Is 200 pounds of dog just nuts?
October 27, 2005 8:30 AM   Subscribe

We are thinking of adopting a second dog.

Currently we have one dog, Jack, a four year old shepherd-rottie mix. He is very smart, and a great dog. He LOVES other dogs. We are both gone during the day, and from time to time think about getting a second dog. We suspect that he would be happier with another dog around. He is a big dog (108 pounds) and a bit, er, enthusiastic in his play, so any dog we adopt would have to be big enough to hold his own with our current dog. That means at least a 70 lb. dog, or more. Our dog already has indoor/outdoor access all day, and the second dog would as well. But we wonder if there will be any transition issues. Other than the obvious things like feeding, walking, and cleaning up the poop, is it easier or harder to have two dogs rather than one? If we determine that we have to crate the new dog while we are gone, for housebreaking reasons, will that drive both dogs nuts? Our current dog normally has excellent leash manners. We would train a new dog to do the same. But I stop and think about how both dogs together would significantly outweigh me, and I question whether it's really a good idea.

There have been lots of posts here about introducing new cats into a household, but nothing about dogs. Obviously, Jack would have to be introduced to any new dog to make sure that they get along. The new dog would be adopted from a shelter or rescue organization (as Jack was.) Please share your experiences, good and bad, and any advice you may have.
posted by ambrosia to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We have a 12-year-old Shepherd/husky mix and a 4-year-old Golden Retriever. When we got the second dog as a puppy, it clearly had a positive effect on our existing dog. Her activity level increased (playing), and she appeared happier.

I wouldn't worry about the size of the second dog. It'll hold its own against your existing dog. So, it gets stepped on. As long as your dog isn't aggressive, I wouldn't worry.
posted by tippiedog at 8:39 AM on October 27, 2005

I wouldn't worry about the size of the second dog.

I wouldn't go that far. They wouldn't want to get an Italian greyhound, which break easily.

But I'd chuck the weight criterion and think more directly about sturdiness. In any case, if it's a mutt, it might be hard to predict adult weight.

Things to think about: look for different sex, and a noticeable age difference. Both of these things can reduce tensions between the pups. If Jack is 4, that might mean favoring a young bitch*.

*Now all I can hear is George Takei on the Daily Show saying "young wet bitches" over and over...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:55 AM on October 27, 2005

I second that size isn't as important as compatible temperaments. Big dogs have always amazed me with their ability to scale their play to their partner. That said, be sure to have breakaway collars or no collar + microchip. Our 90lb lab mix was killed when his collar was caught in our 50lb shepherd mix's teeth during a wrestling match. It was just awful and it should never happen to another dog ever.
posted by kmel at 8:56 AM on October 27, 2005

You guys kick ass for adopting from shelters. Go animal rescues!

If you're dog isn't an anxious anti-social mess, the new dog isn't an anxious anti-social mess, and your dog isn't the territorial type, they should be cool. In general, dogs are awesome about getting new playmates.

I've seen really big dogs play with really little dogs fine before--in a fight the little one might have trouble, but playing dogs seem to be careful about size. Though it's kinda sad to watch because the bigger dog always looks a little unsatisfied about the yippy little thing biting at its ankles.

Crating one but not the other sounds like a bad idea. It would drive both of them crazy, unless you kept the crated one in a room separate from the uncrated one (even then they could hear and smell each other, but whaddya gonna do?).

If the dogs have indoor/outdoor access and there are serious housetraining problems, you could keep both of them outdoors while you're gone and put plenty of water and a couple of dog igloos out there with some nice cushy bedding and/or hay to keep 'em warm. When I lived in Michigan I took care of two German shepards for a couple who kept them outside for days at a time, sometimes in their backyard with dog igloos, sometimes in a dog run they set up in their barn and backyard. It could get to 10-15 degree-F weather, and the dogs were fine (I don't know if they were happy, but they were fine). Your profile says you're in Berkeley, so I'm guessing it doesn't get that cold.
posted by schroedinger at 8:58 AM on October 27, 2005

"you're dog" = "your dog". ARGH.
posted by schroedinger at 8:59 AM on October 27, 2005

We adopted a second dog earlier this year and it's made a world of difference for our dog. We got them both from the same shelter and they're doing great.

When you go to pick out the new dog, bring Jack. Hopefully they'll have some type of play area where the two can socialize and see if they like each other. We met a couple dogs we liked that didn't like Bosco (our first dog) or vice versa. Alan (the one we got) and Bosco hit it off immediately.
posted by Atom12 at 9:04 AM on October 27, 2005

Adding a second dog to our household (from the first dog's point of view) was a definite good thing. First dog (Buddy) actually has become a bit more mellow and his behavior has improved since introducing the second dog (Zeek). Buddy was never crated before we got Zeek, and still is not, but we decided to crate Zeek from the beginning. It had no negative effect on either of them. In fact, we take Zeek's very large crate with us on roadtrips, and they love to ride in it together.

We learned right away that in order to manage an additional dog, the routine would need to be better defined. Now they both eat and excrete and play outside at nearly the same times in the day. I'm a firm believer now that a routine is a very heathy part of a dog's life. Also there are now rules, boundaries, and limitations they both must abide by, where Buddy was king before Zeek. That, as well, has been very positive for all of us.

