3 dogs better than 2?
July 31, 2010 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Do we want a third dog? Do things really become different with a third dog in the fold?

We currently have two dogs and have now been presented with an option for adopting a third from someone who can no longer keep him. All dogs are fairly small (under 20 lbs) and are well behaved, aside from dog#1 who has some leash aggression towards strange dogs (but not dogs within his own pack).

Please share any experiences you have with going from 2 dogs to 3, and whether you feel it's a net positive or net negative experience. (I seem to read some comments on forums that going to 3 was a mistake, since now the dogs act very "doggy" and will start acting like a pack...or that everything is now too much to handle.)


Also, we are a working couple, but someone is always at home, and we have no kids. We have a house and a yard.
posted by The ____ of Justice to Pets & Animals (20 answers total)
They do tend to close ranks a little more at three, which I guess is what you're hearing about them getting "doggy." I don't necessarily consider that a negative - they are a little less dependent, which is good and bad, but for dogs as dogs is probably not bad. I have three and have had other configurations of 3+, and it can be a little overwhelming at times (though I'm talking dogs 50-150 pounds, so maybe not as much with 20lb dogs) with just the sheer logistics of it all.

You might find yourself a little less needed, but I don't think you're looking at a totally drastic change in behavior.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:28 PM on July 31, 2010

We generally have 1, 2, or 3 dogs at our house, most often 2. As you've probably noticed, 2 is great because they keep each other occupied. Three seems immediately like a LOT more dogs. I think it's an exponential rather than a linear thing.

Every now and then we think about getting another one, but three is just SO much more.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:30 PM on July 31, 2010

Oh, shoot. I meant to add that this is with dogs about ~50 pounds, but I'd imagine the psychology would be the same regardless of weight. (It'd be a little less dangerous to your coffee table with the small dogs, though.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:31 PM on July 31, 2010

When I was a kid we went from two to three dogs.

My mom thought it was going to be a problem but the third dog was house trained pretty much immediately because he learned from the older two dogs where to go and when to go...

YMMV of course...
posted by dfriedman at 5:32 PM on July 31, 2010

Three really does feel like twice as much work as two. We found that the dogs did tend to bond much more with each other than the humans in the household, but that can be both a benefit and a drawback.

The other factor to consider is health maintenance. Do you have the capacity to care for another dog should it fall ill? With the rising cost of veterinary care, this would factor in to my decision as much as anything else. That is one more dog that will need vaccines or titers, heartworm/flea medication and yearly exams.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 5:37 PM on July 31, 2010

I think it's an exponential rather than a linear thing.

I used to foster dogs for a rescue, and had usually my 4 plus another 3 or 4, occasionally as many as 15 dogs. I agree wholeheartedly. I used to put it this way:

Two dogs is twice as many dogs as one dog.
Three dogs is three times as many dogs as two dogs.
Four dogs is four times as many dogs as three dogs.
(series continues)

Now, I am delighted with my current household of three dogs; I adore my critters and think they're wonderful. But 3 dogs is a lot more work than 2 dogs.

And funny enough, when he arrived, our third dog resolved some occasional fights between the original two dogs. The two bitches used to get into a fight very, very infrequently; they haven't done so at all since we got the male dog, and it's been 10 years. So it's a lot more work on my part to keep up with three than it was with two--especially now that they're all senior dogs--but there's a little more domestic tranquility.
posted by galadriel at 5:47 PM on July 31, 2010

Three seems immediately like a LOT more dogs. I think it's an exponential rather than a linear thing.

Funny, I was just about to post the opposite opinion - going from two to three hardly seemed noticeable in the general everyday chaos that is the Squirrel household. :-) We do occasionally have to break up a 2-against-3 roughhousing situation, but it's never anything too awful. The barking can get out of hand, I guess, but that's an AskMe for another day.

So it really is a YMMV situation, depends on the dogs, on you, etc. Can you have the potential new guy over for a visit to see how things go before making a commitment?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:48 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

2-against-3? Maybe it really IS exponential... I meant 2-against-1.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:49 PM on July 31, 2010

No one has yet mentioned a human-dog dynamic I often see in three-dog families: the third wheel. In a couple with two dogs, each dog tends to pair off with their special human. Then dog #3 comes in, and the bond is just never as strong. They never get a special human. I always think that's kind of sad.

