instinctive way to start saving foods for scarce times.
  • Being aware of death can be beneficial in many ways at a primal level. Therefore, comprehending it could lead to several evolutionary benefits that would aid in survival. Below are several adaptive advantages of dogs understanding death.

    If animals were aware of the potential for death, they might be able to avoid dangers in their environment. In other words, animals could increase their chances of survival by avoiding potentially fatal situations by being aware of them.

    Animals can learn to avoid dead bodies by becoming familiar with their appearance, smell, and sounds because they can be potential sources of disease.

    Animals are able to anticipate the various changes that must occur when a member of a social group passes away.

    For example, if one of the primary hunters passes away, one of the remaining hunters must step into that position, and if one of the final wolf pups perishes, parents should stop putting effort into searching for him.

    Given these benefits, it makes sense that natural selection would have given animals a fundamental understanding of death.

    Like many other animals, dogs “mourn,” and this frequently results in decreased appetite.

    Dogs’ mourning behavior is perhaps one of the most compelling signs that they comprehend death.

    Even though they don’t plan memorial services or funerals, dogs sometimes show signs of sadness, confusion, or apathy when another dog or owner passes away.

    Dogs arent the only animals to show signs of grief. Marc Bekoff talks about elephants keeping watch over a stillborn baby for days or dolphins trying to save a baby.

    Numerous dog owners have reported seeing their dogs “mourning” What is unclear, however, is whether dogs are responding to death as we know it or more to the changes brought on by the absence of a person or dog, with all the drawbacks that entails.

    If dogs do not directly witness the death, I believe we can infer that they are responding more to the changes than to death as we know it. I have some personal experience to back this up.

    Do Dogs Understand When Someone Dies?

    Although dogs may respond to death in a variety of ways, it is unknown whether they truly comprehend it. To them, the attraction to a new scent is more likely to keep them close than any real understanding of the reasons behind a person’s altered scent.


    Do dogs know when their humans die?

    According to an ASPCA study, two-thirds of dogs exhibit separation anxiety symptoms after their owners pass away, including whining, losing their appetite, and becoming depressed.

    Do dogs understand the concept of dying?

    Understanding Death in Its Basics Because death can be difficult to understand and requires sophisticated cognitive abilities (even humans don’t fully understand it! ), we can expect animals to understand death in its fundamentals to a large extent.