Not only do I help many clients facing this dilemma, but it's also one I've faced myself. You had a wonderful 10 or 12+ years with your dog, and your routine together was seamless. Your beloved pup fit perfectly in with your family, and life was wonderful. But as we all know, our four-legged friends are never with us quite long enough, and it came time to say goodbye. After coming to terms with the grief, you've gotten to the point that you feel ready to try to find a new dog to add to your family. But you may find, as many others have, that it can be extraordinarily difficult to find that perfect match after losing a dog that was such an important part of your family.
Here are some tips to help you through the process:
1) Don't rush into anything.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to fill the hole left by their last dog. This can lead to rash decisions, including choosing a new dog that you may instinctively know isn't the right fit for your family. Some people are ready to make a rational decision about a new furry family member just one or two days after losing their dog, while for others, it can take years. Know your limits and don't push those limits in an effort to cover up the grief you're experiencing.
2) Choose temperament over appearance.
It can be very tempting to fall in love with a new dog because some physical feature reminds you of your last dog. Or perhaps you like the fact that the dog doesn't look anything like your last dog. The mistake here? Choosing a new dog based on appearance alone. What made your last dog such a wonderful part of your family wasn't the way that he looked; it was his temperament and unique personality. So focus instead on finding a dog that will fit into your lifestyle and I can promise you that the joy he'll bring will be through his personality, not his appearance.
3) Don't think of a new dog as a “replacement.”
This is the most common trap people fall into. They get a new dog and expect the dog to be exactly like their other dog. Not only are you setting yourself up for disappointment, but you're also setting your new dog up to fail. He will never be able to replace your last dog, and he shouldn't be expected to. Instead, focus on the wonderful ways your new dog is unique. You'll find that when you have reasonable expectations when choosing a new dog, both you and your new dog will be more content.
4) Understand that it will take time to form a bond with a new dog.
Bonding with a new dog can take time, especially for those of you who had an extremely close bond with your last dog. You may feel like you'll never bond with your new dog the way you did once before. Give it time, and give your dog a chance to show you what a wonderful choice you made.
5) Focus on fun rather than “obedience.”
Part of the bonding process with your new dog means focusing less on “commands” and “obedience” and focusing more on building a relationship with your new four-legged family member. How would you feel if you walked into an unfamiliar home filled with complete strangers, and the people inside immediately started barking orders at you?
“Bob, sit down! Bob, do the dishes! Get off that couch!”
You would be completely overwhelmed! And you certainly wouldn't be able to bond with those strange, bossy people inside. So be understanding of the transition period your dog is going through – it's tough on them, too. Be patient and set consistent boundaries, but also don't forget to reward your dog when they do something right.
Above all else, have fun with your new dog! Take a class with them, go on a walk in the park together, play fetch together – you name it. Just remember that your new pup is going to bring just as much love and joy into your life as your last one did. Give them the chance to do it!