In addition, that unresolved leash-aggression issue might be perfectly manageable now, when you only have one reactive dog. If that third dog is younger, it's possible that he'll pick up that behavior. Two dogs barking and lunging on leash is a frustrating mess, even if those dogs are tiny!
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 6:00 PM on July 31, 2010

I used to foster dogs for a rescue, and had usually my 4 plus another 3 or 4, occasionally as many as 15 dogs.

By your reasoning over a trillion dogs' worth of work! (15!=1,307,674,368,000) Mad props my friend.

But seriously (trying to contribute here), when my brother moved in with his GF, he had two dogs and she had one. The two still act like "his" and the third is still "hers", and I think that helps diffuse the pack thing. I don't know if you'd get the same dynamic introducing another new to both of you. One of HIS two was adopted much later than the other, and one way he addressed the "special human" sadness is by having special one-on-one time with the new dog in some agility classes. SO- maybe try to schedule some one-on-one bonding time with the newbie before/while introducing him into the home. Have him over for playdates, if possible, and see how he interacts.
posted by ista at 6:20 PM on July 31, 2010

How many people live in your house? Having observed my relatives and their dogs, I tend to think that the humans need to be equal to or outnumber the dogs. If there's only 2 of you and you want 3 dogs... it could get crazy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:16 PM on July 31, 2010

We went from two to three pretty easily. Really, I can't recall it changing much of anything.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:36 PM on July 31, 2010

Thanks for the responses, everyone!

There's only 2 humans.

Hmm. We'll be meeting with the new doggy soon before we make a decision...this could be interesting.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 8:08 PM on July 31, 2010

My girlfriend and I have two dogs and we recently took on a third for two weeks while her (the third dog's) owners were on vacation.

We were apprehensive about it, because one of the dogs didn't seem thrilled with Third Dog at first. Fortunately, that worked out and there was no aggression, aside from some toy-stealing which is just depressing to watch.

Anyway -- bottom line, the dogs were fine but three dogs does seem like way more than two dogs. More food, more poo, complicated walking logistics. And this is with three well-behaved dogs all over 50 lbs. It worked out fine but we were pretty relieved when Third Dog went home, even though we like her a hellofalot.
posted by Buffaload at 8:20 PM on July 31, 2010

Moving from two to three dogs didn't change all that much in our household. The only real problem has been walks - walking two dogs by yourself is perfectly doable; walking three, each one 50 plus pounds? Forget it. It's just a nightmare. So they don't get walked as much as they used to but then we have a big fenced yard and they bounce more now that there are three of them, therefore I think (hope) it evens out. All three of them are total and distinct individuals; there's not really a single pack mind at work in any way. As far as each of them having a special human, well, they all just seem to have their own relationships with each human. I had no plans to get a third dog when my neighbor showed up at my door that fateful morning with a stray she'd found - but honestly, I really have never regretted keeping her. We all, humans and dogs, fell in love and she sort of made everything complete. I can't imagine not having her now.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:02 AM on August 1, 2010

Walking and picking up for three is a bigger deal than for two.

Not sure how difficult it is financially because any extra dogs I have are fosters or staying with me for some other reason on someone else's dime.

I imagine you pay more pet-setting cost and the karma debt of having a friend go over and walk them for you when you have an emergency and can't get home until late.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:49 PM on August 1, 2010

Well, I'm not sure what possessed us, but we decided to take in the third dog.

Results so far confirm everyone's responses here:

1) I feel like we lost our other dog...she has barely looked at us...too busy playing with new pup. sniff, sniff
2) walking 3 is not easy, but they are 80% leash trained so it's not impossible.
3) i can tell we are going to have make an extra effort to bond with the new guy
4) it's a circus in here

He's also bigger than they said he would be.

Having said that, new dog is sweet, awesome, and gentle. He boxes with the younger one and wrestles with the older one in a way they never seemed to be able to do with one another.

We are really happy. Thanks for everyone's feedback!
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:53 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yay! Congrats on the new addition to your family!

A leash coupler may help with the walking situation.

Good luck!!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:12 PM on August 2, 2010

Thanks SuperSquirrel! That's fantastic!!!
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:30 PM on August 2, 2010

Aw, thanks for the sweet update!
posted by bluedaisy at 3:46 PM on August 2, 2010

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