It is a common situation where people want a second dog as company for their first dog. It will be appropriate in some situations and not others.
It is a fact of modern-day life that many dog owners will be away from their dog for long hours most days of the week; leaving the dog alone. Even when highly committed to their dogs, these owners might struggle to provide sufficient companionship, play, exercise and general stimulation in the hours they have available. Some might suggest they should not own a dog at all. However, I feel sad that generally the role of dogs in families and their activities has been diminishing for some time. The partnership between people and dogs has been a large contributing factor to the evolutionary success of both species. So, I prefer to think hard to find a solution that will allow more people in our community to experience the joy and subsequent improved health and wellbeing of dog ownership.
A second dog may well be part of the solution to meeting the social needs of a dog owned by “time poor” people. But only if both dogs are well socialised with other dogs and actually enjoy the company of other dogs. Many dogs have spent their sensitive social development phase as puppies, solely in the company of people, which is fine if the family is able to meet the dog’s needs for the rest of its life. Some dogs who have had plenty of experience with other dogs during the sensitive social phase as puppies, will still prefer the company of people. The result could be that the owners now have two lonely dogs!
If the second dog arrives as a puppy in its sensitive socialisation phase (approximately 3 – 16 weeks of age), it must be raised independently of the existing adult dog in the household. If the puppy is allowed to be with the adult dog at all times, it is likely to develop problem behaviours related to an insufficient development of independence. To avoid this problem, the puppy needs to sleep away from the older dog most nights of the week; it needs to experience the world outside its home in the company of human family members, without the older dog present; it needs to be trained using positive reinforcement techniques, away from the older dog. In other words, the puppy needs to be raised independently of the older dog. Rescuing an adolescent or adult dog might be a better alternative for many households.
Other potential means to assist in meeting the needs of dogs living in time-poor households could include:
- hiring a dog walker;
- visits to doggy day-care;
- creative type training using positive reinforcement e.g. clicker training which can be done at home in the lounge room and can be more tiring for the dog than a long exercise session;
- playing games with the dog – not only tug-o-war, retrieve and hide ‘n’ seek, make up a game as you go;
- providing daily food requirements via dog toys and puzzles or scatter feeds; and
- avoiding routine and patterns – mix it up!