Should you get another dog when one dies? A Step-by-Step Guide

Clubs Offering:

Dogs offer an unconditional type of love we don’t always experience in our human relationships. When it’s time to say goodbye to such an integral part of our families, it can be a traumatic experience.

Not everyone respects grieving the loss of a pet the way they would a human family member—there isn’t always the same level of sympathy or understanding. It’s not uncommon to hear non-dog owners say things like, “why are you so upset? It was just a dog” or “just go out and get another one.”

Of course, welcoming another dog into your family can be part of the healing process, but there isn’t a set time for when it’s best to do this. Grief is an extremely personal journey. It isn’t a linear thing, and allowing yourself and any other family members time to process these feelings is sensible before making a decision.

It Will Be Different For Every Family

Dr. Mary Gardner is a veterinarian and co-founder of Lap of Love. Geriatric medicine, the aging process in animals, and teaching families practical ways to care for and manage their elder pets are her passions.

She describes how the right time to introduce a new dog to the family will be different in every situation. “Processing grief can be very helpful in general, and the distraction of a new pet may be good, but may also take away from memorializing the first dog.” The last thing you want is to resent your new dog because you haven’t grieved enough.

“Not everyone goes through immense grief after the loss of a dog that prevents them from opening their heart again sooner,” says Dr. Gardner. “Sometimes the silence in the home is too much for a grieving owner, and filling the void is helpful.” She believes it’s a very personal decision, and “there’s nothing wrong with getting a new pet right away—or waiting for months or years to love again.”

Should you get another dog when one dies?

There isn’t a universal approach for handling the complicated grief process. But taking time to acknowledge rather than minimize feelings of grief and memorializing the pet you have lost can help you better understand if you and your wider family are ready to consider a new dog.

Bereavement counselling can be beneficial for people struggling to cope with the loss of a much-loved dog. Brenda Brown, MA, FT is a grief specialist and owner of Grief About Pets. She offers support services to owners before and after losing their pets. She also agrees that grieving is a very individual process and explains that “as a grief specialist, I always totally focus on my client’s story and relationship with their deceased pet. We talk about their grief symptoms and how they can cope with each one, whether it’s physical, mental, spiritual or social.”

“Self-care can be so difficult in the early grieving stages. Healthy eating and drinking, along with sleeping, are crucial. I encourage my clients to keep talking and sharing their grief story with other trusted and understanding friends and family,” she says.

Brown encourages her clients to visit online pet loss groups. “Hearing and learning from other pet loss owners can be so helpful. Also, it’s great to know that you aren’t alone on the grief journey.”

There’s an AKC Pet Loss Support Group on Facebook. The private group offers members a place to grieve and comfort one another.

Some common ways of remembering your pet include planting something in their memory, creating a photobook, journaling, or commissioning a portrait. Brown explains that “in the early stages of grief, I suggest keeping many of your pet’s keepsakes (toys, collars, dog dishes, pictures, etc.). Eventually, as owners heal, we discuss ideas for keepsake treasures they can make or purchase (jewelry, urns, tattoos, figurines, stuffed animals, etc.). These special items can provide a great deal of comfort.”

Should you get another dog when one dies?

If you have another dog or other pets in the family, it’s important to consider them before introducing a new dog to the household. Throwing an excitable young puppy into the mix when you have a senior dog that’s choosy about who they socialize with may not be a fair decision.

However, dogs can experience grief at the loss of their furry friend too, and, sometimes, having a new dog around for companionship can help them feel less lonely.

Dr. Gardner says you need to consider how the new pet can change the dynamics in the house. She recognizes that “the existing pet may enjoy a new friend to play with,” but if they have high care needs or will stress with the introduction of a new pet, then the timing might not be right.

Adopting After Losing a Pet

Of course, this is a personal decision. Only you will know when the time is right. Keep in mind that you need to take some time to grieve, but no matter when you decide to welcome a new pet into your home, it will never erase the memory of the departed pet. Many people open their homes to a new pet as soon as possible, wanting to fill the void created by the loss.

But others might feel resentful toward a pet they brought in too soon. Most experts agree that the time to get a new pet is after you have worked through your grief adequately to be able to look forward to a new pet instead of back at the recently departed one. That process could take a week or two – or many months.

No matter when you decide it is time for a new pet, the following suggestions can aid you in the transition and make the new relationship more satisfying for everyone involved—including the new pet.

Your Dog or Cat Dies..When To Get Another Pet?

Deciding to get a new dog after a loss can be tough. So, what happens when a beloved dog dies? Suddenly the owner faces a chasm of emptiness in the home – the unused bed, redundant toys, vacant space where the food and water bowls were. The list is endless, the grief overwhelming. Having so much love to offer and no recipient is incredibly difficult.

It’s no surprise that some people can’t bear it, and are desperate to ‘fill the gap’ as soon as possible. Alf Wight, famously known as James Herriot, advocated getting another dog without delay.

But how wise is this? I’ve known it to work for some, but for others getting a new dog too soon after the loss of a pet can cause problems. This invariably impacts on the animal, who is trying to adjust to a completely new circumstance. Should the despairing owner seek a new companion straight away or should they take time to work through their grief before considering such a commitment? Let’s look at some pros and cons: