Helping Your Kids Deal With the Loss Of the Family Pet

By Lee Reyes-Fournier

Even though your kids are young, they still love and adore your
family dog. 

To your kids, your dog is like another
sibling. They play
with, love and miss him when they are away. Your kids’ connection with
your pet can make it very difficult for them when your pet dies —
especially because your kids won’t be able to grasp what death really is
until they are at least nine years old. 

The American Academy of Child
& Adolescent Psychology reports that kids under the age of five
think that death is temporary. This can make dealing with the loss of your dog even more challenging.

What Should I Say?

your children do not clearly comprehend what death is, you need to put
it in terms they do understand. Get specific. Explain that Fido can’t
move anymore. He can’t see or hear them. He may look like he is merely
asleep, but he will never wake up. Be prepared to explain this to your
children several times before they fully grasp it. You may want to
consider getting them a children’s book on the subject. “When Shiner
Died” is a wonderful book written by a six and four year old. Your
children will be able to relate to and understand what these kids went
through when their family dog died.
you are still stuck on what to say, or your children don’t seem to be
dealing with the loss well, you can always call a free pet grief
hotline. lists several resources for you to call, including Iams Pet Loss Support Center and several universities’ hotlines.

What Should I Do?

else that can give your little ones the closure they need is to host a
memorial or burial for your pet. This may help them realize the
permanence of the situation and give them a chance to talk to other
family members about their feelings. To make the event special, consider
getting some flowers from
Your child will enjoy placing some lilies or roses on the burial site.
You may also want to get a sweet dog statue to put in the yard as a
reminder of Fido’s final resting place. If you cannot, or do not want to
bury your dog in the yard, you can still have the memorial service to
help give your children the closure they need.

What Now?

may be anxious to jump out and buy a new pet to help bring back some
joy to your children. The good news is that since your kids are still
young, they will be able to adapt to a new pet fairly well. However, you
should still allow ample time for the entire family to grieve. Once you
have all had enough time, you can get a new pet,
but do not make a hasty decision. Involve your kids and really take the
time to find the perfect fit for your family. You may even want to
consider adopting one from the Humane Society so you can help save the
life of a dog. Wherever you find a new dog, you should consider getting a
puppy so that (hopefully) your kids won’t have to deal with the loss of
a pet again for a very long time.

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