My dogs have lost their leader!

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My dogs have lost their leader!

Post by Loco11 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:51 pm

Hi all....Cherie from NY here! We recently had to put to sleep our oldest dog Ripley, who was a 14 year old yellow lab. Even though she was old and very lame she was still the pack leader over our 2 younger dogs (Piper is 10 or 11, a jack russel terrier and Evelyn is a 3 year old yellow lab). It's been about two weeks now and the two younger dogs are still pretty freaked out, especially when my husband is not around. I think they've made him their stand-in leader because he's retired and is at home most of the time, while I'm still working. When it's just me here they are SO anxious, barking, whining and running around looking out the windows. They go outside and just bark at nothing. This is NOT usual behavior for's only since Ripley has been gone. Is there anything to be done to help them, or do I just wait it out and let them settle it between them?

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Re: My dogs have lost their leader!

Post by JudyN » Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:12 am

Hi Cherie,

I'm sorry you've lost Ripley, and your dogs are obviously finding it hard. One thing to be aware of is that the concept of 'pack leader' in a household of dogs is much less clearly defined than was thought - one may be given priority over the best bed, another may be able to take toys of another... and humans don't have to be seen as 'all-powerful rulers' for everyone to rub along just fine. There's more about it here if you're interested: ... -debunked/

Of course, you know your dogs, how they interacted before, and how they interacted now. I'm giving this information just so you realise you don't need a 'new leader' to emerge. I'm not an expert, and only have one dog, but from what I've read doing things to try to establish a new 'hierarchy', such as choosing to feed one dog before the others, can cause a lot of problems.

So I think what you do need to do is address their grief by trying to keep their lives as stress free as possible, sticking to their normal routines, and being careful to ensure they don't pick up on your grief. Something I've read elsewhere, odd as it sounds, is to explain to your other dogs what has happened to Ripley. Obviously they won't understand the words, but some people have found it helps. I've also heard Rescue Remedy and homeopathic Ignatia can help (personally I'm not a big believer but you may be willing to try). Otherwise, maybe it's just a case of needing more time.

Hopefully someone with more experience of this will be along soon with their thoughts.
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Re: My dogs have lost their leader!

Post by Nettle » Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:10 am

Judy is spot-on, and I'd just like to add that increasing the dogs' exercise is very helpful.

As one who has many times had the inevitable changes from bereavements in a multi-dog household, it helps to plan ahead and get each dog used to being exercised separately. It doesn't have to be every day, but every week is a good one to aim for. That way, when the inevitable happens, the remaining dog does not feel quite so bereft.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog


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