There’s no doubt that losing a dog is hard. You bond with your dog over a lifetime, and the loss of a pet can be compared to losing a close family member. As a human, you sometimes know when your dog is about to cross the bridge. But do dogs say goodbye before they die?
If you’ve lost a pet, you may wonder whether your dog has a sense of his mortality — if he knows when he’s coming to the end of his days. Of course, there’s no way we can know for sure, as dogs communicate differently than we do.
But we’ve put together this guide to help you decide for yourself whether dogs communicate a final farewell to their beloved humans.
Before you read a more in-depth answer of this guide, check out: Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before They Die? (And What Does It Mean?) (2023) and Dog Died Suddenly With Tongue Out: What Does It Mean? (2023).
Do Dogs Understand Death?
In order to know they’re dying, dogs need to understand the concept of death. Of course, dogs likely don’t ponder life after death or the existence of a spirit, but there’s a very real possibility that your beloved dog understands a bit about the permanence of death and what it means to lose a friend.
Dogs build companionships with other dogs. You see it every day, particularly if you have more than one pet! Your dogs become best buddies, romping and playing in the yard or even fighting over a treat.
When one dog passes, the survivor notices their absence. Your living pup may have even been present when his companion died. When your dog’s friend dies, your pup will certainly miss his presence.
Dogs are very intuitive. They sense your happiness and, of course, they sense your grief. If you’ve lost a pet, your pup will likely pick up on this and exhibit similar emotions.
We don’t know if dogs comprehend death. However, it can be assumed that they understand permanent absence, so it’s time to take a look at whether dogs grieve.
Do Dogs Grieve After Losing a Companion?
A part of answering the question “Do dogs say goodbye before they die” is understanding whether dogs grieve after losing a loved one. The short answer to this is that yes, they may.
Following the death of another animal friend or a human, your dog may display signs of grieving. He may become withdrawn or appear depressed, choosing to spend his time sleeping instead of socializing with family members.
Your pup may refuse to eat or drink, may begin whimpering or otherwise vocalizing, or may otherwise begin acting out of character. In some instances, your fur baby may even become aggressive.
Like humans, dogs seem to go through a grieving process and it’s important to give your dog a little extra TLC after the death of a beloved companion. This may mean any number of things, ranging from extra playtime to help distract him to giving him a little extra space to be by himself.
If your dog is refusing to eat for long periods of time or is disengaged with family activities for a more prolonged period than is healthy, please contact a vet. She may be able to work with you on ideas to help your dog through his grief in an appropriate way.
Do Dogs Have a Sense of Self?
Now that you know a little more about whether dogs understand death and understand grief, we’ll talk about whether dogs say goodbye before they die.
The simple answer to this question is that we’ll likely never know. However, because pups do seem to understand the finality of death, particularly as it relates to their human companions, they may be able to say farewell before they pass away.
However, a big piece of this puzzle is missing. While dogs can possibly understand death, and the sadness that accompanies it, they likely don’t understand that they, too, will die someday.
Dogs have a limited sense of self. They have memories, can process what’s happening in the immediate, and can recognize their relationship with others.
For instance, even a non-service dog knows you’re his handler, and can detect when something’s wrong. This is why we love dogs so much — their intuitive nature makes them wonderful companions.
To the contrary, however, your dog can’t recognize his own face in the mirror and he has a very limited comprehension of his own body. As an example, dogs get stuck. They don’t even understand how their bodies fit into spaces, much less understand their place on this planet.
A dog’s sense of self is narrow but not nonexistent. As we don’t know the full scope of what a dog understands about his own existence, it’s difficult to say whether dogs say goodbye before they die.
Do Dogs Say Goodbye Before They Die?
You clicked on this article because you asked “Do dogs say goodbye before they die.” Given what we know about a dog’s self-awareness, his ability to perceive and experience grief, and his limited understanding of death, it’s hard to answer this question.
Dogs have a keen sense of when something’s wrong. They know when something is wrong with their humans, and they certainly know when something is wrong with their own bodies. They seem to have a sense of the finality of death, though they may not fully comprehend what death is.
Humans, of course, take their time in fulfilling last wishes, saying goodbyes, and trying to lessen the pain of their own passing for those who love them. Do dogs do the same?
