Dogpile: Add more dogs to make life better?
June 25, 2009 12:12 PM   Subscribe

1 dog is great, surely 2 dogs is even better, right? Advice wanted about adding another dog to the family.

I'd like to get a second dog, but I've never had more than one dog at a time. Is there's any thing I should be aware of when considering a second dog, like matching or constrasting energy levels? Or sex? Or breed type (e.g. she's a herding dog, so we shouldn't get a terrier because of X)?

Details: Our female border collie mix (2-3yrs old), in general, loves other dogs. Loves to run with them, herd them and totally focus on them. We've had another dog come stay with us from time to time, and she adjusts pretty well. We've got two kids 15 & 11, and my wife currently works at home most of the time. We own our house and have a pretty big yard (1/3 acre) for the suburbs. I'm also curious about agility and will probably start the border collie on agility training before I get another dog.
posted by gofargogo to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The best advice I can give is to not get your heart set on any particular dog before you've had a chance to bring them home and see how the dogs get along. Sometimes two particular dogs can be a terrible fit and you don't know until you've introduced them. Good luck!
posted by moxiedoll at 12:19 PM on June 25, 2009

I think alot depends on the temperament of the first dog. In the years before children, we had a 2-year-old adopted greyhound who was not making the transition to home life very well. She was prone to pretty bad separation anxiety and got pretty destructive before we started crating her. About six months after she came home, we added a second dog - a puppy who tormented her to no end. We never once heard any aggression from her about it, and as the puppy grew up and mellowed a bit, they became good buddies.

If you're going for a second dog of similar age, then moxiedoll has it dead-on. Introduce them and see. I'm not sure that sex of the dog matters (though this, too, may vary breed to breed). Both of ours were spayed/neutered.
posted by jquinby at 12:25 PM on June 25, 2009

Right now, you current dog is part of your family pack. With two dogs, they will form their own pack.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:26 PM on June 25, 2009

I think it's generally advisable to get a second dog of the opposite sex, though this certainly isn't a hard and fast rule.

Be patient... you should be prepared for a settling-in period of several weeks or even a month or two, even if they basically get along when they're introduced. We adopted a second dog in February, and it wasn't really till April that they settled in with each other in terms of the dynamics of playing, eating, and walking together.
posted by scody at 12:28 PM on June 25, 2009

Right now, you current dog is part of your family pack. With two dogs, they will form their own pack.

Nothing is that cut-and-dry. Moxiedoll's advice is excellent and I'm sure your Border will love to have a companion, once you find the right one. It's impossible to know how they'll get along ahead of time, but the shelter we adopted from had an "incompatibility" clause in the adoption contract, in case things absolutely weren't working out. Good luck!
posted by Pantengliopoli at 12:37 PM on June 25, 2009

I think that for most dogs, two is better than one (but three is a lot more than one more than two, be warned).

I've had all kinds of combos (I used to foster rescue dogs), and will never have two females again. I've dealt with more fights in the past year than I ever did with all those rescues. I would suggest a male, younger and (as well as can be predicted if not full-grown) no larger than your current dog. You can't really predict temperament by breed (our pit bull mix is the one who hides when the girls fight, the one who starts the fights is a beagle mix), I'd just go for a dog that seems to really enjoy the company of other dogs and is of the approximate size you're looking for. Dogs tend to equalize energy levels, but I think they'd have more fun together if they were roughly matched.

Most herding dogs take to agility like they were born to it (which I guess they kind of were), you might go in that direction if you want to do agility with both dogs. I have a friend with a BC and a greyhound, though, and she does agility with the one while the other keeps the couch from flying away, which seems to be agreeable to everyone.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:42 PM on June 25, 2009

The statement: You can't teach an old dog new tricks does not apply to your new dog. Your old dog will learn unexpected behaviors from your new dog. I had a silent husky. He "met his pack" and he learned to be extremely vocal, to the point where his behavior had to be corrected while the others did not.

Dogs, like people, have off days. Our 10 year old shepard somedays can be in a snit with our 4.5 year old husky.

Twice the dogs is sometimes 3 times the poop... Unless of course you get a dog that decides to eat the other dogs poop. Then you've got twice the dogs no poop... and some potential heath problems of the poop eater.

If your attention is devided, old dogs act out for attention, like todlers, and husbands (I am one, I know this).

Your dog is about to be part of a dog pack, that means your dogs are about to change how they relate to other dogs: pecking order style. That means assuming they get along well, the other dogs you meet will potentially be maneuvering into a beta position - something that might be a change for them if your dog was passive before.

Twice the dog = twice the fur, four times the likelihood of finding a skunk, twice the kenneling costs, twice the vet bills - though sometimes more if they are "good idea" dogs.

