Stay at Home Moms

XP: Explaining pet loss to 3 year old

I also posted this on the pets board, but was wondering if you have any insight:

It has become clear to us that we need to put down one of our 14 year old labs. I have never had pets before him, and have never suffered a loss of a pet.  I am not sure how to explain to our 3 year old boy.

Do we tell him beforehand? What do we tell him we are doing with the dog?  How do we explain that Cobb is not coming home?  Do we read books, have him draw pictures, say good-bye?  Complicating matters, we are leaving on vacation in a week. Do we do it beforehand, or afterward?  My husband says not to say anything, explain immediately afterward, and then go on vacation.   

We have already been talking about how Cobb doesn't feel well anymore.  We have talked about him being old and that his legs hurt.  We have talked about how it makes him sad when he has accidents in the house.  

We have another lab as well.  They grew up as brothers.  I am not sure the other lab will care too much because the only person/animal he seems to care about is my DH.  It would be harder if the roles were reversed because the dog we need to put down is very attached to his buddy. However, what types of behaviors should I expect from our remaining dog?

Thanks for any advice   

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Re: XP: Explaining pet loss to 3 year old

  • I'm sorry. Having to put a pet down is always difficult.
    I don't know the right thing to do, especially for a three year old. I fear we will be in the same position too soon though because our lab is getting older with growing medical issues. I plan on telling at least DD before hand. What I will all tell her, I have no idea. I just want her to have the chance to says good bye. My parents put down my first dog while I was at school, I was in kindergarten, without telling me first. It bothered me for a very long time afterwards that I never got to say goodbye.

    We have had quite a few dogs growing up and it always seems like the other dog goes through a period of mourning, depression. We had a dog refuse to sleep in their dog house any more after the other died. Expect a transitional period for the remaining dog as well.
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  • Mr. Rodgers did a really great book about pet loss. Maybe google that? When I was 10, our dog had to be put down. My mom took her in while we were at school and didn't tell us until after. We were all really mad at her for not letting us say good bye. I'm so sorry for your impending loss.
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  • My parents had to put their dog down last year.  My son who was 2 at the time loved the dog.  The first time we visited them after the dog passed away I told my son that the dog was with god now.  We also brought our dog with us and since he had our dog there he didn't seem to notice that my parents dog wasn't there.
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