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Thinking of Adopting Another Dog? Consider These Six Factors First

Adding another dog to your family is a big decision. We give you a few things to think about before you start the search.

Marybeth Bittel  |  Jan 26th 2016


As pet parents, our abiding love for a family dog can prompt uncharacteristically impulsive decisions (“Omigosh! Look at the way Rupert keeps sniffing that adorable plaid stuffed turtle — let’s buy it!”).

That same dynamic can apply to the adoption process itself. Maybe we’re crazy about our current canine companion and want a new playmate. These days, customizable online rescue listings like those found on Petcha make it easier than ever to “bowser browse” for a new family member. And at times, it’s truly impossible to turn down an especially sweet, expressive face. We can find ourselves with an additional dog before we’ve properly assessed the pros and cons.

Sweet dog by Shutterstock.

Sweet dog by Shutterstock.

In defense of humans, the recent Harvard Medical report Get Healthy, Get a Dog offers a quantifiable reason for this reaction. This 50-page booklet recounts study data indicating that merely locking eyes with a soulful canine can cause an automatic release of oxytocin, the “bliss” hormone associated with feelings of love and affection.

It’s true that, in many cases, getting a second or third dog is one of the best decisions we’ll ever make. But there are a range of factors that should be carefully evaluated — for the sake of the new pooch, existing pets, neighbors, and everyone else in the household. Check out this checklist for seven key considerations.

1. Family dynamics

In my experience, I’ve found that two dogs can get into roughly eight times the mischief of one. Three dogs? I don’t even want to do the math. Suffice it to say that the all-important “instigation factor” should be considered — along with the fact that being bored and lonely is terrible for your pets (and terrible for household possessions).

So what does your current work schedule look like? Are you at least home on evenings and weekends, when you can give everyone the quality attention they need and deserve? Is there a spacious area for dogs to romp, play, and relax? If you have children, are they at an age when they can responsibly interact with a new furry family member? Are you considering a dog to fill some kind of temporary emotional void? Whatever your reasons, make sure your new pup will have a safe, stimulating, permanent place in your heart and home.

Three dogs by Shutterstock.

Three dogs by Shutterstock.

2. Dollars … and sense

Often, we’re so used to integrating expenses for our current dog that this factor is sometimes easy to underestimate. According to data compiled by Petfinder.com, the first year of pet ownership generally involves expenses falling somewhere between $766 to $10,350, and each subsequent year tallies up expenses generally ranging between $526 to $9,352. These figures take into account customary outlays for food, general supplies, vaccinations, routine veterinary exams, parasite prevention measures, and spay/neuter fees.

Of course, as you know, there are miscellaneous surprises that may also require additional expense. So sure, it’s possible to quibble over exact numbers — but there’s no arguing that each new pet represents a measurable out-of-pocket investment. Answer quietly, to yourself: How’s your savings balance? Got any big purchase plans coming up? Candidly assess whether your financial situation allows for another dog.

3. Personality … plus

Sometimes, a relatively modest-sized home can prompt multiple pups to begin snarling and growling the equivalent of “this town ain’t big enough for the two of us.” And remember, adopting from a shelter or rescue often means getting a mixed-breed pup of unknown origin. That can make prejudging traits and temperament a tricky proposition — but it doesn’t let us off the hook when it comes to doing our homework. On the contrary, careful evaluation is arguably even more critical.

As a first step, visit the Dogster breed pages to familiarize yourself with general breed characteristics and size projections. Then, once you’ve narrowed your search, do some serious meeting-and-greeting observation. How does your prospective new pooch react to your current pets? Does he exhibit any food aggression? Does he act dominant or submissive? How is he around children? How about other animals of varying sizes? These are all factors that should be cautiously weighed before making a final decision.

4. Existing canine quirks

When my wonderful rescue pup Sparky passed away at the ripe old age of 21, we observed our Grant — then a relatively spry young whippersnapper — for several months. As a severely abused rescue, Grant had been shuffled around from one horrible environment to the next before finding his way into our family. Once he realized he was sheltered, adored, and safe from harm, he began soaking up our love and attention like a thirsty sponge. (Even after all these years, turning our attention away from Grant can elicit agitated pawing and mournful wails of affection-starved outrage.)

So when Sparky left us, we initially presumed Grant would function best as an “only dog.” But even after his energetic nature caused us to reconsider, our animal behaviorist warned us to be careful about selecting a new dog. She suggested making a very specific checklist of Grant’s idiosyncrasies — which are endearing to us, certainly, but are possibly problematic for another pooch. We also took into account his negative past experiences with larger dogs. As a result, we were extremely deliberate about selecting a playful yet smallish pup with a complementary temperament … which led us to sweet, winsome Maizy.

Be extremely honest with yourself about your existing canine’s characteristics and quirks. Making a detailed list can help you identify complementary behaviors in prospective new pups. (Grant and Maizy photo by Marybeth Bittel)

5. Immediate neighborhood

The fact is, some neighborhoods are simply more dog friendly than others. If you live on a busy city block or in a high-rise condo, the added legwork of a new dog may seem exhausting after a few months. Open rural areas are ideal for outdoor activity and fresh air, but can you get to a veterinarian easily in an emergency? Do you have neighbors who may turn nasty if they detect the sound of two (or three) dogs barking? If your community is managed by an association, does it impose a limit on number of pets per household, or size? All questions to consider in advance.

6. General stability

Predicting the future, of course, is utterly impossible. But in many cases, there are certain red flags that come into play. Let’s say, for example, that the company you work for was newly acquired, and it just announced looming layoffs. Or you were recently promoted, and your travel schedule may ramp up in the coming year. Or your relationship has exhibited pronounced strain for the past several months. These are just a few random examples of situations that may not represent the most stable, secure environment for an additional furry friend.

It pains me to say this, but it’s sometimes possible that you’re 100 percent ready for another pet … yet that additional pet shouldn’t be a dog. Dogs demand a lot of work and attention to enjoy the happy, vibrant life they deserve. Other pets, such as cats and hamsters, can often be much less labor-intensive. There’s no shame in admitting that your available time and attention are simply maxed out by your current dog or dogs. In fact, coming to this realization in advance can spare everyone some terrible pain and heartache later. When you welcome a loving canine into your home — whether it’s your first dog or your fourth — you want that bond to last a lifetime.

How do you know when you’re ready to add a new dog? Tell us in the comments!

Read more by Marybeth Bittel:

About the author: Marybeth Bittel is a freelance writer who lives in the Midwest with her wonderful husband, her crazy rescue dog Grant, and her level-headed rescue dog Maizy – all of them Heinz 57 mixed breed types. Marybeth identifies as mostly Italian, so she enjoys feeding family, friends and furkids almost as much as Grant and Maizy enjoy eating. She’s also a marketing communications consultant and former marketing/PR exec. Connect with her on LinkedIn or — to see her latest pet pics (and be careful what you wish for here) — check out her family Instagram feed.