Learn about the reasons dog owners have for adopting a second dog.
There are eight things to consider before adopting a second dog.
Learn about "second dog syndrome" and how to prevent falling into it.
Adopting a dog is a big undertaking. If you’ve had your dog for a while and adjusted to that lifestyle, you may be able to handle adopting a second dog. Before you do, though, there are many things to think about.
After getting a handle on being a dog owner, you may feel that you're ready to take on that challenge again. Learn common reasons that motivate some people to adopt a second dog, and you may recognize one as your own. Also, read about eight things to consider before adopting a second dog.
Reasons for Adopting a Second Dog
If you’re considering adopting a second dog, what's your reason? It may be the same reason that prompted you to adopt your first one. It is still a big decision, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Whatever your motivation is, consider that there are other reasons it may or may not be a good idea.
My First Dog Has Anxiety
A quick look at the article “Dog Owner Stress: Breaking Down the Cause and Effect” shows that anxiety is transferred from owner to pet and vice versa. The same is true of dogs. If you think adopting another dog is going to cure your first dog of their anxiety, think again. Instead of having four anxious paws, you now have eight!
If your dog has anxiety, take measures to bring their issues to a manageable level. Then, once your dog is comfortable in their environment, consider adopting a second dog. The second dog sees the first as being relaxed and follows suit.
Your Dog Needs a Friend
If you’ve tried several things to get your dog’s anxiety under control but it just isn’t working, a second dog may help though it is not a definite cure. Destructive behavior -- which is often a symptom of separation anxiety -- occurs at times when the dog is alone and bored. A companion keeps them more occupied and serves as a distraction.
If your dog has little opportunity for socialization with other dogs, a second dog serves this purpose as well. Socialization with other humans and dogs is important for healthy development. If they're always home alone, going on walks alone, and don’t have puppy playdates, they're missing out on that essential interaction.
Sharing the Love
If you have more than one child, one dog may get overwhelmed by the attention. A second dog relieves some of the pressure from the other one. Just be sure not to show more love toward one dog than the other or you create a rivalry.
Some dogs attach themselves to a particular human. If this is the case with your dog and a member of the family, the other family members may feel left out of that bonding experience. Another dog spreads the love to the rest of the household.
You Love Dogs!
Your reason may be as simple as the fact that you want more of that “puppy love” in your home. Twice the dog means twice the love, right? It also means twice the responsibility, so keep that in mind.
You also want to provide a home to another one of the many dogs available in shelters everywhere. It is a noble act to give these dogs the love that they deserve. As long as you have the time, space, and resources available to take on an additional canine companion, it's a great benefit for you both.
Eight Things To Consider Before Adopting a Second Dog
There are many things to think about when deciding whether to adopt a second dog. These are just eight of the most essential pieces involved in this process. Seriously examine each one, and apply it to your situation.
If you already have a dog, you're familiar with the cost of their daily needs as well as vaccinations, unexpected vet bills, and other issues that arise. A second dog doubles these expenses. If the second dog has any food allergies, special food may cost more.
If you're going on vacation and want to hire a dog sitter, it may be more difficult to find someone to take care of two versus just one. Take them to a boarding facility and the fee may keep you from going on your trip. If it is a dog-friendly environment, bring them along but that also means bringing along an additional carrier, supplies, and sometimes paying for airline costs.
Your first dog has found a home and it’s all theirs. Depending on how long you’ve had them, it's a well-established territory. Bringing in another member of the family is sometimes seen as a threat. If you don’t establish a positive bond between the two before bringing home the second dog, a battle may ensue.
Along with the notion of territory also comes the issue of resource guarding. According to the Animal Humane Society, there are signs to look for. “If your dog is eating faster as you approach the bowl," they say, "or moves their body to block you from it, if they freeze and/or become stiff, growl, or show teeth, they may be a resource guarder.”
The suggestion is to keep resources separate to avoid these issues. Give the new dog toys and individual food bowls. Teach them that they only receive their food when they each respond to their name. Provide two sources of water as well. Some dogs prefer drinking out of a pet fountain and some prefer a regular bowl.
Speaking of separation, if possible, have the two dogs meet in a neutral place. This eliminates the feeling that the new dog is coming into an already-established territory. If you’re adopting from a breeder, see if they’ll meet you at an agreed-upon location like a park or a friend’s house. Allow the dogs to sniff each other, but maintain control in case the interaction becomes aggressive.
