If you enjoy your dog it’s only natural to ask “should I get a second dog?” at some point. Enjoying your dog is a pretty good reason to want another one. But it isn’t the only one.
In this article we’ll look at popular reasons for getting a second dog, and how that might work out in practice
We’ll also look at how your life will change with another dog in the family – good and bad – and at those situations where getting a second dog is not such a good plan.
Deciding when to get a second dog is also important and we’ll help you with that decision too
You’ll need to think about how the decision will affect the humans in your family, as well as your dog
Should I get a second dog – Reasons to say YES
Labradors are very sociable dogs. And they are brilliant family pets. So, at some point in their lives, many Labrador owners will consider getting a second dog.
These are all good reasons to go ahead. If you tick all these boxes, the chances are you may be ready to take the plunge
- Your current dog is between two and six years old
- Your current dog is very well trained
- Your current dog has no behavior problems
- Your current dog is friendly and in good health
- You can afford to feed another dog and insure them against vet bills
- You have the time and energy to settle in and train a second dog
- You love spending time with, and training, your dog
If your dog is always happy to see other members of his species when you take him for walks, and eagerly welcomes your friends’ dogs into the house, then he will probably get on well with the new dog, once he is past the small puppy stage.
Bear in mind however, that many adult dogs find puppies a bit weird and scary to begin with, so the companionship you are hoping for may take some months to develop.
Remember too that ‘settling in’ a puppy is a six month plus project and will take up quite a lot of your time
Of course, these are not the only reasons to say yes, and some families that answer NO to some of those questions will still be able to incorporate a second dog happily into their lives.
Should I get a second dog – Reasons to say NO
Sometimes a person is tempted to get a second dog for the wrong reasons. Or at for reasons that are likely to cause them problems
These are all reasons to hesitate
- Your current dog is very young
- Your current dog is very old
- Your current dog is not very obedient
- Your current dog is aggressive or nervous
- You can’t afford pet insurance or would struggle to meet the cost
- You are pregnant or have just welcomed a new baby into your life
- You are at a very busy time in your life right now
Let’s look at each of those more closely and at why these situations can cause problems for some families
Your dog is very young
If your current dog is less than a year old, the chances are that they are still quite puppyish in some ways.
Boisterous young dogs can be very excitable and overwhelming for a new puppy, though they may get along brilliantly with a rescue dog of a similar age
If you plan to get a puppy, it’s worth waiting until your older dog is heading for their second birthday. Otherwise you may have to spend quite a lot of time separating the two of them, and there is a risk of a small puppy being harmed by the older dog
Your dog is elderly
With a senior dog the situation can sometimes be reversed. A young pup can easily torment and older dog and drive it to snapping.
Adding a puppy to a family with a very elderly dog can cause problems.
Some seniors can be wonderful friends for a puppy, but some can be grumpy and will be miserable if tormented by a bouncy youngster
Again, you’ll need a lot of patience and to be prepared to supervise and separate the two dogs a lot. The same applies if your older dog is in poor health.
Puppies can be very wearing. Ask yourself if your old friend is really up for that right now
Your dog is not obedient
It’s hard training a puppy with an older dog around and a lot of the training has to be done separately to begin with.
Your life will be a whole lot easier if your older dog is able to “sit and stay” for example, while you give the puppy a treat, or put on his leash.
An untrained older dog will be a real problem for you and you could end up with two out of control dogs on your hands.
Do consider getting your older dog trained first LINK (it’s never too late) and keep a journal of your training progress, it will be invaluable when your new friend finally arrives
Your dog is aggressive
If your dog is not great at making friends. Or if you have any concerns however about your dog’s fondness for spending time with other dogs, you might want to reconsider before you go and find him a companion.
Taking on an extra dog will not usually cure a dog that doesn’t like other dogs very much, and could make life very difficult to manage
When out on walks, if your Labrador shows any signs of aggression or fear towards other dogs then this could well reflect on how he will react to a stranger being introduced into his home.
So it is best to deal with this kind of problem with the help of a behaviorist,
Thinking that a new, friendly dog, will help and aggressive or nervous dog get along better with other dogs can be a big mistake.
Even if you manage to successfully integrate the new dog into your family, it probably won’t change your current dog’s opinion of strange dogs. His reactions might even make your new dog nervous too.
Be cautious too about bringing a new dog into a family where an existing dog is showing signs of food related aggression. Multiple dog households have been linked with this problem and you don’t want to make things worse.
Other forms of aggression towards people have also been associated with multiple dog households.