Well, yes, sometimes. Observation and study have shown that dogs do “sense” when death is near. And whether or not they understand what this means, your dog will probably still exhibit certain behaviors before they pass away.
Your dog may become snuggly or cuddly in his final hours. He may retreat to a secluded area to pass away in private. Or, you may find that your dog waited for you to come home before doing any of these things — he wanted you nearby when he crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
Any of these behaviors may be your dog’s way of saying goodbye to you before he passes away.
Saying Goodbye to Your Dog
We said it before and it’s worth mentioning again: losing a pet is one of the saddest events to experience. You want to know if dogs say goodbye before they die, likely because you’re looking for comfort after the passing of your beloved animal.
We don’t know what happens to dogs once they pass, just as we don’t know what the “afterlife” holds for us. Take comfort in your own belief system — whether your dog goes to doggy heaven or will join his loved ones after death.
Your dog did what he could to show affection if he did, in fact, understand that he was going to leave.
Should you find yourself in a situation where you’re experiencing grief over the loss of a pet, please seek help. Whether you cry on the shoulder of a trusted friend or feel like you need to speak with a professional, know that it is normal to mourn in your own way after the death of your companion.
Frequently Asked Questions
Whether you’re just curious about what happens to dogs when they die or you’ve experienced the loss of a pet, you probably have questions. Here are a few topics posed by our readers that may help you.
The behavior immediately preceding death may vary from dog to dog. Some may become clingy and snuggly while others may retreat from loved ones or even become aggressive.
There are physical signs you may notice in your pup, too. A distant look, a change in scent, “nesting” behaviors, pacing, and even weight loss can be signs your dog is approaching death.
Comfort your dog as you see fit in his final days or hours.
In some cases, your pup may isolate himself if he knows he’s in his final hours. This is instinctual. Dogs are pack animals, and separation is an attempt to protect the others before death.
A deceased — or even weak — animal may attack predators, and your dog’s instinct is to keep his pack safe. Therefore, you may find that your dog leaves, whether it’s to another room in the house or even to a quiet place in the woods, immediately preceding his death.
It’s never a good day when you wake to find that your pet has passed away. You may be overcome with emotion, and that’s okay — it’s normal.
You’ll need to take steps, however, to ensure that your pup is cared for even after death.
First, make sure your dog has died. Listen for breathing, watch for his chest or stomach to rise or fall, and check for a pulse.
Allow your other pets to “sniff” the deceased dog. This may help them understand what happened and may help them in their grieving process.
Finally, move your pet to a cool place while you contact the vet. Tell the vet your plans — burial or cremation. She can help guide you through the process, as emotions are likely running high.
Conclusion for “Do Dogs Say Goodbye Before They Die”
Do dogs say goodbye before they die? Well, there’s no short answer. Given what we know about dogs’ limited sense of self and inability to comprehend permanence, it may be that they don’t understand anything but the basics of death — that the death of a loved one is simply the lack of their presence.
However, you know that dogs are very intuitive. For this reason, we can take comfort in knowing that they may, in fact, know when their last days are near. And may, in their own way, say goodbye to the friends they love most.
Losing a pet is heartbreaking and you may wish you and your pup could say goodbye with words. Know that your dog may have said his goodbyes in the way he knew how. By snuggling you, retreating to protect you, or in any other way that showed his affection and gratitude to you in his final hours.
If you find this guide, “Do Dogs Say Goodbye Before They Die,” helpful, check out:
- Is My Dog in Heaven Waiting for Me? (2023)
- Do Dogs Forget People? (2023)
- What Do Chihuahuas Usually Die From? (2023)
Learn more by watching “10 Critical Signs that Indicates Your Dog is Dying” down below:
Garrett loves animals and is a huge advocate for all Doodle dog breeds. He owns his own Goldendoodle named Kona. In addition, he volunteers at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, where he fosters dogs and helps animals. Garrett enjoys writing about Doodles and believes that dogs can teach humans more about how to live than humans can teach a dog.
Why Trust We Love Doodles?
At We Love Doodles, we’re a team of writers, veterinarians, and puppy trainers that love dogs. Our team of qualified experts researches and provides reliable information on a wide range of dog topics. Our reviews are based on customer feedback, hands-on testing, and in-depth analysis. We are fully transparent and honest to our community of dog owners and future owners.