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Getting a Second Dog: Things to Consider (Episode 35)

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Are you thinking of adding a second dog to your family?

Whether you're getting a puppy or adopting an older dog, adding another furry friend to your life means a lot of change — especially for your current dog.

In this episode we walk through what you should consider when wanting to add another pup, along with how to find the right fit for your first dog.

A big thanks to Paws & Play listener Mike, who inspired this episode with this question:

"I have a Cocker Spaniel who is 5 years old. How can I get him used to other dogs as I'm thinking of getting another dog? Or can you suggest what breed would be best suited for him?"

Does Breed Matter When Getting a Second Dog?

When you're thinking about getting a second dog, the breed or breed mix you get doesn't necessarily matter to your dog.

Many owners of a particular breed simply fall in love with the look, temperament, or other breed-specific aspect.

Instead of putting too much thought into what breed your dog will do best with, consider things like:

  • Energy level
  • Play style
  • Age
  • Size

We'll dive deeper into those things further below.

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Do Dogs Recognize Dogs of the Same Breed?

Stories abound of many dogs that gravitate to the same breed at the dog park or in dog daycare. As of yet, we don't really know if dogs recognize other dogs as being the same breed as they are.

One theory is that a dog might recognize their own breed based on having been raised with litter mates and recognizing their mother, but this has yet to be scientifically proven.

However, according to a 2013 study, dogs can recognize another dog as being the same species on sight alone!

Every Dog is an Individual — But Certain Breeds Have Certain Predispositions

If you're considering a certain breed or breed mix, make sure to do your research. Then you'll know what to expect if you bring home a Husky versus a Pug.

It's still important to note that every dog is an individual. Just because they are part Border Collie doesn't mean they will try to herd every moving thing. But it's more likely than if you got a Saint Bernard or a Chihuahua.

different dog breedsCertain dog breed groups have different tendencies than others, and what many trainers refer to as "drives." These drives are natural canine tendencies that have been specifically bred for in that breed or breed group, and made them great at certain jobs.

Think about how your home and lifestyle works with certain breed characteristics.

Scent hounds will follow a certain smell for miles, just watch any Beagle who smells the barbecue across town.

Sight hounds, like an Afghan Hound or Greyhound, love to chase moving prey.

Border Collies, Corgis, and other herding dogs are known for circling or nipping at heels. Huskies, bred to pull sleds in the demanding environment of Siberia, can run all day.

Golden Retrievers and Labs like to pick things up with their mouths — they're bred to retrieve! 

two-corgis-on-couch-350What to Consider When Adding a Second Dog to Your Home

Will Your Dog Enjoy Living with Another Dog?

This is by far the most important thing to consider when you get the inkling to get another dog. Your first priority should be the dog in your home already, and it wouldn't be fair to them to bring home a puppy or adopt another dog if their quality of life suffers. 

Does you dog actually like being around other dogs? If you're not sure, think about how they react to seeing other dogs while out on walks.

Do they show interest in wanting to interact with other dogs in a positive way? Or do they bark and lunge because they want the other dog to leave them alone?

Do they actively avoid meeting other dogs? If your dog attends daycare, ask the staff what kinds of dogs they enjoy being around and playing with. This can give you an idea of what to look for in a second dog.

PRO TIP: If your dog is leash reactive towards other dogs, this doesn't mean they can't live with another dog. For many dogs, being on leash is a specific context that causes fearful or reactive behaviors.

I know quite a few leash reactive dogs that do very well with dogs off leash, or with fellow dogs in the home. Work with a certified dog trainer or behavior consultant to determine if your reactive dog will do well with another dog at home.

Energy Level

A more mellow and less-active dog at home might not enjoy a canine companion that's constantly on the move. However, if you're able to provide a high-energy dog with appropriate physical and mental exercise, they can make excellent buddies for the more mellow pups and might bring out some pep in an older dog's step. Make sure that one isn't overwhelming the other with their zest for life.

Play Style

Some dogs play more rough and tumble while others are big into playing chase. When considering a second dog for your family, ask about how they play with others and make sure it's not a style that will be too much for your current dog to handle (or for you to manage).

