Most of my clients come to me initially as frustrated pet guardians. They love their dog, but their dog is, in one or many ways, driving them batty. He chases the cat. He counter surfs. He bolts out the door. He isn’t potty trained. He barks too much in the house. He barks too much on walks. He eats your furniture, socks, panties, cat. He sneaks out when you’re sleeping and goes for joy rides around the neighborhood with his doggy friends. OK, that last one doesn’t really happen often (although I wouldn’t put it past some of the more feisty Border Collies and JRTs I’ve had the pleasure of working with!).
Needless to say, most people that are seeking the help of a trainer do not have perfectly behaved dogs. Many of these problems stem from an overabundance of energy and a lack of of appropriate outlets for that energy.
Frequently, clients think getting a second dog will resolve these problems. If you are thinking of getting a “friend” for your dog, here are some things to consider…
ADDITIONAL DOGS DO NOT SOLVE BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS FOR RESIDENT DOGS
I’ve seen dogs learn from other dogs how to counter surf, raid garbage cans, bark at the mailman or visitors, chase the cat, and jump on guests. I’ve yet to see a dog teach another dog how to sit, settle on a mat on cue, come reliably when called, or walk politely on a loose leash. I know some great, brilliant dogs, but not even the smartest of these has ever made any effort to implement counter conditioning protocols for separation anxiety in another resident canine.
If your current dog has behavior problems, more than likely, getting another dog will not rectify the problem. Adding a second dog is not a quick fix for behavior problems. Training and management, however, will.
ARE MULTIPLE UNDERSTIMULATED DOGS BETTER THAN ONE?
If you struggle to provide one dog with the training, stimulation, and exercise he requires, it will be that much more difficult to provide two dogs with adequate stimulation. While dogs do play together, they don’t take each other for leash walks. They don’t fill food dispensing toys for each other, set up training sessions, or take each other to class.
While I do many tandem walks and training sessions with Mokie and Cuba, it’s also very important that they have their own time with me as well. This means that instead of reducing the number of walks and training sessions in an average day since Cuba arrived, I’ve actually had to increase the frequency of both of these things.
My friend has two twin toddler boys. When another parent asks her if two are “easier” than one, she laughs and usually responds with “are you crazy?” Whether you have children or dogs, two are more work than one – with dogs this means more walks, more training, more playing, more expensive, more veterinary appointments, more trips to doggy class, etc. Double the dogs, double the investment, of time and money!
ADDING A SECOND DOG
Getting a second dog to “fix” problems in your first dog is generally not advised. I usually don’t like to see my clients add a second dog to the household until they are happy with the first dog’s behavior.
A second (or third, or seventh) dog can provide wonderful enrichment for a resident dog if the humans in the household are capable of meeting each individual dog’s needs for training, stimulation, exercise, veterinary care, appropriate diet, etc.
Cuba does provide Mokie with companionship, he is a great playmate for her and they have a blast together. I’ll always be an (at least) two dog household for that reason – dogs are social creatures and it is good for them to have friends. I think it’s good to have someone in your life to be silly with, and Mokie and Cuba seem to agree (with the two dogs, Jim, and myself, this house virtually overfloweth with silliness). But my expectations of each of them must be reasonable – I only expect them to provide social companionship to each other. I do not and should not ever expect one of my dog’s to “cure” behavioral abnormalities or complications in the other.
That’s my job. It’s also my job to make sure that they get exercise, training, and enrichment, both together and independent of one another.
Are two dogs better than one? I think it really depends on a family. There are many, many reasons why a family may choose to add a second dog to the household. Expecting the second dog to “fix” the behavior problems of the resident dog is perhaps one of the poorest.