1 controlled bad behavior can become an out of controll behavior again:
Case in point: A friend of mine had 1 dog who was crated during the day. They got a second dog and second crate.
Problem 1: The two dogs were excited to have eachother so they broke through their kennels. The other turned out to be a chewer and ate half the kennel base. Solution: move dogs to laundry room and gate landry room.
Problem 2: Dogs played until the older one jumped over the gate accidentally. The two dogs were separate. Solution: double fence the laundry room
Problem 3: dogs smashed into fence until fence fell out. Chewing dog free to eat Ipod and wallet from kitchen. Solution: install metal fence.
Problem 4: dog bends bars for both to escape (a la Hulk style). Currently working with a trainer...
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:43 PM on June 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

it really depends on the personality of the first dog. if the first dog is an alpha male or alpha female and you get a puppy that will be growing with the first dog, there might be competition months after you get the second dog and that can lead to fights. however, if you have a fairly laid-back first dog, you have a better chance of the two dogs forming a benevolent pack instead of two alpha dogs. i have had a dog for almost 10 years and added a second one 2 years ago and i love them both together. i had the first dog since he was 4 months old and as protective as he is, he is not an alpha male in any way. the second dog was 6 months when we got him and i have actually noticed that he picked up some good habits of the older dog, the younger dog is also very laid-back. consider the temperaments of both dogs. you will save a lot of headache.
posted by penguingrl at 12:46 PM on June 25, 2009

Here are my observations.

I have a Westie who was the "first baby." When we decided to get another dog, we actually brought him to meet all of the dogs we were considering. ( is an awesome Web site!) We like to say that he actually picked out our new dog. The new dog was the only one he didn't growl at, or didn't growl at him. They weren't best buds right off the bat, but they didn't try to kill each other, either. A lot of this will have to do with your attitude about the whole thing, I think. If you are nervous or anxious about it, the dogs will be, too. In my lifetime I have lived with almost 10 adopted dogs and have introduced new dogs to old dogs and have never, ever had an ongoing personality problem with the dogs, and I credit that to have a strong alpha leader in the human part of the pack. The dogs don't have to worry about being alpha because a person is, if that makes sense.

My sister's border collie has a strange fascination with my Westie. My Westie loves to play fetch, just like the border collie, and terriers are tenacious and will match any other dog for energy and stamina. But... the border collie will follow the Westie around after play is done, almost like she's... herding him. But why she herds him, and not the other dogs, is a mystery. (This seems to annoy the Westie.) So I would not recommend a terrier/collie matchup.

You seem like you have a good set of circumstances to bring a new dog into the fold: older children, someone at home, a yard. I like to think that dogs need friends too, so I am really glad we got a second dog--both for the Westie but also for us. She's a sweetheart.
posted by FergieBelle at 12:55 PM on June 25, 2009

My friend and her husband added a large 2 year old German Shepherd male rescue to the family when her Dalmation-Border Collie (I think?) female was about 4 years old.

The thing my friend says they messed up was basically favoring the female during walks and feeding time, and catering to her a lot, because they didn't want her to feel threatened by the new guy. I guess this turned her into the alpha and she's a lot more difficult and stubborn with my friends now.
posted by juliplease at 12:59 PM on June 25, 2009

In my experience:

As far as energy levels- it may depend on the individual dog, but we have a super high energy dog (black lab/jack russel mix) that we got as a puppy when our first dog (an incredibly lazy white sheperd/short hair collie mix) was around 6. It actually works surprisingly well- the younger dog keeps the older dog active, while the older dog tones down the younger dog's energy level.

It's definitely important to make sure a new dog would get along with the old, however. Before we got the second dog, we brought the first dog to the humane society and let him interact with the puppy alone for ~10 minutes. Good luck! Our dog is *much* happier now that he has a constant companion, even if she does drive him nuts every once in a while. They get jealous of each other every once in a while, but we've never had problems with them acting out. It probably helped that the puppy was only a few months old when we got her, so she's never really known any habits but those of the older dog.
posted by kro at 1:03 PM on June 25, 2009

I've had a two dog household for the past 14 years. Prior to that I had one dog for 15 years.

I switched to two dogs because it seemed more humane to me during the years when I was working and gone for many hours a day.

I know that I wouldn't want to be deprived of the day to day companionship of my own species. And while it may be a symptom of anthropomorphism on my part, I've always assumed that dogs, being pack animals, would have similar companionship needs.

In any event, it's worked out just fine with the dogs and has given me less guilt and more peace of mind.

I've always had terriers and I was told by a breeder that it's best to have a male & female, so I've followed that rule. Not sure if that applies to all breeds but I'd check that out in advance with your vet, breeder, local shelter, etc.

