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My husband has had a sweet mixed breed dog named Gracie for 11 years. His wife (primary caregiver) passed away 4 years ago. We were both widowers who met each other 2 years ago and married last year. Life is wonderful!

But here's the situation, which doesn't bother me at all... it just kind of saddens me. Every time the phone answering machine goes off, his wife's voice is still there, and Gracie howls and cries when she hears it. Why not change it? My husband has 2 boys and this comforts them to hear their mother's voice. I've lost my mother. I understand completely.

But my question is, dog experts... Since it is 4 years later, is Gracie still grieving or is this now a learned behavior she repeats?

Thanks for your insights. And I wish you all just as much happiness!
 

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It might have started out as the dog recognizing the voice and getting excited by hearing it...and then it turned into habit.

I love dogs, but think a lot of people give them way too much credit for human like thought processes and emotions.

I think dogs can be happy and sad for a short amount of time over something, but I also think that their memories of 'friendships/attachments' fade given time. It's like when a momma dog doesn't recognize her own pups several years later if they have been seperated....and during weeining, the momma dog seems to disconnect herself from emotional attachment to the puppies. I don't think a normal balanced human could ever do that.

I have also had an adopted dog that was totally attached to a shelter worker, but a few years later, we (the dog and I) met this person on the street and Lacey, my dog, didn't show any real excitement to see this person, like she did just a few weeks after adoption when the worker saw us at the vets one day. So this is another reason why I think the way I do about how dog's emotional attachments are forgotten given time.

So species wise, while we share a lot of stuff, I think dogs don't have the emotional depth that humans have.

If the actual howling and crying does make you sad, you could maybe try distracting the dog's actions, by offering a treat. Maybe in time, by interrupting the behavior the dog can be around the machine when it goes off and not have a fit like that. I can't imagine it's a good thing...maybe even stressful for the dog to have a habit like that.... I'm sure the dog feels upset...but probably doesn't know "why" it should be feeling that way now.

Stormy
 

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I don't think it's so much grieving, because she doesn't realize she's listening to the voice of her deceased owner. She DOES know the owner whose voice that is, is gone though. So it's probably less her "crying" that she's dead and more "It's her, it's her! She's back! Where is she? Is she coming?" Dogs can understand if someone is dead in front of them physically, but they can't understand the concept of a dead voice on a recording. It does sound like the recording stresses her, so they probably shouldn't listen to it when the dog is around.
 
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