How Long Should You Wait for the Next Dog After Your Pup Dies? · The Wildest

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How Long Should You Grieve Your Dog Before Getting a New One?

Here’s some advice as you struggle to make this hard decision.

by Karen B. London, PhD, CAAB, CPDT-KA
Updated April 29, 2024
Happy black woman stroking her white dog while resting on sofa at home
Drobot Dean/Adobe Stock
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Experiencing the loss of a dog is nearly inevitable because of their shorter life spans, but that never lessens the pain. The logic of predictability cannot help a grieving heart. If you are mourning the loss of your dog, you may be wondering how long to wait until welcoming a new one to join your family. 

The truth is that the answer is different for everyone. For many people, part of what does help lessen the pain is welcoming a new dog into their lives. But for many others, it takes a long time before they are ready for that, and some never are. There is so much to consider when deciding about adopting again following the loss of a dog.

There’s no set timeline.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for processing loss. Some people grieve and move on quickly, and others need more time. How long you want to wait before another dog joins your journey in life has nothing to do with how deeply you loved the dog you just lost. 

We simply all choose different paths for healing. There are people who move forward only by memorializing their dog in poems and scrapbooks and after a ceremony, and others who want a new dog so the beds and crates and toybox aren’t sitting idle, because that only causes them more pain. I have good friends who have yet to adopt a new dog after losing the love of their lives eight years ago, and I know of someone who stopped by the shelter to adopt a dog on the way home from the vet, where their dog had just died unexpectedly. 

Grief is love with nowhere to go.

It’s common to feel that a house is just not a home without a dog. Often people find this absence must be remedied quickly because they miss the sound of four-legged footsteps running to the door. If a new dog will ease your sadness and bring joy, then adopting a new dog may be the right course of action for you. 

A new dog can help you right away if you feel ready right away, and if the worst imaginable situation for you is living in a house when no dog lives there. If you feel as if the love for your late dog has no place to go, and you are ready to direct your love to a new pup, you may want to adopt a new dog as soon as you can find one who is a good match for you and your lifestyle.

Grieving takes time and energy.

Although some people want a new dog right away, others want to wait months or even years before opening their hearts to a new family member. Part of the reason for that is that it takes so much effort to grieve, and people vary on their needs, depending on  the situation that best allows them to put in that time and energy.

For people who require a longer grieving process before they feel prepared to love another dog, waiting makes sense. If working through the pain without the complication of a new relationship feels right, then it’s only sensible to hold off on getting a new dog. If the joy and love and laughter of forging a new relationship with a different dog helps you process your grief, sooner may be better than later.

Feelings of disloyalty to a departed pet are common.

Among the reasons that some people wait before sharing their lives with a new dog is the feeling that loving a new dog would be disloyal to the dog who recently died. Many people struggle to love another dog because it makes them feel they are being unfaithful in a sense to their departed dog. These feelings are valid. Other people feel like they honor their pet by having loved that dog so fiercely that only another dog can fill the void. These feelings are equally valid.

Be fair to a new dog.

It takes emotional energy to bond with a new dog, and it’s important to be ready to do that before you welcome them into your home. Specifically, you should be emotionally ready to start a new relationship, fully aware that it will not be the same as the one you had with the dog you have lost. It’s problematic to harbor feelings of resentment toward the new dog for not being like the old one or for being here instead of them. 

Similarly, don’t compare the new dog to the perfect older sibling scenario or the “I wish it was them instead of you” line. That inhibits the development of your relationship and is not fair to a new dog who bears no responsibility for the loss of your previous dog and has no obligation to be like them in any way.

Another thing to consider before adopting a new dog in order to be fair to them is to ask yourself whether your lifestyle is compatible with a new dog. That’s not the same as considering whether your lifestyle was compatible with your previous dog. Remember that an established relationship is different than a new, developing one. Plus, the ages of the two dogs in question and the newness of a different dog, no matter their age, make the situations very different.

Family members may all feel differently about a new dog.

If there are others who share your home, the decision about when to welcome a new dog may be more complicated because everybody’s feelings on the matter should be considered. Think this through and discuss how each member of the family would be impacted. If humans disagree, a compromise may be necessary. One option is to agree to wait until everyone is ready, but you can also agree to wait for at least three or six months or even a year and then re-evaluate. Think about the potential effects on other pets of getting a new dog. 

Do you have an older dog who might dislike the energy of a new dog, especially a young one? Do you have a cat who is unlikely to adjust well to having a new dog join the family? Are there young children who could make it hard for you to give the time and attention to a new dog that any dog needs and deserves?

Connecting with dogs in a new way may be a better fit for you right now.

If you are not yet ready to open your heart and home to a new dog, you may find other outlets for your love of dogs that feel better at this time. You may still crave a dog fix while you wait for the right time to adopt again. Options include: helping friends with dog sitting or dog walking, volunteering with a shelter or rescue, or fostering a dog. Adopting a new dog is a huge commitment and a giant emotional leap, but you don’t have to miss out on the company of dogs entirely while you wait to take that step.

You get to say when it’s the right time for a new dog to enter your life.

People will have strong opinions about when you should adopt a new dog. You may be told it’s too soon or that you just need to take the plunge and find a new dog already. I am one of those people who has a strong opinion as well, and here it is: You get to say when you’re ready. It’s your life, your heart, and your decision. Whenever you welcome a new dog into your world is the right time to do so.

Karen London holding up a small dog

Karen B. London, PhD, CAAB, CPDT-KA

Karen B. London, Ph.D., is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression, and has also trained other animals including cats, birds, snakes, and insects. She writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life.

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