Many of you reading this blog will have one dog at home and some of you might even have two. Toss in a cat or two and you now have a menagerie. So are you possibly considering adding another one to the mix? Have you asked your other dog or even cat if they want a new addition to the family? I don’t mean go and literally ask it and wait for a verbal response! I mean, have you thought it through as to whether your dog actually would like to have a new permanent friend to play with?
Christmas time seems to trigger a puppy buying frenzy, maybe because the holidays are here, weather is good, puppies are abundant and we see our first dog aging that little bit more. And we wonder, would another dog give it some pep? We might also think, work is getting busier and the dog is at home all alone all day. Would it like to have company while we are at work?
These are all valid questions but we need to ask our dog these questions. We need to ensure we are buying a second or third dog because our first dog actually wants one! We shouldn’t be buying another dog because we are getting bored with the first one or you have less time for the first one because guess what, when you add to the family, it means double the effort, double the responsibility!
Why am I writing this blog? Because I am trying to spare owners from making a decision that might not only be heart breaking (imagine having to return the newly adopted dog or purchased puppy) but also harmful to your first dog (imagine fighting, more damage to your home, jealousy issues, etc.). And I want dog owners to have all the cards laid out on the table with information that can help make that right decision…..for the dog.
So how do you ask your dog and what responses should we be expecting?
- Do you really like other dogs?
- Do you prefer people for company instead of dogs?
- Are you happy to be at home alone, relaxing or are you bored and up to mischief?
- Do you have behavioural problems that might worsen if another dog moves in?
- Do you have behavioural problems that might influence another dog to do the same?
- Are you well enough to handle another dog?
And then you need to ask yourself……
- Can you afford another dog?
- Do you have time to walk both dogs, possibly separately?
- Do you have time in general for both dogs?
- Do you have time to train both dogs?
- Do you have a yard big enough?
- Do you have time to clean up after more than one dog?
- Do you need another dog?
Now let’s look at how your dog might respond.
- Does your dog really likes other dogs?
If your dog loves regularly attending day care, loves getting to the dog park to catch up with its buddies, loves running up and down the beach with its friends and is over the moon when family gatherings include the dogs, then yes, another dog would very likely work. Your dog craves company of the furry kind and makes the most of it each time. It gets on well with other dogs and interacts really well.
If you are find yourself avoiding places where dogs congregate or cringe when family members say they are bringing their dog over for a visit, then I suspect this is because you feel your dog doesn’t enjoy that kind of interaction. Your dog might like walking in the park with you but gets very annoyed when a dog runs over to sniff its butt. You might find that when friends drop by with their dog, your dog spends its time in your bedroom. If this is the case, then bringing another dog home to crash the party, permanently, might not be a good idea and it will only stress your dog out.
2. Does your dog prefer people for company instead of dogs?
If your dog prefers to hang around with people or even yourself but you notice that same amount of affection is just not offered to other dogs that are present, then this suggesst you have a dog with people preferences. This is quite normal and common and we often even see in puppy classes some pups who gravitate more to people and kids than dogs. Your dog is clearly expressing it prefers company of the smooth skin variety instead of the furred.
If your dog gets very upset when you go to work, what you need to work out is if the dog genuinely wants you back home or if any other form of living creature will suffice. It is important to know this before you dive into the added member concept because you might find the first dog still frets when you are at work, leaving the new dog bored or frustrated.
3. Is your dog happy to be at home alone or is it bored and up to mischief?
If your dog spends most of its day lazing around in the yard or lying on the couch all day, then this suggests you have a very independent dog who is happy in its own company. It will eat when necessary, play with the occasional toy when bored, it will not demand your attention and it will not be a nuisance while you are out. If you get a dog visitor, you might find your dog will get excited momentarily but then go back to just chilling out, preferring to relax than hoon around the yard. This is a dog that can cope well on its own and doesn’t necessarily need another dog for company.
If your dog spends most of its time digging up the yard, escaping to run down to the park, frets, howls, pulls clothes of the line and genuinely appears bored, then the question you need to ask here before jumping ahead is, would another dog make a difference? Before embarking on the added commitment of another dog, trial the concept by borrowing one from a friend for a sleepover. Trial this for a few days to see if the novelty wears off or if your dog is loving the company. Trial this to see if your dog is happy to share its home, its belongings, its parents!
If your dog is now no longer fretting, no longer barking, no longer escaping and is actively playing and hanging around with the borrowed dog, then the solution is right in front of you…….. your dog would love to have a friend!
