Will two dogs join in league vendetta to overthrow us as rulers of the house?
September 3, 2010 8:59 PM   Subscribe

How is having two dogs different from having one dog?

We've got a 55-pound male lab mix. We're thinking about adopting a 55-pound female lab to be a companion for him. They're both around two years old, and are both already spayed/neutered. We own our house and have a big yard, so we don't have to worry about a landlord situation or space for them to play outside. It's not a huge house, but I think we can manage another lifeform inside. Our dog is currently home alone for over eight hours most weekdays, so our main concern here is getting him another dog to be his friend so they can play together during the day. We're married and will probably have kids, but it's not imminent.

I guess I'm just looking to learn from others' experiences here. We both grew up in single-dog homes so we kind of knew what we were getting into the first time around, but this is new territory. What was unexpected when you went from one to two dogs? What should we be considering as we make our choice?
posted by little light-giver to Pets & Animals (31 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My partner and I added our second dog to our family for much the same reason you are, i.e., dog #1 was alone during the day, and we wanted him to have a companion (and, of course, we wanted another dog).

Have they become great friends? Yes. Do they pool their powers to find new and exciting ways to rearrange all sorts of things while we are at work? Yes, yes, yes. We love having two dogs, but we never thought they would work together. :-)
posted by AlliKat75 at 9:09 PM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Even similar dogs can have entirely different personalities. So the routine you're used to with your one dog? Could change entirely with two. They may not like the same foods, the same games, the same rooms to hang out in, or even each other.

That said, I have always thought that my dogs who have companions are happier than the dogs I've had by themselves.
posted by xingcat at 9:09 PM on September 3, 2010

Sadly, we really can't give good advice without pictures of the dogs.
posted by Kloryne at 9:14 PM on September 3, 2010 [34 favorites]

I have two dogs for the first time in my life. I tell people it's not twice the work of one, it's like 1.5 times the work. You are already feeding, walking, poop scooping, playing, etc. so it's not much trouble to do that for two instead of one. And they do seem to be comforted and entertained by each other. Since they are goldens, the only thing that sucks is twice the shedding, but frequent vacuuming takes care of that.

I got the second dog to keep the first one entertained and not lonely when I am away from the house and quickly grew to adore them both. There is no separation anxiety when I leave - I think having a friend around all the time keeps them happy.

My folks also have two goldens, so I will say that when we visit, 4 dogs in the house feels like the animals have taken over the zoo. Way too many for me. Two is my limit, but well worth it. You'll likely feel overwhelmed at first with feelings of what-the-hell-did-we-do, but that passes in a few weeks.
posted by cecic at 9:21 PM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

This just has to be said: One of the biggest differences is that you're picking up twice as much poop.
posted by belau at 9:21 PM on September 3, 2010

Grew up with one lab-sized dog (samoyed, specifically) at a time until high school, when we adopted two adorable puppies at once (a boy and a girl, not littermates, but born a couple weeks apart in the same house). I don't think any of this will be shocking, this is just what I would try to tell a friend if they were considering a second dog.

First, obviously have the two dogs meet (at your house, if possible!) before the adoption.

The good: Two dogs will keep each other company, they'll exercise each other more. It certainly seems better for the dogs' mental health.

The bad: They'll team work to get things off of counters. They have a lot more fun if they run away together (but that might not be an issue with labs? our sams have never been off=leash kind of dogs). It's a lot more work when you have visitors (especially those nervous around dogs - now instead of one big scary animal they are surrounded). It can be difficult to separate them once they've bonded. Two dogs may be 1.5x work, but they take up more than 2x space, some how. For example, one doggie bed can be a cute addition to the den, but two take up all your floor space. Two dogs are really difficult to cook around.

The interesting: We saw personality differences that seemed to go beyond individual and get in to gender. It was really interesting. For example, the male needed to be demonstratively dominant (fed first, leashed first, etc) but he was much more dependent on the female than she on him (whined when she was away, etc). *shrug* Maybe I'm seeing more than was really there.

How's that? Too much?
posted by maryr at 9:27 PM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Two dogs are a lot more doggy together than one dog. They may bark a lot more as they set each other off. They seem generally less interested in human company. From my point of view that's a good thing... we kick them out of the door and they have 50 acres to wander around in and be doggy, then they come back and they are relaxed and lie around.

They are definitely happier in pairs than alone, as far as I can tell, as long as dominance issues can be successfully resolved.
posted by unSane at 9:32 PM on September 3, 2010

Now that we have two dogs (with very different personalities), it just seems so much more cheerful around here, and we don't feel so bad leaving now that they have each other at home.

