How Do You Know When It’s Time To Get Another Dog

Honey was a perfect puppy.

Here I am. I hope you’re ready for me.

“I’ll never have another dog. It hurts too much to lose them.”

I hear that sometimes from people I meet. But I don’t understand it. For me, any pain is worth suffering to enjoy the love of a dog.

But that doesn’t mean it’s smart to rush out in your grief and adopt a new dog. Especially if you’re hoping to plug the hole in your heart left by losing your last dog. It’s unfair to you. And it’s unfair to your dog.

So when is it time to get another dog? Here are the questions that helped me make that tough decision.

Is the Timing Right to Get Another Dog?

When Agatha died in October, I felt emotionally ready to get another dog in December. But December is an awful month for us to adopt a dog.

It was our job, as a childless couple, to travel on the holidays. We often found ourselves passing through several states and spending Christmas afternoons in highway rest stops.

No, not a good time to have a new dog settling in to our lives. It’s why I’ve adopted three dogs in January. And Honey came to us in March.

My golden retriever puppy in spring, summer, fall, and winter.

Have I Done All the Tasks I Can Only Do Without a Dog?

Maybe you’ll think I’m callous. But it’s true. There are some things you cannot do when you’re caring for an elderly or ailing dog.

I find myself trying to squeeze a lot of activities into the time after a dog’s passing. In part, it’s helpful to have something to do. The house is so empty and quiet. Work and travel takes my mind off my loss.

But it’s also a relief to have time and energy for something besides caretaking. And it’s a great incentive to get things done. “Once I finish redoing the bathroom, I can bring another dog home. Yippee!”

Am I Emotionally Ready for Another Dog?

I don’t believe I should bring another dog into my life when I’m still sobbing helplessly over the last one. You may disagree.

But I need to have something to give to the new dog settling into my life. And if I only expect a new dog to comfort me, I’m not giving him the best start in a new home.

Do I Know What I Want in a New Dog?

I had no idea what kind of dog I wanted when Agatha passed. I guess I assumed that all dogs were like Agatha and Christie. And that I’d get a young dog who would spend years chewing my furniture, howling when I left the house, and stealing food off the counters.

My dogs, Agatha and Christie, post in the garden.

They don’t look like terrors, do they?

But my husband knew what he wanted in a new dog. He found the elderly, mellow Agatha a good companion. When I told him I’d probably be visiting the SPCA during my lunch break, Mike said, “I’d like a dog who’s calm.”

It focused my search. It kept me from adopting the pit bull who ate my friend’s purse. And it led me to my lovely 9-year-old Shadow.

Can I Live One Day Longer Without a Dog?

That’s the overwhelming feeling I remember when I adopted my last dog, Shadow. I couldn’t imagine not having a dog in the house one day longer.

I almost feel like the decision to bring Shadow home was so spontaneous. I usually take days or weeks to decide something.

But I had no choice. My heart was crying out for another dog.

Shadow and Mike post on the front steps.

I wonder why Mike wanted a calm dog?

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Get Another Dog?

I’m emotionally retarded. No, really. It once took me a week to realize I was angry at my husband.

I don’t understand emotions. I don’t trust them.

So I analyze problems with my brain. I discount emotions. You may be different.

I’m curious. Do you run through a checklist to decide if you’re ready to bring another dog into your life? Or do you trust your heart to tell you when it’s time?

And what advice would you share with a friend who’s asking herself this very question?




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  1. Excellent post. I said the same words when I lost my dog Mozart to cancer in 2009- I don’t want another dog- too much work. And, I was going to become a great nature photographer- Anyway, I drove my wife crazy the weekend after losing Mozart. She and a friend (each not knowing the other was doing this) sent me all kinds of info. about getting another dog. They knew I needed one. Their efforts led to the adoption of Noah and it turned out to be the best thing for me. I’m not the greatest nature photographer, but I love the time Noah and I spend together!

    • It’s good that your wife and friend were looking out for you.

      And I suspect your bond with Noah has contributed a lot to your beautiful pet portraits. It gives you a tremendous insight into the dog mind.

      • Yes it is- they are both great!!

        I have always had a passion for dogs. When I was an artist photographer, I featured some dogs and cats in an exhibit- that didn’t go so well. The Director was one I could depend on to be honest- she suggested I pursue the field and with the help of a rescue, I did.

        And you are right, Noah contributes quite a lot to my work- we are a wonderful team and he does provide insight- and good practice since he’s a shiny black d0g.

