Getting a Second Dog – Pros and Cons
Having a dog has been a fun and wonderful experience for everyone in your family. In fact, it has been so rewarding that you are now seriously thinking of getting a second dog. However, it is important that you really think this decision through, because having two dogs can be an entirely different experience from having one. Before you make a leap of faith off of this cliff, you need to make a detailed list of the pros and cons associated with getting a second dog. As you thoughtfully compile this list, here are just a few things that you might want to take into consideration.
The ProsIf you are enjoying spending time with your dog, then there is no doubt that a second dog can enhance that experience. This might be a little overwhelming if you were the only person in the house, and you suddenly had two dogs totally relying on you for everything every single minute of the day, but if you are a family, there should be plenty of human companionship to go around.
Companionship is one of the main things that people think of when they are considering getting a second dog – companionship for their canine friend who may be lonely for someone to play with, sleep with, and socialize with. This can be an especially important consideration if your dog is forced to spend a lot of time home alone each day. With another dog around to keep him company, instead of staring fitfully at the door for hours waiting for someone to come home, he may be so busy goofing around and getting into mischief with his new friend that he may not even notice when you come in through the door.
The ConsNo matter how much we may love dogs, some of that mischief they get into can be a bit destructive. Put two dogs together, and you could potentially have a mess on your hands. They might enjoy their time home alone together, but can you really trust them to mind their manners and leave the place the way you left it?
Even if you end up with two dogs that are extremely well behaved, they still represent twice the responsibility. Essentially, this means the potential for twice the cost: in vets’ fees, for food and medicine (including tick and flea prevention), for personal care products like shampoos, leashes, and so on. You hope of course that both of your dogs live healthy and active lives. But there is twice the possibility for health problems to arise, and if both of your dogs should need extensive medical care the situation could quickly get out of hand.
So far we have been assuming your two dogs will get along with each other just fine, but in fact that is a big assumption to make. It is entirely conceivable that your old dog will not take kindly to having his or her space invaded, and he or she may take it out on the new addition. The possibility for personality conflict is definitely there. If it turns out your two dogs can’t get along, for whatever reason, what are you going to do then, after you have already made a commitment to the new dog by adopting him or her and bringing him or her home?
Beyond the Pros and ConsIn truth, the list of pros and cons really boils down to just two things – behavior and health. If both dogs behave well with you and each other, and don’t break anything or bite anyone, and if their health is basically sound, then owning two dogs really can be twice as wonderful as owning one. But before you bring the new guy or gal home, here are some steps you should take to make sure your new addition is going to bring nothing but happiness and fun to your lives and your home.
Research your BreedsAll dog breeds have certain personality traits that generally define their character and their behavior. You already know about the characteristics of the dog you have, so what you need to do now is find another dog that will not clash with his personality style. If your dog likes to be active, you don’t want to pair him up with a dog that prefers to sleep 16 hours a day. On the other hand, if you have a slothful canine, a frisky puppy from an active breed is hardly likely to be a good fit as the new addition will just end up annoying your already faithful friend. In your research you need to pay careful attention to the experiences of people who have owned any breed you are considering bringing into your home to see what kinds of problems have come up in their relations with other dogs.
Spay and NeuterOf course if you choose a second dog of the opposite sex, then it goes without saying that you want to take at least one of them to the vet for an operation. But if you are going to be getting two dogs of the same sex, then spaying or neutering will probably do more to head off conflict than any other step you could take. If you choose to have two unaltered dogs of the same sex, then all we can say is, good luck to you.
TrainingHopefully the dog you have has been to puppy school, or received some other kind of training that has helped him become comfortable with other dogs, because this can make a really huge difference in how he will greet the newcomer. If this is not the case, and your dog appears to have some problems with other dogs, then you need to find ways to expose him to them in a non-threatening environment before you bring home the second dog. And of course when your second dog arrives, you may need to repeat the procedure with him.
Introduce them SlowlyWhen you bring the new dog home, your two canine pals need to be introduced to each other in a series of gradual steps. Take things slowly, and only let them get closer or spend time together unsupervised after you are sure there are not going to be problems. If they can get to know each other in an unhurried pace, in environments where they are made to feel completely comfortable, they should eventually learn to accept and even like each other. You might want to start with the new dog in his or her crate and allowing your dog to sniff him or her without any potential threat.
From there, should things go well, allow the new dog out of the crate and onto a leash, again, reducing threat to your existing dog.
Once it is well established that things are going well, you may let the new dog off the leash, but neither dog has proven that you can leave them unsupervised. This, too, may take some time. Pack structure will need to be established between them and only they know to determine this.
You may hear many people advising that as long as things don’t get loud or bloody, let them work it out. This is highly unadvisable. Bear in mind that you are the pack leader and while you do not determine their pack status, you do lead over them both. Allowing them to “work it out,” in terms of fighting signals to them you are not in control. Recognizing they will determine pack structure is one thing, allowing things to turn into a fight is another. Once a dog has been attacked, he or she is never the same again and your home will always be a source of stress.
However, if you are vigilant, the two should eventually work it out. You should expect a little dominance being presented on either side – paws or neck on top of one or the other dog or mounting in a non-mating manner – these are normal. If these behaviors are accompanied with growling or fighting, you must be on hand to mediate.
The Final VerdictAfter weighing the pros against the cons, it seems clear that you should go ahead and get that second dog, if that is what you really want to do. In almost every instance, two dogs can be brought together in peace and harmony. It is up to you to make sure that you take the steps necessary to make the transition smooth for each animal.