In my limited experience, the dogs have sorted things out and established their own pecking order without much problem or need for human intervention.
posted by newleaf at 1:05 PM on June 25, 2009

In my experience mixing genders works well, though it depends on the individual dogs. My family has a total of 4 dogs (3 girls and 1 boy), and the new girls always fought for the first few months until they figured each other out. They never had any problem with the boy.

I'd also recommend your second dog have about the same energy level as your current dog. My family had 3 dachshunds until we took in a chihuahua. Even though they're about the same age, the dachshund likes to sleep all day and chihuahua is always bursting with energy. There was (and still sometimes is) a fair amount of friction when the chihuahua constantly bugged the dachshund when all she wanted to do was sleep.
posted by lilac girl at 1:09 PM on June 25, 2009

I've had two dogs concurrently many times, and found that they always seem to get along just fine. With one exception, the two dogs were always of vastly different ages (usually 10 years apart).

Through it all, the "worst" experience was a female (ironically, a border collie mix) who, despite having been taken to meet the new pup before I brought her home, never warmed up to the other dog. There was never any growling or fighting, but they didn't advance beyond peaceful coexistence either. I always interpreted that as the older dog having a preference for being an only dog.

My advice to anyone contemplating acquiring a second dog has always been to give them space to work things out between them. Don't intervene unless it really looks like they're going to kill each other. Once they work it out, things will settle down just fine.
posted by DrGail at 1:22 PM on June 25, 2009

My sister and her husband have two border collies. She rescued both of them separately, maybe 2 years apart. The first one (border collie mix) was a few years old when they got it, must have been beaten by its previous owners, because it's a seriously neurotic dog. It doesn't really like other dogs or people. I visited them and was there for 3 days before it would get near me. Despite the dog's issues, they adopted a second one, full border collie. This one was very young, less than a year. Everything worked out fine, the two dogs love each other to a codependent extent. If one has to go to the vet, the other one has to go along because it goes crazy, literally, without the other dog. I think this is an issue with one more than the other. In any case, it worked out well. Oh, both dogs are male, and the younger one is considerably more active than the older one. They are definitely herders, of each other and their people.

She started taking both of them to the agility course at the same time, both dogs seemed to enjoy it and do well.

Her husband's father has a chihuahua and it gets along well with both dogs. They often all go to the dog park together.

Recently, she got a third dog, it's not a border collie. Adjustment seems to be going slowly, but there hasn't been any serious incident, just bonding issues.

I also have a friend who had a male border collie for about 5 years before getting a second one, a female puppy. Both dogs had good dispositions to begin with, and did fine together.
posted by necessitas at 1:29 PM on June 25, 2009

Eh... one other note:
We wound up with two dogs because we each came to the family with a dog. Our dogs had the same downtime in a relationship as we had. In other words, they had the chance to grow into being great buddies... Take it slow with introductions and they don't have to be flawless for the relationship to be great. Any two dogs which don't have severe trauma in their past can probably learn to be friends. Honestly its been a great experience, and I'm glad to have both...

... though my inlaws have decided to not fill in the hole my husky keeps digging in their front yard stating: if it gets big enough he's going in it.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:46 PM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I got a second dog thinking it would help my first dog like other dogs. In reality what has happened is that the two dogs LOVE each other and the first dog still dislikes most other dogs.

You will want to see how the two dogs interact. The private shelter where I got dog #2 let me bring dog #1 along with me to see if they'd get along. They got along great immediately (dog #1 submits to dog #2.)

When I started looking for dog #2 I made sure to look for dogs that got along well with other dogs and that were described as happy. Dog #1 is a pug/chihuahua mix and dog #2 is a pug/german shepherd/maybe some boston terrier in there too mix. Dog #2 is way more laid back than dog #1.

I know for sure that my first dog would absolutely NOT put up with any herding behaviors. (There is a sheltie across the street that occasionally runs over here to try to herd them and it drives dog #1 insane.)

You might make a list of qualities your dog has and work from that list as to what the second dog might need to be.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 2:47 PM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

IMO, multiple dogs are great so long as the dogs know their place in the pecking order. My newlywed husband and I now have 3 female pound dogs between us that live very happily together without any drama at all (9,8 and 4 years old). I think what helps the most is that we have firmly established that the humans are the alphas in the house (and the 3 cats come second in the pack order). They are greatly loved, get lots of affection and exercise, but they don't dictate the rules to us. We do not ask for a lot from them, but we expect to get it when we do (i.e we follow up with the command until it is honored). Discipline is firm, but never physical.

As for differing energy levels, I think this is fine too. I recently had to put my 15 year old female mutt to sleep (yes we had 4 dogs and three cats until recently). She and my 4 year old (they were 11 and 6 months when they became "sisters") never played much and the older one made herself clear when she did not want to play. Fortunately, my youngster had good manners in this regard, but I reinforced the older dog's wishes when rarely necessary. I think it is also important to allow dogs the ability to enforce their boundaries with each other with non-violent verbal and physical cues and to support this as the human alpha.

