But the trick is that having a second dog is not the same as having twice the amount of work. Many multi-dog homes will tell you that the biggest leap was the one they took from having a one dog home to a two dog home.
In today's post I'm not going to go in to depth about the reasons why and why not to get a second dog. I'm also not going to discuss in detail when the best time would be to add a second dog. Today I'm going to assume you have already bought your second dog and are now wondering why it isn't working out quite the way you hoped. And I'm going to discuss the importance of one-on-one time with the individual dogs in your multi-dog home.
This subject has been on my mind recently because of the approach of a very important anniversary. It is not the anniversary of the day I went from being a single dog household to a multi-dog household, but rather it is the anniversary of the day I realized that I was coming up short with my second dog. VERY short. Somewhere along the line I had allowed my first dog to raise my second, and my second dog was not thriving under that arrangement. It had created borders between us that I chalked up to a mismatch of personalities. I called him a "dog's dog" and let it slide. I tricked myself into believing that was just the way it was.
I realized how wrong I was when, in August 2011 my younger dog, Badger, got hurt. A trip to the canine physiotherapist sent me home with a laid up dog and a list of exercises, ice and heat schedules, and the cringe worthy rule for any young high energy dog owner NO OFF LEASH EXERCISE. I about died at the thought! But it was the best thing that could ever have happened to our relationship. I might have stepped back from him emotionally, but I was not about to let him go down hill physically and as a result of his injury twice a day, every day, he became the centre of my universe.
This seemingly miniscule amount of time together, going through exercises, and leash walks, and ice packs without half my attention being divided to my other dog gave Badger and I the opportunity to fall head over heels in love with each other.
I'm pleased now to announce that Badger is in great shape, has no lasting effects from whatever caused the injury (we're suspicious that he collided with his buddy Little John the Irish wolfhound while playing) and that as a result our relationship was finally given the chance to flourish in a way that my other dog being around was preventing. I am now the centre of his world, he's "my dog" instead of a "dog's dog" and I couldn't imagine my own life without him in it if only because he taught me a very important lesson.
All dogs need their own with their person and sharing just isn't enough.
Dogs are pack/family oriented animals. Many dogs are more confident in groups and all dogs enjoy spending time at the very least in the vicinity of their people, even if they aren't at the centre of attention every second. There is, however, a difference in the strength of the bond that your dog will form with you in relation to the other members of the household that depends entirely on how much quality one on one time you spend with your dog. A dog in a home with a single person will form an extremely strong bond with that single person, a dog in a multi-person home will form the strongest bond with the person who spends the most time with it, and will show the most disinterest in the family member who is in turn, the most disinterested in the dog.
When you add a second dog to the home, or purchase two puppies at the same time, you've added another factor. Language. The only other member of the family that speaks dog is the other dog. If things go well and the dogs like each other, our new dog now spends 24 hours a day with the old dog. They stay home together when the people have to go out, they eat at the same time, they go for walks together, and they are encouraged to play together. While the old dog-human bond may be maintained by the first dog, the second dog instead forms his strongest bond with the other dog.
That's what happened with Badger. While my bond with Kodi, the first dog, was rock solid, Badger gravitated towards his new big brother and I did nothing to stop it. If I was going to leave a dog at home, I left Badger, if Badger was coming with us, so was Kodi.
It wasn't even because it was more convenient to do it that way, it was because I was so afraid that if I spent any real time alone with just my new dog, that my old dog would become jealous (and fly into a rage? I'm really not sure what I was afraid of now).
In fact it was actually rather easy once I got past my own silly reservations. Sure, the dog who is being left behind complains a little, but when we get home they've gone to sleep and there are certainly no hard feelings. It's a case of the pros far outweighing the cons.
Here's a few ideas for quality time:
- Take a separate walk. That doesn't mean you need to take two walks every day, but how about once a week? If time or physical energy is in short supply, take a short walk with one dog, and a longer walk with the other, then trade the next week so that they each get a turn at the longer walk.
- Take a class. It doesn't have to be fancy, an obedience class with just the one dog, or something fun like tricks or agility. Both my dogs have participated in agility, flyball, and we're learning disc. They each get to play, but they play with me one at a time while the other waits his turn.
- Play. Sometimes this means crating one dog so your game doesn't get interrupted. Once a good bond is formed it's usually easy to play with the dogs at the same time, without them giving up and playing with each other, because they are both focused on their number one playmate, which is you. They become each other's second best choice.
- Go for a car ride. Some dogs love car rides, and if you grew up with siblings perhaps you can remember how great it was to get to be the one who was picked to go for a ride with a parent while your brothers and sisters had to stay home. You can even turn up the radio and sing to/with your dog. Just remember the seat belts!
He still loves his big brother, Kodi, but I'm his number one now and we're both happier for it. Kodi's probably happier too, come to think of it, that pup was a lot of work for the old guy!