Is a second dog such a big deal?
March 31, 2014 4:27 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I have a dog. She wants to adopt another one, I'm being very resistant. Are my reasons completely ridiculous? Are two dogs really better than one?

My wife and I have been together for years, no kids, we adopted a pup ~6 months ago and he is the love of our life. He's well taken care of, knows his place in the pecking order, sleeps on the end of the bed, has his spot on the couch, isn't spoiled but certainly gets the star treatment as my only 'child'. I love the bond we have and I love our little family unit. We are a lovely little trio.

My wife insists that he would be happier with a buddy and is pushing hard for another. She peruses the local adoption ads regularly and shows me pictures of cute dogs that we should adopt. Wife and I are golden, this is just something we are disagreeing on.

I'm worried that I don't have the love to give to another dog. I spent years looking forward to and months training this current little guy. He is my one and only, I don't think I can muster up the motivation to do it again for another dog. I'm self employed so the responsibility isn't an issue, but i don't think I have it in me split my affection. We both agree we want 'our' dogs, not "his and hers'.

More importantly, i'm worried that my current dog will be jealous/worried that he did something wrong or that I don't love him enough, so much so that I had to get another dog. I know that dogs are pack animals and a hierarchy will develop, so i'm stressed out that my dog will be insecure if we bring another in to the pack and he will be the grunt (he's a big softie) - like he's doing something wrong and we don't love him and had to get another. is that ridiculous?

We can more than take care of another dog (finances and attention are not an issue), we have an enormous fenced in back yard for them to get in to trouble and i'm home most of the day, but SHOULD we? If getting another dog will increase my guy's happiness then I am sold, but I'm not convinced this is the case.
posted by BlerpityBloop to Pets & Animals (52 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
More importantly, i'm worried that my current dog will be jealous/worried that he did something wrong or that I don't love him enough, so much so that I had to get another dog. I know that dogs are pack animals and a hierarchy will develop, so i'm stressed out that my dog will be insecure if we bring another in to the pack and he will be the grunt (he's a big softie) - like he's doing something wrong and we don't love him and had to get another. is that ridiculous?
I - look, I'm not going to call it ridiculous, because we feel what we feel. However, the highly abstract worries you're ascribing to a dog are not really dog-like worries. There are other worries you might have about adding a new dog to the house, but I would recommend talking to a trainer and seeing what she says might be difficulties with a new dog.

Regarding your broader concern, I would guess that you'd be perfectly able to fit another dog in your heart. In my experience, especially with a person that worries if they'll able to care adequately for a new addition to the home, you don't so much split your love as find out that it's a well you can keep drawing from. Maybe not infinitely, but I think you'd find that the new dog would be special to you in its own way.

However I'm not you and I don't actually know you! You could be totally right about yourself! Maybe compromise and give yourself another year with just one dog or something?
posted by kavasa at 4:37 PM on March 31, 2014 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Kavasa,

1 - I can likely fit 17 more dogs in to my heart, will my current dog notice?
2- will my current dog be sad that I got another dog?

Ridiculous? Or is it?
posted by BlerpityBloop at 4:44 PM on March 31, 2014

I had a dog for 7 years. He was my only dog.

Then we adopted a puppy.

The original dog's life has changed, but (aside from the emotions we project onto him) he doesn't seem to care.

Yeah, the notion that your dog will feel like you don't love him enough if you get another dog (or 17), is pretty ridiculous.
posted by toomuchpete at 4:46 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh man, two dogs are definitely better than one. Other than the costs doubling, and you say that's not an issue.

As long as you make sure the new one and your dog get along, they can be a great help to each other. They're social animals and I think they are always happier with at least one other dog. I watched my shy dog bloom when we brought in another.

The only part that worries me is this: "I don't think I can muster up the motivation to do it again for another dog." Then you may have one well-trained, well-adjusted dog, and one who is...not.
posted by fiercecupcake at 4:48 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm 99% sure you don't have to worry about your dog being hurt or thinking he did something wrong - that's just not how dogs think or feel. He may experience something similar to what we'd call jealousy, but that would likely pass, especially since it sounds like your dog has an excellent temperament.

I also think you're underestimating your capacity to love another dog. Dogs tend to find their way into your heart, as you've found.

I think the main drawbacks to getting a new dog are primarily the extra work, cost, and slightly more complicated logistics. But it doesn't sound like those are your primary concerns.
posted by lunasol at 4:50 PM on March 31, 2014

We always had multiple dogs growing up, and it's nice that way--they always have someone to play with and it's fun to watch their doggish interactions with each other.

As to his emotional reaction, I... think you might anthropomorphizing juuuust a bit. Usually it goes like this: Oh new dog! Hey new dog, that's my pillow. Hey new dog, now is the time we go poop! And the humans pick it up--crazy, right?

