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Thinking of Getting a Second Dog?

Is it time to get a second dog? Why do you want a second dog? Are you doing the right thing?

This topic has come up regularly since this site began in 1999. And usually it is because the poster has a romanticized idea of what life will be like with a second dog.

I’m not against everyone getting a second dog, but I have noticed a pattern. There are some red flags I look for that indicate the poster is getting a second dog for the wrong reasons, or isn’t adequately prepared for the adjustment.

Red Flag #1 – Thinking a second dog will somehow help, exercise, assist, train, or occupy the time of the first dog. It just doesn’t work that way.
Red Flag #2 – Claiming that you’ve thoroughly researched the idea. Unless you’ve spent time with 2 dogs in your care, in your house, or have spent a lot of time with someone who has multiple dogs, you haven’t even started researching. Get off the internet. Offer to babysit a friend’s dog next time they go out of town, or sign up to be a foster home for your local shelter or rescue organization.
Red Flag #3 – Urge to adopt a second dog so quickly after getting a first dog.

I say this from experience. Not only from reading everyone’s story here for years, but because I lived it. I was waving all of those red flags.

In 1998 I had 1 dog, a golden retriever, who I adopted when he was 4. I was in my early 20’s. My dog and I had an amazing summer together treeplanting, and everywhere I went, my dog went with me. I also sat on golden retriever message boards and discussion e-mail lists and I saw all these people with multiple goldens and it sounded AMAZING!

That fall I was back in school and my dog was bored. While I was sitting at my computer working on school work, my dog was sitting there staring at me, sighing, whining, totally bored.

I wanted to get a second golden because then he wouldn’t be bored! I already have 1 dog, a second dog can’t be any harder! All these other people have 2 dogs, so it’ll be great!

So I adopted his sister less than a year after adopted the first. She was 3.

What happened? They were best of friends. I have years of beautiful memories. They were loved and cherished and we were a family.

But instead of my dog staring at me while I worked on my schoolwork, now I had two dogs staring at me.

Having two dogs can be a huge life adjustment. Especially if you try to do it alone.

You shift from being a person with a dog, to a dog person.

Read that again. You shift from being a person with a dog, to a dog person.

You don’t just have a dog that has joined your life. Now you are the person who lives their life for their dogs.

This may suit you perfectly. Many people, especially single people, empty-nesters, and retired people, crave this and it works well. For others, there are many things you need to consider:

You can’t just easily leave 2 dogs with anyone if you have to jet out of town. It wasn’t too hard to find someone to take 1 dog in for a weekend. Finding someone who will look after 2 is much more difficult.

While it was easy to take my dog with me anywhere, and I’d tie him up outside if I ran into a store, that became impossible with two.

Walking 1 dog was enjoyable. Walking 2 dogs was a nightmare. I had to put them both on prong collars to have an enjoyable walk. But if a squirrel or cat ran across our path, or if a beach was on the horizon, hold on for the ride. Many times it was just easier to leave them both at home, and instead of me walking, I’d take my vehicle so I could get home to be with them faster – meaning we all got less exercise.

With 1 dog, I could easily put him on a tie out when we were camping, or let him off leash to play fetch with me. That becomes more difficult with 2. Two dogs get tangled. Two dogs don’t come back as easily off leash as 1.

Staying in a motel with 1 dog was sometimes allowed. You’re lucky if they’ll let you in the front door if they see you coming with 2 big hairy golden retrievers. Prefer fancy hotels? Forget it. Look for the local strip motel on the outskirts of town because they’re the only place that will let you stay.

Safely traveling with 1 dog in a car is ok with a dog seatbelt. If you have a family, is there room in your vehicle for 2 dogs, and better yet, 2 dogs with seatbelts? I switched from a car to a pickup truck with a cap on the back so my dogs could travel safely in their crates in the back.

Are you ready for 8 muddy paws to clean at the door instead of 4?

How’s your back? Because now you’ll be bathing 2 dogs, not 1.

Like grooming? Because now you have two big dogs to brush, and trim, and clip their nails.

Are you financially able to pay double the vet costs? What if they both need costly medications or supplements or surgery?

What will you do if the dogs don’t like each other?

How’s your vacuum? Are you ready to clean all the time? Otherwise your house will quickly turn into a dog house. Full of dog hair, leaves, paw prints, nose prints on windows, sticks, dog toys, with the stink of dog.

Is your first dog trained? A second dog won’t train the first, so your first dog needs to have rock solid sits, stays, and downs so you can focus on training the second.

Golden Retrievers are playful dogs, but they live for the attention their person (or people) give them. Your dog doesn’t need, or crave, a dog companion. It isn’t true that dogs are pack animals and need their own kind. Not when they have been raised in a house with people. You are the only pack they need and crave.


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