Should I get another dog?
December 10, 2008 6:23 PM   Subscribe

How do I decide whether it is a good idea to get another dog?

We have an 8 year old golden retriever. We got her as a rescue about 3 years ago. She lived most of her prior life with another dog and 3 cats. She gets along great with other dogs. But she also is often happy to just run by herself. If we go to the dog park, 9 times out of 10, she ignores the other dogs and does her own thing. But, once she knows a dog well, she does seem to enjoy playing and wrestling. We have a nice routine established and I sort think she likes being the only dog in our family.

We had vague plans to get a puppy some time in the next few years, but not now.

I like to browse the listings for dogs on petfinder and at the local rescue groups. Usually I see cute dogs and send them to my sister and then I am over it. But, this one I saw recently really has stuck with me. She is an 11 year old golden retriever and looks surpisingly like my current dog, which is partly why I was so drawn to her. I know rescue groups have a hard time placing older dogs. Her pictures really make her look sweet and sad. I thought about her for a few days and then decided today to just email the group and see if they have had any interest for her. They said no one at all has contacted them about her. They got her a couple weeks before Thanksgiving. They said she is a sweetheart. I have not met her yet.

I feel like I should get her because she needs a home. She is in a foster home now with little kids and other dogs and is often overwhelmed by it all. I also sort of have reservations about another dog (harder to travel/find sitters) when I wasn't really planning to do that soon.

Finally, my questions:
How do I know decide whether or not to get this dog?

Am I setting myself up for heartbreak since she is 11? How do I deal with that?

How do I deal with the guilt of bringing another dog into our perfectly happy only dog home?

Should I just wait for a while and hope someone else adopts her? Is that likely, considering she is 11?
posted by sulaine to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Eh, that's so difficult. One thing that might help you make your decision is knowing what the rescue's backup plan is if your adoption doesn't work. Knowing you have an easy, guilt-free out if things just don't work (and they don't always work, even with the best intentions), makes it a little easier to give her a try.

If she's local, I'd recommend meeting her if you can. It would be great if you could take her for a walk with your dog, then let them play a little bit.

If she's a calm older dog, your fears about pet sitters are less founded. That's more of a problem with younger more energetic dogs, or dogs of any age who have anxiety or behavioral issues. Do you know if she has any major issues? That's another reason to have a contingency plan with the rescue - sometimes people aren't completely honest about a dog's shortcomings, and while many problems can be addressed, some things are dealbreakers for some people.

I think adopting a dog, especially an older dog, is a wonderful thing, but it needs to be right for your situation too. At 11, she's certainly not everyone's first choice for adoption, but people love goldens, and if she's as sweet as they say she'll certainly find a home. So, my advice: adopt her if you want to (and if pet sitters are your biggest problem, you're fine!), but don't adopt her out of guilt or some perceived obligation.
posted by robinpME at 6:39 PM on December 10, 2008

Am I setting myself up for heartbreak since she is 11? How do I deal with that?

Yes, it can be difficult getting an older dog, knowing that you may not have her all that long in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand you can remind yourself every day how much better you made the last part of that dog's life. From the perspective of this part of your question, it's absolutely worth it, I think, but I don't have answers for the other questions.
posted by inigo2 at 6:41 PM on December 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

How do I deal with the guilt of bringing another dog into our perfectly happy only dog home?

Why should you feel guilty? You'd be vastly improving the new dog's situation. You're not getting a little adorable puppy that's going to suck all of the attention away from your first dog, or a puppy that first dog will have to put up with and be patient with. Really, your current dog might really like having a pal around. Especially if that pal is pretty old and doesn't need constant attention.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:49 PM on December 10, 2008

Response by poster: I guess I would feel guilty because the new dog would change the relationship my current dog and I have. I have no way to know whether Cleo, the current dog, would like a new pal and that is the crux of the problem.

The new dog is local and I intend to meet her, but I think it is pretty dangerous to do so before I have really decided it is a good possibility I'll bring her home. She apparently has been to the vet and has no health problems aside from just having a couple of teeth pulled (they say she still eats dried food).
posted by sulaine at 6:54 PM on December 10, 2008

this one I saw recently really has stuck with me.

sometimes things like this happen at just the right time. I second going to meet her with dog #1 in tow. If they get along, I think it would work out
posted by purpletangerine at 6:56 PM on December 10, 2008

Get the second dog... with some thoughts in mind:

1. You're always going to miss the loss of any dog. Doesn't matter if it's 11 years old or 1. It's gonna happen eventually, so that's no excuse NOT to get her/him.

2. Two dogs, in my family's experience, is twice the work. When I talked to my friends about getting a second dog, they said "Two is the same as having one!". Soooo not true in our case. LOL. But I love them both.

3. We got the second dog to find a playmate and companionship for our first. He (older) hates her. She loves him like only a puppy can. But.... don't read their emotions too much at first. Even though he seems to hate her and wants nothing to do with her, when another dog comes around he's defensive of her, and on rare occasions you'll see them curled up on the couch together.

posted by matty at 7:04 PM on December 10, 2008

I like the idea of having the dogs meet and seeing how they do together.

Also, make sure your (vet/food/meds) budget can take two older dogs at once.
posted by cestmoi15 at 7:06 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Older dogs rock. They are sweeties. You get all of the fun of ear scratches, tummy rubs, and someone napping on your feet with half the work involved with a young dog. Don't feel guilty, your current dog, even if she is a bit standoff-ish, will most likely enjoy having some doggie companionship around the house.

The main concern with an older dog is that the vet costs tend to be higher. But still less expensive than a pup who, even with crate training and the whole nine yards, can still be destructive from time to time.

