Getting Another Dog

Many variables affect the decision to get another dog in anticipation of or following the loss of a beloved one. Here are some questions to think about:

Should you get another dog before your senior becomes debilitated and dies?

You’ve probably heard that an older dog becomes revitalized and may actually live longer, if you bring a younger dog into the family. In our experience, whether this is true depends on the dog and the family. Most older dogs don’t like change, and some just won’t adjust to having another dog around. Others can adjust, provided the new dog is introduced properly and the old dog’s position as “top dog” is maintained. This will require careful supervision.

Some people feel better about facing the loss of a dog if they have another companion already in place. If that’s true for you, just be sure the new dog does not create a stressful situation for your senior.

Here is our answer to an E-mail we received that raised this question:

You are very right to be concerned about the effect of adding another dog to your family. Some dogs — especially older ones — become extremely upset when anything in their environment is changed. Each dog is an individual, though, and each family presents a different situation, so there really is no way of predicting how your dog will react. Here are some suggestions and ideas for you to consider:

(1) Do a trial run. Try to “borrow” a dog to take home for an afternoon and see how your dog reacts. In some cases, a puppy will “energize” an older dog, who will become more playful and begin to behave like a puppy herself again. In other cases, the older dog simply won’t tolerate the changes made by another dog in her home.

(2) A puppy may be too energetic for your dog’s taste; but a slightly older dog — say, a 4- to 5 -year-old — may be calmer and your dog may relate better. If your trial run with a puppy doesn’t work out, you may want to try it with an older dog. (Yes, it’s true, we are partial to older dogs at the Senior Dogs Project, and we recommend them all the time.)

(3) Consider waiting until after any upcoming big events or holidays to get another dog. Introducing a new dog into your home will require careful attention and time. The introductory period is very important because it will establish rapport and the ground rules for the dogs. It’s better if this can be done in a calm atmosphere. It can make all the difference in how the two dogs interact with each other and the rest of the family in the future.

(4) Many people like to have a second dog at hand, in anticipation of losing the first. They feel that the second dog will console them and make their loss less painful. We think that is probably true for a lot of people, but not necessarily for all. On the other hand, when you lose your dog, you can always count on there being another one readily available for you close by at an animal shelter or rescue organization in your area. (We don’t recommend buying a dog from a pet store because so many of the dogs come from “puppy mills” where the conditions are inhumane. If a puppy is purchased from a breeder, it’s important to check the breeder’s credentials.) 

Is it a good idea to get another dog immediately after your senior dies?

This is a very personal issue. Many people find life is just not full enough without a dog (or dogs) at their side. Others feel that they need some recovery time, especially after dealing with their dog’s prolonged or difficult illness. Still others feel that the best tribute they can pay to their beloved dog is to adopt another immediately. If it is a family decision to make, be sure all parties agree.

What if you have another surviving dog who seems to miss the senior who has just died?

We believe that this is a very clear sign that it is right to get another dog right away. If the surviving dog is a senior, keep in mind that an older dog is the better adoption choice because he is likely than a young dogto be more compatible with your senior .