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  • Writer's pictureJordin @ NLL

Am I ready to add a second dog to the family?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get on a regular basis. You have a dog already, when do you know you’re ready for a second?

There are a multitude of factors that go into this question, and there is no right answer. But hopefully I can give you a few things to think about and guide you down the best path for your family.

1. Your relationship with your first dog will change.

The number one thing I warn people about who are preparing to add a second dog is that your relationship with your current dog will change. When we just had one dog, Remi, she was my shadow. Wherever I went, she went, and when I said jump, she’d say how high? I was so excited to get my first dog that I poured everything into her. All the training, the best food, long regular walks, and of course bottomless snuggles. I had the time to do it and it was easy with one dog. Enter our second dog Maple, and things shifted. Remi no longer had our attention 24/7 and she was forced to share it with someone else. Although she loved having a constant companion to play with, she’d at times get frustrated with the new puppy and would just want a quiet space to herself. This resulted in us creating a space for just her to relax, and she was less often found cuddling us on the couch or at our feet and more often in her independent space. This was a natural behavior for a mature dog to have towards a puppy, but it was a shift in Remi’s routine and adjustment for all of us to no longer have our “shadow.” She still enjoys the odd cuddle, but she's much less attached to us now and more independent.

2. Pack mentality.

This can be both a good and bad thing. Often adding a second dog to the home can correct unwanted behaviors of the first dog. For example, if your dog refuses to potty in your backyard and will only relieve themselves on walks, adding a second dog to the pack may correct this behavior. It’s also mentally enriching for dogs to play and interact with each other and they are less lonely when they have a companion when the humans are gone. On the other hand, pack mentality can also create problems. The biggest thing I noticed when we added a second dog was that their listening ears diminished on off-leash walks when they were together. They felt more confident together and I had to work extra hard on their recalls individually before they were ready to go together off leash again. Even so, the odd time they will spot a rabbit or deer and take off, whereas individually they wouldn’t normally leave my sight.

3. Training

Two dogs means twice the training. And trust me, it’s much more difficult to train the second. Not only will you feel guilty if you only spend time training your new dog but finding the time to do it is challenging. You need to practice every skill individually, and then together with the other dog. Basic skills like leash walking become more difficult with less hands, and it’s not as easy to take two dogs out in public for training or socialization if your alone. It’s really important that you’re willing to dedicate individual time with each dog to ensure the new puppy gets adequate socialization and training independently, and your older dog doesn’t feel left out. What I eventually ended up doing was enrolling both girls in obedience class and alternating each week who I took to class. This permitted me to train Maple independently from her sister and allowed me to not feel guilty for leaving Remi at home.

4. Double your expenses.

Two dogs = two bills. Training, food, board, day care, toys, dog beds, vet bills, flea and tick medications. Double it all.

5. Travelling is difficult.

If you’re someone who likes to take their dog everywhere, remember that some friends and family may welcome one dog for a visit, but not everyone can handle two. We had to find sitters much more frequently when we went from one to two for this reason. We’re lucky most of our friends and family don’t mind furry visitors, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Wrong reasons to get a second dog:

1. Do not get another dog because you think it will cure your current dog’s separation anxiety. Sometimes the anxious dog will transfer the anxiety to a companion dog, which is exactly the opposite of what you want.

2. Do not get a second dog if your current dog doesn’t genuinely like other dogs. Some people think if they bring a puppy home their current dog with aggression issues will treat it differently and finally have a friend. This is not fair to the new puppy, and it’s a dangerous idea.

3. Do not get a second dog because your family or spouse has been insisting on it and you’re tired of shutting them down. It’s a big commitment, one that everyone needs to be on board with.

4. Do not get a second dog if you aren’t financially stable enough to do so.

5. Do not get a second dog if you don’t have the space for it. Think about your backyard, whether you own or rent your home, are there noise by-laws or policies within your neighborhood/complex, is your vehicle big enough for two etc.

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