Deciding whether or not you should get a second dog is a big question that deserves serious thought.
As a trainer, it’s one I wish more owners would consider before adding a second four-footer to their family. But all too often, owners only reach out for help after they’ve already brought home a new pooch.
And by that time, the problems have already manifested.
Whether this manifests as disharmony between the “old dog” and the new one, routines set completely asunder, or poor matches between humans and the new dog, adding a new canine family member can cause a lot of problems.
Sometimes getting a new dog works out great; sometimes, not so much.
But, while there are no guarantees, you can definitely increase your chances of success by keeping a few things in mind.
We’ll explain the most important factors to keep in mind, and provide some guidance for adding a new dog to the family below!
Should You Get a Second Dog: Key Takeaways
- Consider the resources you have to devote to a second dog and your current dog’s attitude toward other dogs. If you don’t have the time, money, and energy to care for another dog, or your current canine doesn’t like other dogs, it may simply be a bad idea to add a new pooch to the family.
- If you do decide to get a second dog, pick one that satisfies a few important criteria. This includes being in a good complimentary age range and of the opposite gender of your first, among other things.
Primary Considerations: Should I Get a Second Dog?
When thinking about adding a new member to the family, you need to take a lot into account.
For starters, you’ll need to think about your current household, your yard space, and your time, but there are plenty of other things you’ll need to ponder too.
Here is the list of all the things you need to contemplate:
How will your first dog feel about a new addition?
Your original dog’s feelings about a new family member should at the top of your list of considerations.
The number one complaint I get as a dog trainer is that a new dog or puppy is not getting along with the “old dog” or that the existing dog is jealous of the new puppy.
This predominantly happens with families who have a mature dog (5 or more years old) and then bring home a rowdy puppy.
Here’s the thing: Puppies are annoying.
I know it sounds bad, and I don’t mean it in a mean way, but it’s the truth! They jump, they climb, they chew, and they lick, and lick, and lick. They are incredible sources of energy and cuteness, but they are a lot to keep up with.
Simply put, most adult dogs do not want to help raise a puppy.
My clients will say really nice things like “I thought they could be friends” or “I didn’t want him to be bored at home while I’m at work,” but those things don’t reflect what their current dog was actually feeling or thinking.
Instead, they mistakenly made some assumptions about their dog’s needs.
This can even happen with bringing home an adult dog, rather than a puppy. Maturity isn’t a guarantee that the dogs will be on the same page.
I think about trying to get a frat boy to live with my grandmother. They simply would not mix.
So, look at your current dog closely.
What types of things does he enjoy doing? Would he enjoy MMA fighting or is he more of a New York Times crossword puzzle kind of guy?
Would he like a full-time roommate or family member, or maybe he would just prefer to go to the dog park to socialize a little more often?
Think of your best friend (who doesn’t run around on four legs), or a sibling. You love them, but would you want to spend 24 hours a day, every day of the year with them? That’s what you’re asking of your current dog when you bring in a second one.
Some ways to tell if your dog would just like to go to “yappy hour” versus getting a full-time roommate, is to gauge how tired he gets — and how quickly he becomes tired — after a playdate.
Does he just sleep the car ride home, or is he zonked for the entire day?
If your dog is really “mellow” or “tired” after having dog-dog interactions, this may not be a reflection of energy fatigue, but mental or emotional fatigue. It might be fun to play with the other dogs, but it may also be really, really draining for him.
Think about an introvert having to be in a busy environment. It’s not that he can’t handle the busy environment, or all the socialization, but rather that afterwards he needs A LOT of calm, quiet time to decompress.
These individuals (dogs or humans) really value their quiet easy routine at home. Adding a second dog can disturb that routine permanently.
And, living with two dogs who don’t get along ain’t easy, so really question whether it’s a lifestyle you’re willing to take on.
Does your current dog get along with other dogs?
It seems like a silly question, but many people fail to consider their dog’s attitude about other dogs when considering a second canine.
“Sure,” many think, “he hates other dogs at the park, the groomer, the vet’s office, on walks, and on TV, but if it’s his brother, surely he’ll love ‘em? If we get a puppy and raise it with him, it’ll be okay right?”
