Pet Expressway for Dogs

Coping with Loss When Your Dog Dies

Coping with Loss When Your Dog Dies

If you are a first-time dog owner you will quickly understand why dog people often talk about their dog being a member of the family. Before becoming a dog parent you may have thought this talk was absolute nonsense – it’s just a dog. However, try telling a family with a dog or even a single person living alone that their dog is not a member of the family and see what they have to say.

Normally within a few weeks or so the vast majority of people will come to realize their dog is now a confirmed and established member of the family. Ok, I guess other family members don’t chew shoes or pee indoors when they are young but as your puppy grows and develops these minor things will quickly be forgotten.

Without even realizing it you will soon be showering your dog with presents, booking grooming and pedicure sessions, and even having dog birthday parties. You may even be organizing dog play dates and looking for new adventures and dog parks. You may already have turned into one of those “dog people.”

Dogs and humans go together like apple pie and cream. Dogs play a very special role in our lives and have been around humans for over 14,00 years. We have a special bond and connection with dogs and this has been confirmed in various studies. When a dog and a human have a positive interaction there is a release of a hormone called oxycotin. This hormone is often called the “love hormone.”


The Reasons Dogs Come into our Lives


Often people choose to share their lives for one simple reason – companionship. Dogs will provide unconditional love. They will not judge or condemn you and will always be there for you. It’s no wonder every household doesn’t have a canine.

Often for some elderly people, a dog is the only companion they have. They would do anything for their dog and in some cases, they feed their dog better than themselves.

Their dog provides them with a purpose in life and gives them the opportunity to care and love.


To have a best friend is special. If you are fortunate enough to have a four-legged best friend that’s great.

The vast majority of dogs will make friends quickly. They are eager to please and will be your best friend for life. And an added bonus is that they won’t ask for much apart from tender loving care.

To Be Sociable

Many people have dogs to enable them to mix more with others and to be more sociable. When you are a dog owner it means that you will have to leave the house at some stage during the day. This can be a great motivator for those people who are anxious or nervous. You need to get out with your dog whether that’s just a walk around the block or a trip to the park.

Also on many occasions when you are out walking your dog it can be inevitable you end up interacting with other dog owners or people in general.

For Stability & Routine

Often having a dog will provide stability and routine in your life. Every day you must feed the dog at a certain time. Your fur baby will expect his walk and generally, your day will be divided into a timetable before you can even realize it.

Both humans and dogs can thrive on routine. It gives us both a purpose and we know what to expect.

For the Kids

Many parents often end up getting a dog so that their kids will have a furry pal to play with. Dogs can be great fun and having a dog as a child will help you appreciate how wonderful dogs are.
Kids will learn about dogs and it can give them responsibility and can even boost their confidence. Kids can interact with the dogs in all sorts of ways from playing games to training them to perform some fun tasks.


The Grieving Process – When Your Dog Dies

When your beloved dog dies it can be heart-breaking. The special bond that has been created between you and your dog will mean that there will now be an empty void in your life. As mentioned earlier in most cases only other dog or pet owners can fully understand this feeling.

Everybody deals with grief differently and some people appear better at coping with this loss. It can be a tremendous jolt to your system when your dog dies. Suddenly this little fur baby that has been in your life for over 10 years or more is now no longer there. For me personally, I think the hardest part to deal with is that empty feeling that you will never see them again.

A complete range of emotions can run through your mind. Everybody is different. Some people go through various stages of grief and others go through a cyclical phase of grief.

The cyclical phase means that emotions can come in waves. One day you can be fine and the next full of sadness and despair. Over time those feelings will subside but it’s not the same for everyone.

The linear phase involves moving through different states of emotions at different stages. There is really no time frame on the stages as everyone copes differently

It can be almost linear from firstly not believing the event has happened. The person is almost in denial and won’t accept the death. It does pass but it can be heart-breaking to try and console someone in this state. Oftentimes it can be followed by an angry response where they question everything:

  • Why did he have to die?
  • Why didn’t I go to the vet sooner?

It can be torturing on the individual concerned and a bunch of confusing and angry questions can go through their heads. There is no time limit on any of these phases as everybody is different. Some people take years to overcome grief whereas others can be more fortunate.  Just take as much time as you need and whenever and if ever you are to become a dog parent again you know you will never forget your dog


Tips For Grieving The Loss of A Dog


Acknowledge The Grief

The first step is to really acknowledge the grief. This is the crucial first step in helping to ease the pain that goes hand in hand with grief. Give yourself the time and space to express those feelings. If you feel like crying then there is absolutely no shame. I cried when my last dog died and no doubt will do so again at some stage. The only real problem I have with dogs is that their lives are too short. They make such an impact on your life for the short lives they lead.


It’s always good to talk to someone. Talking can help some individuals express how they are feeling. People can express their emotions and let others know and hopefully understand the pain they are going through right now. The person on the receiving end sometimes doesn’t have to say anything but just listen.

