How To Grieve The Loss Of A Dog

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It’s inevitable when you become a dog owner, you know that one day your dog is going to pass away and no longer be by your side. Losing a dog is extremely painful, and can take quite a long time to overcome. To many, it’s just as painful as losing a child.

If you’ve landed here, chances are you have recently suffered the loss of your faithful companion, or you know someone who has, and you are wondering how to grieve the loss of a dog.

First of all, I would like to offer my deepest condolences. I know just how strong the relationship is between a dog and his/her owner, and for some people to say “it’s just a dog”, is one of the worst things anyone can say to a dog owner.

Everyone grieves in their own way, and at their own pace. There is no amount of time that it takes to overcome the loss of a dog, but there are certain tips to help you or someone you know to get through this pain.

Why Is Losing A Dog So Painful?

Human hand reaching out to a Golden Retriever.

A Dog’s Love Is Unconditional

When you become a dog owner, you are blessed with a beautiful relationship that compares to no other. Your dog loves you unconditionally, cheers you up when you are sad, always greets you with a wagging tail and excitement, and is faithfully by your side.

Dogs Are Family

Dogs quickly become part of our family, and we often treat them like our children. Losing a dog is extremely painful, and is often just as painful, if not more painful than losing a human loved one.

The Bond With Your Dog Is Strong

There is a certain bond that you have with your dog that you just don’t have with anyone else! Your dog doesn’t judge you or care what you look like, your dog is a great listener and companion, and is always happy to see you and spend time with you.

Losing that companionship and best friend that has always been with you and has given you support is especially devastating.

Your Routine Is Changed

The loss of a dog suddenly changes your whole life. Your daily routine is no longer the same, and your house feels empty.

When you own a dog you are their caretaker, you feed them, walk them, play with them, and essentially you are their parent. You are responsible for their well being, and you create a daily schedule and routine around your dog, and suddenly all of that changes and you feel lost.

A Dog’s Death Is Not Treated The Same As A Human’s

The death of a dog is not treated the same way as when a human dies. There are no elaborate funeral ceremonies for dogs, you are not entitled to take time off work, and you are often alone saying goodbye to your loving dog.

You Are Faced With A Difficult Decision

Most dog owners are faced with the difficult decision of putting their dog down due to illness, or old age, and that adds to the pain.

The feelings of guilt that accompany that decision are painful, and many owners second guess themselves wondering if there was anything they could have done, or if their dog could have recovered, or if there were other medical options.

How Long Does It Take To Grieve A Dog?

Dog and owner hugging, the dog's face is shown and the owner's back is to us.

Grieving the loss of a dog might take one person a few weeks, and another person a few years. There is no right or wrong amount of time for grieving, it is a very individual experience.

When you suffer the loss of a dog you will experience the different stages of grief, and not necessarily in any order. The stages of grief are:

  • Shock: This is usually the first stage, and can apply to any dog owner that had their dog taken away from them too soon, especially if their dog was feeling fine without any symptoms, and then suddenly they passed away. Even if your dog’s death was expected due to old age, you will still have feelings of shock that they are suddenly gone.
  • Anger: You may feel angry at yourself or others that your dog passed away too soon, or that he/she was hit by a car, or that people close to you are being insensitive to your loss.
  • Bargaining/Guilt: This is usually the “what if” stage. You are playing out different scenarios in your head and envisioning a different outcome that would have prevented your dog’s death. Feelings of guilt are often accompanied by the bargaining stage.
  • Depression: This is usually the longest and hardest stage to overcome. During this stage, you are faced with feelings of sadness and you may even feel like you will never get over this loss. Many people will isolate themselves and shut out the world around them.
  • Acceptance: The final stage of grief. You are able to accept the loss of your dog and come to terms with it. By accepting your dog’s death, it doesn’t mean you are forgetting your dog or betraying your dog in any way. During this stage, you are able to remember all of the wonderful memories you shared with your dog. The memories will fill you with happy thoughts and smiles, more so than tears.

How To Grieve The Loss Of A Dog – Tips To Help You Cope

Woman's hand shown petting a brown dog.

Unfortunately, every dog owner must go through the pain of losing their dog. Grieving is a natural and normal response to death, and it isn’t something that can be rushed or forced.

