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What Happens to Dogs’ Spirits After They Die?

Many people claim to have seen dogs’ spirits after their death, and science may help us explain these occurrences. Here’s what we know.

What Happens to Dogs' Spirits After They Die?
The death of a beloved pet can be an especially difficult loss. What happens to dogs’ spirits after they die? Photo: fujicanon

The death of a dog can have just as much of an impact on you as when you lose a human family member or friend.

If you’ve ever had a dog who died, you know the feeling firsthand.

While dogs can’t talk or laugh with you like another person can, they’re loyal beyond words and build memories in their own ways: that silly face they make mid-belly rub, their classic “give me attention” bark and the way they snuggle up under the covers when it’s cold.

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Those quirks and traits are what build an incredible bond between dogs and their people.

It’s no wonder the question of afterlife comes up constantly when a dog dies. People, both spiritual and not, wonder whether their dog is happy, comfortable and safe.

Beyond simply hoping their dog has gone to a better place, though, some people even question whether their pet is still there, in the afterlife, watching over them.

When Dogs’ Spirits Remain

Whether you believe in a higher power or not, it’s hard to argue when countless people claim to have encounters with pets who have died.

Take the story of Hobbes, the dog of Robert, Kathy and their son. Hobbes died while the son was away at college, but they waited until he was home to share the sad news with him.

When their son learned of his dog’s death, however, he was confused. He’d just seen and petted Hobbes in the hallway.

Or take Barbara, whose dog Skila used to go with her to her chiropractor appointments. When Barbara got a call from her chiropractor saying he’d seen Skila running through the hallway — after Skila had died — it was hard to deny the dog’s spiritual presence.

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Beyond seeing dogs’ spirits after they’ve died, though, many people have other minor encounters. Some might feel their dog brush against their leg or hear the jingle of their collar coming down the stairs, for example.

What Happens to Dogs' Spirits After They Die?
Science may be able to explain why we can “see” dogs’ spirits or sense our deceased pets long after their deaths. Photo: wiggijo

Coping With Pets’ Deaths

People like Kim Sheridan completely understand and have even devoted their lives to helping others cope with the death of their pets.

In fact, Kim’s book, Animals and the Afterlife, recounts dozens of other stories similar to the ones above.

And Kim isn’t the only one. Amanda Linette Meder, who publishes a spiritual living blog, sticks to 10 foolproof signs your dog is trying to reach you from the afterlife.

Some of those signs include:

  • Hearing your dog’s paws on the floor.
  • Hearing panting or sighing, like your dog wants to come in from the backyard.
  • Briefly seeing your dog from the corner of your eye.

Given the amount of people who experience these “signs,” could dogs’ spirits really remain after they die?

Dogs’ Spirits: The Scientific Explanation

Of course, for the firm non-believers, the science behind why these encounters happen also offers an interesting angle.

Psychologists John Bowlby and John Archer claim the “reunion theory” has something to do with why people see, hear and sense their dogs, even after they’ve died.

The theory looks at grief like this: While many think grief is just an emotional response to the death of a loved one, these psychologists claim it actually evolved from a way to motivate our ancestors to search for someone who was lost — literally.

Thus, based on the reunion theory, grief causes people to search for a lost loved one, even if subconsciously.

Because of that, seeing a glimpse of your dog might not actually be that unusual.

Others have added to the reunion theory with their own studies, claiming the “signs” people see are actually “false recognitions.” In a subconscious attempt to find their dead loved ones, even the smallest resemblance of sight, sound or smell might trigger a false recognition.

These recognitions aren’t completely false, though — a sound similar to a dog’s sigh or the jingle of their collar might be entirely real — but because of that internal longing, they’re simply misinterpreted by those who experience them.

Differentiating Between Signs and Science

There’s no way to truly tell whether dogs’ spirits remain after they die.

Ask someone who’s witnessed a sign from the afterlife, and you’d likely be met with spiritual recountings.

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Ask Claire White or Dan Fessler, who studied false recognitions of dead pets, and you’d come up against well-researched evidence to the contrary.

That, of course, begs the question: What do you believe?

Have you witnessed a sign from your pet in the afterlife, or are you standing by science, research and reason? Tell me in the comments below.

What Happens to Dogs' Spirits After They Die?
Paw Print Infinity 14K gold pendant from Perfect Memorials

Honor Your Pet’s Memory

Perfect Memorials offers a variety of high-quality, thoughtful memorials for a deceased pet. Each piece is customizable or engravaable for a one-of-a-kind memorial.

We love their Paw Print Infinity pendant, which you can personalize by tucking in a small portion of cremated remains or a lock of hair. You can engrave your pet’s name on the jewelry.

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