Question:

We think our dog is lonely and are thinking of getting a second dog to keep him company. Any advice?

The Trainer Answers:

In order to make the best choice for your situation, there are several things to consider. First, do YOU want a second dog or are you only considering another dog for your current dog? In most cases, I do not recommend adding another dog unless you really want one. While another dog might give your current dog a buddy to play with and keep him company, you will have the extra work of another dog, including training, walking, feeding, etc. Some dogs really prefer to be an only dog and some are much happier with canine companions.

If your current dog suffers from separation anxiety, adding a second dog might or might not resolve the issue. If this is your reason for adding another dog, and it does not work, what will you do?

Are you thinking of adding a second dog to help burn off the seemingly nonstop energy of your current dog? Do you think your current dog is bored and you can resolve boredom and any resulting behavior issues by bringing home a playmate for your dog? What if you bring home another dog and the two dogs do not play well together?

Does your dog have opportunities to visit and play with other dogs now? If so, does he get along well with most other dogs? Or does he only seem to like certain dogs? Does he play well with other dogs, or does he not seem to have that much interest in the other dogs? Does he display appropriate social skills when interacting with other dogs? If your dog does like to play with other dogs, could you take him to day care, schedule play dates with friends, or take him to the dog park?

Does your dog do well in sharing your attention with others? Does your dog guard resources, such as food, bones, toys, beds and his human family members? Is your dog well-behaved in the house and out in public? If you have any current behavior issues with your dog, you should consider addressing those issues before adding another dog. A well-behaved dog will help a new dog learn to be well-behaved. A dog with poor manners or bad habits can just as easily teach a new dog those bad habits.

If you decide you do want to add another dog, carefully take into consideration the personality of your current dog. Is he submissive and easy-going? Does he tend to be bossy or pushy with others?

When adding another dog, you are generally better off choosing a dog that is not the same gender as your current dog, and is not the same age. Statistically speaking, dogs in the same household are more likely to have problems if they are the same gender and around the same age – particularly two female dogs. For example, if you have a more mature female dog who likes to control the dog toys and bones, you will generally have more success in bringing home a younger male dog who will easily give up the toys and bones.

If you want to make sure a new dog can play with your current dog, you also need to consider their play styles. A dog who loves to play rough and wrestle around will probably not play well with a dog who loves to play chase but never wants to wrestle. If you want them to play well together, you are usually better off (and safer) choosing a dog of similar size.

I recommend having the two dogs meet before you make a final decision. Have them meet on neutral ground, and take them for a walk together before you turn them loose to play or interact.