After a Loss, the Right Time for a New Dog

Finding the Right Time

How do you know when it's time for a new pet? “It’s so individual. It depends on what’s happening in your life,” says Jennifer Scarlett, DVM, co-president of the San Francisco SPCA. “The easiest place to start is with the logistics: Where am I in my life? Do I have time to train and socialize a puppy?

“The harder part is dealing with your heart,”Scarlettadds, admitting that it was seven years after the death of her first dog before she got another. Between her second and third dogs, though, only a year passed.

And there are pet owners who never get another pet. In some cases it’s because they think they’re getting too old to care for a pet, while others just don’t think they could handle another devastating loss.

“It’s kind of like [romantic] love in a way, because there are people who swear off it," Dr. Scarlett says."It’s kind of like having your heart broken."

Comparing the New and Old

Experts agree that getting a new dog before you’re ready can make things hard on everyone — including the dog.

“If they're trying to replace the animal whom they lost too early, they are going to be disappointed in that new animal,” Lawrence says. “I’ve had a couple of people who’ve gotten them too early and they’ve actually been very angry at the new dog.”

Lawrence recommends choosing a different breed to avoid comparisons. “If it’s the same breed and looks the same, you expect the same things.”

Ellis explains that it’s normal to compare your new dog to the old one — as long as it’s in a healthy way. “When we get another little being to come into our home, it’s like having a second child,” Ellis says. “We don’t have a second child to be just like the first child.”

Not every comparison is bad, though. Jane Thompson finds herself comparing Baxter with Sally and Tai in a favorable way. “He’s a much better-behaved dog. He’s certainly not perfect — he just picked up my shoe and wanted to eat it,” she says with a laugh. “But overall he’s been a much easier dog.”

You may be interested in other Vetstreet articles about grief and losing a pet.

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