Mourning Dogs

Dear Liz;  We recently lost one of our two dogs and are thinking about getting one to replace the one we lost.  Is it too soon for the other dog or can we go ahead?


Mourning in Madison

Dear Mourning:

Too many times we jump on getting another pet once one has passed and label it “for the sake of “ the remaining pet.  I’m not sure, though, who “for the sake of” is actually for the sake of; the remaining pet or the grieving owner.

When we lose something like a pet, sometimes we jump at trying to fill that void rather than deal with the loss.  But I’m getting too psychiatric at the moment…  Back to Fido.
Well, actually, Fido kind of falls into the same description.  Your pet needs to be able to grieve the loss of his buddy before he can accept another pet into your home (his home).  This can take weeks or even months and is especially hard when the deceased pet did not die at home.

The remaining pet knew that his friend left (in the car, etc) and may wait at the door for that friend to return, not understanding that his friend is gone.  It’s easier if the surviving pet can actually see (as morbid as this is) that his friend has passed.

You will know when your dog is ready for a new companion, but you have to really watch.  At first, after the loss of the companion, your dog might sit by the door, not eat, wander around the house, sleep in his companion’s bed, etc.  Eventually these symptoms will lessen and then disappear completely.  At that point, you and your dog can start looking for a new companion.
Now, be prepared that this might take a few months and it might never happen.  Your dog may decide that being the only dog is fine and may never accept another dog into your home.  And it won’t matter if the new dog is a puppy or an adult.

Bringing your dog to the dog park or to daycare might or might not help, so if you do decide to try this, watch for any aggression your dog might show.  It is just his way of telling you he’s not quite ready to be social yet.

Believe it or not, dogs are extremely intelligent and extremely sensitive.  They love as deeply as we humans do and they grieve as deeply as well.  Give your dog the time he deserves and needs in order to deal with his loss.


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