Not necessarily, because dog-dog relationships are complicated things.
Some dogs have issues with dogs outside of the family unit, but get along fantastically with dogs who’re part of their family unit. On the other hand, some dogs won’t get along well with other doggos in their domicile, yet get along with most dogs they meet in the outside world.
Also, note that your first dog’s feelings about the second may change over time. Many dogs will tolerate puppies because, socially speaking, they know puppies are still learning social norms.
But as soon as that puppy hits “adulthood” they’ll begin having issues. “I put up with your bullhockey when you were a baby, but now it’s time to put you in your place.” That’s why the “If I raise them together it’ll be alright” notion doesn’t hold water.
I’ll talk about this in further detail below, but understand that behavior “runs downhill.” Meaning the worst behaviors your current dog has will often trickle down to the new dog.
So, if you have a dog-aggressive dog, and then you bring in a new dog, you might end up with two dog-aggressive dogs.
You may even potentially find yourself in a situation where you’re constantly struggling to stop your two family dogs from fighting, and of course, that’s no fun for anyone!
Is your first dog fully house trained?
As I mentioned before, behavior runs downhill, and this includes things like potty training.
If your initial dog is still struggling with potty training, it’s really not a good idea to bring in another poop machine. If the standard in the house currently is pottying can happen anywhere, then that’s the standard the new dog will adopt.
So, for the sake of your floors (and sanity), don’t even consider adding a new pet to your pack until your current four-footers are completely house trained.
Does your current dog have any serious behavioral conditions?
Say your dog gets along with other dogs, but he is fearful of strangers, or has a high prey drive and is really really bad about chasing the cat. Or, maybe he has separation anxiety, which can be very challenging to manage.
These types of behaviors take a lot of time and dedication on the owner’s part to manage and address. You don’t want to complicate the situation and make things harder by adding a second pupper to the mix.
So, avoid the temptation to add a new doggo to your family until you’ve successfully solved your current dog’s behavioral issues.
Does your current dog have any significant medical problems?
Medical conditions can be just as time consuming as behavioral problems.
Whether your dog suffers from diabetes, seizure disorders, mobility issues, or any other health problem, you’ll find that your dog requires a lot of care and attention from you.
If your first dog requires a lot of your time, it is not fair to bring in another dog who simply cannot get equal amounts of attention.
So, think carefully about your dog’s health status before adding another pooch to your home.
If your original dog’s medical condition is likely to last for years, a second puppy just may not be in the cards for you. But, if it is only a temporary issue (say, your dog is recovering from surgery), then you can begin considering a second canine once your doggo has fully recovered and put the medical problem in the rear-view mirror.
Has your current dog mastered basic obedience training?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, behavior runs downhill. And this includes problems involving your dog’s manners and basic obedience.
When clients talk to me about getting a second dog, I always look at their first dog. I ask if the dog comes reliably, can greet people politely, chill out with the family, and walk nicely on a loose leash. These are basic skills I expect of a family pet.
If their current dog is still working on mastering these skills, I suggest the clients work on that first, before adding another pair of paws.
Once a new dog comes into the picture, it’ll be all that more challenging to address your first dog’s problems or shortcomings.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as the saying goes, and your new dog will likely be the squeaky wheel. So, it’s important to make sure all the other wheels are already in tip top shape.
Bottom line: Be sure your current dog is behaving like you want him to before adding a second four-footer to your family.
Do you have the time to dedicate to a new dog?
Assume that your new dog will need at least six months of consistent interaction and training to get in a routine (and make that a year if you’re picking up a new puppy).
And because you want the new dog to bond to you and not the other dog (yes, you want them to be friends, but you need to be really important) you will need to have a lot of quality one on one time with the new dog.
This means you will need to take the new dog to training classes, and you’ll want to go for walks without your original dog too. If your new pet is a puppy, you’ll also be seeing your vet pretty dang frequently for the first few months, and taking him out on socialization activities.
This sets up an obvious conflict: You’ll need to spend a lot of time with your new pooch, but you need to be fair to your current dog, and still ensure daily quality time with him too.
It’s a big responsibility. I’m a professional dog trainer and I still fondly recall my life as a single dog household.