  2. My heart rules and I’m the type that is ready pretty quickly. We’ve had two dogs for the last 18 years, so I’ve never had the experience of not having a dog in the house – honestly, I don’t think I could bear it. We waited the longest after our first dog Sally passed. We had her from puppyhood, and it was unexpected, so it was a hard loss for us. But we still had Tino, so I wasn’t dog-less. I think there is a certain logic you have to allow for – Steve wasn’t ready as soon as I was to get another dog after Sally passed, so I waited, but I think it’s a very emotional decision – and if you are at the point where you are thinking about doing it, you are probably ready.

    • “if you are at the point where you are thinking about doing it, you are probably ready.”

      That’s very wise. It would probably make people’s decisions easier if they followed this guidance.

  3. I’ve never experienced total doglessness and I don’t think I would handle it well. The first time we lost a dog, we had another at home, and were currently on a waiting list for a puppy before he had gotten sick. So we were prepared for three dogs. Then Chance got sick, and on the day we decided to put him down (not the day we did it, just when we made the decision and scheduled the appointment), I got a call from the breeder saying she knew of some adult rescues of the breed I was getting, and would I want one? We put Chance down on a Friday night, left on vacation Saturday morning, got back the next Friday night and picked up Jeni (our new dog) the day after. Getting a new dog right away is not for everyone, I’m sure, but it worked well for us. Our other dog did not do well as the only dog in the house and it gave me something to focus my time on, and even the short time we only had one dog in the house just felt… wrong. We also lost our little hospice foster about a month ago after having her for six months, but we had three other dogs. We did pick up a foster pretty soon after we lost her, but the experience was a bit different because we had been expecting to lose her (she was dying when we took her in) so we were more prepared. Never easy, though!

    • There’s nothing worse than an empty house without dogs. However, Agatha thrived as an only pup. So I wasn’t going to bring another dog into the house after Christie died. And Shadow also didn’t like other dogs.

      Sometimes our dogs give us no choice. But I have also found having foster dogs as a nice addition to the family. I wonder if some people not ready to get a new dog of their own would find fostering a good interim step?

  4. I’ve got a post brewing about this same subject. I lost both of my fourteen year old dogs within ten days of each other this summer – one had been declining for a long time and the other was entirely unexpected, despite her age. I think if I’d had one for a while it might have taken me longer to dive right back in, and at the more difficult times of caring for aging, ailing pets I even thought I would “take a break” for a while. My house was unbearably empty going from two dogs to no dogs in such a shockingly short span of time. I felt the clocks ticking amplified and I could hardly stand to be at home. I submitted an adoption application three days later, and brought Ruby home the following weekend. I look at Petfinder almost daily and wish I could take them all. For me, immediately was not too soon, and I have absolutely no regrets. It isn’t about replacing or forgetting the dogs we lose: having Ruby around actually made me miss Freya and Lasya more as I compared her similarities and differences. I think each dog leaves us with the capacity to love even more – it is their last gift to us.

    • It’s interesting that adopting Ruby caused you to miss your last dogs even more. And yet it doesn’t sound like you regret that one bit.

      You’re right, they do expand our capacity for love. :)

  5. Just wrote about this last week. It’s complicated, especially after losing a Heart Dog amid 5 years of losing so many other important people in our lives. For me, right now, the heartbreak is just too great. The plan is that we won’t even consider looking to adopt until about this time next year (spring 2015).

    • And you also have Gingko to take care of. :)

      Your experience of caring for Lilly was so intense. I can see why you would plan a long gap before looking to adopt. Of course, sometimes dogs come into our lives when we least expect it. I’ll be watching the blog.

  6. I usually need a few months before I’m ready to adopt another dog after losing one. My hubby could do it much quicker, but he’s always understood that about me and let us wait. There was only one time we got another dog more quickly than usual, and that was when we lost our Maggie and Kobi was devastated to be left alone. It still took us a couple of months to find the right companion for him.
    For the most part, I just know in my heart when I am ready, and the right dog has always happened to come along when the time has been right.

  7. Margaret T says:

    When we lost a dog that had been part of the family before I was born, I was 11. I was bereft. It was summer vacation, and my best friend was gone. I begged for a puppy for forever, it felt like, but Christmas came and went–no puppy. The following July, we got a puppy, and I was overjoyed.
    When I lost the first dog of my adult years, I couldn’t even go home. It wasn’t home without a dog. I’d leave work, shop, wander around, anything to stay away from the place where he was not. A week later, I was calling places. This was the mid-80s, and I still didn’t know a lot about what I should be looking for, but I knew this time I wanted field lines, and I called until I found that. It didn’t take long. And then, when my job took more hours of the day, I got him a friend from the pound. When the first one died, I applied to a rescue. I knew myself well enough to know that dogless was a place I didn’t want to be. The two rescues I got came shortly after the second of those dogs died, and this time, I got them a puppy to raise while they were getting old, but still young enough to enjoy the pup and put her in her place. Now they are gone, and she is three. Life just doesn’t seem as glorious without dogs.

