Bringing A New Pet Home When You Have Other Pets
Animals are part of our families; they are there for us in times of comfort, provide protection, add joy to our lives, and love us unconditionally. Losing a pet is painful it can be just as painful as losing a human member of your family.
Unfortunately, animals don’t live as long as humans do, so experience this loss is inevitable, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. Pets, especially dogs, offer so much to their human counterparts, so it makes sense that we honor their deaths and celebrate their lives.
Though the loss can feel almost unbearable, there will come a time when you’re ready to find a new animal to add back to your family, and that process can bring up a lot of emotions. We want to help with that process, especially if you’re navigating it with other animals involved. Many families have two or more dogs, so when one animal is lost, it’s an adjustment for the other animals as well.
Pets & Grief
One of the things people love so much about dogs is that they feel emotions similarly to how we do. We can feel the unconditional love radiating from our dogs, for us, and for each other. When you’re experiencing the loss of an animal, your other animals are also experiencing that loss.
We don’t know how much dogs understand about death and you can’t explain it to them in the same way you can to kids or other family members, so it can be incredibly difficult to navigate.
It can be difficult to gauge how your grieving pets feel, so you have to learn how to pay attention to subtle cues they may give, or small behavior changes as they go through the grieving process. The most important thing to remember is that they are experiencing pain like you are so give them some extra love in the process.
Many owners have a hard time deciding if and when to add another animal to the family pack; you’re not alone if you’re feeling that way. Keep reading to find some helpful tips when making this decision.
The How & When Of Choosing A New Pet
Adding another animal to your family after experiencing the loss of a previous animal is a big decision. It can be difficult to know how your new addition will fit in, and, in times of grief, it can be hard to imagine loving another dog as much as you loved your old dog. The love you have to offer is endless and you will find that love for a new animal in time, but remember the following during the process:
DON'T MAKE A RASH DECISION
This isn’t something you need to rush into, there will always be dogs and other animals out there waiting for their loving home, so take the time you need to grieve and move forward. Talk to the rest of your family too; you want everyone to feel involved in the decision to get a new family animal.
The most important thing to remember is to have a timeline that works for you. Some people decide they want to get another dog after a few days or few weeks. For others, it may take months or even years to be ready for another pet.
Some families decide that they don’t want another dog at all, and that is perfectly okay too. There is no right or wrong way to go about this, there is only what is right for you and your family.
RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
Feeling very prepared for a new change can make it much less nerve-wracking, so do what you and your family need to do in order to feel ready to add a new pet to the mix. There are many helpful articles online about dealing with the loss of an animal, processing the grief from that experience, and adding another animal to your family in the future. There are also some great books and podcasts, depending on what your style is.
If you find resources that help you feel prepared, share those with your family and hold discussions as a group to ensure that everyone is getting the support they need and feeling ready for the next step.
If it’s helpful, consult family and friends who are less involved to get a better perspective. So many families have dealt with your exact situation and the people around you may have helpful guidance or advice.
LOOK INTO WHERE YOU'RE GETTING YOUR PET FROM
When searching for a new furry companion, take the time to make sure you feel comfortable where you’re getting it from. Whether you’re looking to adopt or buy, do your research beforehand to find a reputable source. There are many great organizations to choose from when adopting a new pet.
If you find an organization you connect with, you’ll feel that much more sure of your decision. For instance, there are organizations that rescue dogs from the streets of Tijuana and that may resonate with you, so work with that organization to find the perfect pet!
If you’re buying it can be even more imperative to thoroughly research the breeder or pet store you’re buying from. You want to make sure the parent dogs are treated well, and the breeding is done ethically if that’s important to you.
This is bigger than just feeling good about your purchase, but animals from bad breeders or pet stores can have health issues in the long term. You don’t want a new dog that has major health issues if you’re still grieving the loss of your other dog. We recommend trying to connect with pet owners who have purchased from the same place to see how their experience was and how their dog is doing today!
INVOLVE THE ENTIRE FAMILY
You may find that some members of your family feel ready for a new pet while others are still too grief-stricken from the loss. Make sure everyone is ready and on the same page before diving in, including yourself. You can’t give unconditional love to a new family member when you’re feeling all-consumed by the loss.