The takeaway from all this is that you’ll need to be sure you not only have enough time to devote to your new dog’s needs, but you’ll also need to continue to provide your first dog with the time and attention he deserves.
Do you have the room for another dog?
Another thing you’ll want to consider is the physical space your new pooch will take up. And this doesn’t just mean the actual four-footer — his stuff will take up a lot of space too.
For example, your new pooch will likely need some or all of the following things:
- A crate
- A container for his food
- A box of toys
- A bed
- Training gear
The list goes on, but the point is your new pet will impose a significant spatial footprint. So, be sure you have enough space to fairly accommodate your second floof before you bring him home.
And, of course, the size of your new dog factors into this as well. A Great Dane is going to need a lot more square footage than a Pomeranian.
While we’re on the subject of space, be sure to consider the amount of space you’ll need in your vehicle too.
You may need to load up the pups for a trip to the vet or the dog park, and you’ll need to be able to safely accommodate them both. If your pack gets big enough, you may need to opt for a larger SUV specifically because of your doggos!
Does a new dog fit into your long-term plans?
You’ll also need to think about the long-term time commitment, your new pet will represent.
Raising a puppy takes a huge amount of time, energy, and dedication. But many adult dogs require a lot of time too.
If you’re thinking about going to school or working towards a promotion that will lead to more hours on the clock, it’s not fair to bring a new dog into the family.
Sure, you have time now, but you may fully expect to be working 90 hours a week in the next two years. Plan for your future and add to the family accordingly.
This is one of the reasons I enjoy working with retirees so much. They’ve finished their working life, and are ready to dedicate hours and hours on their new dogs!
Is your current dog fully vaccinated?
For the health and safety of your new pooch, you’ll want to wait to add a new pup to your pack until your current dog has up-to-date vaccinations. This is not only important for your first dog, but it’s very important for your second doggo too.
This is especially noteworthy for owners considering adding a puppy to the fam, as young puppies are vulnerable to a number of health problems when they’re young — this includes things that may not be terribly dangerous for an adult dog, but potentially lethal for a young and incompletely vaccinated pooch.
And, in general, you’ll want to ask yourself if you are able to get your original dog — as well as your new pooch — the regular medical care he requires for healthy maintenance?
If it’s a struggle to get your current dog to the vet just for those yearly shots, it’ll be even harder to do so once you have two dogs.
Are your landlord, roommates, and family on board?
It’s important to consider how the other humans in your life will feel about a new pet before you bring one home.
If, for example, you don’t own your living space, you of course have to know if your landlord has any pet policies.
Specifically, you’ll need to know if your landlord will even allow you to have a second dog, and respect his or her wishes. Sneaking a second dog in is not fair to anyone, especially the dog.
Just look at the Facebook pages of shelter and rescue groups. Many will have pictures of pets and list the reason for owner surrender, “rental policy.” Don’t get a second dog, then find out your apartment or rental house has a one-pet policy.
This goes for the people you live with as well. Talk with your roommates or family before bringing in a new dog. For all you know, your roommate may think your poodle was fine, but your new Chihuahua may be a problem. Or maybe your housemates already feel busy enough with your current dog.
It seems a little nuts, but trainers often hear clients say “I didn’t even want another dog! They just showed up with this one!”
So, if your spouse, sibling, parent, or roommate is not up for having another dog in his or her life, you should respect that. Because even if the second dog will be “your dog,” everyone in the house will have to interact with him.
Can you afford a second dog?
Your budget is always a concern when considering the addition of a new dog. Simply put, you’ll always need to decide whether or not you can afford a second dog.
Think about all of the costs your new dog will represent, including:
- Water dishes, food dishes, and other basic husbandry needs
- A second crate
- Another leash and collar
- Additional treats
- Training classes
- Veterinary care
And on, and on, and on…
You get the point. Each dog in your family is going to represent a surprisingly large sum of money – monthly and over the course of his lifetime.
Assume there will be surprise veterinary medical bills, especially as he gets older. Some dogs have to go onto daily medication, or have injuries that require orthopedic surgery.
You have to be fair to yourself and the new dog. Can you really afford it?
