Before You Bring a Second Dog into Your Home

So you're thinking of adding another dog to your family. Congratulations and our sympathy at the same time. A second dog can add an extra special family member and yet at the same time provide many headaches. Our goal here at Palo Alto Animal Services is to place each dog in a PERMANENT and loving home. In order for us to reach this objective, we need your help. You can support us in this aim by being fully prepared for a second dog and what it may do to your family. Nothing is worse for the adopted dog than to bounce back and forth from shelter to home to shelter to another home simply because the well-intended adoptive family found themselves to be unprepared. Please ask yourself the following questions very carefully.

ASK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU GET THAT SECOND DOG:

  1. DO YOU HAVE THE ADDITIONAL FUNDS (MONEY) NECESSARY TO PAY FOR A SECOND SET OF YEARLY VACCINATIONS, FOOD, TOYS, CRATES, LICENSES AND TRAINING CLASSES? The average yearly cost of adding a second dog into your household is about $500.00 and this does not include major medical problems. Some hereditary disorders, broken bones and swallowed objects can require major surgery and/or long-term treatment. If you are going to balk at spending several hundred or even several thousand dollars in the event of a medical emergency, THINK TWICE before getting any dog much less a second one.
  2. DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH TIME RIGHT NOW TO WILLINGLY SPEND TRAINING, GROOMING, FEEDING AND EXERCISING AND CLEANING UP AFTER A SECOND DOG? You can count on spending about 5 to 10 additional hours per week with your dog/dogs when you add that second one to your household.
  3. DO YOU HAVE THE ADDITIONAL FUNDS TO PAY FOR ANY DAMAGE THE SECOND DOG MAY CAUSE TO YOUR HOME OR YARD? (Or that your first dog, or heaven forbid, both dogs may do to your household?) Adding a new dog can cause your old dog to misbehave and be destructive. The new untrained dog may teach your existing dog that barking, digging or getting into the garbage is just too much fun. If you answered "NO" to question No. 2, then plan on No. 3 happening for sure.
  4. DOES YOUR OLD DOG HAVE ANY BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS SUCH AS EXCESSIVE BARKING, DESTRUCTION, AGGRESSION OR FEARFULNESS? Dogs mimic and learn from each other. If your dog has any behavior problems and you are getting a second dog in the hopes that your first dog will not bark as much, or dig up the yard or shy away from people, you may end up with TWO barking dogs or TWO diggers or TWO overly shy dogs instead of none like you planned. A dog who already has behavior IS NOT cured by getting him a playmate. In fact, in many cases it may become worse. You need to cure your current dog of his behavior problems before you can successfully add a second dog to your family.
  5. IS YOUR CURRENT DOG FRIENDLY TO OTHER DOGS AND PEOPLE? If your existing dog is a bully, the chances of finding a second dog to get along with him is quite slim. However, training your current dog can make him more accepting of other dogs. So if you really want another dog, attend a training class with your current dog first. If your current dog is not friendly toward people or other dogs, your new dog may learn to be the same way. Do you really want two aggressive or fearful dogs in your household?
  6. ARE YOU READY TO DEAL WITH SOME CANINE RIVALRY? Whenever more than one dog lives in a household, the dogs will establish a dominance hierarchy. IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you understand the next line. THE SOCIAL HIERARCHY WILL BE DETERMINED BY THE OUTCOME OF THE INTERACTIONS BETWEEN THE DOGS AND THE OWNERS CANNOT CHOOSE WHICH DOG THEY WANT TO BE DOMINANT. Dominant dogs eat first, get petted first, go through doorways first, are able to hog all the toys and bones and get the choice sleeping spot. When a new dog is brought into the family, the hierarchy is upset because the newcomer's and resident's place in that hierarchy is unclear. To avoid any aggression you must treat the more dominant dog as the "TOP DOG" even if it is not the existing dog and you think that is unfair. Your dog may become the more submissive member of the pack. Are you ready to treat him as such? Dogs do not view nor do they understand the world in terms of fairness and equality. One of the dogs must be dominant over the other and if you try to treat both dogs fairly and equally, you may undermine the dominant dog's position and cause him to become even more aggressive toward the submissive dog because, from the dog's point of view, his position is being threatened.
  7. HAVE YOU RECENTLY HAD A CHANGE IN YOUR FAMILY SUCH AS MARRIAGE, DIVORCE, JOB CHANGE, A NEW BABY, DEATH, NEW ROOMMATE OR MOVED TO A NEW RESIDENCE? These are all very high stresses that can cause you and your existing dog to react negatively to the addition of a new friend. It is better to wait until all major changes in your life are settled and your household is once again serene.
  8. DO YOU REALLY LIKE YOUR DOG THE WAY HE/SHE IS NOW? Adding a second dog to your household WILL change your dog in many ways. Are you ready to accept that? Some people report that their dog is happier and more playful with another dog around, but some also report that their old dog seems unhappy and unsure about things. Believe it or not, some dogs are perfectly happy being the "only child" and the apple of your eye. Getting a second dog to live with one of these types of dogs is selfish on your part and may result in everyone being unhappy and the new dog being returned.

If you have answered truthfully to all the questions above and have come up with even one "NO" to questions 1 through 5, then this is a bad time for you to add a second family member to your household. Wait until you can answer a resounding "YES" before looking for that special addition. If you answered "YES" to questions 6 and 7, then you need to think very long and hard about adding a second dog to your household because it may have disastrous effects on your entire family "pack."

Question 8 was added just to help you understand that your dog will change with the addition of another dog to your household. Some dogs are happier with a new friend, but some are not.

Did you answer all of questions 1 through 5 with a "YES" and questions 6 and 7 with a "NO?" If so, then you are in a good position to adopt a second dog into your household! It will take some extra work, patience and understanding on your part to learn to live with two dogs, but your new dog and hopefully your current dog, will thank you for it!

Last Updated: Apr 20, 2012