The only considerable difficulty has been that when my husband's out of town, walking to big dogs by myself can be a pain.
posted by bunji at 9:37 PM on September 3, 2010

And by "to", I meant "two". Ouch.
posted by bunji at 9:38 PM on September 3, 2010

Who was it who said, "A dog is a good friend and constant companion. Two dogs are two dogs"?
posted by willF at 9:38 PM on September 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

bunji, I was wondering about that aspect. Is it a total nightmare walking two big dogs together, pulling every which way etc, or are they mostly interested in the same things and kind of generally pointed in the same direction? Husband and I both travel sometimes for work so this is a fairly important question.
posted by little light-giver at 9:41 PM on September 3, 2010

Trouble rises as the square of the number of dogs. The fun goes up as the cube.
posted by jet_silver at 9:47 PM on September 3, 2010 [8 favorites]

Labs need t be properly trained to be manageable. Assuming you do a decent job of that, walking the two of them really isn't much harder than walking one.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 9:48 PM on September 3, 2010

We have always had at least 2 dogs.. Couldn't imagine having just one..

As for the barking, it's strange around here.. One dog only barks outside and the other only barks inside.. I guess that keeps me covered security wise..

I never noticed any extra work with 2 dogs.. But it can be a challenge come time to go to the vet and get both of them there and back together..
posted by SteveG at 9:50 PM on September 3, 2010

Is it a total nightmare walking two big dogs together, pulling every which way etc,

It's impossible to give a single answer. It depends on the dogs' natures and the dynamic between them.

I had two big dogs (75 lbs. and 60 lbs.) who could easily have yanked me off my feet. I never had any trouble walking them—mainly because neither one was a puller, or had dog-aggression issues, or compulsively chased pigeons or squirrels.

They did take up a lot of sidewalk so I kept them on fairly short leashes. And the walks tended to take more time, because they didn't coordinate their pooping and sniffing and random dawdling.

When I had one big dog, I often took him with me to run errands or meet friends for drinks. That's not really an option with two big dogs.
posted by dogrose at 9:59 PM on September 3, 2010

Adding another dog means that you'll have to work much much harder to make sure that the dogs are well behaved. It's a much bigger deal to have two 55lb jumping labs than it is to have one. This goes for walking well on a leash, manners in public and barking.

You'll also want to make sure that you can afford emergency care if something dire were to happen to them both at the same time. Keep in mind that they'll both enter their golden years at the same time. Those years can be a financial strain when they happen in tandem.

Lots of dogs don't really care much about other dogs, they're much more interested in people. Is your dog one of them? Does your dog play well with other dogs? Speaking from personal experience, my dogs zonk out the minute I leave the house, and don't pay each other too much attention when we're gone (we have a webcam to peek in on them while we're at work).

All that said, I think you should do it. Two dogs are so much fun, and I really think they enrich each other's lives a great deal.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 10:00 PM on September 3, 2010

My mom had two dogs for 14 years. When Bea died, Chuckie was inconsolable. He was Bea's son and had literally never spent time away from her. He decided my mom was Bea's replacement and would howl until he lost his voice if she left him alone.

For that reason, our dogs get a lot of alone time with each of us. Usually, I'll take one dog and head north around the block and my husband will take the other and head south. When we meet up, we switch dogs. We also schedule separate grooming and vet appointments for them so they get to be an "only child" for a few hours.

Two dogs is a lot more expensive than I thought it would be. We got our second dog a year after the first, and when I added up what we spent on the first and doubled it, I figured we could easily work a second dog into the budget. The second one turned out to be kind of accident-prone and almost always has a new and mysterious injury (she insists on running on linoleum floors and slides into the wall a lot).

On preview, Nickel Pickle brings up a good point- both of my dogs are people dogs, and if there is a human around, it's more about vying for attention than playing with each other.

On the other hand, I wouldn't trade having two dogs for anything. Just watching them interact with each other is one of the great joys of my life and nothing beats coming home and watching them shove each other out of the way to get to me first.
posted by dogmom at 10:25 PM on September 3, 2010

I have two dogs. They do play together some, but they would rather play with me. My dogs are bonded to me, not each other.

I would not count on the two dogs playing together while you are gone. My dogs just wait for me while I'm gone, as witnessed by my little web cam and by my parents who occasionally watch them for me. (Fun side note: Web cam also indicates doggies know when we leave the movie theater! Dogs are psychic. :)

They might keep each other company, and they might not. They might hang out in different rooms. :)

Also, please be very sure they get along well before leaving them alone together for 8 hours.

I work from home, so my dogs hang out with me all day. I use crates if we go to the movie or something. They do well in their crates. Border collies will rewire your house if you leave them loose and home alone. ;)
posted by AllieTessKipp at 11:14 PM on September 3, 2010

How is having two dogs different from having one dog?

It really depends on the dogs. Some dogs are not as playful as others; two dogs can be playful but have different play styles, and some dogs are BFF the minute they sniff one another!

