How Long Should I Wait After My Pet Dog Dies to Get Another One?
Experience the Grief First
In my three decades of breeding, showing, and training dogs, this question has frequently come up. The answers vary.
First, let yourself grieve. There are several stages to grief, no matter what the loss. And losing a pet can be every bit as devastating as the loss of a human friend. Do not put a time frame on your grief. It can vary widely depending upon your nature and what is going on in your life at present.
There are five recognized stages to this grieving process that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first introduced. Not all people experience all stages but they usually experience at least two. They also don’t experience them in any particular order or length of duration. The stages are denial, anger (guilt is part of this stage), bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.
Second, ask yourself for what purpose do you want another pet now? If you want a new pet to ease your pain, wait. Often times we try to replace our beloved companion with one “just like Sparky.” We look for the same breed, same markings, and same personality. Not only is this unfair to the new pet, it dishonors the memory of the deceased pet. Animals are as individual as humans. You may find similarities between two, but they’ll never be exactly the same.
I have counseled people to wait who did not heed the advice. Invariably they were disappointed in some way with their new pet. The new one didn’t live up to their expectations. Differences between the new pet and the deceased one were interpreted as behavior problems. “Why is he doing that? My Sparky never did that!” Your new dog isn’t Sparky and never will be. “But I want….” You want your old dog back—or at least the new one to behave like and make you feel just like your old one. This is not realistic. You're still grieving and all amounts of denying it won’t change the fact. The new pet senses your disappointment in him and reacts accordingly. You’re both mismatched and unhappy. People will quite often get rid of the new dog at this point.
Some people get through the grief quickly and some never do. I have had people call me who lost a pet years ago and are still looking for another one just like the old one. They tell me of their search and how unsuccessful it has been. They talk to me about their previous pet, telling me about all the charming things Sparky used to do, and they cry. These poor souls are not ready for another pet and won’t be until they come to terms with their loss.
On the other hand, some people are ready to get another pet right away. They grieve their loss and fully understand and expect the new pet to be different. They welcome the difference. Some folks purposely look for a different color, sex, or breed (maybe even a different species) so as not to confuse the new one with the old one in their minds. They talk fondly of their deceased pet. They don't want another pet to replace those memories—they seek to add to their old memories with new and different ones.
To sum up, know yourself. Know whether you are done grieving or whether you are able to look at things rationally. Don’t rush into anything. Be certain that you are not reacting emotionally. It’s unfair to the potential new pet. Honor the memory of your deceased pet and all the things he used to do. And when you are ready, embrace the new adventure that a different individual will bring to your life.