If it seems like you see many people today walking more than one dog, it’s no surprise. An estimated 40% of dog owning households in the US own two or more dogs. This is a substantial rise that has occurred during the past decade, according to a poll taken by the American Pet Products Association.
While the expense of a second dog is real, many people agree that taking care of two dogs isn’t that much more difficult than caring for one. In fact, I think that it can often make it easier, as you have constant companions to entertain and tire out each other. Sometimes, if a puppy comes into a home with an older dog, it is much easier to train the puppy, who is being guided by the example of the older dog. Naturally, you will be spending more money on good, veterinary care and insurance, and possibly boarding, grooming and daycare. But, there is also the benefit of the promise of twice the joy and love and companionship. If you are considering adopting a second dog, consider the following benefits and potential drawbacks.
Do I want a second dog?
Decide why you want a second dog. Ideally, it will keep your present dog company, especially if you feel guilt while you are out at work, etc. Dogs are pack animals, and while you may always be the pack leader, unless you can run, play, and tussle with your pet teh way another dog can, why not double your pleasure and his? Still, the reason for getting a second dog should have more to do with you than your dog. If you don’t have time for one dog, you may not have time for two.
If you have time to share with your present dog now, you both can be enhanced by a second dog. But first, make sure that you have a clear understanding of your own dog’s personality and energy level, and look to find a canine companion that will complement your dog. The best scenario will be that they get along and accept each other as housemates, playmates, exercise buddies, and part-time partners in crime. It can be a great source of comfort and friendship to your dog, and remedy separation anxiety.
Does my dog want a second dog?
This may be the hardest question to answer. Some do not welcome companionship and sharing you or their home. It is hard to generalize which breeds more likely to react this way. Look at your dog’s personality.
Is he possessive of his food bowl, bed. or toys? If so, he may not be an ideal candidate for a multi-dog household. Some dogs are sweet and outgoing with humans but absolutely hate other dogs. Older dogs who have been “only dogs” for years may not bee keen on sharing.
-Visit the local dog park, and observe how your dog behaves around strange dogs.
-Arrange for a friend to bring his or her well-socialized and trained dog to a park, beach, or playground, and introduce the dogs in a stress-free, neutral environment (see my older blog with details on how to do this).
-Enroll your dog in a training class to brush up on his manners and see how he does. Even if your dog was open to meeting new dogs when he was a puppy, he may no longer have such a positive outlook on his own kind.
– ALso, dogs may be fine on neutral ground, but change their tune when a new dog comes into his home turf. Introducing two dogs should be done slowly and carefully.
If you have chosen to add a second dog to your home, the next step is deciding what dog is the right dog for you and yours.
Many dog breeds are clannish and prefer the company of their own kind. Toy breeds, for example, get along best with their own miniature kind often. Chihuahuas, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, and Yorkshire Terriers come to mind. There are other examples of breeds that seem to feel this way. Often, but not always, dogs of similar size tend to be comfortable playing with dogs of their size and stature. Mixed breeds may be more difficult to determine what type of dog would be the best match, as you may not know what mix your dog is. And yet, mixed breeds are often the most adaptable and will accept most dogs as a companion. Thus, the temperament of each individual dog will help you predict better than any breed characteristics.
The same goes for whether you choose a purebred or a mixed breed. It is nice to consider rescuing a dog from a local shelter or humane society. If so, try to learn as much as possible regarding why the dog was given up for adoption. If there is a specific history of interdog aggression, or issues with children, for example, that may not be the right dog for your family. Whenever possible, it’s advisable to foster a dog for a week or two to see how easily he fits into your home. If you do prefer a puppy, of a certain breed, try to learn as much as you can about the personality of that breed prior to seeing a puppy.
Size and energy level
Sighthounds, such as the Greyhound or Saluki, or large dogs like a German Shepherd or Doberman Pinscher, can be very active and may overwhelm a small dog unaccustomed to living with a large breed and their type of play. Exercise requirements and energy level vary with a dog’s size, and should also be kept in mind. If your current dog is a bit on the lazy side, choosing a dog with more energy may be just what he needs. Or not. Not all opposites attract. Know what is too much for your current dog.
Compatible temperament is , again, hugely important. Avoid pairing a quiet, sweet, possibly timid dog with a rambunctious, wild puppy who might overwhelm or upset your dog. And yet, sometimes a shy or worrisome dog can benefit from the easygoing confidence of a younger dog. You can improve your first dog’s outlook on life and help him come out of his shell by adding an outgoing newcomer to your family pack.
On that note, personality quirks may be passed along to your new pet from your old one. Dogs learn to bark from other dogs. Mischievous habits, from digging and door darting to fence climbing, begging, and even food- or toy-aggression can be passed along to the new dog as well. On the plus side, good manners and polite behavior can also be passed from one to the other.
If you desire to bring home a puppy, your present dog should be at least 3 or 4 years of age. It is also if he or she is spayed or neutered. Introducing a new dog to an adolescent dog, 12-18 months or so, could cause him or her to be quarrelsome. Many people advise against adopting two dogs at once. I do feel, though, that adopting two puppies together, while a bit more difficult in the beginning, is easier and a good idea later on.
Male or Female
Most experts agree that opposites get along better, particularly in those breeds that tend to be territorial or dominant in general (terriers, bully dogs, guardian breeds). Still, the specific personalities of the two dogs may be fine together, regardless of whether they are the same sex. Generalities may not always apply, and are just that. Still, if you are going to have two males, make sure that they are both neutered, to decrease chances of problems, such as when they try to resolve their pack order within the household. And females may be even worse when jockeying for position in the pack, so think about that as well. Most breeders, I find, will tell you that the females rule the roost, and they are always the boss and queen of the house. Be prepared for that to be true when choosing a new pet.
I hope that you found this helpful, and it will possibly lead to a large, happy, multi-dog household in your future.