If both dogs are fairly sociable and don't have any major issues (aggression, separation anxiety, etc.) I think you will easily double the fun for them and for you.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 11:25 PM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it a total nightmare walking two big dogs together, pulling every which way etc?

In my case, one is older and wants to dawdle, the other is younger and wants to go, go, go! They're not being naughty, just awkward. They are indeed interested in sniffing the same things, so when they keep pace it's no problem.

Like others have said, the two of them are so much fun together that for us, it's worth the minor inconveniences.
posted by bunji at 11:35 PM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it a total nightmare walking two big dogs together, pulling every which way etc?

Not necessarily. We went from one mid-sized dog to one mid-sized dog and two small dogs this summer, plus I have a large family with many large dogs. One thing that I've noticed is that in our households, walking is *much* easier with multiple dogs.

Our mid-size, Basil, is a puller. Ever since we got him, if he's on a leash, he's pulling, pulling, pulling, to the point that this thirty-five pound dog has made me--a 200-pound, 5'8" grownup--fall over. More than once. This is something that we've worked on a lot, and we've gotten him to the point where he no longer pulls us over, but he still pulls.

Enter the two new dogs. Despite that they're a fraction of his size (a mini dachshund and a cairn terrier,) they've totally reformed his walking habits. Walking all three of them is a breeze, because they walk together and want to stay together, so none of them pull. (They to tend to cross leads a lot, but it's not usually problematic.)

This has been fairly consistent with other animals in my extended family. Walking my cousin's St. Bernard was difficult, to say the least, but walking the St. Bernard with Basil was much easier than walking either of them alone.

Obviously it's going to vary from place to place, but really, the only thing that I wasn't really able to prepare myself for was how much more fun having multiple dogs is. Throwing toys for one dog is fun, but throwing toys for three dogs and watching them race each other is awesome. I suspect that from this point on, we'll always be a two-or-more-dog family.
posted by MeghanC at 2:18 AM on September 4, 2010

Nthing introducing them before choosing the second dog.

Nthing that they don't necessarily play together when you're not there. (Our two dogs only play when I am home. They don't care if Mr Vitabellosi is there.)

I've had two dogs more than once. They may play together (yay!)...or they may compete with each other to climb on your lap (boo & ouch!).

Fritz chose Baxter (our current dogs) after trying out three other dogs in the yard at the humane society. It's working out beautifully. It's actually brought balance to our household. But I'm glad we didn't go with any of the first three dogs that we had chosen for Fritz. (The first two wouldn't take cues from Fritz that he didn't want to play...the third dog didn't want anything to do with Fritz & only wanted to be near people)

We tried Baxter out of desperation. And although Baxter was shy, he kept showing interest in both Fritz and us. Fritz seemed really pleased and politely backed off when Baxter needed space.

Our humane society has a behaviorist who observed HHS dogs together, too.

Oh! But the answer to your question is:
It's a lot harder to go out of town on a whim, a lot harder to find a friend to dog sit for two dogs, and a lot more expensive to board them
posted by vitabellosi at 3:15 AM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

It certainly depends on the dogs - e.g. my dogs play with each other constantly (unless they are vying for my attention).

I found that the main hassle was when my dogs were puppies at the same time (training two is very hard) and the payoff has been great now that they are older. But it's also true that it's harder to get someone to watch them, expensive to board them. Luckily, I have a lot of friends with dogs (met them at the dog park) that know my dogs and don't mind every now and then.

Sometimes I walk them separately and sometimes together. Sometimes I use a splitter for the leash, which not only gives me a free hand but sort of makes them restrain each other.
posted by Pax at 4:20 AM on September 4, 2010

I once had 3 Maltese. We started with one and then kept her two puppies and it was so much fun. Expensive, but fun. (Triple the vet bills, triple the flea medication, triple the grooming, triple the treats and food.) They were a dream to walk together because as a pack they were much more obedient. Most importantly, their personalities were so much more interesting as a group-- almost as if each one was trying to stand out from the rest.

The downside (beside the expense) was that one would trigger the barking-- and then they all would try to outdo each other. It could get very noisy. Also, they were jealous of attention paid to one-- so if one was on the couch, they all had to be on the couch. And the bed. And under my feet.