Although they never really played much--especially in the last year-- the 4 year old came and sat by my 15 year old's side when the vet came to put her to sleep and she was depressed for a couple weeks after that. I never would have guessed it since they were so different in energy levels and didn't obviously interact with each other as buddy buddies. But it turns out that they were indeed affectionate companions to each other.

I vote (as though I get one) is for another dog. Just try to pick one that is happily not headstrong and you will be fine.
posted by murrey at 2:55 PM on June 25, 2009

KokuRyu: Right now, you current dog is part of your family pack. With two dogs, they will form their own pack.

Pantengliopoli: Nothing is that cut-and-dry.

I agree with Pantengliopoli. I have four dogs, whom I gradually acquired. We had the first one for several years before acquiring the second, and had the second one for at least a year before the third, and our fourth came a few years after the third. They are not "their own pack." They obviously regard all of us --- humans and dogs --- as one pack.
posted by jayder at 2:59 PM on June 25, 2009

I got a second dog thinking it would keep the first dog company while I was distracted. I ended up with 2 dogs watching ME adoringly and ignoring each other.
posted by andreap at 4:32 PM on June 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

How timely! We're off to pick up our second dog Sunday.

This is because our dog always perks up considerably when we dogsit his "cousin", and after she goes home, they both seem a little morose. We also lost our two ancient cats this year (like murrey's dog, ours wouldn't leave the cat's side until we buried her, and then he moped for weeks!) Now the house is way too quiet. So we took the first dog down to the rescue to meet a prospect, and they seemed to get along, even sat in the car together without incident.

Two pieces of advice they've given us is to spend a little one-on-one time with our first dog so he doesn't feel like the newcomer is usurping "his" human attention, and give them both as much exercise as you can muster. Tuckered-out dogs tend to be much less troublesome dogs.
posted by bunji at 5:32 PM on June 25, 2009

So....I might draw some fire for this, but it works for me.

We have 3. 37lbs, 45lbs, 70lbs. There have never been any issues, but for about 3 days after we brought home dog number 3, there was some getting used to.

Here's the thing.

None of your dogs better be alpha, because YOU better be alpha. There are some studies that suggest that the gamma dog position is the hardest position, because weaker animals won't challenge the alpha or the beta, but gamma gets shit on. Regardless, I am the pack leader here. I decide when they eat. I decide when they poop. From the time I have had them, I put my hands all over them while they eat, while they play. I responded like an alpha dog when they responded poorly. Now, I'd trust them to eat around an infant who might grab handfulls of food from them.

Now here's where I diverge from some folks. Some folks say that you need to let two dogs fight it out sometimes. Negatory. If they're fighting-FIGHTING, they're fighting for alpha, and you fail. If they're just getting rising tempers (sometimes dog number three likes to poke. Just poke. He's like a bratty little brother. Sometimes he's met with a GRR, but the teeth don't come out because the Alpha has declared that there will be no fighting.)

When dog 3 first came in, he'd always been the Only Dog. Well, whatever for him. Yes, I rolled him on his back. Yes, I put my teeth on him. Yes, I stare him into submission. Yes, I do raise my voice to him. Or rather I DID all those things. Now, a sharp "Hey!" when they get too physical breaks it up immediately. I always responded quickly, evenly, and sternly to all dogs involved in the kerfluffle, and I did NOT go to them afterwards until they made up.

You are your own person, your dogs are different, and your mileage will differ.

Also, how is 2 dogs 3 times the poop? It's 200% of the poop, but not 3x the poop. Poo conforms to the law of conservation of mass energy.

That said, my golden once ate a piece of foam rubber (unbenounced to me) and pooped it out a couple days later. Imagine my surprize when a regular nugget of poo swelled up to the approximate size of a grapefruit.
posted by TomMelee at 8:03 PM on June 25, 2009 [4 favorites]

2 dogs can be 3x the poop as follows.

My wife has a german shephard that poops twice a day relatively like clockwork. My husky dog poops (neurotically) every time you take him out. In terms of piles Nanuk creates twice the work than she was expecting. Conversely, Tyson's wheigh more and take up about 3-4 times more space than Nanuk's piles of joy. From a pile to pile volume/density ratio, Tyson's piles are much bigger.

So yes, two dogs pooping equals two dog's worth of poop, but from varying perspectives two dog's poop can be a significant increase in the amount of proof an owner is used to.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:30 AM on June 26, 2009

One other thing that is imperative to consider; can you deal with doubling all your pet-related costs and raising the "emergency max" you are capable of spending if something goes wrong with the health of either or both animals? This is something a lot of people don't consider that can save more heartbreak than most people want to bear later.
posted by zennoshinjou at 7:56 AM on June 26, 2009

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