4. Does your dog have behavioural problems that might worsen if another dog moves in?
If your dog has generalised anxiety disorders, antisocial disorders (avoid people or dogs), displays aggressive behaviour towards other dogs (lunges, snaps, growls, snarls or bites other dogs), alliance issues (jealousy), resource guarding issues (not good at sharing), separation anxiety issues (your dog really, really, really loves you and only you), then adding another dog will make it worse and can also be dangerous.
Before considering adding another dog, you need to address these issues with a qualified behavioural trainer or a Veterinary Behaviourist so that your dog does not have a meltdown.
** Please note that you also should be addressing the issues not so that you can then go and get another dog but because your first one needs help. Your trainer or behaviourist will then be able to tell you if they feel professionally, that a second dog would be a good idea.
5. Does your dog have behavioural problems that might influence the new dog?
Dogs have the ability to copy; it’s as simple as that and if you have No.1 dog doing some pretty outrageous behaviour, then you need to be prepared that No.2 dog might join in on the fun and do it also.
It’s all great and convenient if your first dog is impeccably well trained and good natured as this will highly influence your new dog because it will copy the role model. However, if you have dog that jumps, paces, barks, drags when walking, yaps at other dogs passing, destroys everything it can get in its mouth and digs to the Earth’s core, then you are potentially introducing an accomplice. As mentioned earlier, ensure these issues are resolved before bringing home another dog and trial it before committing to it.
6. Is your dog well enough to handle another dog?
While we all love the idea of adding a new young pup to the family to give the nanna dog a lift in life, we need to consider if the dog can physically handle it all. As dogs begin to age, so does their body and just like humans, once you get to the middle aged period, things start to stiffen up, we aren’t as sharp or as quick as we used to be, our senses might be a tad slower and our patience is not as good as it used to be. Regarding dogs, this starts to occur when dogs hit the 9 or 10 year mark, for giant breeds even earlier. There is always the exception with the 13 year old dog still sprinting in the yard, still going for a 5 km run, still swimming down the beach but we still have to remember they are retirees.
So you need to ask yourself, can your dog still get up quick enough to play with a younger dog? Can your dog hear the other one coming so it can move out of the way instead of getting ambushed and bowled over? Has your dog had surgeries of late that have taken a toll on its general well being? Is your dog still very tolerant of younger ones vying for attention? Will you be able to handle it if nanna or pop dog, the retiree dog, walks around whilst a pup hangs off its jowls, rolling its eyes at you asking for relief? Are you prepared for the possibility that your older dog might not cope, therefore putting that idea back on the shelf?
These are all valid questions that you need to ask yourself before committing to a second dog and at the end of the day, it is about the first dog.
Now let’s look again at what you should be asking yourself. I will keep this one brief as it really should not be too hard to see the answers.
Dogs cost money whether it be for food, veterinary expenses, grooming, day care, training, dog walkers, pet insurance, emergencies or couture, it all adds up. If you add another dog to the mix, you need to ask yourself if you have enough savings to cover both dogs right up to the worst case scenarios, the emergency vet bills.
Walking one dog can be difficult enough, but imagine trying to walk two zig zaggers or even worse, one puller and one dawdler! Even if you decide on a puppy, you need to teach the puppy to walk properly so this means taking each dog out on a walk separately. If you didn’t have time to walk one dog, then adding a second dog will make it even harder, meaning dogs will not get walked or they are walked for only 30 minutes. You need to remember that taking your dog out is enrichment, stimulation and exposure to the outside world and it is very important. Sticking two dogs in a yard to entertain each other, day in day out can become boring and even a bit wearing.
You will need to ensure you have a yard big enough so they have plenty of room to run around. I see so many dogs on house calls where they are literally on top of each other and this causes tension. Dogs need room to come away from each other when they have had enough so if you have a tiny courtyard or small yard, you need to consider carefully not only if you can fit another dog in there but also what size of dog best matches it up.
Another consideration if the compatibility of the breeds. If you are considering another dog, do your best to match it up in personality, energy levels, exercise demand and needs, as best you can. It can get quite tricky when you have one very energetic, high maintenance dog and one very lazy, low maintenance dog. They don’t have to match up exactly as a slightly calmer dog might do the bouncer good, however try not to get something that is the total opposite!
Owning multiple pets takes a lot of responsibility, organisation, space, cost and time and before you make that decision, sit down and work it all out and see if it really can work. If all those questions above answered in your favour, then start looking for that new addition to the family. If the questions above were not all in favour, then you need to rethink it or address the concerns you have that might be the reason why. If you are unsure and need some assistance in making the decision, then you can always call us to help you. We can even help with working out what breed suits best, shelter versus puppy, age and gender, that is what we are here for.
So best of luck and remember, ask your dog if it wants a friend before you bring one home!