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  • Writer's pictureSarah Dykes

Tips for Adding a Second Dog

I added a second dog to my home last year, and I’m often asked by people the benefits of adding a second dog to the home. Ummm, benefits?

Adding a Second Dog Is Unlikely to Help Dog #1’s Behavior Issues

In fact, adding a second dog will often exacerbate existing behavior problems. I always recommend to people that Dog #1 should be 100% where they want him/her to be, behavior wise, before adding Dog #2. Once you add another dog to the home, your attention is split and all of the time you spend with dog #1 is now eaten into by dog #2. Imagine if dog #2 is a puppy – puppies take a lot of time!

I’ve certainly heard that for dogs suffering from separation distress, adding a second dog may be a solution. I had the opposite experience. I had previously worked through separation distress with Carmac, and when we added our second dog, Shorty, she displayed separation distress (as do the majority of dogs adopted from shelters), which in return brought back Carmac’s separation distress. We resolved the issue, but in order to help Shorty, we did use psychopharmacology.

My Dog Needs Canine Company

Not necessarily – given ongoing research and changing ideas regarding the evolution of the domestic dog, dogs are not pack animals. They are scavengers, and scavengers compete against each other for resources. They form amorphous social groups that may be dependent on reproductive cycles, age, etc, but these groups are not consistent. When I’m not home, I know exactly what my dogs are doing – enjoying food dispensing toys and sleeping. They aren’t playing together or racing around the house, nor would I want them to be – what if an injury or fight occurred? Given that one and possibly both of my dogs are bully-breed mixes, I do generally separate them when they are home alone.

Double the Dollars, Double the Poop

Are you ready for double veterinary bills, double food costs, double toys/ collars/ leashes, more training expenses, and more poop to pick up? A second dog is double the work; when we added Shorty to the home, I had individual walk days, where she and Carmac would be walked separately as they had completely different training needs. I haven’t kept that up lately and have noticed that I need to return to that in order to improve Shorty’s dog reactivity and her comfort level in walking in busy areas.

The Good

I admit that I love having two dogs. I also admit that my life revolves around my dogs. I spent over a year meeting potential second dogs to ensure 100% compatibility with myself, my human partner, and Carmac. Carmac and Shorty’s initial meeting was good so we then fostered her for a month to make sure her relationship with all of us would work in the home; a month is a short trial period for a 10 + year commitment. Fostering is an excellent way to see if you like having a multi-dog home – you help a dog, a rescue organization, and yourself. If you are interested in a specific breed or breed mixture, there’s likely a rescue organization near your area that can help you further determine if that breed of dog will be a good fit for your existing home.

Just like most good things, having a second dog is work. Put in the work, and it pays off. That work includes spending plenty of time making sure dog #2 is a good fit.

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