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Do dogs grieve when rehomed?

When it comes to rehoming a dog, there are many factors to consider. While it can be a difficult decision for owners, it’s important to also think about the emotional impact it can have on our furry friends. Dogs are known for their ability to form strong bonds with humans, and when these bonds are suddenly broken due to rehoming, dogs can experience a sense of loss and grief. In this blog post, we will explore the topic of whether dogs grieve when rehomed and how we can help them cope with their emotions during this transition.

Understanding dog emotions

Can dogs form attachments to humans?

Dogs are social animals that have evolved alongside humans for thousands of years. They have a remarkable ability to form deep emotional bonds with their human companions. These bonds are built on trust, love, and consistent interaction. Dogs rely on their human caregivers for food, shelter, companionship, and safety. When a dog forms a strong attachment to a person and is suddenly separated from them, it can have a profound impact on their emotional well-being.

How do dogs experience emotions?

While dogs may not understand complex human emotions, they are capable of experiencing a range of emotions themselves. Dogs can feel happiness, fear, anger, excitement, and sadness. Their emotional responses are typically displayed through body language, vocalizations, and behavior. It is important to recognize that dogs are sentient beings with their own unique emotional experiences.

Impact of rehoming on dogs

Reasons for rehoming

There are various reasons why dogs may be rehomed. Some common reasons include changes in the owner’s living situation, financial constraints, allergies, or behavior issues. While the decision to rehome a dog is often made in the best interest of both the owner and the dog, it doesn’t negate the emotional impact it can have on our furry friends.

Stress and anxiety in rehomed dogs

Rehoming can be a stressful and traumatic experience for dogs. They may find themselves in an unfamiliar environment with new people, smells, and routines. This sudden change can lead to feelings of anxiety, confusion, and sadness. Dogs are creatures of habit and thrive on stability and routine. When this stability is disrupted, they may struggle to adjust and experience heightened levels of stress.

Signs of grief in rehomed dogs

Changes in behavior and appetite

One of the most common signs of grief in rehomed dogs is a change in behavior and appetite. They may become withdrawn, less playful, and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Some dogs may experience a loss of appetite or show a decrease in their overall energy levels. These behavioral changes are often a reflection of their emotional state.

Loss of interest in activities

Rehomed dogs may also display a loss of interest in activities that previously brought them joy. They may no longer engage in play or exhibit a lack of enthusiasm during walks or outdoor adventures. This loss of interest can be a result of their grieving process and adjustment to a new environment.

Increased clinginess or withdrawal behavior

Grieving dogs may exhibit changes in their social behavior as well. Some dogs may become more clingy and seek constant reassurance and attention from their new owners. On the other hand, others may display withdrawal behavior, seeking isolation and avoiding interactions with humans or other animals. These changes in behavior are often a response to the emotional turmoil they are experiencing.

Helping dogs cope with grief after rehoming

Providing a stable and comforting environment

Creating a stable and comforting environment for a rehomed dog is crucial in helping them cope with their grief. Ensure that their basic needs are met, including a safe and comfortable space to sleep, access to fresh water, and a nutritious diet. Establishing a routine and providing consistent care can help them regain a sense of security and stability.

Establishing a new routine and structure

Dogs thrive on routine and structure, so it’s important to establish a new routine as soon as possible after rehoming. This includes regular feeding times, exercise, and training sessions. Consistency and predictability can help dogs feel secure and provide a sense of normalcy in their lives.

Engaging in activities that promote mental and physical stimulation

Engaging in activities that promote mental and physical stimulation can benefit rehomed dogs during their grieving process. Regular exercise, playtime, and puzzle toys can help keep their minds occupied and prevent boredom. Providing them with outlets to express their natural instincts, such as sniffing and exploring in outdoor environments, can also be beneficial.

The role of the new owner

Building trust and establishing a bond

The new owner plays a crucial role in helping the rehomed dog navigate their grief and build a new bond. It’s important to approach the relationship with patience, understanding, and empathy. Building trust takes time, so allow the dog to set their own pace and gradually introduce them to new experiences and people. Be consistent in your interactions and provide positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors.

Using positive reinforcement to encourage positive behaviors

Positive reinforcement training techniques can be highly effective in helping rehomed dogs adjust to their new home and cope with their emotions. Rewarding desired behaviors with treats, praise, and affection can help build their confidence and reinforce positive associations with their new environment.

Seeking professional help if necessary

If a rehomed dog is showing persistent signs of grief or struggling to adjust, it may be beneficial to seek professional help from a veterinarian or a certified dog behaviorist. These experts can provide guidance, support, and specific strategies to help the dog navigate their emotions and overcome any challenges they may be facing.


Rehoming a dog can be a difficult decision, but it’s important to consider the emotional impact it can have on our loyal companions. Dogs are capable of experiencing grief when separated from their bonded humans. Understanding their emotions and providing support during their grieving process is crucial. By creating a stable and comforting environment, establishing a new routine, and offering activities that promote mental and physical stimulation, we can help rehomed dogs navigate their grief and adjust to their new lives with love and compassion. Remember, patience, understanding, and empathy are key when assisting our canine friends during this emotional transition.


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