Updated: Jan 17
So, you've got a dog that you love and that you couldn't imagine your life without. Your dog is such an important part in your home; your life is good. You wonder if your dog could be happier if they had a friend - especially since your current dog is well mannered, calm and just so good. You think to yourself, The second dog would fit right in, no questions asked!
Or, flip to the other side of the coin - maybe your dog is anxious and showing tendencies that aren't necessarily the most positive. A friend told you a second dog would really help your anxious dog to exert their energy and give them a companion. The itching thought begins to tap you on the shoulder frequently: Should I get a second dog?
This is where I come in, waving my hands, yelling: STOOOOOOOOOOOP! Wait! I have so much to tell you!
Let me start off by saying: I love having two dogs. Could I imagine life without my two dogs? Probably not. But did I always love having two dogs? Hard, firm, passionate: No.
You see, prior to getting Rosie (our second), I thought we had done all the research. I had talked to friends, read articles, blogs, talked to what seemed like a million people in multiple dog households. Honestly, I was fed nothing but amazing reviews and remarks. Looking back, I never had one negative review; the only reoccurring "negative" comment that I received from almost every person I asked was that it was harder to walk two dogs at once. That's nothing we can't handle, I thought naively. Knowing what I know now, this should've been a huge red flag.
Here's a list of things that I wish others had told me prior to getting another dog:
Are you ready financially?
I know this one seems obvious when adding another four legged friend. But think hard - are you really ready? Not only are you doubling your food, vet, training, boarding, and overall life costs, but you're also doubling your possibility for financial emergencies. While we thought we were financially ready to add another dog, Rosie was met with unknown health issues in the first two weeks alone that cost us well over $2,500. Her mystery medical issues then continued for over a month, where we were met with countless tests, x-rays, a vet switch, expensive food changes, and lots of stress and tears. This is why I always recommend having pet insurance or an emergency savings account strictly for your pets.
Ask yourself: If one or both dogs have an emergency situation, am I willing and able to provide proper care?
2. Do you KNOW your current dog?
This question is one that I urge people to be honest about. Know your dog- how are they with other dogs? When I say this, I'm not necessarily talking about on a walk or in public spaces. How are they with other dogs in their home and yard?
Think harder still. Is your dog anxious? Well mannered? Poorly mannered? Adding a second dog can disrupt your first dog's routine in every way possible, creating a domino effect in the home. Your current dog may regress in training, display new behaviors, or not act “themselves”.
Lastly, think worst case scenario: If your current dog is happy, healthy, and thriving - are you willing to risk this just because you want a second dog? Will they truly benefit? While many dogs transition fabulously together, there are also some horror stories out there, even with dogs who seem to get on great with no issues. Read this article here, where Gaby Dufresne-Cyr (trainer of over 30+ years) discusses that it's not uncommon for a new dog to kill your first dog, with little to no warning. While this is a bit on the extreme end to think about, it's something that should be thought of nonetheless.
Ask Yourself: How would I feel if my first dog's behaviors and personality started changing?
OR, the dreaded question...
Ask Yourself: What if the dogs cause injury to one another? What will I do?
3. Do you know your limits?
Adding a second dog can be great - until it's not. If your dog(s) don't get along, what's your game plan? Are you willing to potentially spend upward of $1,000+ on training or behavioral help, should you need it? If worst comes to worst, are you willing to rehome one of the dogs for the safety of both dogs, if absolutely necessary? These are all things that should be addressed so that you know your limits going into this big life change. Adding a second dog can have stressful points for every member in the household (yourself included).
In our case, when we added Rosie, the stress of her medical issues (which included extreme incontinence), the inability to properly socialize her, as well as multiple other stressors that occurred due to said medical issues had me at my breaking point.
Ask Yourself: How much added stress can I take on right now?
4. What are your future travel plans like?
Most places that are "dog friendly" have a one dog limit, depending on size. This can potentially effect future travel plans should you be an active family that wants to take their dogs with them when they travel. While there are places that accept 2, they can be harder to find (especially if you have larger breeds).
Ask Yourself: Am I willing to leave the dogs at home, and/or change travel plans to accommodate our new addition?
5. Have you thought about dog sitting?
I was always able to find a dog sitter without issue when we had Bindi, but I felt guilty asking anyone to watch both dogs once we added Rosie. After all, it's a lot harder to ask people to dog sit when you have multiple dogs (it's a big ask!). Multiple dogs require more care and time from a dog sitter, as well as the ability to control and read K9 body language.
Ask Yourself: Do I know someone willing and able to dog sit, if needed? Or will I have to hire/outsource?
6. Are you prepared if your second dog is polar opposite to your current dog?
What happens all too often is that we’re so happy with our first dog and how their demeanour is, that we forget how different dogs as individuals can be. We hold dog #2 to dog #1’s standards, which can backfire pretty quickly in our faces. For example, maybe dog #1 nailed potty training, basic commands and has a mellow, chill personality. It can feel pretty defeating if dog #2 doesn’t perfect these ideals to the same degree in the same time period, and maybe throw in that dog #2 is more anxious and mildly reactive. Maybe dog #2 needs more time, more money spent towards training, and more one on one confidence building than your first dog did. If this happens, are you prepared?
Ask Yourself: If my second dog is the polar opposite to my first dog (in good ways and bad) will I be okay with this?
To conclude, having two dogs has completed our home in so many ways. There are so many positives to adding a second dog to your home - the love, bond, joy and life moments our dogs have given us as well as each other have been worth every negative. That being said, I strive to be as open and honest as possible because the truth is, we were very lucky. Our girls got along immediately, which we’re very thankful for. It doesn’t always turn out like this, especially with dogs of the same gender.
So, if you’re looking at getting a second - I urge you not to be scared, but to go into your search with transparency. Be honest with yourself and don’t believe everything you see on Instagram (there are multiple big dog Instagram accounts out there who have issues in their multiple dog households, which is completely normal but largely not talked about!). Try to realize everything you see online is often posed through rose coloured glasses.
My final piece of advice is this. In your search, be prepared for the worst; this way, you’re aware of the potential outcomes and anything positive will feel that much more amazing. In the end, to add a dog or not to add a dog may be the question - but how you go about your research, and how you answer that question within yourself is the most important step in the right direction.
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