Dogs are like potato chips - it's hard to have just one. We love watching two housemates enjoy each other's company. Playing and exercising each other and providing companionship while we are at work are just a couple of the reasons that we have multiple dogs.
Yes, multi-dog households can be amazing and fulfilling for everyone involved, however whether you start with one dog and build or get multiple dogs at once, there are definitely challenges that come along with having a more than one. Here are some thoughts to help out if you are considering more than one.
Bring Home One Dog at a Time
Acquiring one dog at a time is definitely the more desirable way to go. Getting dogs a few years apart gives you time to treat each dog as an individual. Training and properly raising a dog is a big time commitment. It's important that you have the time to devote to each dog you bring into your household. Getting 2 dogs at once means you have to split your time between them. This means they may both get short changed.
Costs are also a consideration. The first year of a puppy's life is the most costly and on average, can be several thousand dollars when you factor in purchase price, feeding, training, equipment and spay/neuter fees. We've thoroughly broken down the cost of a puppy before in a previous blog post. Two dogs means the feeding and care expenses are doubled. It's much easier to deal with the costs of a puppy if they are spread out over a number of years rather than all at once. If all of the major puppy bills for one dog are behind you when you bring home another, it'll be much nicer on your wallet.
Bringing Home Littermates
Often people think that getting littermates is a great idea. While it seems like it would be nice to have two puppies, the reality of the situation is usually not the case. Littermates mean everything comes all at once. The bills and the work are doubled! Purchase, training and care costs are doubled and your time will need to be spread between two puppies.
Competition Amongst Housemates
There is often an issue of competition. Some dogs clearly establish their roles early and stick to those roles throughout their lives, however this is not always true. Getting two dogs a few years apart means there is likely going to be respect established early on. While puppies can be obnoxious with other dogs, they are usually given a "puppy pass" until they reach a certain age. After that, roles will be established and in the majority of situations, the youngster will learn to respect the elder dog. Sometimes, we as good dog owners have to step in and help ensure proper respect is given where it is due. This is easier to do with only one untrained dog in the mix.
In a littermate situation, as they grow, you'll often see them start to challenge each other for resources including food, comfort and attention. This can lead to fights between siblings and if both dogs are untrained, as is often the case with young littermates, these situations can escalate quickly and become true issues. Damage can be done in the blink of an eye during a dog fight.
What About the Bond?
How Can You Successfully Raise Two Dogs?
While it's lovely for dogs to have a friend in the home, often this is taken too far and the extreme bond can be very emotionally unhealthy and detrimental. When littermates spend their entire lives together, they often become too attached to each other. When the time arises that they require separation, it often means they are in for a hard time, especially for the more dependant of the two. We've seen littermates become so bonded to each other that they can no longer function as individuals. When they do need to be separated for events such as an unexpected overnight at the vet, or the when the inevitable time comes when one is permanently left behind, it can be shattering.
Separate Dog Crates
This should go without saying, but often people will think it's so cute to watch puppies snuggle that they'll crate them together. Dogs need to learn to be alone in a healthy manner. Panic and fear can set in quickly if they have not learned to be comfortable when alone. Separation anxiety from their littermate or housemate can be prevalent and crippling.
Separate Dog Walks
Seeing the world as an individual is important. Inevitably, one of the dogs will be the weaker of the two. While both may be courageous together, likely one is taking cues from the other. If they don't learn to face the world alone, it can be a true system shock when they are forced to. If you have more than one dog in the household, it's imperative that they get lots of exposure to life without the housemate present. They can definitely share walks when the time is right, but not all of the time and not until they are ready.
Separate Dog Training
It's important that every dog gets 100% of your attention some of the time. Dealing with two dogs at once will mean you miss critical opportunities and undesirable behaviour may go unchecked. Each dog should get their own training time to learn from. It's also a great idea to retrain some of the behaviours with the older dog if that's your home situation. There's nothing like a little refresher!
Separate Dog Attention
All dogs are special and deserve to feel that way. Especially when you are bringing a youngster into the house, it's important that the older dog gets individual snuggles and time to hang out without the pup. Some dogs will be put out by having to share their home and your attention. Be sure you spend some time building them up and reminding them what life was like when they were just one to avoid building resentment. You don't want them to always have to take a back seat to the youngster. It also gives you a break from the work of the puppy and reminds you that it's all worth it.
Don't be afraid to bring a second dog into your life. It can be a blessing and a joy to have more than one! Once each dog has learned how to listen well and how to function as an individual, you'll have the perfect four-legged nuclear family to love!