When bringing the new dog home, don’t leave them alone with the other dog. Keep them in a separate room at night and monitor the time they spend together. Be aware of any signs of aggression that arise from either of them.
In the comments of the Reddit forums, experienced owners suggest “parallel walking” which consists of walking the dogs in the same direction but keeping them from contact. This should occur before they have a chance to meet. This way, they get used to being around each other before interacting.
4. Size Matters
If you have a St. Bernard and you decide that you’d like to bring home a pomeranian puppy, you might want to reconsider. Even if “Beethoven” is a docile dog, during innocent playtime their size and strength have the potential to injure the petite pom. If they decide to snuggle in the same bed together, the bigger dog can inadvertently smother the smaller one.
You may think that a dog is more compatible with another dog of the same gender. This appears not to be the case in most instances, though there are exceptions. Golden retrievers, for instance, are more laid back and are more likely to get along with another dog of the same sex.
In a 2018 article from Pet Medical Center of Vero Beach, they say, “In some cases, two dogs of the same sex may get along fine, but some experts feel it is best to choose a new pup of the opposite sex. Same-sex dogs may become rivals, and there is a greater chance of competition between the two. If you want to play it safe, team your female dog with a male counterpart and vice versa.”
One important aspect to consider is whether either or both dogs are spayed or neutered. If not, having two dogs of opposite genders results in not one additional dog, but several. This requires much additional preparation.
6. Second Dog Syndrome
After having your first dog for a while, you think you have everything under control. Your dog has been professionally trained and they are responding well. Now that you know everything there is to know about training, a second dog should be a breeze, right?
“Second Dog Syndrome” is when owners rely on their first dog to teach the second dog how to behave. Owners forget how much work it was to train their first one and think that the second one simply falls in line. Unfortunately, things don’t work like that.
If your second dog isn't trained and you allow the two dogs to have a lot of interaction at first, your first dog easily reverts to bad habits from being around the second dog. They may also end up forming a stronger bond with each other rather than you. This is another reason to keep them separated for a while at first.
Your second dog needs as much formal training as the first one. If your first dog is well-trained, it's not a bad idea for them to be around while training the second one as long as they aren’t a distraction to each other. You know your dogs best, so make the decision based on what you observe. If you go to a professional trainer, follow his or her advice on this matter.
7. Adopting Two Dogs At Once
If you don’t have a dog yet and are thinking about whether to adopt one dog or two, some issues may be avoided by adopting the second one at the same time as the first. Adding a second dog later may be a bigger adjustment than adopting two from the start.
Erin Ollila is a contributing writer for Hill’s Pet Nutrition. In an article from September 2022, she writes about adopting two dogs. She points out that sometimes dogs are brought into shelters as a pair. In some of these cases, the shelter allows them to be adopted only as a pair. This is a good thing, as it helps to cut down on issues like separation anxiety.
In cases like these, you don’t have to worry about taking time to introduce the dogs, allowing them to warm up to each other, keeping them separate, or being territorial because the dogs are already accustomed to one another. They still must have time to become acclimated to their new environment and their new owners, of course. It's easier in some cases to train them together as well.
8. Preventing Anxiety
“Pick Me! Adopting a Dog Means Changing a Life" discusses the "3-3-3 Rule" when it comes to adopting a new dog. Remind yourself of how long it took for your first dog to adjust to their new environment. Your new dog needs the same adjustment period, though some take less time or longer than others.
Your new dog is exposed to unfamiliar sounds and sights and these are especially noticeable at night. They are in a new place and likely nervous, and you want to prevent that anxiety as much as possible. Give your dog a calming dog bed to make their sleeping routine as comfortable as it has the potential to be.
Also, think about the breed of dog you get. Making sure one of the breeds is more laid back, like a golden retriever, helps to ease the transition and relationship between the two. Each breed has their tendencies and each dog has their personality, so you end up with a fun mix.
Don’t Put Your Second Dog in Second Place
Adopting a second dog comes with a lot of forethought and careful consideration. Above all, you don’t want to neglect their needs -- especially at the beginning of the relationship. You also don’t want to ignore your first dog and consequently make them feel unimportant.
If at all possible, have the two dogs meet before you bring the second one home as a permanent resident. If for some reason, they just do not get along, it’s more difficult to find an alternative solution if the adoption is finalized. Overall, adopting a second dog comes with a lot of consideration and responsibility, but it has the potential to have a great ending.