CANINE CONNECTION: Two dogs can be twice the trouble or double the fun

Dogs are like potato chips: you can’t stop at just one.

Well, maybe that’s just me.

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For many fellow dog owners, sharing a home with more than one dog is a normal way of life. We could not imagine only one dog in the home.

The reason people get a second dog is really a personal one. I enjoy the company of dogs more than the company of people and find my dogs seem more at peace when they have another four-legged companion to share their space with.

And lets face it – dogs are just plain cool. Why would you not want to have more than one?

But is having two dogs twice the fun or double the trouble?

For the most part, it is twice the fun. It’s also twice the joy and twice the love. But if you are impulsive and don’t put any forethought into the decision of bringing a second dog into the home, it can be double the trouble.

If you are thinking of bringing a second dog into the home as a way to exercise or entertain your first dog, that’s not forethought, that is your guilt.

If you don’t have enough time to exercise and interact with your first dog, you will not magically get more time when you have a second dog. In fact, it will create more work and give you less time.

Dogs take work. It takes time and work to exercise, train, clean up after, feed and show affection for your dog.

Speaking of training, if you are thinking of adding a second dog to your home, wait until your first dog is well socialized, reliably responds to voice commands and is at least two to three years of age.

Yes, that seems like a really long time to wait but there is a method to this madness. By the time a dog is three years of age they are considered an adult and if you have put in the time they should be well trained.

If your first dog is not well trained then adding a puppy will be twice the trouble. Dogs tend to feed off each other, regardless of the human in the equation. So if your first Fido is a fiend then your second one will be as well.

If you are considering adopting an adult dog rather than a puppy, wait until you have had your first dog for at least three years before adopting an adult dog for the exact same reasons. It will make your life far easier and your relationship with your dogs far more enjoyable if the first dog is well trained and socialized. 

Sometimes people think it’s a great idea to bring two puppies home from the same litter. It’s not.

The two littermates will bond with each other rather than their humans and this makes for some difficulty in training and socialization as well as managing behaviours such as impulse control and reactivity. Littermates are also more likely to display bullying and aggressive behaviours towards each other as well as other dogs.  The two-to-three year age buffer applies to littermates as well.

Also, consider your dog’s needs. You may have this grand idea that your current dog really wants a playmate, but maybe they don’t. Some dogs are happier being the only one and a second dog can cause more stress than joy. But for dogs that suffer from separation anxiety a second dog may be the cure you are looking for. 

Generally speaking, if you adhere to the two-to-three year age buffer rule, then introducing a second dog to the home usually goes without a hitch.

With proper guidance and leadership, most dogs learn how to co-habitate with each other and get along just fine, but in some cases personalities clash and a trainer will be needed to help sort out the differences and bring harmony back to the pack. This leads to the next topic: money.

Owning a dog is expensive. From food, toys, vet bills, adoption fees, training fees and more. Figure out how much your first dog costs per year then multiply that by 15 then double it. That is the amount of money it will cost you if you are planning on having a second dog.

The bottom line is to give it some thought, not act on impulse and decide if you have the time, energy and money to have a second dog. Then go ahead and have another potato chip ... or two!

Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 20 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact her at k9kinship@gmail.com.

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