We know that most dogs are social creatures. If your dog always has extra energy to burn, adopting a second dog might be just what he needs. But before bringing another dog home, consider these questions.
Why is my dog so energetic?
It’s important to understand the cause of your dog’s exuberance before you assume a second dog is the solution. Is your dog bouncing off the walls? A second dog may help him get his energy out, but not all energy-releasing activities are equal. For some dogs, play is just what they need, but others will get overstimulated by play, which can lead to crankiness, exhaustion, injury, or a fight. Some dogs are better channeling their energy into a “job” or sport to keep them mentally stimulated instead of just physically exhausted. Before assuming a second dog is the answer, consider trying dog daycare a few times a week. Ask the staff (or watch on their live stream, if possible) how your dog interacts with the others, and note your dog's behavior when he gets home. Is he relaxed and happy, or overstimulated and cranky?
How does my current dog react to other dogs in general?
If your pooch is easygoing and friendly towards other dogs, introducing a new dog has a good chance of going smoothly. However, if you are considering getting a second dog in order to “socialize” your current pup, you could be setting yourself up for a lot of stress. That would be an unfair responsibility for the incoming dog, who’s already overwhelmed by the transition into your home. Furthermore, the socialization process only happens in a dog’s first few months of life, so any socialization training after that may require professional help, careful management, and lots of patience. If your adolescent or adult dog is selective or aggressive around other dogs, contact a qualified force-free trainer before bringing a new dog home.
How does my dog react to other dogs in his personal space?
If your dog is possessive of his food, toys, beds, or family members, this needs to be addressed before bringing a new dog into your life. Resource guarders can peacefully coexist with other dogs in some cases, but it’s important to have a plan in place before the second dog comes into the picture.
Does he get overly aroused when playing?
Having a playmate can be a fantastic way for a dog to burn energy on a regular basis. But your dog should able to regulate his arousal, so he doesn’t tip into “fight” mode during a play session. Both dogs need to have the ability to take lots of breaks during play, and to understand how to stop playing before it gets too intense.
What is my dog’s play style?
Some dogs like to wrestle while others crave a good chase. Knowing your dog’s play style will help you determine what kind of playmate he’s most suited to. Look for a second dog that finds your dog’s play style fun rather than frightful.
Is my current dog trained to my satisfaction?
This one is critical. Before even thinking about a second dog, your current dog’s training should be firmly in place, both indoors and out. If he begs at the table, destroys your furniture, pulls on leash, or barks relentlessly, those issues need to be addressed first. Once a new dog enters your home, you will likely find yourself with a lot less time to focus on dog number one.
What traits am I looking for in a new dog? Are these expectations realistic?
Looking for a dog is a bit like buying a home, in that we tend to make a long list of “must-haves,” only to find that our expectations are unrealistic. So make your list and then revise it until you have honed in on a few essential qualities that dog number two needs to have. Focus on behavioral traits rather than aesthetic ones; and if you're looking for a playmate, rule out dogs that are too big or small to safely play with your current pup. Just as with your first dog, expect the second one to have both amazing qualities and some quirks to be ironed out. Are you prepared for that?
Do I have the time for training a new dog and addressing potential behavior issues?
If you’re considering a second dog because you don’t have time to exercise the first one, you may get into hot water. Your playful new pup will likely be young and have lots of energy. I tell clients that two dogs are actually triple, not double, the work. You have to tend to the individual needs of dog one and dog two, and then also address the interactions between them. Are you prepared for the training that accompanies a new playful, energetic dog?
Choosing to get a second dog is a decision that should be led by your brain rather than your heart. By doing your homework ahead of time, you’ll be able to find the perfect canine sibling.
Kate is a certified dog behavior consultant, certified dog trainer, certified Fear Free professional, certified dog parkour instructor, and award-winning author.
The views expressed on this website belong to Kate Naito and may not reflect the views of the agencies with which she trains.