Pexels | Bruno Cervera

In the 1920s, the protagonist was Hachiko, an Akita Inu breed who greeted his owner at a Tokyo train station every evening and then, according to the story, continued to show up every day for a decade after the man’s death. Early this year, reports circulated about another Russian dog that had stayed for a year at the spot where his owner had died in a car crash; he became known as the “Siberian Hachiko.”

A dog grieving for its late owner is truly heart-wrenching. For the experts, there's still no definite answer on whether or not animals truly grieve.

Dogs experience emotions too

The pets often show behaviors similar to that of the human grieving process, according to the American Kennel Club. Dogs will often suffer an appetite loss, activity decrease, loss of interest in their usual activities, and moping.

It's clear that dogs do show these emotions and behaviors after suffering the loss of a loved one or companion pet—a 2022 study found that nearly 90 percent of dogs went through grief after losing a companion pet.

What experts aren't completely sure on exactly is why they go through these behavioral changes. Some suggest that pets do indeed notice the absence of their owner and miss them, while others suggest the alterations to their daily routine lead to the change or that they are simply responding to the display of grief by humans in their household, as reported by VCA Animal Hospitals.

Bonding: Dog Vs Human

Alexandra Horowitz, a psychologist who heads the canine cognition lab at Barnard College, said to The Washington Post that she doesn’t rule out the idea that dogs grieve. But she interprets the Hachiko-like stories less as evidence of dog mourning than our desire to view animal actions through a human lens, rather than considering the world from a dog’s point of view.

But it’s reasonable to assume that a dog whose owner had suddenly vanished would keep doing what it’s used to, she added. “The dog doesn’t really have much choice. He doesn’t have an independent life where he can explore other ways to live. This is the life the dog has always known,” Horowitz said. “It’s nicer to describe it as loyalty or grieving.”

Per The Washington Post, Clive Wynne, a psychology professor and director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, said it is “undeniable” that dogs can have deep bonds with people and “suffer emotional pain.”

What’s not clear is how long it lasts, he said, though he said he doubts it is for years. 

“With dogs, you have this tremendous, heartwarming seeking of proximity and attention, and offers of affection,” he said. “But then we human beings, we’re never happy. We have to add layers of embellishment on top. Like the idea that if you drop dead, your dog will come to your grave for the rest of your life.”

One delightful thing about dogs, Wynne argued, is that they readily form new bonds — animal rescue organizations couldn’t be successful if dogs forever wallowed in their sadness, after all. His own dog, Wynne said, could quickly be rehomed if he died, while “all the evidence is that my son would be scarred for life.”

“That is what human bonding is like, and it’s different from dog bonding,” he said. “It’s not better. It’s just different.”



THE WASHINGTON POST: “We love stories about dogs mourning their owners. But they might not be what they appear.”

DAILY MAIL: “Loyal dog whose owner died in a car crash has waited for his return by the roadside in freezing cold Siberia for more than a YEAR.”