How old is your current dog?
Adding another dog into the family is a balancing act, and that includes considering the ages of the dogs in question.
Generally speaking, you’ll want all dogs in the family to be at least two years apart in age.
Two years apart in age means you won’t have two puppies, or two adolescents running around at the same time. It takes most dogs and owners two years to work through the training process and establish good, healthy, and productive routines anyway.
You don’t want to select a second dog that’s significantly older or younger than your first dog, either. Don’t, for example, add a new puppy to your home if you already have a senior dog.
You do not need some young pup jumping on grandpa Fluffy.
His joints are going to be stiffer, his energy-level will be lower, and his bones more delicate. Your senior dog deserves his golden years to be peaceful and fun, not filled with the antics of some hooligan!
The Pros and Cons of Getting a Second Dog
There are a lot of pros and a lot of cons to adding a second dog to your family. A good standard to shoot for when thinking about getting a second dog is that you have more pros than cons on your list.
Read through the following pros and cons and see which ones apply to you and your household.
The Pros of Adding a New Dog to Your Family:
- Each individual dog brings something new to the family. Your current dog might love cuddling on the sofa, but hate going out on long hikes. By getting a hiking buddy, you can have the best of both worlds. This is true for lifestyle and training goals. Some dogs are going to be better at nose work, or agility, others still more suitable for therapy dog work or couch cuddling. By getting a second dog, you can add to your list of activities.
- A second dog can serve as a playmate for your first. When dogs are dog-dog social, having someone to play with can be a blast. No matter how fun we humans try to be, we can never be as fun as romping with a great canine companion.
- More canine cuddling! Multiple human family members means you need multiple canine cuddle buddies, so it makes sense to add a second doggo if you’re not flying solo. It’s just math.
- A second dog can take over when your first dog starts to age. Let’s say you enjoy training or canine sports, but your older dog is slowing down. You can take the pressure off of him by adding younger energy to pick up the load. This is also true for working dogs, like ranch dogs or livestock guardian dogs.
- The emotional support a second dog provides. This is a two-sided coin, which I’ll address in the cons list as well, but when you do have a new friend, it’s the best feeling in the world.
The Cons of Adding a New Dog to Your Family:
- You’ll have to invest more time with your canines. A new dog will require a lot of your time. And this includes time spent acclimating, raising, training, exercising, feeding, bathing, and playing with your new pooch. Time, time, time.
- Adding a new dog will require tons of energy. Your routine will be changed, and you will have to allot more of your energy toward a second dog.
- A new dog will create more expenses. You gotta have that kibble money, you know?
- Your new dog will require a significant emotional investment. You’ll have to invest a ton of emotional energy into your new dog, so be sure you have enough to spare. And this not only means happy emotions — you’ll also have to deal with the frustration, sadness, and occasional guilt that comes along with dog ownership.
- A second dog will increase the noise level in your home. The more dogs you add to your pack, the nosier it gets. If you’re particularly fond of your quiet life, keep the noise factor in mind.
- You’ll have to clean more. If one dog sheds enough to fill a bucket, then two will fill a wheelbarrow. The more dogs you add to the house, even low-shedding breeds, the more mud, dandruff, slobber, yard debris, and dead squirrels you’ll have in the house. Okay, maybe not the squirrels, unless your dogs are particularly good at hunting! But you get the point.
Picking Out a Second Pooch: Important Guidelines
Still think a second dog is a good idea? Good, but keep reading.
Picking out a dog should be like interviewing someone for a job. There are a lot of requirements to be filled for this family member position, and you want to make sure you find the best candidate.
Here are the things you should keep in mind while searching:
First and foremost, you need to consider the age of your soon-to-be pet. Decide, for example, if you’re ready to raise a puppy. Remember: It takes about a year to raise a puppy and two years to establish healthy routines.
Regardless of whether you decide on a puppy or an adult dog, be sure that your new dog is at least two years younger or older than your first dog.
It’s also important to consider the sex of your new canine carefully. Some dogs don’t get along well with other members of the same sex.
Dogs of the same sex will often see each other as competitors, who’re both vying for the same resources.
