August 03, 2010

Dogs with PTSD and Grief

I read an AP story today about a military bomb-sniffing dog with the canine equivalent of post-traumatic stress syndrome and how she was being rehabilitated—with some degree of success.
But [Master Sgt. Eric] Haynes said they're careful not to let their affection interfere with good training. Treating Gina like a human—for example, comforting her when she's frightened—can leave her thinking that her handler is pleased when she's afraid.

"She's just gorgeous and I love her, but you also have to balance it with—you have to do what's right," he said.
Coincidentally, my sister, who lives in a multiple-dog household, sent a piece from the César Milan Web site on dealing with grief in a dog pack.

The writer, dog trainer Martin Deeley, notes that dogs will miss a long-time companion, but at the same time, we should not project our emotions on them:
Dogs cannot speak to let us know what they are thinking, so we have to read their body language, behavior and general demeanor to know how they are feeling. Of course, we can misread what they are thinking and feeling, and sometimes they can simply be reflecting our own feelings and emotions. Therefore, you may think their emotions stem from the loss of companion when really they are reacting to our exhibited emotions.
(Cats, on the other hand, sometimes seem pleased at the disappearance of other cats in the household. "More for me," they must be thinking.)


Holly Heyser said...

Oh, don't be so quick to write off cats! My kitty Giblet was really visibly bummed for a month or so when our old matron Paka died. And it took about four months before she finally started filling the spaces Paka filled, sitting where she used to sit in the center of the room to command our attention.

Jess said...

I lost a dog, Socrates, to cancer a few weeks ago. I have a lot of dogs and they never really show any signs of missing one that dies, but this time, Socrates had a buddy that would howl with him, Gideon. After Socs died, when the dogs howled, Gideon would kind of wander around and just stop in a random spot when he couldn't find Socs. He never seemed to be in real distress, just unsure of what to do without Socs.

Midwest Chick said...

I'm finding that the easiest way to interact with our dog is to think of her as a two-year old human child. She has feelings and remembers things but also is a very 'in the now' kind of being.

I also sat in on a wolf-interaction training session and learned a lot about body language from it since some can be translated to domesticated dogs.

Neither are perfect, but I think it works fairly well.

As far as the cats, I just make sure they're well fed because I don't think they'd hesitate to eat me if they got hungry enough.....

LabRat said...

It's not so much that cats will never grieve as they're much less likely than dogs to be particularly attached to their housemates. I have seen cats be visibly upset and disturbed by the loss of another cat that actually WAS their buddy... pacing around the house howling, looking in all their favorite spaces, etc.