There is no normal way to grieve or no set amount of time that it takes. The pain that you feel is very individual.

The following are some tips that will help you or someone you know cope with the pain, and come to terms with the loss of a dog.

Allow Yourself Time To Grieve

Your dog was a significant member of your family, and losing your dog is a traumatic experience. Overcoming this loss takes time, and you need to allow yourself time to grieve. No one should tell you that you need to move on, only you will know how much time you need to grieve.

Express Your Emotions

Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to express your emotions. Go ahead and cry, get angry, feel guilty, be sad, and show any emotion that you are feeling. Chances are you’ll be feeling a roller coaster of emotions as you go through the grieving process. It’s important to let your emotions out instead of hiding them, as this will help you begin to heal. Some people find comfort in writing in a journal.

Honour Your Dog’s Life With A Ceremony

A great way to give yourself closure is by celebrating your dog’s life by holding a memorial service or funeral. Your friends and family can gather around and share their sentiments and say their goodbyes.

Find A Support Group

Losing a dog makes you feel isolated and alone because all of a sudden you are without your one companion that was always there giving you comfort and support.

You shouldn’t feel like you are alone, being able to talk to friends, family, or support groups will help you get through this difficult time.

Talk to others who have suffered the loss of a dog, because they know what you are going through. Ask your vet or local pet shelter for pet support groups in your area. You can also search for pet loss support groups online.

Look After Yourself

During the grieving process, you may feel like never getting out of bed, never going outside, and you may lose your appetite. It is important to take care of yourself so that you can remain healthy and get through this difficult time.

Try to get some sleep, get outside to enjoy the fresh air, and eat regular and healthy meals.

Keep Other Pets On Their Schedule

If you have other pets in your household, it is important to keep them on their regular routines. Feed them and walk them at the same time that you normally would. Animals feel safe and secure when they have structure and routine.

Your other pets will grieve the loss of their companion as well. To help them through the grieving process, here are some helpful tips from PetMD. Everyone will need time to adjust and heal.

Be sure to check out my latest article, Do Dogs Show Grief? to find out the common signs of grief in dogs, and how long you can expect the grieving process to last in your dog.

Don’t Be Afraid To Seek Professional Help

If you simply cannot deal with all of the grief you are experiencing, or it has taken over your ability to function, then it is important to seek professional help. Talk to your doctor, or find a therapist that will help you work through your feelings, and find ways to help you cope with your loss.

Moving Forward After The Loss Of Your Dog

Getting through the grieving process is difficult, and you will never truly get over the loss of your dog, but as time passes the loss gets easier. You will reach a point when you will be able to have memories of your dog and they will bring you happiness instead of tears.

Memorializing your dog is a great way to remember your dog and to feel like your dog is always with you.

  • You may wish to plant a tree in your dog’s memory.
  • Create a photo album or scrapbook filled with pictures of your dog. Frame your favourite photo in a memorial frame.
Dog Memorial Picture Frame, with the words "You were my favourite hello and my hardest goodbye."
Dog Memorial Garden Stone.
  • Create a memory box filled with your dog’s collar, ID tag, leash, and favourite toys.
Dog Memory Box.
  • Scatter your dog’s ashes by their favourite tree, or keep their ashes in a beautiful urn.
Dog Memorial Urn, with the words "If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever."
  • Donate to an animal charity in your dog’s name.

If you are looking for more ideas to remember your beloved dog and celebrate their life with you, please visit my post on personalized dog memorial gifts.

Should You Get Another Dog?

Many dog owners vow to never get another dog after suffering such a tremendous loss because the pain is just too much to go through again.

For others, bringing home another dog is a way for them to heal. Deciding when, or if you should bring home another dog is an individual process. Only you will know if and when you are ready to love another dog.

Allow yourself the time to grieve the loss of a dog before bringing home another one. Remember that no other dog will be able to replace the one you lost.

I remember speaking to a lady who lost her Golden Retriever, and after a while got another one. She resented her new dog at first because he was very different from the one she had lost.

Final Thoughts

Terrier dog giving paw to his owner.