However, female dogs generally don’t see males as competition and vice versa. So, to even your odds against sex-specific aggression, get a dog who is the opposite sex of your first dog.
Breed (or Combination Thereof)
You have to consider the breed makeup of your new pooch before you bring him home. Think about what the original purpose was for that breed and decide if the tendencies associated with the breed will work well with you and your new pooch.
Specifically, you will need to look at your first dog’s breed(s) and the prospective second dog’s breeds. There are genuinely some dogs we have designed to have a proclivity to have awareness or aggression towards other canines.
Live stock guardian breeds, for example, are supposed to stay with the herds, and protect the herds from predators, like coyotes, feral dogs, and wolves. Such dogs may have a harder time getting along with other doggos.
Energy level can also be an issue.
Herding breeds, for example, are supposed to run, and run, and run, all day, every day. They are intense, tenacious, and fast! If your current dog is a couch potato, they may not get along well.
Weight and size discrepancies also matter. You do not want to bring in a giant Great Dane puppy to live alongside your Yorkie. The chances of accidental injury are too high!
Also associated with your new pet’s breed is the level of grooming he’ll require.
If, for example, your current pooch is a Husky that requires lots of frequent brushing, you may want to opt for a second dog with lower maintenance requirements.
Even hairless dogs require special maintenance, as well as jammies, sunblock, and frequent bathing. Really just consider what you’re up for, and keep that in mind when selecting.
Is the canine you’re considering an adult dog who only lived with women and therefore is nervous of men?
Is he a puppy who has no history and therefore you will have to impart everything into him? Is he a retired military dog who might have noise phobia?
You need to know who they are before you can decide if they will be happy in your family.
Pay particular attention to the behavioral issues that will influence the way your first dog gets along with the second one. For example, you probably want to avoid dogs with histories of dog aggression.
Bringing Home Your New Dog: The Basic Plan
You always want a plan when you are getting ready to bring home a new dog. Jumping in blindly and hoping for the best, especially when it comes to dog-dog introductions, is just a bad idea.
The first thing to do when introducing new dogs is to do it on neutral ground. This is to say, not at your house or your current canine’s turf. Your current dog is less likely to have adverse reactions to a new dog if they meet on neutral ground.
This way your current dog doesn’t feel like he’s having to protect his territory, and the new dog isn’t an invader.
If you’re introducing a puppy to an older dog, do it somewhere sanitary if your puppy has not been fully vaccinated yet. For adult dogs, try a park or empty tennis court.
Start by taking both dogs on a walk, on leash, near each other but not touching. Let them see each other and walk and sniff around but not interact directly with each other.
Then, once you’re fairly sure they’ll get along and both dogs have calmed down, remove their leashes.
The off leash part is really important, and I know it can freak some people out. But the leash itself can create conflict in the dogs.
It can make one dog feel as if he is at a disadvantage so he has to be more assertive, or cause one to have strange or even aggressive body language.
The leash also forces dogs to be in one place, which may foster fear. So, find a safe, fenced area and let them meet off leash. If you’re really really worried, you can leave the leashes attached — just let them go.
While the dogs are meeting, no matter what, keep moving around while the dogs are meeting each other If you stand still and watch, huddled up and staring, maybe even holding your breath or leaning forward, the dogs may interpret this as aggressive body language.
If you look like you’re getting ready for a fight, the dogs are much more likely to believe there will be a dog fight. Instead, walk around, be casual, and talk to your friend while they mingle.
When the dogs start running and having fun, continue to keep yourself in motion too. Don’t favor any particular dog, so don’t pet or talk to one over the other else you create a competition for resources (you).
With the initial introduction handled, you can move into the house. Just be careful of resources like chews, food and toys.
Keep all of those things up and out of sight during these initial introductions and just have the dogs get to know each other without those complicating factors.
Keep a very close eye on the dogs for the first few weeks and always ensure each dog has his own space to go to. You do not want them on top of each other constantly.
Someone will need a break, so provide them with two beds, two crates, and two water bowls, and be sure to place them in different areas of the room. You may want to employ the use of a few indoor dog gates as well.
Personally, I never leave new dogs alone in the house out of the crate while I’m gone.