Your dog will not be sad you got a second dog. You might have an adjustment period (from a few hours to a few weeks).
posted by lovecrafty at 4:50 PM on March 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

My buddy, my pal, my Max was 6 when Ollie came along. I was concerned for all of the same reasons you have, because I only ever had one dog at a time. And Max had a bit of a troubled start -- abused, then became a stray. My husband wanted a pup. And I gave in, because who am I to deny a grown man a puppy? I figured Max would remain my dog, and Ollie would be his dog.

My husband took puppy Ollie to the park across the street, and I brought Max out to meet them. They met, licked, sniffed, romped, and Ollie came home with us. It was that easy. Max shared his bed, shared his toys, shared his food (too much, Ollie got a bit chunky) and became a great big brother.

They get along so well it's ridiculous. It's a win for Max because he has another warm body to cuddle with and play with. It's a win for us because 1) Ollie trained super-quickly because of Max and 2) I don't feel bad going to work anymore and leaving a dog alone. They keep each other company. Max can be VERY emo about many things. Ollie is never one of them.

And now both Max and Ollie cuddle with me on the sofa at night as I read. They are both my dogs and I love them equally, and I don't love Max less at all. I will never go back to having only one dog.
posted by kimberussell at 4:52 PM on March 31, 2014 [8 favorites]

Your dog won't care - so long as you do this correctly and choose and introduce second dog carefully.

However; you might care. Two dogs is a lot more time and work. More than double, in my experience.

Any chance your wide would compromise with fostering? Then you have a second dog part of the time.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:54 PM on March 31, 2014

I'm not a psychic so of course I can't know for certain, but no, current dog would not be sad.
posted by kavasa at 4:58 PM on March 31, 2014

Response by poster: Lesser shrew, we have the option of a 3 week foster, which I KNOW will turn in to permanent 12 year heartbreak.

My question is, will my current dog ( love of my life, that little monster) be in any way negatively affected by adopting another dog, or are they just cool with it? I'm truly worried my best friend will think I'm trying to replace him. I love him to death and don't want him to think otherwise. If I bring in another dog will he think he's done something wrong?
posted by BlerpityBloop at 5:03 PM on March 31, 2014

Getting a dog -- not my first, but the first in a long while -- was the best thing I ever did for myself. Bringing home the second 'hound was the very best thing I did for my dog. He was doing fine as an only, but I'd seen over and over how he lit up with happiness around others of his kind, and so I adopted again sooner than I would have imagined. They've been good together since the day they met, and I've not ever regretted either adoption for a minute.

That said, does your current dog like the company of other dogs, at least certain ones? That's your hint. Some pets are most content being onlies, but the majority really thrive with a four-footed companion.

Since my first hound was so perfect for me, I was worried I wouldn't love the second as much. She won my heart within the first day of being home and she followed everything my well-behaved, trained first dog did, which made her even easier.

I live with an easygoing large breed, and I'd say having two is maybe 5 to 10% more work than one.

Don't underestimate your own capacity to love. It's not splitting affection. It's doubling affection.
posted by vers at 5:04 PM on March 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Nthing somewhat ridiculous. The dog is not a person; they do not think what people think or do what people do. Kind of reads like you are projecting some of your own anxieties onto the dog. Make your wife responsible for lions share of training. I am a big believer in multiple pets, they really do generally appreciate the company.
posted by smoke at 5:06 PM on March 31, 2014

If I bring in another dog will he think he's done something wrong?

If you find a good companion for him, he's going to think that every day is Christmas.
posted by vers at 5:06 PM on March 31, 2014 [25 favorites]

We just adopted a second dog. Our first dog (Nina) definitely noticed it -- she wanted his attention right away, and was a little freaked out for the first week while he (Gizmo) just ignored her. Once he warmed up to her in week 2, they started playing together and she was obviously really happy. She's now like a slightly obsessive teenage girlfriend with him, which he bears fairly stoically.

We fostered Gizmo for a couple of weeks, and it was pretty emotionally hard -- the fact that he was totally indifferent to her (while totally adoring us) made the decision very difficult. We almost called the rescue group twice to say that we didn't think it was working out. But I'm glad we gave it a chance, and now they're having a great time together.

Human-wise, it's great having another fuzzy face to love and to cuddle with on the couch. In terms of work, it's barely any additional labor, because we have to walk Nina three times a day anyway; the only adjustment is that their leashes get tangled. That's about it.

Dogs are the greatest. More dogs are more greatest. Give it a try!
posted by scody at 5:09 PM on March 31, 2014

Jiggy and Jacy are best friends. Well... I'm their best friend (along with my wife); but they are best "dog-friends" with one another. Many dogs love having a best-dog-friend.

