Golden Retrievers Speak: New Members of the Pack?


Jeter:    It has been over a week since Josh passed away, and this may be a good time to talk about adding new members to an existing pack.

Alanis:   Humans sometimes will try to fill the void of losing a pet by immediately going out and getting a new pet.   There are reasons why this may not be the smart move.

Jeter:   Correct.  Looking at it from our perspective, humans need to realize that not only did we just lose a pack member – we lost the dog we thought was leading our pack.   Our dynamics are in a bit of chaos (though, to be honest, Alanis and I are handling pack alignment just fine – we are just a bit out of whack).

Alanis:    Being out of whack is natural for a pair of dogs that lost the alpha.    The problem with bringing a new dog into our structure is simple:   Although we are both friendly towards other dogs (even with Jeter sometimes being a tad snippy….)

Jeter:  Oh, stop with that – I just need a few minutes to get used to a dog and I hate it when dogs invade my space initially.  THAT IS WHY I SNAPPED AT YOU, GIRL!   The moment we met, you decided it would be a good idea to get right in my face!   Made me nervous –  I didn’t know your intentions.

Alanis:    Yeah, I know – I can’t help it.  I try to make my presence known everywhere I am.    But this is why adding a new dog to a pack that just lost a dog can be a bit tricky.

Jeter:   Especially if you do it too soon.   We are still trying to process the loss of Josh.   Imagine if humans bring a new dog into our lives that has more of an alpha tendency?   We may not be happy with that.

Alanis:  And if you bring in a dog that is a bit more submissive, we may not take kindly to that either – we may gang up on the poor dog.   This has nothing to really do with our temperament.      We are animals that need structure.  If that structure is thrown into any kind of chaos when we aren’t ready, it can lead us to being confused as we mourn the loss of our friend.

Jeter:    We understand that humans love us very much and want to help another dog, potentially.   Be patient with it – let us get through this trying time for everybody.   Eventually, we will get back on track and more accepting of a new member in our pack.

Me:   My wife and I have not even discussed a new dog yet.    This is not likely in our near future.      It may be a little easier to bring in a new dog if you are a one-dog household, but even then, you have to make sure you are emotionally ready to do so.  Some “experts” suggest not getting a dog that looks like the dog you lost.  I am not sure I agree with that, but everyone is different.   As we know with our Goldens, they are all unique in their own ways (in terms of look and personality) – getting another Golden wouldn’t lead us to compare the new dog to Josh.    We wouldn’t try to fit him into the Josh mold.    Regardless, this is always a decision to take very seriously, and you should indeed think about the other dogs in your household before you take the plunge.   They are missing their pack mate, and if they aren’t ready for a new member, it can lead to some resentment.    As is the case with most things when it comes to dogs, you will know when the time is right.  

Here is a good article on the entire process of grief, and how dogs may handle it.