Because you have a new dog at this point, be extra careful to do special things with your original dog. This means you’ll want to spend some one-on-one, quality time with your original pooch so he does not feel neglected. After all, he was your first best friend!
Supplies, Tools & Toys: Things You Need Before Bringing Home a Second Dog
When bringing home a new doggo, you will need two of everything your current dog has. This includes leashes, collars, harnesses, and crates.
It’s really important that you not ask your dog to share things like chew bones, beds, crates or bowls. Each dog should have his own.
Important resources, like food bowls or beds, are things that can cause tension and fights. Better to make sure each dog has his own so he doesn’t have to fight for the best spot in the house.
Of course you’ll need double the dog food and medications like flea and heartworm prevention, as well as things like sweaters and coats for winter.
Getting a Second Dog: Common Mistakes
We all make mistakes with dogs, but you can avoid the most common ones if you know what to look for. Here are a few of the most common mutt-mistakes you’ll want to watch out for:
- Getting a second dog to help bolster your first dog’s confidence. If you have a fearful dog, and you think getting a second dog would make him feel braver, think again. Best case scenario, your second dog loves people and is brave and your first dog is still afraid; worst case scenario, your frightened dog tells the brave dog that people are scary and bad.
- Getting a second dog because your first dog is bored and destructive. While adding another dog could alleviate some of the boredom, you’re only treating a symptom instead of the illness. Eventually, you will have two bored, destructive dogs on your hands.
- The first dog was so easy to train. Having a second will be a breeze. Just because your first dog was easy to train doesn’t mean your second dog will follow suit. All dogs are individuals, so don’t assume you’ll have two easy dogs.
- It was love at first sight. Yikes! This is a particularly common (and tragic) mistake. Even I can look good in a photo, but a photo is not a good indicator of who I am as a person (hint: I’m a pain in the rear). A photo is not a good indicator of who a dog is. Do not pick out your next dog based on a cute picture online.
Getting a Second Dog FAQs
Have a lot of questions about the right way to add a second dog to your family? You’re not alone! Most folks considering a second canine have questions, so we’ve tried to answer some of the most common ones below!
Should I get a second dog?
Maybe yes, maybe no. You’ll need to ask a lot of questions about yourself, your life, your family, and your budget before you know the answer to that. And then you should probably ask someone objective who has professional dog-care experience.
What is a good age to get a second dog?
Your first dog should be no younger than 2 and no older than 8. As to the age of the dog you’re adding, that will depend on if you’re going puppy or adult dog. For a puppy, pick one that’s at least 8 weeks old and preferably 10. For an adult dog, there is no age limit!
Will getting a second dog change my first dog?
Yes — it absolutely will change your dog. He may be thrilled, or he may be annoyed. He may realize that chewing on the furniture again sounds like an awesome idea. He may get more exercise which in turn makes him more tired at night or in better shape. It will change everyone in the house.
How much extra work is getting a second dog?
A lot. A lot a lot. A LOT. I say this not to scare you, but to be sure you really know what you’re signing up for. There is a lot of joy, but there is also a lot of work.
Will a second dog keep my first dog company?
Your second dog may keep your first dog company, but only if they like each other and are compatible.
Will a second dog make my first dog jealous?
While jealousy is not the right word, the addition of a second dog could add tension to the family dynamic.
Resources like your time and snuggles will now be distributed between two dogs instead of just your original dog. Some dogs don’t mind sharing, but others do.
What is second dog syndrome?
This happens when the second dog is poorly socialized because the owner just lets the original dog and the new dog hang out.
The owner doesn’t go to the effort of taking the second dog out for playing, walks, desensitization, and socialization.
The owner thinks the first dog will teach the second dog everything he needs to know. If the second dog is at all prone to nervousness, then the first dog becomes a crutch for the second dog and he never learns how to interact with the world on his own. He becomes fearful or even aggressive.
Having dogs in our lives can be incredible sources of joy, fun and love. But you need to consider carefully if your family is suitable and ready for a second dog. Don’t rush into anything, that way you can make the best decision possible!
Are you or someone you know considering getting a second dog? What are the factors you take into consideration? Let us know below!