In terms of splitting affection, nah, doesn't happen. It's just like having kids. You don't suddenly love the first any less when the second is born.

If you have the capacity and money, two dogs is the way to go. (Or, ya know, three.)
posted by jms18 at 5:11 PM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just make sure you get an opposite-sex dog to what you have now.

I think your reasons about your current dog don't really make sense from a dog behavior standpoint, but if you don't think you want another dog, don't get another dog. Dogs often do very well with another dog, but you still need to give each dog individual one on one time, socialize them separately, etc. You want them to be self-reliant, not reliant on each other.

But really, if the real reason you don't want another dog is because you don't want another dog then...just don't get another dog.

(And I say this as someone who has three dogs)
posted by biscotti at 5:12 PM on March 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Dogs are dogs, man. Dogs (and cats) are just the best...partially because they don't get weighed down by complicated overthinking. They generally love buddy dogs unless they've been taught not to by humans. Trust've got enough love for a second dog.

Take current dog to a dog park or on a doggy playdate with a friend's dog. Bet your dog loves it and I bet you love seeing your dog enjoy dog companionship.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:13 PM on March 31, 2014

Response by poster: Will my dogs feelings be hurt by getting him a sister? Honestly, I know that may sound stupid, but will he be ok with it ?
posted by BlerpityBloop at 5:23 PM on March 31, 2014

A second dog would keep your dog from being lonely when you and your wife are out of the house.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:25 PM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

BlerpityBloop, I can't answer your question myself (I don't have any dogs) but I can say that people have answered this question for you above already. You seem stressed out about this, so maybe an outside summary will be helpful. What I'm seeing people say is "No, he'll be psyched and will have a playmate which will add more love to his life. Dogs don't think in the way you're worried about."
posted by c'mon sea legs at 5:25 PM on March 31, 2014 [11 favorites]

Your reasons are a bit silly, but if you just don't want another dog, that alone is an excellent reason. Second dogs are more work and the household dynamic changes. For some dogs and people, it's well worth it. But some dogs are happiest being an "only" and their behavior absolutely is happier and more relaxed when alone. It depends on your dog and the new dog you bring in. And, some owners are also happiest with a single dog.

Editing to respond to your follow-up - dogs don't think like people do. You might want to look at Patricia McConnell's book - the other end of the leash - and her excellent dog behavior blog by the same name. She works with dog behavior research - especially in how dogs differ from people.
posted by umwhat at 5:27 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't understand why you keep asking the same question. Dogs are dogs, not people. They don't have people feelings that can get hurt. Dogs don't even think they've done something wrong if they've literally pooped on your shoe while you're wearing it. There's no way your current dog has the brain capacity to think he's done something wrong about something like this.

Now go forth and rescue.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:29 PM on March 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Do you take your current dog to dog parks at all? Does he stick really close to you guys, or does he go off and play with other dogs?

Observing his behavior should clue you in on whether or not he would appreciate a fellow dog to keep him company. My experience has always been that, unless the dog is aggressive towards other dogs/animals, he/she will enjoy the company of another friendly dog (or cat). Dogs generally like having lots of buddies/friends (of course this can vary wildly based on breed).

Since you're capable of taking on another dog, I think the real issue is simply determining whether your dog will enjoy the company. You could try meeting a few potential candidates at the shelter - see what kind of personality he clicks with (ie: submissive? more authoritative? males? females?). Assuming your guy is friendly, I think you'd be sold on a 2nd dog the moment your current boy gets all excited and wiggly around a new playmate.
posted by stubbehtail at 5:31 PM on March 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Will my dogs feelings be hurt by getting him a sister? Honestly, I know that may sound stupid, but will he be ok with it ?

Again, no his feelings won't be hurt. Yes, he will be okay with it.
posted by kimberussell at 5:33 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Will my dogs feelings be hurt by getting him a sister? Honestly, I know that may sound stupid, but will he be ok with it ?

No. This is some serious anthropomorphizing. He may have a bit of an adjustment period, but that's normal. You will not be ruining his life. Dogs are social animals.
posted by scody at 5:34 PM on March 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

The answer to your question is "Yes." Your fears are imaginary and a bit ridiculous.

