You know that your children need extra attention during and after your divorce, but what you may not realize is that your dog does, too. Animal Wellness Magazine reports that, just like people, dogs can and often do grieve when separated from a family member. One of the times they do it is after a divorce when a member of their “pack,” i.e., their human family, disappears from the home.
While this separation anxiety should lessen after a few weeks, it can be quite severe while it lasts. Some common signs that your dog is grieving for your former spouse include the following:
- He loses interest in his toys and the activities he normally loves.
- He refuses to eat or, at best, eats sparingly, possibly resulting in weight loss.
- He acts listless and depressed.
- He exhibits low energy when you take him for walks.
- He may engage in destructive behaviors such as incessant barking or chewing on things he never chewed on before.
What to do
Not surprisingly, dog psychologists and behaviorists recommend that you give your dog extra attention whenever he shows signs of bereavement or separation anxiety. Now is the time to introduce new treats, new toys and extra walks or trips to the dog park. What may surprise you, however, is that they also recommend that you remain upbeat around your dog rather than sympathizing with him. If you try to soothe him with sympathy, you could actually make his grieving worse because he will pick up on your own downbeat emotions.
You may also wish to consider sharing your dog with your former spouse to minimize the amount of stress and grieving the dog experiences during and after your divorce. Illinois law allows for allocating ownership and other arrangements in the best interests of your companion animal. The parties must prepare an agreement in writing pursuant to statute.