Talking can help the grieving dog owner express their emotions and sometimes this can help.


If you are not good at talking about how you feel other individuals find it helps to write things down. The process of writing makes you think and again feeling and emotions can come to the fore. It can be therapeutic for some people to express themselves by writing.

Have A Ceremony

Having a ceremony to remember your beloved dog can also help with grieving and can help bring things to a closure. The acceptance of death can be reaffirmed and it helps some people move on but obviously never forget.

Look After Yourself

When you are grieving it can be physically demanding. Tears and sadness use up a lot of energy and those feelings can really go deep into the pit of your stomach. Sometimes you may not even feel like eating.

The thing you have to remember is that your dog would never like to see you like this. As you know dogs are emphatic and will pick up on sadness and tears. You need to take care of your own health and make sure you eat and exercise as much as you possibly can. It can be especially tough for the first few weeks. You may have that empty feeling and may even cry when you think of your fur baby. Over time it does get easier but there is no point in anybody saying this to you when you are in the middle of the grieving process. You cannot rush it.

Create a Memorial / Remembrance Book

Having all your cherished memories with your fur baby in one place can help. If you can create a scrapbook with photos

Seek Professional Help

If the grieving process is overwhelming it would be advisable to seek out professional help. There are grief counselors trained in these scenarios.

Don’t ever feel ashamed in looking for help. It’s important and it can really help the situation you find yourself in. Losing a best friend is never easy.


Tips for Kids Grieving The Loss of A Dog

When a household with kids has a dog then he becomes one of the gang. He goes everywhere with the kids and gets to be involved in all their activities. Unfortunately, when the dog dies it can be the first time that kids ever experience death.

Obviously, it’s never a good time for any dog to die but unfortunately, it’s a natural course of life. For some children, it will be the first time that they experience death firsthand. It can be heart-wrenching to watch children grieve. Give them plenty of space and answer all their questions truthfully. If the kids are young you don’t have to go into specific details but just keep it plain and simple so they can understand and it gives them time to process everything. As mentioned above it could be good to have them involved in either having a ceremony or making cards or pictures to remind their best friend.

It can be tempting to tell them that the dog just ran away, however, this will backfire and only lead to problems. Children, in general, are fairly resilient and if you explain things they will eventually come to understand and will grieve in their own way.

It could be good to recall some children’s stories or movies where a character dies. The main one that comes to mind is the Lion King. If you recall that line in the movie – The Circle of Life. It explains the life cycle and kids can relate to this and hopefully help with the grieving process.


Tips for Seniors Grieving The Loss of A Dog

Losing a dog can be difficult no matter your circumstances. However for seniors, whose only companionship was their dog, then this is extremely hard to face.

In many cases, the dog can almost act like a surrogate person for some seniors. As there is nobody else in the house to chat with then the dog will be consulted on all issues from the weather to what they would like to eat on certain days. I guess you don’t even have to be a senior either to chat with your dog. Anyway, dogs give many senior people a purpose in life and as we know dogs do love attention.

Many older people take care of their pets better than themselves and when their beloved dog dies it can prove difficult to cope. As a senior, it’s important to seek out somebody to talk to about your loss. It could be a friend or family member or perhaps seek out a counseling service.

Sometimes it can be hard for seniors to overcome the death of a dog. They may no longer be able to look after a vibrant active puppy. Perhaps whenever ready it could be worth looking into adopting an older dog. Unfortunately there are lots of senior dogs in shelters who would love nothing better than spending the rest of their lives with a human no matter the age.

Getting A New Dog

There is no set time frame or even compulsion to get another dog after your beloved one dies. As we say everybody is different and sometimes it can take weeks, months or even years before you are ready to be a dog parent again.

As you know you can never replace your dog but instead, have the opportunity to experience and live with another dog. Every dog has its own unique personality.

Don’t forget there are thousands of dogs in animal shelters who would only be too happy to go home with you. We have a section on our site on Dog adoptions from so whenever you have the opportunity please check it out and the best of luck whatever you decide.


Dealing with Guilt After Losing Your Dog

Sometimes it can happen that a dog owner has a guilty feeling after their dog dies. They may experience a guilt trip over the things they should have done with their dog. Perhaps more walks in the park, more play-dates with his doggie pals, more playtime, etc. This list could be endless.

There is nothing gained from going on a guilt trip. Instead, the thing to remember about dogs is that they just like being around you. There is a certain type of magic being around dogs that you will not experience with humans. They are full of unconditional love and just your presence nearby is enough for them. Dogs would be as happy hanging out with you in the house. And remember your dog just wanted you and not what you could do for him.

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Keith Byrne

Keith Byrne

From an early age Keith has been around dogs. He has been involved in dog grooming, dog walking, dog sitting and dog showing as well as voluntary work in animal shelters. His aim is to help all dog owners especially newbies learn about dogs and care for them in a loving, caring and fun way.


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