For more examples on what proper dog play looks like, check out "Press Pause: How to Manage Dog Play."

Age of Both Dogs

Some older dogs just don't enjoy puppies. Others absolutely love playing "mother hen" to young pups. And in some cases, an elderly dog might really want to play but just isn't sturdy or strong enough to keep up.

Make sure you consider what age of new dog will fit into your lifestyle and current routine, as well as what age would be the best match for your current dog's age.

While it isn't advisable to adopt two puppies (especially litter mates) at the same time, if you have an adolescent dog at home already, adding another adolescent can be a great match — as long as they both have enough physical and mental exercise every day, and you're committed to training for two dogs at once.

Size of Both Dogs

big puppy and small puppyIf you have a tiny breed, bringing home a giant dog might not be ideal.

Many large dogs do very well with smaller housemates, but size differences can put small dogs (and small children) at higher risk of getting stepped on, sat on, bumped into, knocked over, and other incidental and unintentional mishaps.

Having a big size difference between dogs means you'll need to practice management and make sure that both dogs have had positive socialization experiences with dogs of the other size as puppies.

Are You Ready for Two Dogs at Home?

Adding a second dog means more time, effort, and resources being required from you. You'll be spending more on the basics, like dog food, supplies, pet insurance, and veterinary care.

But there's also the investment you'll need to make in training for both of your dogs and management of behaviors that pop up when you have a multi-dog household.

Issues like potty accidents, barking, pulling on leash, jumping on people, and other dog behaviors can get very frustrating for people when there's two dogs doing it instead of one.

You'll also have to learn how to manage behaviors like resource guarding between dogs, and slowly work up to being able to trust both dogs being left home alone together.

Many dog owners get another dog thinking that it will help their current dog's separation anxiety. In some cases, this results in two dogs with separation anxiety instead of just one.

If your dog has what's called "isolation distress," where they get anxious when left alone without any person or animal buddy, a second dog might help. However, if it's separation anxiety, where they become anxious when separated from a particular person(s) even if someone else is around, then adding a second dog isn't your best option.

Do you think your dog has separation anxiety? Take this free online quiz to get a personalized report for your dog's behavior and learn about treatment options.

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Connect with a Certified Trainer

A certified professional dog trainer can help you in a few ways:

  1. Determine whether your current dog will enjoy having a second dog in the home

  2. Help you address any current training or behavior issues before adding a new dog

  3. Provide "match-making" services and help you find a second dog

  4. Teach you how to manage a multi-dog household

  5. Decode canine body language so you can learn what dogs are saying to each other

Learn Canine Body Language

Beyond learning how to "speak dog" from a certified trainer, watching video footage of dogs in different situations will go a long way in understanding canine communication.

There are lots of resources out there, and we've put some of our favorites on our "Decoding Canine Body Language" page.

Bringing a New Dog Home

Bringing home a new dog is always a bit stressful, for both you and your current dog! Routines change and everyone has to learn how to share their space a bit more.

It takes time for dogs to feel each other out and settle into a new family structure. A new dog needs time to settle in during their transition period. Set up separate safe spaces for your dogs where they can go when they need some alone time.

Work closely with the shelter, rescue, or breeder of your new dog to set up positive meet-and-greets, and find a certified dog trainer to help you successfully integrate your new pup into your life.

Home setup and lots of positive training will go a long way in multi-dog households. To learn more, check out "How to Introduce Your New Dog to Your Other Pets."

Before you go, check out the story of the woman who found her lost dog on a beer can promoting pups up for adoption and check out Mia's pup, Marshall, on New Day Northwest:

And treat yourself to Sookie, the Queen of Sploot

sookie the queen of sploot

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Topics: Dogs, Puppy

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Please do not ask emergency or other specific medical questions about your pets in the blog comments. As an online informational resource, Preventive Vet is unable to and does not provide specific medical advice or counseling. A thorough physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinary-patient-client relationship is required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet is having an emergency or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic medical conditions, please contact or visit your veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

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