I echo what schroedinger said. Good for you for adopting from a shelter or rescue!
posted by sublivious at 9:05 AM on October 27, 2005

Another voice in the don't-worry-overmuch-about-matching-weights chorus. Happy unstressed dogs really do scale their play well to each other, and some small dogs are more solid than you'd expect. For instance, my folks had a hyperactive moose of a German Shepherd a few years back, and a miniature Schnauzer. Quite the size discrepancy, but mini-schnaus are basically small organic bricks--very dense and solid pooches. When they'd tussle, the schnau came out the winner more often than not.

Crating one and not the other does have some crazy-making potential, unfortunately. Crate them both, perhaps. Still a bit with the crazy, but it won't be a damaging crazy.
posted by Drastic at 9:07 AM on October 27, 2005

We have differently sized dogs: an older, cuddly, small girl, and a medium sized, active boy. The girl really resents the boy whenever he tries to play, or steps on her, or whatever. Non-matching temperaments and a bad age/size/sex ratio.

I suspect the main problem you'd have with 200 lbs of dog is if it tried to jump on you every time you came through the door. Otherwise, two dogs are not harder than one. Crating the new dog will not create craziness if it is a younger female, like ROU_Xenophobe suggested. You two look like loving and tolerant pet owners; you'll do great :)
posted by emyd at 9:24 AM on October 27, 2005

We adopted a second dog (male 45 lb. Australian Cattle Dog, 9 months old at the time) to keep our first dog (female Lab/Border Collie Mix, 75 lbs. and 2 years old at the time) company.

Different genders and ages helped, I think. They are both high strung herders. He's very bossy but she's definitely the dominant one, even though she's more laid back. We just brought him home to introduce them, and they worked out their relationship within about 5 seconds.

I use normal collars for walking them and can hold them if they suddenly take off after another dog; when I take them running outside our neighborhood, I use "no-pull" harnesses that give me a little more control with less muscle power.

Two dogs is slightly more work than one, but not much. Mostly in terms of vacuuming dog hair....
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 10:03 AM on October 27, 2005

Two shouldn't be a problem unless one has a dominance issue - meaning one wants to be dominate and the other won't submit. This = fights. If this happens, the only way to get around it is to be totally unfair - treat one dog way better than the other dog. This means this dog gets greeted first, treated first, and fed first. He should get the huge praise when you come in. Always attend to the second dog second.

I'm not saying be cruel to one, in any way! But dogs in this situation learn pretty quickly that one dog is the alpha, as designated by you. They like hierarchy and will usually accept this.

This is pretty rare, from what I hear though, so likely they will be fine - part of the pack!
posted by agregoli at 10:17 AM on October 27, 2005

My Patterdale Terrier (she's a very compact 20 pounds) only likes to play with big dogs. I second (or third or fourth) the comments that temperament is as important as size.

As far as walking the two of them, my biggest concern would be what would happen if an unleashed aggressive dog approached you and your dogs - with 2 big dogs it might be tough to control that situation. The realistic possibility of that happening is probably pretty low, and I think that if your two are well trained then you are way ahead of the game.
posted by Puppy D at 10:55 AM on October 27, 2005

8 months after adopting an 8 month-old puppy, we adopted another puppy, 6 months old this time. They get along like a house on fire and we've never looked back.

In terms of maintenance, we've found having 2 dogs to be the same as 1 - except for one main difference: bringing 2 dogs to your friends' houses is a much bigger deal than bringing 1. Two dogs tend to overpower the space a bit, especially when they're as big as yours, and friends aren't necessarily as excited about having them over. Apart from that, the difference really is neglible.

We crated the younger dog during housetrainging and left the older dog out. It was never a problem - our older one usually would sleep right outside her crate to make her feel more secure. It was very sweet.

Leash walking is a real hassle for us, but that's because we haven't been enforcing the training like we should. Separately they're each OK, but not great, and together they just haul us all over the place. We are going to get a trainer in the next few months to help us correct the behavior. I assume that because your older dog is already well leash-trained, you won't have a big problem training the second one as well - BUT you might want to really work with the new dog before taking them out together, especially considering their sizes. Our dogs are 50 and 33 lbs respectively and we have our hands full when they're both straining.

It really is wonderful to see how much our dogs love each other and how well they play/get along together. Getting the second dog has been well worth it in our opinion. Good luck!
posted by widdershins at 11:13 AM on October 27, 2005

I think you should do it. Dogs are pack animals, and the more the merrier, as long as you can afford the time, money and training involved with having two canines. Make sure to update the heeling training on Jack and do it for the new one, so you can walk both without difficulty.

Complete sidenote, but my dog is also named Jack, and he's a 3 1/2 year old Rotty/Shepherd mix from a shelter, as well. Picture.
posted by Happydaz at 12:10 PM on October 27, 2005

Like almost everyone else has said, it's more a matter of matching temperments than size.

Definitely take both dogs to at least one class for leash lessons. It's much different walking two dogs than one, even if both are trained. As long as both dogs are trained to walk together, you should do fine (unless you get a scent hound, then expect to be yanked off your feet at regular intervals).
posted by luneray at 2:11 PM on October 27, 2005

« Older Help Deciding on a Mortgage / Having my Loan Sold   |   How to update a webpage from another webpage? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.