It’s especially important to sit down with the young kids in your family to talk to them about the loss and how they’re feeling about getting a new dog. Death, in all forms, is very confusing for kids since, more often than not, they haven’t experienced it much. They may have a hard time articulating their feelings about losing their dog and could feel very torn about getting a new dog.
This is perfectly normal and ensuring they have a voice in the matter is a huge part of being successful in adding a new pet to the family. Review this article for more tips on dealing with the death of a pet.
FIND A GOOD FIT
We don’t recommend adopting or buying the next dog you come across. This goes back to taking all the time you need and not rushing into a decision. You want a new dog that’s going to be the perfect fit for your family in terms of personality, energy levels, temperament, and how they’ll fit with your other animals.
Puppies are adorable, cuddly, and fun. At first, it may seem like an obvious option to find a puppy as your next dog. However, puppies are a lot of work, take a lot of time and patience, and will require more attention than your previous dog who was likely already trained, a bit older, and fit well with the family.
Make sure you and your entire family can commit to caring for a puppy, training a new dog, and dealing with puppy accidents and chewing habits. Consider your current dog and if they’ll get along well with a young, energetic pup, or if a puppy will aggravate them.
A Senior Dog
Older dogs can be a great option if you’re looking for a calmer temperament and fewer training requirements. If your current dog is older, they might like an older dog a bit better.
The watch-out with older dogs is to make sure they’re good with kids and other dogs. Sometimes senior dogs aren’t used to kids or other dogs, depending on where they lived previously.
NEW PETS ARE NOT REPLACEMENTS
It can feel a bit like you’re replacing your old pet once they pass, but it’s important to remind yourself that this is not at all the case.
You were able to give a loving and happy life to all your pets in the past, and there are more pets out there that you can give that unconditional love to. Giving a loving home to any living thing is something to be celebrated; don’t be too hard on yourself.
We’re sure that your beloved dog that passed would want you to find another animal to give all that love to.
ASSESS THE NEEDS OF YOUR EXISTING PET
Since our dogs can’t talk to us, we have to look for other signs and signals as to how they’re feeling. This is especially important in times of loss or times of major change, and this experience will be both. Try to assess if your existing dog is still grieving from the loss.
Maybe they still aren’t eating regularly or don’t want to play like they normally do. Behavior changes are the biggest indicators that your dog is grieving or under stress.
Animals can be territorial, so bringing in a new animal during a time where emotions are already high could cause issues. More often than not, with time, your dog will adjust to its new pack member but be prepared for a bumpy road.
The best way to combat grief, territorial behavior, and/or negative reactions to the new animal is to show your current pet lots of love. Giving them more attention will help them feel happier, grieve the loss, and move forward from it.
YOUR NEW PET WILL BE DIFFERENT
As mentioned, your new dog is not a replacement for your old dog, and you shouldn’t expect them to have the same personality or mannerisms as your other dog. While it’s important to take the time and ensure a good family fit, be open to a new dog creating a new dynamic.
The dog you lost may have loved to lay by your feet at night and your new dog may prefer a dog bed. One may prefer long walks and rambunctious play and the other may be just as happy cuddling on the couch.
These differences don’t mean you won’t love them, or they won’t fit wonderfully in your family, they just mean that things won’t look exactly the same as they once did. This is normal and healthy!
Pet Readiness For A New Companion
All dogs react to grief differently, just like people. Your dog may have a melancholy few days then seem completely fine, or they could sink into a deep depression. The stress of grief could cause health problems or behavior changes in your dog. All reactions are normal, and you can’t know what the situation will look like until it happens.
You may notice your dog barking at people outside more or they may become quiet and withdrawn. Common physical manifestations of grief in dogs are fatigue, lack of interest, loss of appetite, or other sicknesses. On the other hand, you may be surprised at how un-phased your dog is with the loss.
No matter the reaction, show extra love and support through the grieving process. When assessing if your dog is ready for a new pack member, keep these questions at the forefront of your mind:
HOW DO THEY INTERACT WITH OTHER ANIMALS?
Try taking your dog to places they can socialize, such as the dog park or out on walks around the neighborhood. You can get a feel for how they respond to dogs they aren’t familiar with – are they aggressive or irritable around other dogs? Do they snap at them or growl aggressively?
