You’ve had your dog for a while but feel it may be missing the company of another dog, particularly during the daytime when you’re at work. Before you take the step of getting a second dog, let’s consider the possible consequences, both financial and emotional, of making such a decision.
Financial: you will have two mouths to feed, twice the vet bills to pay and, if you take out insurance, two lots of premiums to pay. Unless you’re given a dog, and it’s important to understand why the dog is being given away, you will have the purchase price of the dog to pay. Does this fit into your budget?
Emotional: so you’ve figured the emotional well-being of your dog outweighs the financial cost and you start the process of finding the “right” dog. But what does the “right” dog look like? Dr Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM (Head of the Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic) says that matching dogs with similar temperaments and interests will stand a better chance of success than dogs with differing temperaments and interests, such as having one high energy dog and one laid back dog. In this example you may find yourself living two distinct lives with the attendant problems this may bring. Opting for the same breed of dog may work because of similar general characteristics of that breed but nothing is guaranteed as there can be differences within the same breed. You may feel that introducing a younger dog may “enliven” your older dog. This may happen but very much depends on the health of the older dog. Nothing can be more annoying to an older dog suffering with, say, the onset of arthritis, than a younger dog wanting to play all the time!
When checking out the suitability of a second dog, it is often recommended (or required) that you take your dog with you to see if the two dogs get along. This may tell you whether there is animosity between the dogs but, as you are asking the dogs to “speed date”, it will unlikely tell you whether the two dogs will be compatible in the home setting over the long term.
Whichever dog you choose, please be aware of the new dynamic in the home, particularly initially. Your first dog has been used to a certain lifestyle and routine and it may take a while for both dogs to adjust to the “new order”. Dr Borns-Weil suggests giving preference to your first dog over the short term when it comes to the pecking order: getting fed first, having the first belly rub, etc. to avoid the first dog feeling that all the attention is being given to the new dog.
Finally, there are pairings that are a “red flag”. Dr Borns-Weil recommends not a female-female pairing. “It isn’t that two female dogs never get along. In fact, it’s not common for two dogs of any gender to fight if they live in the same household. But two different studies have shown that fighting dogs are more apt to be both female. Mixed gender sets or neutered male-plus-male is more likely to work.”
One thing to keep in mind is that two dogs in the same household almost always work it out; their social natures just won’t let it play out any other way.