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How Long Should You Grieve Before Getting a New Dog?

Pet parents struggle to find the right answer to this big decision.

by Karen B. London, PhD
October 2, 2021
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 rarely helps a grieving heart. If you are grieving the loss of your dog, you are probably wondering how long to wait until a new dog should 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.

Is it time?

It’s common to feel that the 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 there’s no doubt that adopting a new dog is the right course of action for you. But remember to include the other people in your home in this important decision.

Go gently.

For people who need to grieve longer 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. 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.

Grieving is Individual

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for processing loss. So, when thinking about getting a new dog, consider how they would impact you and the rest of your family, other pets included. Though some people want a new dog right away, you may find others want to wait. Simply put, wait until the right dog comes along for your family, whenever that may be.

karen london

Karen B. London, PhD

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.