You've always wanted a pet, and as you're getting your home ready to welcome one into your life, you can't decide if you should adopt one or two dogs. Having two dogs is a big responsibility, but it's also a wonderful opportunity. Consider your current lifestyle, breed choice and long-term goals first. You want to make sure that the dog — or dogs — you bring home are the right fit in terms of energy, size and needs.
There are going to be times when you can't be at home with your dog. One benefit of having two is that they'll keep each other company. If the dogs get along well, the companionship will prevent boredom. They'll be occupied, which means the dogs will have less time for bad behaviors, such as chewing things they aren't supposed to.
They will play together, burn energy and be less dependent on you for exercise and "fun" time. Both dogs will be better socialized with other dogs, so if you have friends with pets, make sure to invite them all over for your next cookout.
However, just because you're ready to grow your family with more than one dog, it doesn't mean both dogs are looking for a partner in crime. For dogs that aren't keen on the idea of sharing their house with another pup, bad behaviors may occur. Look for signs of jealousy or defiance. If the dogs show any sign of aggression, you'll have to make a big decision. First, separate the dogs immediately. Next, either enlist the help of a professional dog trainer or consider separating the dogs forever.
If you already have one dog in your home, make sure to bring him to the shelter to meet his possible new companion. Most shelters are fine with this, and in fact recommend it. It will help you get a better sense of whether or not the two dogs will get along well, helping make your decision a little easier. Dogs at the shelter that are a little timid toward you or other dogs are not necessarily a bad second companion; they may have just had bad experiences in their life before they came to the shelter. Sometimes a little bit of love is all it takes to get a shy pup to come out of his shell and become another beloved member of the family.
Consider the Costs
Dogs can be expensive. When you're deciding on how many to adopt, think about long-term and short-term costs. The basics you'll need to get before bringing them home include dog food (and treats), collars and leashes. All of which are relatively inexpensive, though two dogs do consume more food than one! You may want to invest in other items, such as toys (to save money, they can share) and dog beds. Just be considerate of their feelings. If one of the dogs gets protective over a certain toy, it might be best to get a second one for the other one so they do not have to fight over it.
However, long-term you may be spending more money. Consider annual and unexpected veterinarian visits. There are routine office costs and vaccinations needed for both dogs. But dog-related costs aren't the only financial costs to consider. Have you started planning a Caribbean vacation? It may be tough to find someone willing to dog-sit both of them at the same time. If you can't find a sitter, you'll have to board your pups, and the price tag may be prohibitive.
Adopting Both Dogs at the Same Time
Any major transition can stress out dogs, but adopting two pets from the same litter may make them feel less worried with the change of environment. When you bring home two puppies, expect more work up front. Right from the get-go, it's important that your dogs are potty trained and any negative behaviors are addressed. By putting in the time immediately with training, your dogs will be at the same level. Both dogs learn together. Any redirection one dog receives, the other will witness and learn from the behavior modification.
You may find at some shelters that some dogs can only be adopted as a pair. This is typical of dogs that were brought to the shelter as a pair. To help them avoid separation anxiety and other issues, shelters often ask that both of these dogs be adopted together. This can sometimes be a great option for new dog parents as they are getting two dogs that are already socialized with one another, and shouldn't have as many associated behavioral or territorial issues.
Staggering Adult Dog Adoptions
Adopting dogs at different times may be slightly easier on a new pet parent than managing two different personalities and behaviors without any experience. Start training immediately with your first dog, and when you feel he has mastered the skills, then bring the second dog into your home. While all situations are different, the second dog may follow the lead of the first dog, making training easier on you and quicker for him. Vetstreet recommends pairing dogs without too huge of an age gap and with a slight difference in height and size for less chance of competition. For example, if you have a 6-year-old golden retriever, a 4-year-old house-trained bulldog may be a good companion.
Only you will be able to tell whether you're ready to open your home and your heart to one or two dogs. Your lifestyle is unique, and your pup parenting will be too.
Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform, and even transform its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.