Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

National Dog Day: Does my Dog need a Dog?



The first added, and senior dog in my current family
 gets along with everyone
As dog people know, today is National Dog Day. Seems like a good time to answer a question I sometimes get asked about keeping dogs with dogs, i.e. "Would my dog be happier with another dog in the house?"

The answer to this question depends on:
a) one's dog
b) the second dog that is introduced into the home.

The second added, now middle aged dog
who has a dominant personality








But first let's acknowledge that generally speaking, dogs are pack animals who require social interaction with pack members not just to be happy and healthy, but to understand their own place in the world. The dog brain is wired in such a way that dogs want to understand their position in the world in relation to the other members of their pack. Some dogs are naturally submissive, some naturally dominant, and many will show varying degrees of submission or dominance based on who else is in their pack. If the pack changes, then so can the amount of submission or dominance a dog displays.

The third added, youngest, largest dog in our family
likes her family better than outsiders


My own home has recently been an example of what happens when two dogs with dominant personalities clash. Unfortunately, there was nothing equal about this clash and the much smaller dog now realizes that despite his natural urge to be in charge, that isn't going to work with a similarly tempered dog who is over five times his size. In the dog world might does make right.





The last added, 2nd senior, and would be boss
of the dogs - if the spot weren't already taken



Also worth noting; domesticated dogs perceive their packs to be made up of both the other animals and people in their world. Humans have rank in the pack and optimally, a level headed human will be the pack leader; when the dog holds the alpha spot in the family this generally results in behavior problems.

That's the long way around saying there are several things to consider when deciding if another dog will fit into your home:
  • How much socialization, time, play, attention do you give your dog? If your dog has a lot of one on one time with you, they may not care about having another dog around outside of playdates. Conversely, ignoring and neglecting a second dog doesn't improve anyone's quality of life. 
  • Does your dog appear to like other dogs? Have you ever hosted other dogs as overnight guests for at least several nights? Did your dog enjoy this or become annoyed at having to share?
  • Is your dog adopted from a situation where they are used to being in other dogs' company? When a mature dog or older puppy has spent their life with other dogs always around, they may find it difficult to adapt to being an only dog. Some dogs however, revel in finally having a person's undivided attention. (In our home, Jenny having been raised in a pack-kennel environment, was uncomfortable being an only dog.)
  • Do you as a dog handler have experience training and caring for more than one dog? If not, then consider working with an experienced trainer both in evaluating the dog you currently live with and any future dog you consider adding to the family.
Dogs equal in play needs but different in dominant tendencies
work well together
For those considering a second dog for the sake of the first dog, begin by evaluating if the first dog actually enjoys spending time with other dog's in their territory and space. If dog #1 is cool with others, then be practical about finding a #2 dog that is also cool with other dogs. Adopting a dog from a rescue staffed by people who can give you reliable information about how the dog does with others, is a good way to find the right dog #2.

Many of us, however, end up with second, or third dog not necessarily because of dog #1's needs, but because we ourselves discover another dog we would like to live with. That of course becomes a whole new can of worms, because dog #2 or #3 may or may not fit smoothly in.



In closing I would also suggest that in part choosing to have a single dog, or choosing to have multiple dogs is in many ways a personal choice, like having a favorite ice cream flavor or choosing to have one children or several children...not just that children are like ice cream and dogs, but one's personal preference plays a role in what one is comfortable with. Some people just aren't multiple dog people and some of us just aren't single dog people.

Thank goodness our dogs tend to be more flexible than we humans sometimes are.




P.S.
For those who follow this blog and realize the turmoil our home was in for a while, I will add that things have settled down - which means the new protocols we implemented have worked. Gracie isn't allowed upstairs, when she's in she's tethered in the living room. She gets to cuddle up next to me on the couch when I'm writing, but at night she's crated and Chi Chi sleeps in bed with me. Everyone seems satisfied, happy, and healthy now and there is no longer a palpable tension when dogs do see each other. A big part of this settling was me stepping back up as a clearer expectation setter and more alert leader, who is quick to reinforce boundaries.

Thank you to everyone for the well wishes and support :-)