If you don't want to get another dog, that's fine. You don't have to. But if you want to tell your wife that the reason you're opposed is because of the psychological damage it will do to your existing dog, we're not going to endorse that. It isn't true. You are imagining it.
posted by General Tonic at 5:37 PM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: "Do you take your current dog to dog parks at all? Does he stick really close to you guys, or does he go off and play with other dogs? "

Fin is totally mellow. He never runs off, always comes when called. We take him to " dog beach" in San Diego which is a leash free beach here in town. Dog chaos. He always finds us and come hem when called. He's perfect with other dogs. He's, again, a big softie.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 5:40 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

It depends on the age and temperament of your current dog, but most likely he would benefit from it. My Corgi was 11 when we adopted my little Terrier mix. She grew up with a pack of German Shepherds and was totally the boss, but then she got really used to being the Only Princess. She was not super pleased when the little guy came in, but she was obviously older, pretty stubborn, and not the type of dog who really likes others dogs to being with. She liked to chase the other dogs at the park but not play with them.

It took a while but even the stubborn Corgi warmed up to the little Monster. She even played with him a bit. I wouldn't say they were BFF but I think she benefited from the extra activity and the fact that she was never alone.

Now that the Corgi is gone I feel terrible for the little guy because he misses her a lot. He is definitely the type of dog that benefits from having a buddy. He loves to play and hates to be alone.

Honestly I feel bad, and if I had infinite time and energy and money I would get a second dog. But secretly I don't miss dealing with two dogs. Mine were very different - in size, temperament, interests, needs. It was a pain dealing with them together. I think things would be different if they were more similar and more in sync.

TLDR: Based on what you're saying, if you're up for getting another dog, I bet your dog would love it. Find one who is around the same size and energy level as your current guy, and make sure to introduce them in a neutral place.
posted by radioamy at 5:45 PM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

BlerpityBloop I think what people are asking you about isn't if he is mellow or a big softie, it is how are his reactions towards other dogs. If he is indifferent and focuses more on you, then perhaps he would be happier, or just fine as an only dog. But if he is always interacting or playing with other dogs, then perhaps he would like a doggie companion.
Another to gently remind you that while dogs are amazing and awesome, they do not have the brain capabilities of humans and because they are social animals, when introduced properly they will love having a doggie companion.
posted by ruhroh at 5:54 PM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

If your dog likes other dogs, getting him 17 playmates would be doggie heaven. If your dog doesn't like other dogs, it will be hard for him, but it would be hard because of his and the other dog's dynamic, or your dog's history/temperament, not because he doesn't feel as loved. That's human projection.

My rescue isn't happy with other dogs, but that is because of her history of abuse and abandonment. Each dog is different and you just need to give it a try and see how it works out. A foster could be great for that. Because healthy dogs are pack animals and the larger the pack, the larger the happiness.
posted by Vaike at 5:56 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here is an essay for you about getting a second dog. Enjoy. (And no, dogs don't feel unloved when they get a friend, at most they may get territorial but that passes and they become a pack. That's what packs are.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:02 PM on March 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

I was you last year, and although I appear to be the only one, I'm here to tell you that your concerns are not necessarily groundless.

We had dog #1 since she was a puppy; she was five years old last fall. My husband started lobbying for a second dog last year, and I resisted mightily because I didn't want to house train another puppy. Mr. Bouvier is very clever, and switched to lobbying for a rescue dog. It's pretty hard to resist those rescue dog pictures.

Dog # 2 is smaller, a couple years older than dog #1, but has a more forceful personality. She bonded strongly with me, and displayed what sure looks a lot like doggy jealousy when dog #1 came near me. You can mock if you like, but if it looks like jealousy and acts like jealousy, I'm going to call it jealousy. Dog 2 would charge at and nip dog 1 if she came near me, once flying off the couch at her. She only did this with me, not with any other family member. We disciplined dog 2 for that, and she has pretty much stopped.


Our family relationship, especially my relationship, with dog 1 is drastically changed. She is reluctant to show affection to me. She no longer sleeps on our bed, and won't even come into our bedroom without much cajoling. If we bring her into our room at night she sleeps in the corner of the bathroom. She seems sadder, less playful. I always pet her first, feed her first, give her treats first, but it hasn't made a difference. She will walk behind furniture to avoid dog 2. Once when dog 2 was out for a walk dog 1 immediately jumped up on the couch next to me, which she hadn't done in months while dog 2 was around. (We rarely walk either dog on a leash because we have a very large fenced yard.)

Perhaps our dog is the exception, but the second dog did change things. I would not have agreed if I had known how things would turn out.
posted by Bresciabouvier at 6:08 PM on March 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Mod note: BlerpityBloop, this is not really a discussion thread. Please limit your comments to follow-ups, please? Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:18 PM on March 31, 2014

I have two dogs.

My first dog did not seem upset when I got a second dog, but my second dog sure wishes he was my only dog!!! ;)

If you do get a second dog, let your dog help pick his new friend. Go to a rescue or shelter or breeder or whatever, and let the shelter, rescue, or breeder folks help choose so you get a good match.

