Are you thinking about adding another dog to your home or maybe you are already living in a multi dog household? Having multiple dogs can be great and scrolling through social media and looking at other peoples dogs playing, sleeping or cuddling up next to each other makes it seem even more attractive….but here are some things you might want to consider before creating a multi dog house hold.
For many dog owners it works great having multiple dogs in their home and for others it can be a struggle. Maybe you are considering getting a new dog because you do not want your current dog to be bored or lonely, or maybe you want your dog to have a best friend? For whatever the reason it is important to think through certain aspects before adding a new dog to your home.
I want my dog to have a best friend
Your dog might be super social and love to play with other dogs, or have other dogs come visit, but that does not mean (s)he is ready to share his/her home with another dog. Sharing a home might trigger resource guarding in your current dog due to stress as there is now another dog that (s)he has to share the resources with.
Although your vision might be to get a best friend for your dog you might end up with two dogs just tolerating each other. Dogs, despite being the same species all have different personalities and are all individuals with their own needs. Another important aspect is also that your dog’s need might change when (s)he gets older. Many senior dogs prefer not to have other dog companions or becomes more selective with age as to who they want to be with.
One dog is not enough, I want more…
Great! But are you also ready to fulfil several different needs? Attend to several different personalities? Have higher monthly expenses? And less time on your hands? Not to mention a whole lot of patience to race and care for several dogs?
You might be able to do several things together with your dogs, but each dog should also be allowed (and deserves) alone time with you and to have their specific needs met. Maybe one dog likes to play fetch while your other dog likes to just take a chill walk and have a good sniff. Both are needs that must be fulfilled both in order to secure good welfare in your dogs but also to prevent potential problem behaviours developing.
I don’t want my dog to be alone
If you have a dog that does not like being left alone that most likely will not change when/if getting a second or more dogs. Your dog doesn’t like being alone because it means (s)he will be away from you. Another dog might not help your dog feel less alone and the stress that your current dog is feeling when you leave might rub off on your new dog, and you end up with having two dogs that cannot be left home alone (if your dog struggles being home alone, then contact me for help here).
A study looked at dogs who lived together and how by removing one of them it would affect the other. They started with just removing one of the dogs from his/her normal environment, leaving the other dog behind expecting to see a change in the remaining dog’s behaviour and increased signs of stress. However, the blood samples and behavioural observations came back unchanged.
They then moved both dogs to an unfamiliar environment, expecting that as long as both dogs where together they would stay calm and no increase in stress levels would be seen. But the opposite was true. The researchers found heightened levels of stress in both behaviour and blood samples despite the dogs being together.
Now here is the interesting thing – when the owner was with the dogs in the new environment, no behavioural or physiological stress was found in the dogs. The dogs stayed calm and had the confidence to explore the room, occasionally going back to their owner as if to get support (Read more about the dog-human relation here).
They will learn to live together and become friends
Maybe…but that takes good observation skills in regard to reading dog body language and knowing when to intervene from your side for that to be successful (Learn more about Dog Body Language here). The notion that dogs will just work it out among each other is a dangerous cocktail. Small arguments between dogs can escalate if not monitored. Dogs living together just tolerating each other might also cause increased stress in your dogs, potentially causing the development of problem behaviours.
Will your dog really benefit from having another dog in his/her home?
Having a choice is just as important for dogs as it is for humans (Get our FREE e-book about Choice here). It is therefor important to consider the true benefits for your current dog if deciding to add another dog. Will it truly benefit your current dog not just now but throughout his/her life to live with another dog, or is it a want from your side?
Tuber, D.S. et al. 1996. Behavioural and glucocorticoid responses of adult domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) to companionship and social separation. Journal of Comparative Psychology 110, 103-108