Would My Dog Be Sad If I Died?

Head of a Black Labrador looking slightly up and sad.

Dogs are emotional and affectionate beings. Their entire ecosystem of existence from family, to loyalty, to survival, to play time revolves solely around emotions and receptive output. So what happens if the one thing they’re the most emotionally connected to suddenly dies and vanishes from their lives forever? Emotional train wreck and anxiety ensues. A void so deep that some dogs can’t dig their way back out. Will your dog be sad if you die? Let’s really find out.

Your dog would display signs of emotional distress and sadness if you were to suddenly die. While it isn’t believed that dogs have the cognitive ability to fully grasp death and long-term loss, it is clear that they experience longing and anxiety derived from separation.

I’ll be completely honest with you here. If my human was to die before me, I’d go shortly after. I can’t live without her. She’s my person. I want all of the humans reading this article to understand one thing – YOU are your dog’s world. Literally and figuratively. Don’t take this for granted. Not only will your dog be sad if you die, they will be emotionally crippled.

Let’s break this down a little bit further. Follow me down the dog behavior rabbit hole?

Disclaimer: The Can My Dog articles contain information based on the individual research and opinions of the author of the site – who just so happens to be a dog. How you utilize the information given is completely up to you. Proceed at your own risk.

Do Dogs Understand Death?

I recently read an argument defending the theory that dogs can’t understand the finality of death, thus the feelings they experience when their owner dies is more confusion than anything else.

While this may be partially true, the grief a dog will experience after the death of their owner is still very real in their reality.

If we want to argue the facts regarding a fundamental canine understanding of death then we could argue all day. I would go on to say that humans don’t even understand death to the fullest extent. Doesn’t seem fair to throw dogs in an independent silo just to prove an egotistically driven point here, does it?

What I mean is, no one truly understands death. Just prolonged sadness and absence. This is how you perceive death and this is how your dog perceives death. You’re no longer here with them and that makes them extremely sad.

We’ve all seen those ridiculously sad videos and images of a dog physically crying on top of a grave site where their owner was just buried. Or the video of the dog running and jumping on the casket of their owner at the funeral service.

Sure, maybe we (dogs) don’t fully comprehend what death means, but you can’t tell me we don’t realize you haven’t come back to us and that something is terribly wrong.

Do Dogs Know How Long You’ve Been Gone?

This is a valid question to ask when trying to figure out if your dog will be sad if you die.

As a matter of fact, I wrote a relatively extensive post about this very subject. I’ll link it here if you want to read a bit more on whether your dog can tell how long you’ve been gone or not.

Studies suggest that your dog can comprehend and conceptualize time for up to 2 hours. However, after those first 2 hours, the data is unclear, as previously benchmarked indicators are unable to validate if your dog is aware you’ve been gone for 8 hours or just 2.

Allow me to put these studies into perspective. These were conducted under normal conditions of routine life for dogs. In other words, these studies took place while you were away at work (normal day), off grocery shopping (normal outing), or out to dinner (typical experience).

These studies were NOT completed using death of humans. So, while dogs may not fully understand the difference between 2 and 4 hours, they do understand never seen or heard from again.

Leaving your dog at home while you go to the gym is a different experience when compared to leaving your dog for the afterlife. One, you come back typically before the sun goes down – the other, not so much. And your dog recognizes the difference and mourns accordingly – most commonly referred to as separation anxiety.

Your Dog Will Be Sad When You Die If You’re Their Caregiver

In my article “5 Factors Your Dog Weighs When Choosing Their Favorite Human”, I outlined the main components necessary to solidify a dog / human bond that will last a lifetime.

Those five factors are:

  1. Are you the human that gives your dog the most attention?
  2. Are you the human that creates a positive association with your dog?
  3. Does your personality mesh best with your dog’s?
  4. Were you the human that was in your dog’s life first?
  5. Are you the one feeding your dog?

If you answer “me” or “yes” to all of the above questions then rest assured. You are your dog’s primary caregiver and they will be crushed if you die.

In your dog’s eyes, you are their reason for living. Nobody can get closer to them. You win. Your dog would literally die for you.

This is why you randomly notice your dog staring at you for no apparent reason. Or why they’re following you around everywhere.

You are your dog’s person and they will absolutely be sad if you die.

Will Your Dog Forget You When You Die?

Your dog will not forget you when you die.

A dog’s emotional connection to their owner goes much deeper than surface level assumptions. Your dog’s memory is much better than you think. This is why they’re able to learn tricks, commands, and a multitude of words.

Memory through repetition is how your dog learns best and there’s no better form of repetition than your continued love for your dog. They know this. They feel this. And will remember they feelings they have for you for the rest of their life.

You’ve seen this in action. Cut to the soldier coming home from an extensive deployment. Their dog sprints to them and jumps in their arms faster than a cat scared from a flying cucumber. Don’t lie, you’ve seen these videos. You cried too, I know you did.

My point being is their dogs not only remembered them, but remembered their love and admiration for their human. Those deep seated emotions aren’t easily forgotten.


There’s a reason us dogs don’t live as long as our humans. It’s because we can’t live without you.

Our love for our people is truly unconditional. It’s selfless and pure. Don’t EVER leave us!

Just promise me that you’ll continue to Live, Love, Laugh, and Scratch our bellies for as long as we live.

Love you guys – forever,


P.S. If you’re new to this world, you may want to check out my Ultimate Guide for First Time Dog Parents. It’s a great reference to get you started on this journey.

This article has been reviewed by our Editorial Board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our Editorial Policies.

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