Cute is not what you go by when trying to get another family member who blends well. You want personalities that complement each other, you want them to be good friends, tolerant of each other, and enjoy each other's company and play styles.

Three weeks is not long enough for a trial. A rehomed dog only begins to settle in after about 4-5 weeks. Ask for 2 months.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 6:20 PM on March 31, 2014

Bresciabouvier that sounds terrible for your first dog. Whether you bonded with the second dog or not, you have accepted the situation instead of realizing (I think) that the two dogs are a bad match, and re-homing or returning the second. This is not a good example for the OP, in my opinion.

Blerpity, it totally and completely depends on the personalities of BOTH dogs. Make sure the next one is mellow. Make double sure. And it will be great. And you will have a period of adjustment, and then you will wonder how you ever thought the first dog wouldn't love the second one to BITS. (And you also.)
posted by Glinn at 6:21 PM on March 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Glinn, I know that you are right, and I got emotional writing my answer because it makes me so sad. We were the second rescue home for dog 2, who was so stressed by her first rescue home that she lost a good portion of her fur (she is a sheltie and lost her entire undercoat, so that she looked like a terrier). I think we were reluctant to admit that it wasn't a good match and send her back to rescue when she had been through so much already.

So I guess the second piece of my advice to OP is if you do get the second dog, don't hesitate to change your mind if it turns out not to be the right fit.
posted by Bresciabouvier at 6:36 PM on March 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

A second dog would keep your dog from being lonely when you and your wife are out of the house.

Yeah, they're pack animals. A dog that's away from its pack is a dog that's going to snuff it, out in the wild. So they get anxious.

So if you get a dog that's a good fit for Dog #1, it's all good.

More importantly, i'm worried that my current dog will be jealous/worried that he did something wrong or that I don't love him enough, so much so that I had to get another dog.

Dogs are definitely thinking feeling creatures, but your understanding of their inner states is a bit off in this instance. You may want to dig up some positively reviewed books and videos on the subject.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:46 PM on March 31, 2014

Data point: we have a pair, one is crazily excited, one is super mellow. Oddly enough, people ask if they're brothers (they look pretty darn close, and play well together, even though we got them two years apart, and they couldn't be more different).

The crazily-excited one is far less high maintenance since we got the mellow one, and both of them delight (seriously, my wife and I will stop what we're doing to watch) in a 10-minute okaynowitstimetoracearoundthehouseandwrestleokaywe'redonenow-fest a few times a day.

My wife, who grew up with always one dog, notes that she won't have a single one again because they like each other more than they like us sometimes :^)
posted by Seeba at 7:04 PM on March 31, 2014

I have the general opinion that my job is to provide my cat a loving, warm home with unlimited food (unless that unhealthy - my current cat is a thin free-feeder) and cozy spots to sleep in and trips to the vet (as much as she hates that) when necessary and as many cuddles as I have time for.

But I also feel like I should not greatly limit my own quality of life for my cat's quality of life. That is to say that sometimes I sleep at my boyfriend's house even though I know my cat hates it. I go to work even though she wants me to be on the couch with her. And if I was dating a man with a cat or a dog and we wanted to live together I would do everything possible to make the transition smooth and easy but my cat would probably hate it. And then she would adjust, and it may change her personality and decrease her quality of life a bit. But it's still a very, very good life. She would not be in danger, and she would still have all the other things she needs to have a comfortable and cozy life.

I love her very much. I hope this doesn't sound callous. I guess what I am saying is that my duty to my cat does not surpass my duty to myself.

Your dog, by the way, will probably be very happy. Why not figure out a way to do a test run? Can you take care of someone else's dog for a week or so and see how that goes?

And you might really want to go the puppy route. A shelter dog is going to be more of a wildcard. It's ok not to adopt a rescue. That is not for everyone and that is fine. I suggest talking to your vet about what kind of breeds might get along with your current dog and then do some research to choose an ethical breeder for your new puppy, if you decide to get a second dog.
posted by sockermom at 7:07 PM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

As others have said, it kind of depends on the dog. I can tell you with 100% certainty that my dog (on the right) would LOVE IT if we got a 2nd dog.

Dogs are pack animals, my dog is an Akita. As a spitz type and an ancient breed, the pack mentality is a little stronger.

We socialized the heck out of her as soon as we could and brought her to a puppy class that, among other things, taught her how to play with other dogs.

When we go to the dog park I see some dogs that love to follow their humans as they walk around. They are fine with the other dogs but they mostly just follow the humans. Some dogs are totally focused on THE BALL and only really care about the human who throws it (be it their human or some other human). They're also fine with the other dogs but they really only care about THE BALL. Then there is my dog. She goes to the dog park to play with the other dogs. Her favorite thing is to wrestle with other dogs. Her 2nd favorite thing is to chase other dogs until they will wrestle with her. She'll come when called (mostly, we're working on it) and she keeps track of where I am but she is there to run around and play with the other dogs.

