Introduction: How to Choose a Second Dog
Unfortunately, simply wanting a second dog isn’t a good enough reason to get one. To integrate a second dog successfully into your family, you’ll have to use the same logic and reasoning skills you’d bring to purchasing a new washing machine. Removing emotion just long enough to select the right dog can save both you and your new pooch some heartache down the road.
Step 1: Evaluate Yourself
Have you been able to provide your dog with basic standards of healthcare/living?
Dogs are expensive, and two dogs will be twice as expensive. Have you been able to afford food, yearly vet visits, and trips to the groomer? If not, adding another dog to your household may be more financial burden than you’re able to take on.
Do you have the time to dedicate to training another dog?
You have done it before, your first dog is well behaved and well trained. Are you able to commit the time to doing it all over again? If you’re honest with yourself and you know that you can’t dedicate that time, consider adopting a dog who has already been trained from your local shelter.
Are you planning on having kids in the future?
Sadly, dogs often get surrendered at a shelter because his or her owners start a family or that family grows. You shouldn’t get a second dog (or any dog for that matter) thinking you can just re-home the dog if your lifestyle changes. Dogs are a part of your lifestyle now.
That being said, having kids down the road doesn’t mean you shouldn't have dogs. It just means that your dogs are going to have to be well trained, have a good temperament, and fit into a family dynamic. For example, if you’re planning on having kids in the near future, you may not want to get an excitable large breed dog. These dogs may have wonderful personalities, but can easily knock over a toddler.
What does your landlord think of a second dog?
Another reason dogs end up in shelters is because their owners were forced to move and their new rental isn’t dog friendly. Renting doesn’t mean not to get a second dog, it just means that you’ll have to be committed to finding a dog-friendly rental again if you ever have to move.
If you own your own home, check with all members of your household that they’re on-board getting a second dog.
Step 2: Evaluate Your Current Dog
Is your dog fully housebroken and follows basic commands?
Even if you plan to adopt an adult dog, transitioning into a new house with new people and new rules can be tough on a dog at any age. Mistakes will be made and you may clean up a few poops along the way. The last thing you want is to double that poop, which is why it’s a good idea for your current dog to have that house training down pat.
The same goes for training. You’ll want your current dog to know all the basic commands (sit, down, stay, & come) before you attempt to train a second dog new commands. Not only will it make your life easier not to have to train two dogs at once, but it will also be easier on your new dog. You current dog will serve as a “How to” guide for your new dog.
Does your current dog get along with other dogs?
This probably goes without saying, but if your dog doesn’t get along with other dogs, it may not be a good idea to bring in a new dog. I think sometimes people believe that even if their current dog hates other dogs, it will be fine to get a new one so long as it’s a puppy. Puppies grow up and turn into dogs.
Is your dog sick or elderly?
Having an older or sick dog doesn’t necessarily mean not to get a second dog, but you may want to consider adopting another older or low energy dog instead of getting a puppy.
Step 3: Male or Female?
Does gender matter when selecting a second dog? For the most part, yes. You should typically select a dog with the opposite gender as your current dog. Why you ask? In each pack there is usually a top male and top female dog. If you have one of each, they won’t be vying for the same position. Less rivalry means they’ll naturally get along better.
As always, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Two males can live in perfect harmony. But, if you’re looking to reduce the chances of fighting and extreme dominance, it may be best to stick with the opposite gender.
At the time when our search began, Rain was a 3.5 year-old female. She naturally has dominant tendencies. We knew another female would spell trouble for us so we wanted a male.
Step 4: Adult or Puppy?
I wouldn’t recommend a puppy if your dog is elderly or battling a persistent illness. Why? Because puppies are a lot of work, not just for you, but for your current dog. A puppy still has to learn proper play and communication skills and it will usually fall on your dog to teach the pup those skills. This can be exhausting and if your dog just doesn’t have the energy, he or she can snap at your newest addition. It may also not be a good idea to get a puppy if your current dog is under a year.
A happy medium for a pup would be a dog who’s about 2-5 (depending on the breed, training, and energy levels). You’ll want your dog to know the rules, follows basic commands, but still has energy to put up with the antics of a puppy.
If your dog doesn’t fall into that category, or you just don’t want to cope with the housebreaking and training an adult dog may be right up your ally.
With Rain, since at the time she was a rambunctious 3.5-year old, we could get a puppy or an adult.