You can also plan play dates with your friends who have dogs that your dog has socialized with before. This is a good way to ease into situations with other dogs and get a feel for how your dog may react.
Another thing to watch for is a lack of interest in playing or socializing with other dogs. This may be a major indicator that your pup is still grieving and not yet ready to add a new member to the pack.
ARE THEY LONELY?
On the contrary, your dog could be yearning for that social interaction they once had with their late companion. You may see your dog exhibit extreme curiosity when you meet new dogs or try and play with every dog they see at the dog park.
Your dog could also show signs of being lonely at home. Destructive behaviors such as getting into the trash or destroying toys may indicate they are bored with no companion. Signs like this likely indicate that they are lonely and are ready for a new friend.
HOW DO THEY FEEL ABOUT SHARING?
There are actually a few ways you can test how your dog will do with sharing. We talked a bit about how if they are territorial it can cause problems when getting another pet, but by setting up a play date and using your dog’s favorite toy to play with the other dog, you can get a sense of how they will react with a new dog in their space.
You can also have feeding time with another dog out of the same bowl and keep an eye out for nipping or frustration from your dog. These are great ways to quickly assess how your pup might be with a new friend!
Best Practices Before Getting A New Pet
No matter how your pet seems to be coping with the loss, there’s still a lot of household change that comes with it. There are a few things you can do to help support your furry friend through the big changes. Remember, even if they seem to be doing fine, the reality could be very different.
KEEP UP THE ROUTINE WITH YOUR DOG
The change is a lot to process and changes to their routine may be overwhelming. By helping provide constants and stability in their lives, you can reassure them that everything is okay, and life goes on like normal.
SPEND TIME WITH THEM
They could be going through major anxiety due to the loss of their companion and may fear losing you too, so sit with them when you can and be sure to make them feel extra loved. Maybe it’s an extra treat or longer playtime, but these little acts will add up!
PROVIDE EXTRA EXERCISE
Just like humans, dogs get joy out of movement and playing. Taking them on an extra walk or playing fetch a few times a day can help boost their mood!
DON'T BE AFRAID TO HONOR YOUR PET THAT'S PASSED
If you’re coping with the loss of a pet and looking to remember your dog or other animal, we have wonderful pet cremation jewelry and other remembrance keepsakes to help you honor them. Check out our rearview mirror hanger or pet photo engraved jewelry to honor the loss of your pet. We also have a helpful article on selecting keepsake jewelry.
Introducing A New Pet To Your Current Pet(s)
Making the decision to get a new pet is only the first step when it comes to bringing a new dog into your household with an existing dog. Then it takes time to find the dog that fits into your family dynamic, adopt or buy that dog, and make him or her part of your family.
Many shelters allow you to bring your current dog in and help pick out a new dog. This allows the dogs to meet in a neutral setting and get a sense of one another.
It may become very obvious that your dog gravitates more toward a certain dog or two. Then you can combine that with your experience and your family member’s opinions to add the perfect dog to your family!
Once you have found the furry companion of everyone’s dreams, there are some things to keep in mind when bringing them home:
LISTEN TO CUES FROM THE NEW DOG
When the dog is walking into its new home, you might be able to immediately get a sense of how they are feeling. If they seem timid and nervous, bring them into the house without your other dog present, allow them to explore at their own pace, and lower your own energy.
Don’t try to play with them right away, give them some time to settle in and sniff around. If they do walk in with energy and curiosity, meet them in that and play with them and show them around.
LISTEN TO CUES FROM THE CURRENT DOG
The attitudes of both pets are extremely important and they both have to feel comfortable with this transition for it to be successful. If your dog seems territorial or jealous, give them space by putting them outside or in a different room for a bit.
Don’t try and force an introduction; it will come in due time. If they seem curious and friendly toward their new animal sibling, let them explore that and play with the new pet. Basically, follow the lead of each dog and adapt depending on how they’re both acting.
USE A NEUTRAL ZONE FOR INTRODUCTIONS
If both dogs have not yet met, try introducing them in a neutral space to avoid territorial behavior. An outdoor introduction usually works well because the dogs can get as much space as they need and aren’t crammed in a small room together.
You could also introduce them at a location away from your house, such as a park or nearby field.