The last time I brought her to doggy daycare she was really pulling on the leash (she is normally pretty good about that) to try and get through the door to where the other dogs are. So I grabbed one of the treats that they keep on the counter, made her sit and gave her the treat. She set the treat down on the floor and continued to wait for her REAL reward which surely must be opening the door to were the fun happens.

Lastly, since I work from home, my neighbor occasionally brings his dog over (the one on the left) and they spend the day together. My dog sees this as THE BEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED! She likes to watch me pet the new dog, she likes when I pet them both together. She likes to play with the other dog and she likes to lay around with the other dog. She just loves it when our pack gets a little bigger.

So, if your dog does anything like any of that, he might already want you to get another dog (or five). From what you've described about your dog's temperament, I think that at worst he would love having another dog after an adjustment period.

In any case, it's kind of hard to tell without a picture....
posted by VTX at 7:16 PM on March 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

Ask your dog-owning friends, or other dog owners at the dog park/beach, if you could borrow their dog for a weekend. Then you can get a sense of how your dog would react to a newcomer, and how much extra work and/or chaos another dog would bring to the family.

You could also consider fostering for a local shelter or rescue, but that is a different level of commitment that you might not be interested in. But it is a good way to get a variety of short- and long-term doggie visitors and gauge your current dog's reactions to them.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:44 PM on March 31, 2014

We had two Border Collies, the first one here, the second, seven years younger, here. They were fast friends.

The older dog, the most noble member of our family, died last year. We waited 10 months to get another dog, and intended to wait longer, but a rescue puppy stole our hearts and we brought him home.

Miss Thing hated him at first, but he didn't take it personally and persisted in his overtures of friendship. Today? They're besties. She snaps at him from time to time, in order to remind him who's the alpha, not that he pays a great deal of attention to her rebukes, but otherwise they spend a good deal of time playing with each other, and that's a good thing.

But the thing is, none of their dynamic has anything to do with us, the humans. Their relationship is separate and apart from us. The surviving Border Collie never thought, "Why did you do this to me?" It was all about the puppy finding his place in the family hierarchy, and in about a month he did.

Granted, he sees himself as the alpha, but to date an occasional slap of the paw to him keeps him in his place.

Finally, just because his shelter photo looks a little beat down, here's our puppy four weeks later.

posted by Short Attention Sp at 7:55 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was like you and didn't want a second dog. I was pretty tight with dog 1...he was male and gravitated toward (female) me and when we first got him I worked from home so we spent a lot of time together. I thought a new dog would dominate him since I thought of him as kind of timid. He was clearly not well cared for in his previous home (both our dogs are rescues) and I thought he was pretty vulnerable.

We got a second dog who seemed at first like she was going to be very dominant. In the first few hours in our house she took one of dog 1's toys out of his mouth and I cried. I felt terrible. It was all my worst fears realized.

But somehow, sometime in the first week together, dog 1 showed dog 2 that he was boss, and ever since, she has been the submissive little sister to his grouchy older brother. I have no idea what he did. We didn't realize how neurotic dog 1 was getting all alone in the yard. He has mellowed a lot since he got his little sister. In fact, I think if anything I feel more sorry for her...she thought she was going to rule the roost when she showed up, and she was so wrong. The dogs love to play together and get into trouble. Having another dog has been fantastic for my first dog and I am so glad I did it.

One thing to consider: if you think you might have kids at any point, the dog's world will be less shattered by the change if there's already a canine friend in the house.
posted by town of cats at 8:34 PM on March 31, 2014

Your dog will be fine. Dogs are pack animals, dogs are used to living in small groups. You do have to take a little care in making sure the dogs get along, so fostering for a few weeks first to give the dogs time to really relax and get to know each other is a great way to do it.

We had the most spoiled little lap dog of a dog we got from a rescue. When I wanted to adopt another dog my husband was worried, like you, that the first dog would be jealous.
Our super spoiled rescue dog my husband was so sure would be jealous and hate any new dog, thinks he's the best thing since sliced bread, the second dog we got was riddled with all sorts of behavioral problems, and our spoiled little fluffy lap dog/baby substitute spent the first six months just being a calm presence teaching the new dog how to relax and be a dog. Taught him how to play with toys and wrestle and that snuggles are fun. Oh and my husband that swore he could never love another dog as much as our first, sleeps with the second dog snuggled against his chest every night.

Remember "Love doesn't divide, it multiplies."
posted by wwax at 8:42 PM on March 31, 2014

You said it yourself: I know that dogs are pack animals...

