No, Really, a Second Dog Won’t Help
“Well I have finally compromised with my husband. We are looking for a male rottie (playmate) for our male rottie. Ours is 9 months old and full of energy! … He needs a buddy :(, my lil chi’s dont like him and really I dont blame them, he is huge !!!!! I am at my last straw because I do love him but he has way to much energy for us alone. He goes out back and we play with him some but you can just tell he needs a buddy to jump around with.” (actual post I saw on Craigslist recently)
Anyone want to venture a guess at just how well this is going to work out? What do you think is going to happen in the long run?
There are very few instances where getting a second dog might help resolve a behavior problem–there are even fewer instances where getting another dog will likely likely fix a behavior problem and even fewer (if any) instances where getting a second dog will resolve a behavior issue. Unfortunately, the owner never really knows if it will help until after the second dog is adopted/purchased and by that point he/she has committed to caring for the second dog forever. So, if it doesn’t help, there is huge potential for the idea to backfire and create two dogs with that particular issue .
The only behavior I’ve personally (within my own household) seen improved by adding a dog in the home is separation anxiety. If you have a dog who loves other dogs and who has some separation anxiety problems, sometimes adding a low-key adult dog can help reduce the separation anxiety. They don’t feel so alone when they have a buddy in the house with them while the handlers are away from the home. I really think Linus may be a dog like this–the first time he was left alone, I left him crated in my room with DAP and TADE. I was only gone an hour and I came back to a dog who was panting, had flushed skin, and who had some scrapes on his nose. I video taped him the next few times I left and he would scream, bark, pant, pace/spin, whine, and rub his nose on the crate trying to find a weak-point and escape for hours on end. During one of the videos, I noticed that Rio had walked through the room and when he did, Linus quieted down for a moment (Rio didn’t stay around but a minute, I suspect the barking and screaming before hand kept him away).
I eventually tried leaving him gated with the other dogs in another room (not crated) and between being out of the crate and being with other dogs, the pacing, barking, screaming, etc. pretty much stopped. He would have flickers of barking or what not but they lasted only a few seconds. Being with the other dogs made him more comfortable when being left alone–he was so much more comfortable with his own kind that it didn’t surprise me that he did better when left with them. However, I think he is a bit of an anomaly. There are many more dogs whose separation anxiety is not at all affected (in a positive way) by the addition of another dog.
More often than not, the addition of a second dog actually increases the problem behaviors–both ones the dog had prior to the new dog but also new ones as a result of the new dog. Dogs learn from one another and while sometimes they learn good things (like routines and expectations) they often learn the bad things. Hyper untrained teen dogs do not magically become calm and trained adult dogs when another dog is added to the mix. Reactive dogs (though not aggressive) will not suddenly become socially graceful and non-reactive by adding another dog to the home (even if the two dogs become friends).
Two dogs are twice the work. Instead of having to train 1 dog, you must train two. Instead of exercising 1 dog, you must exercise two. While you may be able to do some of the training and exercising as a pair, there are many times that training and exercise need to be separate between the two dogs. Which means it takes twice the time to exercise and twice the time to train.
My suggestion when asked by folks if they should get a second dog (for whatever reason) is almost always, “Not unless you are happy with where your curent dog is in terms of his/her training, behavior, and socialization.” I also tend to ask people a few questions just so they can start seeing a more realistic picture, “are you happy with your current dog’s behavior in most any situation? Pulling on leash, greeting people, recalling, focus, etc (I’ll suggest behaviors meaningful for each individual)” Most often than not there are some complaints of behavior–sometimes they are serious, other times more superficial but my next question helps the guardians see the big picture, “When your new dog starts doing X behavior (whatever they mentioned is a behavior they currently don’t like from their dog), what is going to be your course of action? Are you going to be ready to fix that unwanted behavior in two dogs?” That question seems to get the guardian to connect the dots and realize that adding a new dog because of the current dog’s behavior issue is not generally the most wise decision and often backfires.
Adding a second dog is almost never the answer when dealing with unwanted behaviors in dogs. It may seem like a good idea on the surface (a playmate to help tire out my very energetic teen dog) but it often results in either no change in behavior or a worsening of the situation by now having two dogs with issues (both dogs, the playmate and the original, may spend some time playing but now both are under exercised, under stimulated, and causing trouble).
The best time to add a dog to your home is when you are already happy with the behavior of the resident dog(s).