My current dog is an only dog because of the expense factor (although she does have two cat brothers.) When we brought her into this family, we had a very old Bassett Hound who had become incontinent. We were worried about housebreaking the puppy because the Hound just pooped where ever, whenever, without warning, but the puppy's training could not have gone better-- she was an absolute dream in that regard.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:24 AM on September 4, 2010

I just got two lab/australian shepherd mix puppies about a month and a half ago (when they were about 8 weeks old). Two puppies are a handful (my plan was for one puppy, but my boyfriend insisted that two would be better) - it is difficult to work on training both of them at once as one will usually want more attention. Walking them started out very frustrating, naturally, because they didn't know how to walk on a leash. This could be a problem if you get a 2 year old large dog that doesn't know how to walk on a leash as you would need to spend time leash-training for this dog to be able to go on a nice walk. I went through a dog safety/training class at an animal shelter in order to volunteer with them and they use something called an Easy Walk harness. The place you clip the leash is on the dog's chest so if they try to pull they are immediately turned to face you - this is beneficial for the dog's back/neck as well as for training them to pay attention to you. I have been using these harnesses for my puppies (currently almost 4 months old) and notice a significant difference between when I walk them using their collars and when using the harnesses (especially since I had to walk them with their collars a few times after using the harnesses as I left their harnesses on top of their kennel and in their mischievousness they pulled them off and chewed them to shreds - fortunately the company who makes them will replace them for a small fee).

Rather long-winded, but I think two dogs are a good idea for their own health and sanity, especially when you are away. I think the most important thing to consider when getting a second dog is if you have the time to properly train it.
posted by pontouf at 7:29 AM on September 4, 2010

I saw above it was mentioned, but getting another dog just means you will have 1 more dog sleeping when you are not there. Dogs sleep, alot. When you are gone, they most likely conk out. When you return, they play with each other, and you.

There are also double leashes you can get- a connector between the two dogs with a ring in the middle to connect the main leash to.
posted by TheBones at 8:06 AM on September 4, 2010

as long as dominance issues can be successfully resolved.

I just want to echo this!

My family has usually had two dogs. There's no such thing as having one dog. However, this can cause some issues. We had one pair--a black lab, and a lab/shepherd mix--that took quite a long time to get along. By the time that they died (relatively close to each other, one from cancer and the other from old age), they were great companions, but it took some training. I think what helped them get along best was to establish that neither one was the dominant one in the household; that was the humans.

We had another pair when I was a kid that didn't get along at all. It was the same lab/shepherd mix and a white shepherd mix. They fought so much that we were seriously worried that they would hurt each other badly. I was still a kid, and my mom didn't know how to handle it yet--we ended up giving younger one to another family.

So that's just something I think you should be on the lookout for... be aware it may take some work on your part to get the two dogs together. On the other hand, they might just hit it off right away!
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:39 AM on September 4, 2010

We got our second dog (an Aussie) at age one when our first dog (an Aussie/border collie mix) was age four. Both are male. The Aussie mix loves other dogs and is good at dealing with all kings of dog personalities, so that was not an issue. We also have a big yard so that was not an issue either. We got the second one for much the same reasons that you are considering. We've had the two for about a year and a half now. It's 95% positive, a great joy for us and them.

What constitutes the other 5%? Some of it has already been mentioned. It's harder to control the bad behavior of two dogs together, even with very well-trained dogs. It's harder to handle them when you have to take them places together, or choose to for convenience sake (vet appointments, vacations, trips to the park or hiking trails, etc.). It's more expensive: vet, food, toys, boarding for vacations, and so forth. You'll be cleaning up after them more often. This means poop, hair, and vomit -- don't discount the vomit. Two dogs seem to get into more distasteful things outside than one dog does.

Big issue we did not foresee and must always be conscious of: they both get jealous of each other in terms of human attention and playtime activities (particularly ball catching). It's sometimes hard to exercise or play with them together for this reason. Also, on any given day, inevitably one is more energetic or skilled than the other and the other just gives up in response and runs around eating grass, so we have to make time for individual focused play and exercise sessions. Same goes for training sessions. The positive is that we ourselves get more outdoor and exercise time.

That's the 5%. The remaining 95% of the time you will be increasing your joy and theirs immeasurably. An added plus for us: the older dog hangs on my husband's every word, while the younger dog shadows me faithfully. So we both have two dogs but also each have our "own" dog, and they have each other, which has been wonderful.
posted by beanie at 9:14 AM on September 4, 2010

I never had a dog until we acquired our present two (both bitches, from the same litter), so not sure I'm really qualified to comment. However each one seems to be more interested in playing with us than with the other one. They haven't slept together or anything like that since they were pups. But they are never far apart and I'm pretty sure that either one would miss the other terribly. Having said which: twice as much poo; twice as much shed hair; more than twice as much mess. But one dog for each kid too.
posted by Logophiliac at 2:52 PM on September 4, 2010

We adopted her! Thanks for all the encouraging advice. Watching the dogs together these last couple of weeks has been a lot of fun. She is probably 2x as smart as our formerly-only dog and an absolutely terrible influence on him. Needless to say, we love her to bits.

For us the toughest thing so far has definitely been walking. They both want to play with every dog they meet and controlling 110 lbs of dog-with-goals is tough.

Anyway, I was a little iffy on the two dog proposition and I thank you all for talking me into it.
posted by little light-giver at 10:55 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yay! You all are going to have a blast.

But be careful you don't one day find yourself asking this question!
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:47 AM on September 30, 2010

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