In general, it’s important to sort out any behavioral problems in your current dog before bringing another dog into the mix! You could end up with more than double the trouble.
Let’s just consider one reason that many people give for getting another dog. As a friend for their first dog.
Is your only dog a lonely dog?
One of the most common reasons to introduce a new dog into your home may be concerns about your existing dog being lonely
If you are out at work for part of the day, your dog may well benefit from the company of another dog.
Two dogs can certainly be company for one another when owners are absent. Though if it’s a puppy you are planning, you’ll need to take time off when the puppy is small, or arrange alternative care for a while.
But bear in mind that if your dog is showing signs of distress when left alone, barking for example, bringing another dog into the equations won’t necessarily help
In fact, dogs are more likely to ‘nuisance bark’ in multiple dog households
And while some dogs with separation anxiety disorder may enjoy and benefit from a new friend, others may be distressed by the dramatic change in their lives.
It’s worth remembering that for the most part, dogs are very happy with their human friends and don’t actually need another dog in the house in order for their lives to be complete.
How the new dog will affect you
You may have forgotten the sleepiness nights and the housetraining, but it will all come flooding back when the puppy arrives.
Dealing with a new puppy can be more difficult with another dog around. They step in puddles when you are trying to clean up and generally get in the way.
If children have joined you since your first dog was a puppy, again, this will be a different experience for you. Not necessarily worse, but certainly different.
A dog living with a childless couple often gets a lot more attention than a dog living with a family.
This is only natural because parents are pre-occupied with children and small children tend to lose interest in the dog once the initial novelty has worn off.
Separate dog walks and training
Whilst most people are aware of a puppy’s basic needs with regard to house training and feeding, many are not aware that the second dog needs to be trained separately from the first.
You can’t effectively train a puppy with an older dog milling around.
And sadly, no, puppies do not generally learn obedience by copying the older dog. Though you can be sure that big brother will waste no time teaching him how to bust into the kitchen bin!
Small puppies can’t go for two hour hikes either, so for the first few months you will need to exercise your older dog separately too. These factors are all a drain on your time, so you do need to consider them carefully.
If you are confident that a second dog is the right choice for you, the next decision you need to make is “when is the right time”
When is the right time to get another dog
If your dog is heading towards their second birthday and is coming along well with their basic training, then now might well be a fine time to find them a friend.
However, any behavioral problems at all in your current pet, and this new family member could seriously exacerbate the issues.
If your dog has house training issues, separation anxiety, serious phobias of any kind. If he runs away when you take of his lead, or jumps all over people and knocks small children over, this is probably not the time for you to bring another pet into the mix.
Fun fact: a study carried out in the UK in 2007 found that “ dog owning households were more likely to be multi-dog households than single-dog if they also owned a cat or a bird, or if the household contained a person of 20–29 years old”
The middle years of your older dog’s life are often the best time to make an addition to the family.
Your dog is past the biting, crying, pooping stage. More likely to be willing to play with a pup and less likely to bowl him over every five minutes. And his basic obedience should be well established
Should I get a second dog – summary
Your Labrador is almost certainly a much loved member of the family. If you are thinking of going from four paws to eight, the chances are that he or she already brings you a great deal of joy.
But it’s worth taking a little pause before choosing to introduce another dog into your home.
Ask yourself some questions about your current Labrador.
Remember that even if you tick all the boxes in the reasons to say YES section, you still need to consider how this addition to the family will affect you, and those you live with.
Especially if you are planning on bringing a puppy into your lives.
If you have any concerns about behavioral issues or how your dog will take to a new member of the family, speak to your vet who will put you in touch with a reputable behaviorist if necessary.
More information on puppies
If you are thinking of bringing a new puppy into your home then check out our huge Puppy Care section for more help and advice.
For help with finding your puppy don’t miss Choosing The Perfect Puppy
and for a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.
These books will help you every step of the way, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialization and early obedience.
You might also find this guide helpful: How To Raise A Puppy When You Work
references and further reading
- Flannigan G & Dodman N 2001 Risk factors and behaviors associated with separation anxiety in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
- Raghaven M, 2008. Fatal dog attacks in Canada, 1990–2007 The Canadian Veterinary Journal
- Westgarth C et al, 2007. Factors associated with dog ownership and contact with dogs in a UK community. BMC Veterinary Research
- Juarbe-Diaz S, 1997. Social Dynamics and Behavior Problems in Multiple-Dog Households
- Cross N et al, 2009.Risk factors for nuisance barking in dogs. Australian Veterinary Journal
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website