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How Long After the Death of My Dog Should I Wait to Get Another Dog?

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How Long After the Death of My Dog Should I Wait to Get Another Dog? Photo © Marcy Maloy/Getty Images
Question: How Long After the Death of My Dog Should I Wait to Get Another Dog?
My dog recently passed away. I'm not sure how long I should wait to get another dog, or if I will ever be ready. How will I know?
Answer:

The death of a beloved pet is heartbreaking, and the grief does not go away overnight. Unfortunately, there is no set way to know when the time is right to get a new dog. Some people wait days to weeks, while others hold out for months to years. Some people even decide they no longer wish to have dogs. The situation is different for everyone. However, here are some guidelines that might help you make the decision that's right for you.

  1. First of all, take time to experience your grief. It's normal to be sad, angry or lonely for a while. It's also okay to feel relieved and sad at the same time, especially in cases when your recently deceased dog suffered from a long and/or serious illness. Don't try to go out and immediately fill the void with a new dog when you have not processed your feelings over the loss of your last dog. You might end up projecting negative feelings onto your new dog or having unreasonable expectations. Wait until you feel a sense of peace about your previous dog's death. Yes, you may still be grieving, but you should be at a place where you are processing your grief but it does not dominate your life.

  2. Consider other people in your household: Spouses, domestic partners, significant others, children, roommates, other family members, and so on. Are they ready to welcome a new dog into the home? Are they still grieving? The decision to get a new dog should be one you make as a group. Have "house meetings" to discuss what is on the minds of everyone in the home. Once you can all agree upon getting a new dog, you can then discuss the details: what kind of dog, where to get the new dog, etc.

  3. If you have any remaining pets, consider them before you add another dog to your home. Remember, dogs grieve too (and so do other pets). Your dog (or other pet) may feel sad and lonely without his companion, but that doesn't mean a new dog will help. In some cases, bringing a new dog in the home before your dog is ready can cause quite a disruption. Watch your remaining pets closely for the days to weeks following your previous dog's death. Look for subtle changes in personality, activity level and appetite. Make sure they are not showing any signs of illness. Once you are confident they are back to their normal selves, only then should you consider adding a new dog to your home.

  4. Try to get an idea of what your life is now like without your dog. Are there goals or plans that you put off because of the care your previous dog needed? Maybe now is the time to take that sabbatical or simply a long, exotic vacation. Does your home need repairs or renovations? Perhaps it's a good time to revisit previous plans for going back to school, changing jobs or even relocating. It's better to make any lifestyle changes before adding a new dog to your life. Then, if and when the time is right, you can find a dog that is right for your new lifestyle.

  5. Consider the new set of responsibilities that will come with a new dog. It will take time to help your new dog adjust to a new environment. You will likely need to work on some training as well. Your new dog may need more exercise than you are used to, especially if your previous dog was a senior. Because you likely had many years with your previous dog, his care may have become a matter of routine for you. With a new dog, you cannot be sure what to expect. Therefore, you should make sure you are prepared to make lifestyle adjustments if necessary. It may even be a good idea to approach this as if you were getting a dog for the first time.

Once you feel that the time is right, you can begin the process of choosing the right dog. Don't just run out and get the first dog you meet and like. Before you look for a new dog, determine the age, personality, energy level and size of your ideal dog. Decide what are the most and least important factors regarding your new dog. Adopting a dog can be wonderful idea! Many dogs in rescue groups have been living in foster homes. The foster owners can usually give you a pretty good idea about what to expect from each dog.

Your beloved dog can never be replaced, but a new dog can be a beautiful way to share the love in your heart. Some people find that the heartbreak of losing a dog was too difficult to ever go through again. Sadly, they may choose to no longer have pets. However, most people realize that they want to continue sharing their lives with dogs. Think of it this way: by opening your life up to a new dog in need of a home, in a way you are honoring your dog's memory. The human-canine bond is a beautiful thing. Enjoy your new canine companion!

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