Should I Get Another Dog?

Thinking about getting a second dog...or third, fourth or fifth? That’s great! I'm happy for you, but, I’m also glad I caught you before you make too hasty a decision. I have three dogs and would love to have more but, like everyone, I have limits. No matter how many dogs you currently have, adding another dog to your pack could wind up being one too many. There are many things to consider before getting even one dog but multiple dogs can be a whole new adventure, even for an experienced dog owner. 
 
Multiple dogs equals a pack of dogs and can really create a different dynamic. Here are some possible examples: One dog barks and the other joins in. You call both dogs and one comes but the other decides it’s time to get goofy. Now the first dog that came when called takes off to join the other. Your dog was never possessive with toys but now is getting in fights with the new dog who tries to steal them. Your dog never got into the trash but the new one does and now they are both doing it. The potential chaos is enough to keep me in business for years! 
 
I’m not trying to scare you, I love having multiple dogs. I’m just saying that getting another dog should be a well-thought-out decision. That way it's more likely to be the wonderful experience you are hoping for. To help ensure a wise decision I am sharing my top five considerations for adding a new dog to your pack. 
 
  1. Current Pack Behavior: Many times people want to get another dog to solve behavior problems with the current dog. This usually has something to do with a dog that is getting into mischief due to boredom. The logic goes something like, “If I get him a playmate he won’t chew up the yard anymore.” This actually can work out sometimes but it can also wind up being double the trouble. It’s a huge gamble and I can promise you that two unruly dogs are much harder to handle than one. It often goes more like, “Hey Rover, check it out, I found a drip system. Help me rip it out!” As a general rule I recommend having your current pack in order before adding to it. I would train the first dog to an acceptable level and then add a second, get that one trained, then add a third, and so on. This is the most fail safe way to go as it gives the new dog a role model. It is fairly easy to add a new dog to a well-behaved pack.
 
Is the behavior of your current dog or pack of dogs up to par or could they use a little training?
 
  1. Time: Getting another dog requires more time. As time goes on you can walk and play with the dogs together to save time, but, in the beginning I would plan on the new pack member needing some one-on-one training time. All the while, you don’t want to take away from the time you spend with the original pack, so there’s no getting around it, you will need more dog time than you are currently spending. Even little things that you might not think about take more time. Feeding takes longer, grooming and brushing takes longer, potty breaks take longer….you get my point, all these minutes add up. 
 
Do you have extra time or do you find there are not enough minutes in a day? 
 
  1. Energy: More dogs require more energy. I know, you were thinking the new dog would tire the old dog out, hence requiring less energy from you, right? Well, maybe, if you get lucky, but I wouldn’t count on it. Be prepared to exert some extra energy, that will most likely be your reality. At minimum you should still walk them on a daily basis and walking a pack of dogs requires more energy than walking one. 
 
Do you currently have energy to burn at the end of the day or are you exhausted?
 
  1. Money: If you already have a dog then you already know that they cost money. Adding another dog will add one more dog's worth of bills to the budget, perhaps even more if you get one that turns out to be accident prone, destructive or in ill health. And, don't forget about the additional dog food.
 
Do you have extra money at the end of every month or do you live paycheck to paycheck?
 
  1. Pack Walks: How many dogs can you walk together on-leash? I believe it is a good rule of thumb to only have as many dogs as you can walk together in a controlled fashion. That means no pulling on the leash and no excessive reactivity such as lunging and barking. Of course you may get some reactivity (they are dogs after all) but it should be rare and easy to correct by verbal command or a light leash correction. I would highly recommend that all dogs can be walked in a Heel position or in a beside-or-behind-the-handler position. The more dogs you get the more you will appreciate keeping them in formation when on-leash; it will save a lot of tangling issues. Sure, you can always walk them separately but this is more than just a time saver, it is a matter of pack bonding and demonstrating that you can control your pack
 
Does your current pack walk nicely or are your walks already pretty crazy? 
 
 
I hope this has helped you make a more informed decision about getting a new dog and helped you think about the importance of maintaining a healthy pack in the process.  I'm sure there are many more things for you to consider that are specific to your family, environment and personal dynamics, but these five are a good start. If you're comfortable that you pass all five of these, then it's now just a matter of choosing the right dog to add to your pack but that's a topic for another day. 
 
Have fun and choose wisely. 
 
Chad Culp, Certified Dog Trainer and Canine Behavior Consultant
© Thriving Canine 2014