Getting a Second Dog: Everything You Need to Know

The decision to add a second dog to your family should not be taken lightly. While the idea of having two dogs may sound appealing, it’s crucial to weigh all considerations before making this 10+ year commitment.

In this article, we’ll explore various aspects of having more than one dog, offering modern and ethical advice to help you decide if it’s the right choice.

Should I Get a Second Dog?

Before diving into the logistics of adding another dog to your life, it’s essential to ask yourself whether getting a second dog is the right decision. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, here are some questions to consider:

Time Commitment

Do you have enough time to meet the needs of another dog? Could you double the time you currently spend with just one dog? Two dogs will require much more attention and effort than just one as each one deserves their time individually with you.

Financial Considerations

Can you afford the added costs of food, veterinary care, grooming, insurance, and other expenses that getting a second dog will bring? Is your first dog getting old? Do they have any existing health concerns?

Space

Is your living environment suitable for multiple dogs? Dogs are not pack animals and each will need their own space to rest and eat. Ensure you have enough space for both dogs to live comfortably, without being directly in contact with one another all of the time.

Lifestyle

Does your lifestyle allow for the added responsibility of getting a second dog? Travel, work commitments, and other factors may need to be adjusted so that you can accommodate another dog into your schedule and leisure time.

Behaviour

Are you prepared to invest your resources (time, money, energy) into ensuring your dogs are mentally fulfilled and confident with the world around them? Have you considered how you will approach a scenario where the dogs do not get along? Or what if one dog’s needs outweigh the other? Dogs are individuals and even those of the same breed will have their own desires and needs.

Your Current Dog

Does your current dog truly enjoy being around other dogs for extended periods of time? Are you working through any behavioural issues with them? Getting a second dog could turn your current dog’s world upside down, making life more challenging for everyone.

Pros and Cons of Having Two Dogs

Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of having two dogs:

Pros

Companionship: Having a same-species playmate might prevent loneliness and boredom – if both dogs enjoy the company of other dogs.

Richer Family: Adding another personality into the mix could increase the joy and vibrance of all members of the family.

Rewarding: You may find the process of enriching another dog’s life an emotionally rewarding experience. This is particularly the case if you have decided to adopt an older dog or give a neglected dog a home.

Cons

Increased Responsibility: Caring for multiple dogs requires more time, effort, and resources than expected.

Behaviour Challenges: The individual personality quirks of two dogs can be more complex.

Compatibility: Not all dogs get along, so it’s crucial to ensure they are compatible.

Space and Housing: You may need larger living spaces to accommodate multiple dogs.

Financial Costs: Your expenses will be higher with two dogs. Think “two of everything”!

The decision to have one or two dogs ultimately depends on your personal circumstances and preferences. While two dogs can provide companionship and enhance your life, they also require a more significant commitment in terms of time and resources.

Are Dogs Happier with a Second Dog?

Getting a second dog can be a fantastic experience, with some dogs getting along well. You may have images of your dogs snuggled up next to each other, sharing their toys and treats – but this is by no means always the case.

Resource guarding, where dogs become aggressive when protecting their possessions, can be an issue when getting a second dog. In a 2020 study by Feltes et al. it was found that resource guarding was the most common trigger for fights between dogs. Out of 610 pairs of dogs, it accounted for 72.8% of fights.

Is it Better to Have Two Dogs of the Same Gender?

In the research study above, having two dogs of the same-sex was more likely to result in poor outcomes like rehoming. Female-female pairs had slightly worse outcomes than other gender combinations.

Other significant factors included whether dogs had a history of skin-breaking bites or aggression upon seeing another dog.

The aggressor of the fights was typically the dog that was acquired second. On average, the aggressor was also younger and heavier.

Positive outcomes were more likely when a qualified behaviourist was introduced early on.

What’s the Best Age to Add a Second Dog?

In general, a second dog can be introduced at any age. However, puppies are often easier to integrate into a household with an adult dog. Older dogs may require careful consideration to ensure compatibility and a smooth transition.

How to Introduce Two Dogs

If you decide that getting a second dog is the right choice, it’s essential to introduce them well. Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to introduce two dogs successfully:

Neutral Ground

Introduce the two dogs on neutral ground, such as a park. This will help to reduce territorial behaviour and guarding of any resources.

Management

Keep both dogs on leashes initially to maintain distance and prevent potential conflicts. Try to keep the leashes loose and your body relaxed.

Observe Body Language

Pay close attention to their body language. Look for signs of tension or rising discomfort such as staring, raised hackles, growling, or stiffness. Loose, relaxed body language is a good sign.

Positive Reinforcement

Reward both dogs with treats and praise for looking at each other. If either of the dogs look uncomfortable at all, increase the distance between them. When the dogs get closer together, remove the food from the equation to prevent tension.

Gradual Introduction

If all feels positive after these meetings, let the dogs interact for short periods (less than a minute), gradually increasing the time as they become more comfortable with each other.

Supervision

Continue supervising their interactions, especially during the initial days and weeks. Don’t leave the dogs alone unsupervised.

Take Your Time

Introductions are best when conducted over days/weeks. Prepare to keep the dogs in separate areas of the house with management in place (pens, baby gates, etc) to ensure that all interactions are as controlled as possible.

Wrapping Up: Getting a Second Dog

Adding a second dog to your family is a significant decision that requires thoughtful consideration of various factors. By asking yourself the right questions, introducing the dogs properly, and understanding the pros and cons, you can make an informed and ethical choice.

Whether you decide that two dogs are better than one or that a single dog is the right fit for your lifestyle, ensuring the happiness and well-being of your current canine companion should always be your top priority.

Sources

Feltes, E. S. M., Stull, J. W., Herron, M. E., & Haug, L. I. (2020). Characteristics of intrahousehold interdog aggression and dog and pair factors associated with a poor outcome. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 256(3), 349–361. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.256.3.349

Struggling with your dog’s behaviour? Discover how Renee can elevate your wisdom and transform your relationship by visiting www.rplusdogs.com

Renee Rhoades MSc, dog behaviour expert
About Renee Rhoades, MSc

Renee Rhoades, MSc, is a distinguished authority in canine behaviour and welfare, recognised for her unwavering commitment to improving the lives of both dogs and humans. The founder of R+Dogs, a virtual dog behaviour consultancy, Renee offers cutting-edge private coaching and online courses to dog guardians worldwide. Renee specialises in transforming fearful and high-energy dogs, addressing aggression, reactivity, generalised anxiety and hyperactivity.

Beyond client-focused coaching, Renee is also the co-host of DogLogical, a podcast dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of our dogs. In addition, she extends her expertise by mentoring fellow dog professionals, contributing to the growth and development of the industry.

Struggling with your dog’s behaviour? Discover how Renee can elevate your wisdom and transform your relationship by visiting www.rplusdogs.com