There is no doubt that the hardest part of being a dog owner is having to say goodbye to your best friend who stood by you, supported you, allowed you to share your deepest secrets, and shared your joys.

Losing a dog might seem like your whole world has come crashing down, and that you will never be able to move on. Feeling like that is completely normal and part of the grieving process, but in time the memories of your dog will leave you with a smile, instead of sadness.

I will leave you with some of my favourite dog loss quotes:

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” – Will Rogers.

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France.

“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, and filling an emptiness we didn’t ever know we had.” – Thom Jones.

“The bond with a dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth can ever be.” – Konrad Lorenz.

Have you suffered the loss of a dog? How did you cope with the loss of your dog?

Please share your thoughts and comments below. I would love to hear from you.

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16 thoughts on “How To Grieve The Loss Of A Dog”

  1. Hi,
    I have been Devastated/Crippled/Empty/Guilt Ridden after 14 YEARS LATER since my dog’s death? I had to put her to sleep on her 15th birthday and I still cry and pray to her every day still. At the end, she couldn’t walk, eat, nor hear anymore and it killed me to watch her aging which I had no idea it would be so surreal to watch happen.

    I will NEVER EVER be the same knowing how unprepared/immature I was then not knowing the right way to take care of her advanced age. (I should have reached out for help to make her as comfortable as possible her last year, but no one ever taught nor offered advice.)

    She was truly the love of my life, which I doubt and really can’t imagine repeating in this life. I was so “Lucky” to have the most PERFECT “Angel” that Everyone wanted. A Beautiful Overly Loving Happy Cream White Lab/Shepherd Mix named “Lucky Angel”.

    I only wish I had more daily time with her while I was working so many hours of her life as I knew she needed more of me. (I now know that simply “rescuing” a puppy from a shelter is not enough). She was so much better than me, deserved so much more time with me, better food, longer walks, etc. and I still believe she kept me going through several very traumatic times that I know I wasn’t strong enough to handle on my own.

    I never ever expected the pain/guilt of putting her permanently to sleep would be even stronger than the overwhelming love I had for her. Yes, I have had to have pet loss therapy ongoing STILL to handle this awful stabbing pain and it keeps me going but… God, I pray that we will be together in Heaven again.

    As you can imagine, my tears are drowning my keyboard as I type this. Im sure all of this sounds overly dramatic to some, but always wonder if any others out there have experienced this very long term grief and pain.

    I just wish I was stronger and more prepared for all of this loss.

    • Hi Van,

      I am so sorry to hear that you are still struggling with the loss of your beloved dog. Although, I know that I would be an absolute mess as well. Losing your canine companion is a loss that I believe no one ever gets over! As dog owners, we never are given enough time with our fur babies, and we all wish they could live forever!

      I hope that you can find comfort in knowing that you did the right thing for her, as she could no longer walk or eat. I’m not sure at what age you rescued her, but living to be 15 years old is pretty amazing for a large breed dog.

      Please know that you are not alone, there are many other pet owners who experience long term grief and pain. Everyone grieves at their own pace. I think it’s good that you are continuing with pet loss therapy.

      I certainly don’t want to overstep, but have you thought about rescuing another dog, or perhaps volunteering at a shelter? I think opening your heart to another dog would bring you joy. Just a thought.

      I really do hope you get through this. I wish you all the best!


  2. Sadly my partner and I lost our beautiful boy Toby 4 days ago, he was the most soft natured little shih Tzu you could ever wish to meet. His death was so sudden, he got up one morning and couldn’t stand up. I took him to the vet and he had a tumour on his spine. He was only 9 years old.
    We are completely devastated and just don’t know how to cope with his loss, it feels like we’ve lost a child.

    • Donna,
      My heart aches for you. I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved Toby.
      To lose a dog so suddenly is devastating, and at such a young age.
      If only they could live forever!
      I hope you can find strength and peace thru this difficult time.

      My sincere condolences,

    • Hi Donna. I am very sorry for your family’s loss. I, too had a Shih Tzu I had to put down a week ago. My life is not the same; he’s nowhere to be found. He was 16 with a heart issue that finally made him miserable for one day and I took him in the next. No time to think but rather I took the Vet’s advice. These little dogs are funny, playful, very cute and very sweet. I hope that with time we both feel “better” and can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you for sharing your story.