Yes, they are pack animals. And right now your dog's pack contains one furry dog member, and two nekked monkeys. If you get a companion for your dog, his pack increases by another furry dog member! Hooray! Now he can run and sniff butts and drink out of the toilet with his buddy.

Dogs don't worry about where they are positioned in the pack, they worry about being isolated or left alone and if the food dish is going to be empty...forever.

Your dog wants a buddy. Be a good guy and get him one.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:42 PM on March 31, 2014

Heuristics like "make sure they're opposite sex" or "if one is mellow get another mellow dog" or "if he doesn't play with other dogs at the dog park..." are, I'd argue, utter rubbish.

You're not keeping an arbitrary population of dogs, you're aiming to home two particular dogs. If those two dogs get along, things will be great. They will get along (or not) irrespective of their sex, dog-park personalities, or Myers-Briggs test results.

The three week foster situation sounds pretty great, to be honest. That's probably enough time to figure out whether the two dogs are getting along if (and only if) you can stop projecting your anxieties onto the dogs. If you can't do that, you'll make yourself miserable even if both dogs are perfectly happy.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:23 PM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think your first dog is going to feel you're trying to replace him. I don't think that's how dogs think. However, I am here to tell you that they DO feel jealousy. In fact, in my experience, jealousy is one of the most powerful of a dog's emotions. I can't say whether your dog will feel jealous over you, but my first dog did when I got my second, and still does. I think she's fine with him, he certainly makes her life more interesting, but given a choice, she'd prefer to be an only dog. The second dog, though, loooooves the first. He is much happier having dog companionship. It really depends on the dog.

The other thing is that you may simply be a one-dog kind of guy. I didn't realize I was a one-dog person until we got a second. In my case, the second became my dog, and the first became my husband's. This has actually turned out to be a great thing, the two jealous dogs each have a person of their own and my husband and I each enjoy an intense bond with our own dog, but at the same time they do obviously love it when the pack is all together. You just don't know how it will turn out until you try. In my case, the supposedly bad result actually turned out to work really well for us. It's not what I went into it wanting, but to my surprise it's really pretty great.
posted by HotToddy at 9:26 PM on March 31, 2014

I have two dogs and I love them both to pieces. They get along tremendously, fortunately, and I think they are great buddies. They wear each other out, and give each other company when I work long hours.

That being said, and this doesn't sound like it's a concern to you, but just want to throw it out there that having one extra dog *can* be a considerable amount of extra work. It might not be, but in my case it has been. Although I love both of my dogs and would never want to part with them, I would never own two dogs again. Especially dogs with issues (like mine), which you might not find out about until later. It's a lot more difficult for me to go places with both of them, it's more expensive to board both of them, it's harder to travel with both of them, and I have to exercise them separately (good for me I suppose, but still takes up a considerable amount of time in my day).

Just wanted to throw that out there . . .
posted by canda at 5:41 AM on April 1, 2014

Twice we've gotten second dogs and both times the first dog was *thrilled*.

The first time the dogs spent 2 hours barking at each other and wagging their tails with delight (yay! another dog to bark with!) and then settled down for years of happiness together.

The second time the two dogs (two different dogs from my first example) interacted the first dog was *thrilled*--he couldn't stop trying to play with the new dog. The new dog was fine with it. She's not as exuberant as him, but she was perfectly happy.

Your dog will NOT have his feelings hurt if you continue to give him lots of attention. If you started to ignore him in favour of the new dog, well, yes, then he'd be sad, I think. But if you continue to love him AND give him a friend to love and who will love him back? It will be win-win for him, and that's what he'll feel
posted by Amy NM at 5:56 AM on April 1, 2014

I will admit, up front, that I anthropomorphize the hell out of my pets. My husband and I "talk" for them in squeaky voices. We attribute all sorts of human emotions and thoughts to them that go beyond whatever would be considered 'normal' by a lot of people. I am also someone who leans toward anxiety around change. I get your concerns and I agree with people who are noting that you are attributing human thoughts/emotions to dogs and causing yourself some emotional distress unnecessarily.

I've always had one dog at a time because of the reasons you noted - wanting to focus my attention/love, not wanting to upset anyone, not being sure how much work would be involved, etc. About a decade ago my husband and I decided to get a 2nd dog to keep our first pup company. It was ridiculously stressful for me. I worried about all the things you're worried about. But we introduced the dogs and they got along reasonably, so we decided to give it a shot and bring 2nd dog home.

It took some time for them to really 'get' each other, to sort out their own relationship, to figure out who owned the various toys at any given time. I admit that it was SO stressful - every time one of them growled I was convinced they hated each other and that we had ruined our dog's life by bringing in the new one! I cried a few times. It would have been helpful if I understood 'dog' or if they could understand English - I kept attributing feelings to them (and upsetting myself!) The first few weeks were really hard for me.

