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Grieving the Loss of a Dog

The loss of a dog is the loss of a trusted friend and family member. The experience can trigger overwhelming feelings of grief and sadness that affect us both emotionally and physically.  Itís important to find ways to express your grief for the adored dog that is gone from your life, but never from your heart. 

As you move forward to work through your grief, your first step is to take care of yourself, get enough sleep and watch your diet. You may not be able to concentrate very well at first, so pay extra attention when you are driving, operating equipment or walking outside.  Think about different ways you might want to best remember your dog, whether itís keeping a locket of their fur, contributing to a memorial fund or planting a special tree in your yard.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers the following suggestions to better cope with your loss:

  • Grief should be expressed freely so the healing process can begin.                                
  • Make a conscious effort to be thankful for the joy your canine companion brought you through the years.
  • Spend time with people who can appreciate the significance of your petís impact on your life and who are empathetic to your loss, including other pet owners and your breeder.
  • Seek out pet bereavement groups through your local veterinarian, animal shelter or online. Your vet or local animal shelter may also be able to recommend a pet loss hotline. 
  • If this is your childís first experience with death, make it clear that the dog is not coming back but emphasize that it is now free of pain. Let your child know itís okay for him or her to express grief over the loss of your dog.
  • Other pets in the house may also react to the loss of their companion. Give them extra attention during this time.
  • Memorializing your dog can help you celebrate your petís life and begin the healing process.
  • Consider a donation to a dog-related charity in honor of your dog.  
  • Create a photo album with snapshots of your dog, or write down some of your best memories in a journal.
  • Consider having a memorial service for your dog in an area that holds special meaning for you.  Disperse your dogís ashes in a favorite location or keep remains in a specially crafted urn with the dogís photo.
  • If you participated in dog show events, consider placing a tribute ad in a dog show catalog, pet publication or Web site.
  • Realize that it may take time before you are ready to bring a new dog into your home.  If you feel that you might not be ready for a new dog but want to spend time with animals, consider volunteering with a local kennel club, rescue group or animal shelter.

  • Discuss the idea of bringing a new dog home with your entire family. Whether or not you choose the same breed, be sure to appreciate your new canine companion for his own distinct personality and character traits.

  • Consider a donation to a dog-related charity in honor of your dog.

Remember that grief is a natural process and that time does heal the feelings of hurt and loneliness. Although death is a difficult process at first, the pain of missing your dog will eventually turn into happy memories.