    • “Life just doesn’t seem as glorious without dogs.” So true. If I were going to get a tattoo, that’s what it would say.

  8. Oh my! I only had my first dog for four months before I lost him. When he passed, I ran right out and got Mary Lou. I had to wait a week to bring her home, a greyhound adoption thing. She was right off the track. I was foolish, and she was a nutcase. However, it was meant to be, and now that she is gone, I’d give just about anything to go back to the day I brought her home, costly craziness or not. I had planned on having Sonic (grey #1) until his passing and then moving on, no more dogs. He was a “charity case,” nothing more. I was a cat person. I never expected these beautiful greyhounds to steal my heart so thoroughly. Since that one solitary week, I have not been without a greyhound. That was July of 2005. Sonic was #1. I am currently living with #s 4 and 5. The pain of losing is great, horrible. When I lost Mary Lou at the ripe old age of 9.5, it was crushing. She was my heart dog. I lost her “sister,” Jade, earlier that year, but losing Lou was gut wrenching. I still mourn her like no other even though she wasn’t the first or the last. When Jade passed in February, it was June before I was ready for another hound. After Mary Lou in December, it was March. Mary Lou was the first impulse “buy” as it were. Maybe there was more fate involved than anything else. If I hadn’t gotten her, I don’t think my life would be anything like it is now, in so many wondrous ways.

    • It’s interesting that you call yourself a cat person. I’ve heard the same thing from other people who live with greyhounds.

  9. For me, I know I do not want to ever be without a dog in my life. Since we have a house full, it will hopefully be a long time before I have to worry about this. But after losing three dogs, I can understand why some people need time to heal before bringing another dog into their lives.

    • Reading everyone’s comments just shows what a personal and individual decision it is.

      My idea was to always have more than one dog so I was never left alone. But with the dogs I adopted at first, that just wasn’t an option. Now I have Honey who does well with other dogs. But having a single dog makes it easier to foster.

      I guess we can only plan so much.

      • Margaret T says:

        When I had Jessie and Duke, littermates, it was actually easier to foster, because the foster dog generally came in, was a little more careful because it was two against one, and fit himself or herself right in. J and D were awesome dogs, and they never picked on a foster or were in any way aggressive, but just assertive enough so the fosters (at least one of which had been a problem in a foster home with one other dog) deferred, and it all went smoothly.

  10. “I’m emotionally retarded. No, really….I don’t understand emotions. I don’t trust them…
    So I analyze problems with my brain. I discount emotions. You may be different.” I am exactly like this!!!!

  11. When Dylan left at nearly 17 (I’d had him since a pup), I was devastated. But I also have to admit to a sense of relief. His last 6 months required a lot of care, and my emotions were exhausted. But very quickly, I came to hate the empty house. As others have mentioned, I avoided coming home after work. Anything not to feel his absence. What should have been liberating after so much care, was just emptiness, loneliness….nothing. I’ve always had pets my whole life, the lack was unbearable. And also, I lived with someone (still do!) who could easily get very comfortable without a dog and all the hair and responsibilities, and the hair….Did I mention the dog hair? So it wasn’t but about 2 weeks before I was researching Cardigan Corgi breeders on the internet, and finding someone with pups. Dylan died in mid July and on Labor Day weekend we made the long drive to KY to get Wilson. Funny, I have no memories of that short, dog-less interlude, other than knowing I didn’t like it one bit!

    • Yep, I also live with someone who wouldn’t have a dog on his own. But he misses them just as much when they go as I do.

      Sounds like you blocked that two week period without a dog right out of your memory. Like it was too traumatic to remember.

  12. Mom had Trine but always wanted a second dog. Trine was nine and the thought of spending a day without her killed Mom but so did the idea of waking up with no dog to walk, feed, or hang out with. By accident she can upon Katie and that made two dogs. When Trine passed away a little over a year later Mom was devastated and really didn’t want anything to do with Katie but actually, after the initial few hours the two of them grieved together and Mom was so thankful to not be dogless. I came along because Katie was lonely and Mom missed having a second dog. Where did Bailie come from? Mom figured I was already seven, so if another dog and I were going to hang out together, a puppy now would be good. Suddenly a breeder she knew had fourteen pups. A GBGV is hard to get, so it was the time. Bailie fits in wonderfully. Three dogs is a lot and may never happen again for Mom, but for now we all enjoy it. For Mom another dog has always been a feeling combined with coincidence.

    • It was smart of your mom to think about your age before she brought Bailie home. Sometimes as dogs get older, they find puppies really annoying.

