Ask Dr. Diane: Adopting a Second Dog

Dear Dr. Diane, I have had 2 labs (brother and sister) . They are 11-1/2 never been apart a day in their life. I just lost my boy on Jan 3, 2011. I haven’t left the girl alone yet at all and not sure I can. I am considering getting another lab; he’s a pup and very sweet, I feel she would love this, but I’m so confused. I even thought about a cat or kitten; I feel the younger the better for her. She’s very sensitive, non aggressive and I thought she could nurture the young ones. What do you feel about my situation? thank you, i just want to make sure I’m doing the right thing.

Before adopting another lab (especially a puppy), make sure your female has met the new pup quite a few times and gets along well with him. Like you, she needs some time alone with you to grieve and mourn the loss of her beloved brother lab. During this time period, you are wise in spending extra time with her and giving her special attention. Do not adopt the lab in haste – allow your female lab to adjust to the loss of her brother by giving her extra love and attention and by letting her know you miss her brother.

Do not adopt the new puppy until you feel comfortable that he will not annoy or disturb her. Some puppies may instinctively love and support the grieving dog – others may be completely insensitive and not what your older dog needs at all. You did not mention the age of the pup, but, regardless, I would make certain he is gentle, well-behaved and sweet so that he will not be a nuisance or unwelcome addition to your family.

When you and your female lab are together with the pup, encourage them to be friends by reinforcing positive interaction between them and rewarding it. Calmly and soothingly speak to them and engage them in walking, exercise or playing games together with you. Your older lab may take to the young one, and your instincts regarding her taking him on may be exactly what she will need and provide a very happy experience. She may instinctively regard him as a new member of her family to be cared for and nurtured.

dr_diane_pomeranceDo you have a question for Dr. Diane? We’re proud to say she provides expert tips here on DogTipper so please send in your questions on our Ask Dr. Diane contact form! Dr. Pomerance is an animal behavior specialist and an expert on topics such as deciding which puppy is best for your family, how to pick out a rescue, and on healing from the loss of a pet.

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  • Hi Dr. Diane:
    What a great article. I’ve been in this situation many time with my own dogs. I tend to adopt my dogs a little older, but they can still be quite feisty at 3-4 years of age.

    What I found works good for me is to introduce the dogs on neutral grounds first before even bringing a strange dog of any age home.

  • Deb

    I would listen to the doctor here. Pets do grieve so give your female time to grieve. Many years ago I had 2 dogs and a cat. When I lost the oldest dog I was hurt because my other pets weren’t acting like their normal selfs and I was trying to use them to help me with my loss and they didn’t respond the way I wanted them too. It took me awhile to realize they were grieving too. You may also want to consider your dogs age. A puppy may be a lot for her to handle and also take up a lot of your time which your older dog may need from you. Maybe take your cue from her. If she becomes depressed to where she doesn’t want to eat then maybe that would be a good time to get her a new companion. My heart goes out to you. Loosing a pet is like loosing a member of your family. Best of luck to you.