Step 5: Large, Medium, or Small?
A good way to judge what size to get is to observe how your dog interacts with other dogs. Small dogs can be intimidated by large dogs, and vice versa. You may even be able to get an idea of what types of breeds your dog likes.
We knew from watching Rain that she liked american bulldogs, huskies, and labs. They typically had the same play style and energy that she has. Because of this, we searched for another large breed dog.
Step 6: Breed & Temperament
Temperament & Energy Levels
Again, you can get a good idea of what type of breed will compliment your current dog by observing how your dog interacts with other dogs. More than likely you’ll find that your dog is drawn to a similar energy level as him or herself.
For example, if your dog is a couch potato, a boarder collie may not be the best fit for your family. On the other hand, if your dog is high energy and you get a second high energy dog, you may just end up with two crazy dogs running around your house. Finding that balance is key.
Try not to get too hung up on the breed. Remember when 101 Dalmatians came out? People went out and bought Dalmatians even though they didn't fit their family dynamic. Many were surrendered to animal shelters that year. Sometimes you fall in love with a particular breed, but it doesn't mean it's the right fit long term. If you are interested in a particular type of dog, speak to a breeder or someone from your local shelter. If it's not the right fit they may be able to direct you to a dog that would be.
Best Fit for Rain
With Rain, as I mentioned in a previous Instructable, she used to have a lot of anxiety issues. She overcame most all of her anxiety, however she can still be a little nervous around men she doesn’t know. Because of this we knew that our new dog needed to be incredibly easy going, happy to meet new people, and playful. Rain is high energy, so we wanted a dog that could keep up with her, but also enjoyed his down-time, so we were looking for a medium energy dog.
Step 7: Introducing Harley
After lots of consideration, we searched for a:
- Adult or puppy (We were more concerned about the other qualities than if he was an adult or puppy)
- Large size
- Medium energy
Someone in our neighbourhood was looking to find a permanent home for a 9-week husky-shepherd mix. We were honest about Rain (her past anxiety, age, and energy level) and about the fact that we both work full time. We asked if she thought we’d be a good fit for the pup. She did, and gave us Harley.
Let me tell you, there’s no such thing as a “free puppy”. After all the rounds of vaccinations and his neuter, if you’re looking to go the cost effective route to a new dog, you are better off getting a dog from the shelter. For us, it was worth it because he checked every box on our list.
Step 8: First Introductions
You could probably do an entire Instructable on first introductions, but the basics are:
- Introduce them on neutral ground. Sometimes it helps to walk them together first without introduction, just start walking.
*Keep in mind if you have a puppy, they can’t walk very long and may not be leash trained yet.
- Guide your new dog around the house. We used a leash so it was a little slower and more structured.
- You may want to consider using a baby gate between them so they can sniff and get to know each other before letting both loose
- If they are both exhibiting healthy, happy dog behaviour, you can let them interact. But you still need to monitor them carefully.
- Last but not least, manage your expectations. Don’t expect your dogs to be instant best friends.
When Rain first saw the puppy, she looked at us like “WHAT DID YOU DO?”. Harley had yet to learn his manners, so from untrained eyes, it would look as if Rain hated Harley. It’s normal for adult dogs to make growl noises when they’re trying to correct puppy behaviour. It’s their way of saying “Hey, don’t do that”. But, if it looks like your adult dog has had enough, it’s time to give him or her a break. Your job as the human is to set boundaries and make sure no one gets hurt.
Step 9: In Conclusion
Choose a dog that compliments you and your family. The wonderful thing about having two dogs is that they have their own relationship separate from you, and you get twice as many dogs to love. It’s amazing watching two dogs grow and learn from each other.
I suppose the key take-aways are don’t get a second dog on impulse. If you spend the time and figure out what will work for your family and dog, everyone will be happier in the long run.
Maybe we got lucky or maybe it was all the planning and searching, but Rain and Harley do love each other. They sleep together, snuggle together, and look to each other for comfort. We've had Harley for a year now, and I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions we have ever made.
And, if you’re interested in giving a couple dollars to Ontario shelter dogs and cats, here’s a link to my Wiggle Waggle Walk Page. The money raised goes to the Hamilton/Burlington SPCA. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m passionate about dogs and if you’ve made it this far through my Instructable, I assume you are too.
Thank you and let me know if you have any questions or any other tips to selecting a second dog!