      • Hi Marel,
        Sorry for your loss. Losing a faithful companion is very difficult.
        I hope in time your heart can begin to heal.
        Thank you for sharing your story.

        Take care,

  3. I lost my American Bulldog on June 21st, 2020, I’m having a hard time. It comes in waves, one day I’m ok the next I break down sobbing. I miss him so much. I will be getting another one in March 2021, I didn’t think I ever would but I need to give a fur baby love again and fill the emptiness I feel in my heart! I am never going to replace him! I chose the same breed so I feel I’m getting a sibling for him, does that make sense? This is the hardest thing I’ve been through in my life! I know he lived a great life,13.5 years, but what hurts me is that I had to make that dreadful decision that is with me always. 🙁 🙁

    • Hi Lucy,
      Thank you for sharing your story. My heart breaks for you, I am so very sorry for your loss!

      13.5 years is definitely a great life, I hope you can take comfort in knowing that you gave him all of your love and he had a wonderful life.

      Grieving the loss of a dog is extremely difficult, and it will take time to heal. Your dog will never be replaced or forgotten but getting another dog is a way for you to heal and open your heart again. It totally makes sense that you are getting the same breed as if it is a sibling.

      I wish you all the best during this difficult time.

      Take care,

  4. Hi there,
    My mom’s special awesome dog died 2 days ago, Sasha was not only my mom’s pet her closest companion her best friend Sasha was my mom’s child, the loss and grief is profound. I agree when you write that losing a pet can be worse than possibly losing a human. It is utterly awful watching my mom grieve – however I do realize that grief is a work in progress and a dreadful walk in life to take.
    I send love and light to all those who have lost and loved and wish you all recovery.

    • Hi Sue,
      I am so sorry to hear of your Mom’s loss. It is a devastating process to go through for your Mom, and for yourself to see her in so much pain. Grieving will take time, but there will be a day when the memories will put a smile on her face.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I wish you and your Mom all the best during this difficult time.


  5. Hello there, thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful piece of information here with us. I must say I really did enjoy going through your article as I am a dog owner as well.  I lost my caucasian shepherd not long ago and going through this just brought a tear to my eye because I totally understand what one goes through when this happens.  Those quotes are really comforting by the way.

    • Hi Philebur,

      Sorry to hear of your loss.  Grieving the loss of a dog is a painful process, and I hope that you will get to the point where you will be able to remember your dog and have a smile on your face because of all the wonderful memories you have shared.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  6. Hello there, 

    This is a very sincere article that you have got here. Losing a dog can be terrifying to some, others can’t really let go of the feeling. I enjoy most of the dog grieving quotes you stated and hope it actually helps the grieving stage. But for me losing a pet or a dog is like nothing, I only feel the loss of it for the moment. 

    Thanks for sharing this with me.

    • Hi,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  I am glad you enjoyed the dog loss quotes that I have included, and I hope as well that they bring a bit of comfort to someone who has recently suffered the loss of their dog.

      I am sure there are others that feel the same way you do, and that is that they only feel the loss for a moment.  However, I think that people like that have never truly loved a dog or had a strong bond with their dog, because when you own your own dog, it is your child and you love that dog like no other, and when that dog dies it is the worst pain that you could imagine.


  7. Thank you, Jenny, for this excellent article.  My brother and his family have recently had the awful news that their beloved dog has been diagnosed with cancer and it seems like there is no hope of treating it successfully. The dog is 13 years old and so has had a good life but at the same time, it has become an integral part of both their family and our wider family.

    I thought it would be good to try to prepare for what is going to happen soon and so this article is exactly what we need at this time. I think memorializing the dog is a particularly good idea and a pet memorial stone sounds like the perfect way to do this.

    Many thanks for this timely advice


    • Hi David,

      Sorry to hear of your brother’s dog being diagnosed with cancer.  It is very hard news to hear and deal with, especially after having a dog be an important member of the family for 13 years.  Being prepared for what’s to come is always a good idea, and might in some tiny way help to ease the pain when that time does come.

      I wish you and your family all the best, and that your brother and his family will be able to enjoy the time left with their loving dog.

      Take care,



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