YOUR VOICE MATTERS
When getting another pet, your dog and the new dog will look to you for indicators as to how they should feel. If they sense tension or nervousness coming from you, they may start to feel that and exhibit behaviors that go along with those emotions.
It is best if you use a calm, happy voice when introducing the dogs to each other. Your current dog will know that tone of voice and generally react accordingly.
DON'T PUNISH BAD BEHAVIORS
Don’t punish poor behavior right away, that is. At first, there will be a period of time where both dogs are learning each other’s boundaries and mannerisms. While this happens, they may have “miscommunications” or push buttons with each other and that is normal; it’s similar to how children can act sometimes.
If you punish bad behavior during the adjustment period, this could be very confusing for both dogs and they could associate the other dog with punishment, which does not bode well for the future. Now, if the bad behavior continues for a long time, work to address and correct the behavior.
SIMPLIFY THE EQUATION
When your two dogs meet each other, it should focus on the two of them. Remove any toys, food bowls, or bones when they are first meeting. Your new dog may get comfortable too quickly and go for the toys that your other dog feels the need to protect.
We also recommend not having too many people around for this first meeting. If you have small kids or a large family, try introducing the dogs without everyone else present. This keeps distractions to a minimum at a time where so much change is happening in their lives.
Uninterrupted time with each other could get overwhelming for both dogs. Try and give them small breaks for one another over the first few days by taking them on separate walks, putting one in the crate, or having them in different areas of the house. This can keep them from getting overstimulated and anxious early on.
A FIGHT MIGHT HAPPEN
Don’t get too worried if there is an altercation within the first few days. It’s important that you stay calm in the situation, separate the dogs from one another and let them calm down, then carefully reintroduce them when they’re ready.
Remember, this is a very possible occurrence in this situation, so don’t be hard on yourself if it does happen. Dogs have to figure out who the alpha dog is and assume their roles within their new “pack”.
If You're Still On The Fence
If you’re still unsure whether or not it’s the right time to bring in a new pet, there’s a large chance it’s not. Your reasoning may be related to how you personally feel, how your family is moving through the stages of grief, how your dog is coping with the loss, or a mix of everything. Don’t rush into this decision; it’s not one to be taken lightly.
Caring for a dog is a massive responsibility and they deserve all the love and care you can give them. It won’t be a good experience for your family or either dog if everyone isn’t ready for another change. If you’re trying to decide try some of the following out:
VOLUNTEER AT AN ANIMAL SHELTER
This will allow you to spend time with other animals and figure out how you feel around them without the stress of bringing them home. It could also introduce you to animals that need a home!
DOG-SIT FOR FRIENDS OR FAMILY
This is a great option if you’re trying to see how your family and current dog would do with an added family member. You can bring in a dog to your home that you know and trust. This takes some of the pressure off the situation.
TALK TO SOMEONE
You can find a professional route like therapy, a close friend, or trusted advisor and get their opinion. It can be extremely helpful to talk through your feelings, especially after you experience the loss of a pet.
Introducing A New Pet Frequently Asked Questions
Do pets know when another pet dies?
It’s hard to know exactly how animals process grief, but we do know that they notice a change in their environment and often exhibit signs of grief when another pet passes away. Dogs will often look around the house for the late pet and try to visit spots they used to love, so it appears that they are trying to find them or understand why they’re not around.
How do surviving pets grieve when one dies?
Every animal is different but it’s not uncommon to notice behavior or mood changes in your pet that is grieving. They may refuse to eat or lack interest in playing their favorite games. You also might notice that they’re less social; they may come up to you and your family members less and keep to themselves more often than before. It’s also very possible that your animal could not exhibit any of these changes, even though they still might be grieving.
How do you help a pet grieve the loss of another pet?
This very much depends on how your pet is grieving. Follow their behavior cues for how to best support them. They may be a bit standoffish, and if that’s the case, allow them the space to grieve as they need. No matter how they present their grief, make sure they feel loved by spending time with them if they want it, playing with them when they’re up to it, and making sure they get exercise daily.
Even if your dog doesn’t want to do these things, sticking to a routine can be incredibly helpful. It also can’t hurt to throw in an extra treat here and there or take them to do something they love. If your pup loves to run around with the ducks at the park, take them to do that; help them find their joy again.
Should you replace a dead pet?
