Sometimes I scrape the dregs of my mental barrel coming up with twenty behavior blogs a month for dogster in addition to blogs and articles I submit elsewhere on line. When I find myself in this position, I usually head over to Dogster’s Behavior and Training forum for inspiration. I like being able to address topics that are important to pet owners in general, but specifically to dogsters.
Lately it seems as though the discussion of adding a second dog to the household has been popping up frequently on these threads. Today, let’s talk about some of the factors you may want to consider when making the decision to expand your canine family.
Are two dogs easier than one? Are two dogs really twice the work?
Two dogs are not easier than one. Sometimes, two dogs are three times the work of one! One dogster made the point, “two dogs may be three times times the work but are four times the love.” This dogster agrees! Each dog will need separate training sessions, one-on-one time, may need to attend classes separately, separate grooming, etc.
Will my well-behaved current dog teach my new dog good behaviors?
Generally, no. I’ve yet to see a dog pull out a clicker and treats and teach another dog to sit, ignore a squirrel, get into a crate on cue, or greet new people politely. If your current dog is well-socialized, she can probably teach your new dog nice play skills and bite inhibition, but don’t expect your current dog to assume responsibility for making your new dog a well-behaved companion.
I generally don’t advocate adding a second dog until you are pleased with your current dog’s level of training. While I’ve never seen one dog teach another to walk politely on leash, I have seen dogs pick up unwanted behaviors from other dogs, like excessive barking, counter surfing, prey/car chasing, jumping, fence fighting, inappropriate elimination, etc,
Are all family members on board?
All family members who are responsible for pet care should get a vote in this decision. After losing Monte this year, it was imperative that both Jim and I were ready for the responsibility of a puppy. First and foremost, my responsibility is to my current family – that means that no matter how much I wanted a puppy, if Jim wasn’t ready, we’d wait until he was.
Can you afford it?
Two dogs are (at least) twice the expense of one. You may have lots of the things you’ll need for a new dog (you may already have a spare crate, leash, collars, lots of toys, etc.), but new dogs do equal more vet bills, more training services, additional grooming expenses, more food, flea and tick products (if you use them), etc.
What kind of dogs does your dog like?
Dogs your current dog even like other dogs? Of all the family members that get to vote in the “new addition decision,” your current dog’s vote should count for the most if it is negative. Not all dogs want to live with other dogs. You have no responsibility to an as-yet-unobtained new dog. You do have a responsibility to ensure your current dog’s well-being and happiness.
If she does like dogs, what kinds of dogs does she like specifically? Some dogs really like puppies, but a senior dog may find a puppy overwhelming. Does she seem to prefer dogs that are smaller than her, her same size, or larger? Males or females?
Some breeds have very specific play styles which lend them to playing well with other members of their breed. Boxers, for instance, like to “box” and often have a blast boxing with other Boxers. It is not uncommon for other, less “boxy” breeds to think this is extremely annoying. It’s much easier to get your dog a friend who has a similar play style than it is to try to train the box out of a Boxer.
In general, opposite sex pairings tend to do better together than same sex pairings. If you have a female dog, she may prefer a male companion; and vice versa. Aggression between two females in the house who dislike each other may well be one of the biggest challenges for even the most seasoned of behavior professionals to remedy effectively. The tendency toward same-sex aggression happens in all breeds, but seems to be more prevalent in some breeds than others (bully breeds and guardian breeds, often).
Aggression between two members of the same sex may not display immediately, especially if the new dog happens to be a puppy (signs may onset at sexual maturity or any time thereafter).
This is not to say that there aren’t plenty of people living with male-male pairings or female-female pairings successfully. A number of my friends and colleagues have large packs (five to six dogs are not uncommon) including males and females that live very well together. Perhaps not coincidentally, they’re all training nerds (and I mean that in the most fantastic possible way) that invest a lot of time providing training, enrichment, and physical exercise to their dogs.
Do you have other pets besides dogs?
If you have livestock or small animals (birds, rodents, etc.) with which you’d like your new dog to be able to live comfortably, your best bet will be getting a puppy or an adult dog that has been raised around these types of animals and demonstrated tolerance. Most ideal would be obtaining the puppy from a breeder who has already imprinted the puppy on these animals prior to adoption. If you are not able to do this, you may want to get the puppy at 8 weeks and have a trainer help you introduce the animals in a way which will optimize safety while reducing stress for all involved parties.
Are you getting a new dog because your current dog is bored?
If so, this should be a HUGE red flag that you’re not ready for a second dog. If you unable to provide one dog with enough mental and physical stimulation to meet his needs, you definitely can’t provide this for two or more dogs.
YOU MAY BE READY TO ADD A SECOND DOG IF…
- you like training dogs
- you like exercising with dogs
- everyone in the family wants a dog
- your current dog is well-trained and enjoys the company of other dogs
- you have access to a good breeder or a conscientious rescue or shelter who will help you make a wise decision
- you are willing to double (or triple) the amount of money you spend on your current dog
- you are able to commit to spending time with each dog separately
- two dogs will not interfere with travel plans or housing restrictions
- you have a vehicle which can safely transport two dogs in addition to all human family members (you may laugh, but we had to buy a minivan to transport a Saint Bernard, a Chow mix, plus our camping gear – a sedan just wouldn’t cut it!)
If you’re not sure, you’re not ready. Take as much time as you need for your decision to be the right one, you won’t regret it!