      You’re just old enough to teach her what she needs to know and not so old that you just want her to leave. :)

  13. I’ve never been without a dog, unless you count a three week vacation I took or the time Smokey got out of the fence and went missing for two weeks. Generally, I’ve had more than one dog at a time. So when Sephi passed on, I still had Maya. And even though Maya was still with my, the house felt really empty without two dogs. Sephi passed in November and I was ready for another dog in December. But my wise husband advised me to wait until after the holidays. So I started searching the day after Christmas. It wasn’t until January 10th that I got Pierson. Of all the dogs I had looked at the past couple of weeks, he was the one I knew I wanted. So now I have Maya and Pierson. And when the sad day comes that one of them has to go, I will probably start looking within a few weeks to fill that emptiness.

    • I found it much easier when Christie died because I still had Agatha. But Agatha was so calm without her sister in the house that I just couldn’t bring another dog into her life.

      You’re solution of always having a dog in the house is one I thought I would aspire to. But since we’ve started fostering, I find it much easier to just have one permanent dog.

      • That makes complete sense. I actually can’t have foster dogs right now because of one of my dogs – Pierson would allow it.

  14. For me, I follow my heart. When I have lost a dog as an adult, I’ve had specific criteria I’m looking for in a new companion, and I think that has helped me some. I wasn’t sure I was ready when we went up to visit the adoption kennel in July, truth be told, but Flattery made the decision much easier for us. The fact that she’s turned out to be such a funny and adorable dog is frosting on the cake.

  15. Having “survived” 4-1/2 months between losing Kissy and getting Callie, I know I never want to go through it again. But until Ducky came along, Sam and I didn’t want another dog. We had decided that we would foster needy dogs once Callie and Shadow were gone to the Rainbow Bridge, but only after enjoying several long vacations. Funny how one little dog can change your plans! I guess we’re just not meant to go to Hawaii, Normandy, or Casablanca. But I would rather stay home with my girls than spend even one day without them. So I’m a homebody. Sam wishes — I know — that I wasn’t so attached to my dogs. But that’s the way I’ve been for more than 10 years, since Kissy got so sick.

  16. Jasmine, the dog of my life I lost last April, actually solved this dilemma for me. She really wanted me to adopt another Rottie girl. I was happy that I could still do something for Jasmine so I listened.

  17. I trust my heart and I find myself being lead to the dog that was meant for me. I went through the same thing with my cats. And I trust I’ll know what to do when there’s a next dog in the house.

    I’m glad you had Shadow in your life after Agatha and Christie. She must have been such a good dog for you.

  18. I don’t think it’s callous to think of the things you can do without a dog – and I’m a dog! It makes perfect sense to do those things while you can. If more people thought about the things they can’t do when they have a dog and the commitment it takes, there would be far fewer dogs in rescue.
    My bipeds generally use a combination of head and heart when making decisions like that, but I sometimes suspect that they make the head say what the heart wants!!

  19. My sapiens are trying to figure out this very question. I’m not sure how I feel about having another pup. I love the attention but I do admit it can be lonely being the only “child”

  20. Yep, yep, yep – especially to that last section. Though I prefer “thorough, logical, and objective” to “emotionally retarded” (both are accurate ;)). There’s a long list of requirements and considerations, but emotional considerations aren’t on them – timing, logistics, being properly planned and prepared for. Sounds stale, but it’s my way.

  21. Good points on why sometimes it is better to wait. When we lost our doberman Harley, I immediately said, “I don’t want another dog. Ever.”My heart was broken and I didn’t want it broke again. And while the broken heart lasted, the “I don’t want another dog” did not.

    Only a few weeks later my heart was crying out for another dog, and that’s how I ended up finding Leah. It also did not help that at the time a suspected drug dealer lived across from our house at the end of a dead end block (I mean the guy’s name was “Money” and cars came and went all day) so not only did I miss having a dog, I felt afraid without one.

    Of course, then they became like potato chips and we added two more down the line, but Toby and Meadow weren’t to replace anyone. Toby came along so Leah could be a companion, and years later, Meadow came along when I stumbled upon her on Petfinder – as YOU would say, when I was browsing through Puppy Porn. LOL!

  22. After we lost Blue, J said that he never wanted to get close to another dog; and then I saw him getting closer to Rodrigo and Sydney. And then he found a poem that was a will by a dog and he came to me and said that he wanted to give Blue’s space in our family to another dog. Then he started looking for a new dog.

    For the first time, I was the logical one and worked the numbers, asked if we had the time and space, suggested projects to be done. When he chose 2 puppies, I was stunned, but I knew that he was ready. I’m always ready.

    I love seeing him with our dogs.