If you experience the death of a pet then decide to get another one, it is NOT a replacement of your previous pet. Many families like to have multiple dogs, or they want their surviving dog to have a companion when they’re away, so they feel the best decision for them is to get another pet.
If you feel differently or have no interest in a new pet, that’s perfectly okay too! It’s all about what feels right for you and your family, but a new pet is never a replacement. It’s just a new pet you get to love!
How do you know if it is the right time to get another pet after the death of a pet?
This is going to be different for every family. The “right time” is completely subjective and only you, your family, and your current pets can make that decision. If you feel that getting a new pet will bring everyone more happiness than it will sadness, then perhaps it’s the right time. Take it slow, don’t rush, and have an open heart.
Is it too soon to introduce a new pet to my existing animals?
Again, this will be different for all animals. Some dogs are open to meeting new dogs within a few days or a week, others will take longer to process their grief and move on.
If your dog interacts well with other dogs, seems to be in good spirits, and isn’t exhibiting signs of grief, it’s probably not a bad thing to get another pet. If they’re still irritable or depressed, that may indicate you should wait a bit longer.
Am I ready for a new pet?
You will know when you’re ready for a new pet. There’s no strict timeline on how to process grief or move forward with getting a new pet after loss. If you’re having trouble determining where you stand, talk to people you love and trust about how you’re feeling.
You can even meditate or pray on the decision if those are practices you find comfort in. The death of a pet is such a painful and personal experience, only you can decide when you’re ready to add a new pet to your life. We have an interesting read on how psychic mediums can help with loss as well.
How do I introduce a new pet into the family of current pets?
Try and have initial introductions in a neutral setting with as few distractions as possible. Don’t have a lot of people or animals there if they don’t need to be, remove toys and food bowls, and take it slow. Be very attentive to how all animals involved are feeling and don’t be afraid to take a break from the introduction or separate the animals for a bit to let them decompress.
How do pets react when bringing a new pet into the family?
Every pet is different. The best motto in these situations is “hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” While it’s every family’s hope that both animals will get along, that’s not always the case. It may take time for the animals to get acclimated to each other or figure out their relationship and that is perfectly normal.
It’s important that you stay calm and separate the dogs if needed. If you’re tense and nervous, it’s very likely both dogs will feed off that energy.
Should I get a second pet to keep my pet company?
There is a lot to be said about companionship for animals, and many families find that their dog is happiest when they have another dog at home with them. This is especially prevalent in households where the people are gone during the day and the dogs are left alone. However, there are some dogs that do just fine as solo pets. Older dogs especially seem to enjoy alone time and quiet, lazy days.
What if I have animals besides dogs?
While this article focused mainly on dogs, a lot of the teachings from it can be extrapolated into situations with other animals. You, your family, and your surviving animals will all have to process the grief of your loss and decide if and when you’re ready to add another animal to your household.
The major difference will come in when you’re introducing the animals to each other. Their behavior may vary from how canines would act, but the ideas of listening to them, allowing them to take the lead, and taking things slow all still stand.
What if, after quite some time, the new dog and old dog don’t get along?
There are animal specialists and training centers that can help build a relationship with your dogs. Once you have made the decision to get a new dog and bring it home, we know it can feel incredibly discouraging if your two dogs really aren’t meshing well or getting along.
Look in your area for dog training camps or behavior schools that can offer help in navigating this new reality and making it as enjoyable as possible for every human (and dog!) involved.
Do What's Best For You & Your Family
At the end of the day, no one can make this decision for you or your family, you have to make it together. There are many paths to choose and no right or wrong answers along the way. Being in tune with how you feel and communicating that with your family members will open up the lines of communication for how they feel.
It can be especially difficult for kids to articulate their experience with grief and decide if they are ready for a new animal, so have the conversation often. One day, they may feel ready and the next day they may not. That’s entirely common and understandable; don’t rush into the decision to get a new pet after experiencing the death of a pet.
Your surviving dogs won’t be able to communicate verbally, so look for subtle queues in their nonverbal behavior. Pay attention to their sleeping habits and activity routines. If there are any drastic changes as to what you see in normal times, your dog may be experiencing grief. This doesn’t mean that your dog will be unable to welcome a new member to the pack, but it may take a little patience and a lot of love.
September 29, 2021 by Jeri K. Augustus