Also, two dogs are easier to care for than one. Three dogs are exponentially more work, but two is just right. IMO.
posted by txvtchick at 7:11 PM on December 10, 2008

Why not foster?
posted by asockpuppet at 8:04 PM on December 10, 2008

I guess I would feel guilty because the new dog would change the relationship my current dog and I have.

I know exactly exactly exactly how you feel. My first dog was a very happy only dog. Then I stumbled across dog number 2 on the side of the road, bloody and starving and alone, and suddenly she wasn't an only dog anymore. Second dog was an unholy terror of a mongrel at first, so that didn't help. I felt guilty for foisting this strange dog upon her.

It didn't take long for them to grow to love one another. Getting dog #2 was totally worth the hundreds and hundreds of hours of joyous play they've had (and continue to have!) over the years. Totally, 100% worth it. I say get dog #2!
posted by hecho de la basura at 8:08 PM on December 10, 2008

There was a program or book a while back about what dogs really want, kind-of what they do on their time off. The conclusion was that they want to be with other dogs. So I think your current dog would benefit from your getting another. Ergo, ditto hecho de la basura!
posted by anadem at 8:36 PM on December 10, 2008

My older sister wasn't wild about getting a sibling, but my parents had me anyway.

Allow the two dogs to meet and see what happens. At 11 you may only have her for a few years, but at least you'll have some time with her.
posted by 26.2 at 9:08 PM on December 10, 2008

If you get another dog, then you and current dog have done something for homeless dogs - at at least the one.

Get in touch with a shelter or rescue and make sure that you can have a dog for a trial - and I cannot imagine a quality non-profit that wouldn't agree to that.

If it doesn't work out with your current dog, then you are back to square one so where the harm?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:37 PM on December 10, 2008

Two adult female dogs may or may not get along. Before you get too attached I'd introduce them a few times, starting at the dog park. If that goes fine, go to a neutral space with no other dogs (like a friends house) and then try the new dog at your house. Do this over a few days to make sure they aren't going to fight before you commit to anything. If they don't get along you can always adopt an older male dog which has a much higher likelihood of working out.

In terms of her age it will be MUCH easier for you to deal with if you decide upfront what you are willing to do vet-wise. I've adopted older animals knowing that I was not going to do any extraordinary treatment and was basically supplying a happy, warm place with lots of toys and ear-rubs to live out what quality time they had left. It alleviates 99% of the guilt if you decide that upfront.

Sometimes animals just reach out and grab you. That's how I get all of the ones I've had. They don't always live so long and even if they do I don't always keep them for the rest of their lives but they always end up with a loving home.
posted by fshgrl at 10:08 PM on December 10, 2008

I'd get the second dog. But what do I know...we have FOUR now; all rescues, some more broken than others.

Older dogs aren't nearly the chaos that younger dogs are. And the older ones are usually more grateful and appreciative of the special things that only beings with thumbs can provide.

Even the big bad bitches in the pack (senior pug and alpha red heeler) who fought early in their meeting have learned to get along and sometimes grudgingly admit mutual respect for each other. But not if you're looking...

The other two dogs like everybody and seem to enjoy the companionship of other dogs.
posted by answergrape at 8:40 AM on December 11, 2008

Agree with what so many have already said, but can't help adding my own voice!

Adopting an older dog is just one of the sweetest things you can do. Most have been dumped at the shelter because of their age, having lived their entire lives in someone's home. Imagine how it is to be grow old with a family, then be abandoned with creaky bones and aching joints in the cold, lonely shelter. Terrible.

If you can offer this older dog as much as a warm bed, good food, and a pat on the head, you are doing so, so, so much good. As Fshgrl said, I know many rescuers who fill their homes with older dogs, knowing that they are providing a place and love for these guys in their short time left. Even if she lives a month with you before her health fails and you must put her to sleep, that is one month of glorious doggytimes she wouldn't have had otherwise.

Your dog being 8 and older dog being 11, there wouldn't be much difference in energy levels, so they would be more likely to get along. Even if your 8 year old dog seems initially adverse to the idea, she will likely warm to it. Dogs are pack animals, after all!

The best advice I EVER GOT for introducing dogs is this:
1. Both dogs on leash, 1 dog walking down street or sidewalk.
2. 2nd dog enters perpendicularly and behind, walks down street or sidewalk slightly behind 1st dog.
3. Proceed to walk both dogs until walking side-by-side and they both seem comfortable.
4. Ease to a halt and commence butt sniffing.

Don't have them meet at your house, where your 8 year old dog is queen. Let them meet in a neutral location. Don't let them meet head-on or face to face or in a rush. That's perceived as very threatening to doggies.

Be mindful of your home's pack structure. Is the older dog dominant or submissive? If your current dog is dominant and another dominant dog arrives on the scene, there may be trouble, though not of the intensity you might see in a couple of young dogs. You are the alpha, and can help iron out some of these misunderstandings.

IMHO, two dogs require twice the maintenance as one (makes sense), but require less attention. My two dogs are buddies, constantly together. When I leave the house, I don't worry so much that they'll be lonesome. They amuse each other at times when I cannot. They sleep curled around each other, and sniff along the fence together, and bark at the UPS guy together.

Good luck, and I hope you follow your heart to adopt the older dog. It is an incomparable experience to rescue an animal that is truly in need. And older dogs are often so sweet and mellow and require so little... I hope you do it!
posted by Seppaku at 9:12 AM on December 11, 2008

a pet will *always* break your heart--unless you're an octogenarian or older, you will outlive them. the good news is, owning a pet gives you a bigger heart to break. what i'm trying to say is that the happiness they bring you will offset the grief of losing them, and you'll be a better person for having done it.
posted by msconduct at 9:17 AM on December 11, 2008

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