But, for the past decade-ish, we've been a very happy two dog household - that's The Beag on the left, and Daisy on the right. Last week we had to euthanise Daisy (after a lengthy illness) and The Beag has been in mourning. She misses her buddy. I am so glad that they had each other all these years and it was absolutely worth the initial stress and anxiety.

Tonight we're introducing The Beag to a rescue dog, while crossing our fingers, in the hopes that they'll become friends. If they don't get along, we'll keep trying with other dogs. If we don't meet a dog that 'fits' with Beag, we'll keep her as an 'only' dog. We want her to be happy, and she's been happy in the past as part of a (small) dog pack, but that doesn't mean she has to be with another dog.

I have gone through all the emotions around this upcoming introduction and most of them are fully human feelings. My advice would be to introduce your dog to other dogs and see what happens. A good rescue/shelter will allow you the time and space to make the right decision - within reason - because they legitimately care about the rescue dog AND the welfare/happiness of your own dog. I recommend rescues because, most often, the dogs have been fostered in a home where their behaviours are observed, they're continuing to be socialized, and they're not quite the 'unknown' that dogs may be at shelters/pounds. (That said, Daisy was from a local shelter!)
posted by VioletU at 8:47 AM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have to write here because the OP was me one year ago. In summer 2012 I adopted my first dog and fell madly in love with him. He was (and is) my spoiled child, and I just love him so much. He is hyper and wants to play a lot, so after a few months, I started thinking about getting a second dog for him to play with.

However, I was concerned. I loved my dog so much that I was thinking I couldn't possibly love another dog as much. I was afraid that he would feel neglected, and that I wouldn't be able to give them equal attention.

The first time we found a possible dog, I made an appointment for me and my dog to meet the foster mom and her dog. That morning I was a wreck and I actually started crying, thinking about how it wasn't going to be "just us" anymore and I would have to share my attention with another dog. I was starting to have doubts. As it turned out, when we met this particular dog we didn't think she would work out so we passed. That day should have been my warning.

My problem is that I'm extremely neurotic. I have OCD and struggle a lot with anxiety. OP, I don't know if you have anxiety issues, but your worries about your dog seem similar to mine.

We ended up finding another dog who got along with mine, and despite my doubts, proceeded with the adoption. Because the dogs didn't instantly become best friends, I immediately decided that the whole thing was a mistake and began to freak out. People advised me to give it time, and eventually they seemed to interact more. But I was upset about giving "equal time" to both dogs. This new dog was perfectly nice, there was nothing wrong with her. But in my mind she wasn't as "perfect" as my original dog and I kept feeling like she would never measure up. I felt guilty every time I gave her attention, like I was neglecting my other one.

I know if I had given it more time, the two dogs would have worked things out. The problem was me. I was a wreck because I didn't like the "idea" of having 2 dogs and splitting my attention. I wanted to go back to just the two of us. So I did. And a year later, I still feel like a huge jerk for doing so. I didn't want to be one of those people that returns a shelter dog for some stupid reason, and yet I did. I take comfort in the fact that she got adopted by someone else about 2 weeks later, so I'm sure she's happy now, but I still feel bad about the whole situation.

So, based on the feedback I got from other people at the time, and the answers you're getting here, it looks like getting a second dog is a great option for a lot of people. But I think there are a few people, like me, who are just better as a "one-dog person." Based on your doubts, I would recommend taking some time to consider if you're just better as a one-dog person.

I've tried to make it up to my dog ever since then by ensuring he has plenty of dog interaction. I take him to a local facility that has indoor dog playgroups once a week. I also put him in daycare one day a week when the weather is cold. When the weather is nice, we continue with the playgroups but I also take him to the dog park once or twice a week. So even though it's "just us" I know that at least he is getting to interact and play with other dogs.
posted by LaurenIpsum at 9:19 AM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Two dogs are twice the work. I wasn't prepared for how difficult an adjustment our household would have with an exuberant 4-month-old Boxer. We already had a 5-year-old Boxer, and he was pretty laid back and mellow. New dog is very rambunctious. We've had him for a year and still don't trust him to run free in the house because he is very food-driven and will eat everything off the kitchen counters, or get into some other kind of mischief.

We had to adjust our family routine and it was draining, and still can be some days. I'd advise you to take into consideration the temperament of the new dog. Maybe get a second dog of the same energy level as your first dog.
posted by cass at 11:21 AM on April 1, 2014

« Older New sources of music for a male/female vocal duet   |   Salaried Employee, question about working after... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.