Making the decision to get a second dog is a big decision. There are many pros and cons to having a multi-dog household so it’s wise to consider all aspects and make the decision that’s right for you. If things are going well with your one dog and possible other pets, adding another dog could spoil the balance in the household. Dogs that have lived harmoniously with cats or other animals may become more harassing when they have a partner to back them up – sometimes called the “pack mentality.” Don’t be guilted into getting a second pup by people who tell you it’s critical for your current dog to have companionship if you aren’t fully committed and excited about adding more work and expense to your busy life. Another part of the decision is whether to get two dogs at once and there’s lots of reasons why that makes things even more complicated.
I loved having two dogs. It’s so much fun to watch them play or just hang out together. I felt less guilty when I was away from the house knowing they had each other for companionship. Certainly when they were young it was helpful in giving them the exercise they needed – two dogs playing together burn off a ton more energy than anything you can do with them. But too many people get a second dog just because the first is very high energy and being destructive – which is really a training issue. Adding a second high-energy animal into the equation can sometimes backfire in a big way. Often this is used as a substitute for doing the training that is needed to teach the dog good manners and you end up with two out-of-control dogs! Having two dogs takes more time, if you’re doing it right. But if you take the time to train one dog well before adding a second one, the first will help you train the second. Dogs mirror behaviors and the new dog will follow suit quickly.
Dogs are social creatures and, if you work away from home, a single bored dog can become anxious and destructive. Having a companion can certainly help with this. Of course there are substitutes to owning a second dog. Having daily playtime with dog friends may satisfy his social needs and/or spending the day at a doggy daycare might provide the enrichment he craves. Then you aren’t stuck dealing with the medical needs and additional expense of a second pet full time.
Many breeders will not permit siblings to be sold together and we follow that guideline as well. Unlike kittens, canine littermates can experience a lot of sibling rivalry to the point of seriously injurious fights. The joy of two puppies playing can spiral out of control as they mature and start squabbling over hierarchy and resources. And since they are together 24/7 this intense relationship can cause separation anxiety if they are ever just out of sight from each other. Getting two puppies is a huge commitment of time as you need to work with each separately and get them used to being alone. It’s also more challenging to build the bond with you since they are the focus of each other’s world and you take second place.
It’s easy to take one dog, especially if small or well-trained, with you when you travel and visit people. Not so easy when you have two or more dogs. Finding hotels becomes more difficult and expensive with per pet fees. I do think single dogs are included more often in family adventures – it’s just easier to leave a pair of dogs at home knowing they have each other for company.
Right now, I just have Dobby, a 1-year-old Australian Shepherd and we are having a great time together. But there are definitely times I miss having a second dog, and I do think he would enjoy a compatible playmate, so I’m weighing the pros and cons. And waiting for the right dog to come along to tempt me.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.