I Feel Guilty for Getting a Second Dog

I have a senior dog and a puppy—10 years old vs. 15 weeks old.

When you’re very bonded to your older dog and you get a new puppy it’s natural to feel a bit … guilty.

If any of you have experienced this, you’ll have to let me know in the comments or email (Lindsay@ThatMutt.com).

My senior dog Ace and I are very bonded. He is what I imagine is that “perfect” once-in-a-lifetime dog some people are lucky enough to experience.

I hope I have more than one of these dogs in my life, but Ace is special—my running and hiking and agility buddy, the dog who introduced me to fostering and blogging and so many friends I would’ve never met otherwise.

So when I spend the afternoon and evening with puppy Remy … taking him to the beach for a puppy playdate … taking him to puppy training class … I can’t help but feel a little bad.

I feel guilty for getting a second dog

I feel like I should be spending more time with my old guy, Ace.

Ace of Spades - Feeling guilty for getting a second dog

So how should a dog owner manage her time between two dogs?

Let me know what you do in the comments. Here are a few ideas that work well for me.

1. Stick to a daily routine.

This may be more for my own sanity than it is for my dogs. Puppy Remy knows he gets a potty break early in the morning and then breakfast and back in the crate for an hour or so.

Ace knows he gets food and a walk as well. Then we all settle in for the workday. (Dogs sleeping, me writing.)

Throughout the day they both get their potty breaks, walks and food around the same times so they pretty much know what to expect.

2. Spend time with each dog.

Obviously both dogs need some time alone with me whether it’s a walk or playtime, training or cuddling. Ideally, they each get to do each of these things with me at some point throughout the week so it’s not just ONE thing they get to do separately.

For example, I try to take Ace for a walk by himself multiple times per week. I also play with him most days without Remy around.

Guilty for getting a second dog

3. Schedule adventures with the older dog.

I try to plan two “adventures” with my older dog each week. This doesn’t have to be anything too elaborate. It’s usually driving 5 minutes to our favorite park or trail or to a local pet friendly store or even just a laid-back walk around the neighborhood. He seems to really appreciate this time, and so do I.

4. Make sure the younger dog gets plenty of down time.

My puppy Remy has learned to be alone in his crate for a few hours (usually just an hour or so) while I focus on other things, whether I’m home or not. This is important for him because it teaches him he doesn’t have to be near me at all times and he learns to relax when alone and to be OK doing NOTHING (hard for a young weimaraner!).

5. Plan things with both dogs.

I have had to be careful because Ace can be very grumpy with the puppy, but there are some things they can do together like short walks, simple training sessions and getting treats (peanut butter from a spoon!).

Of course, some dogs get along perfectly and want to be together all the time. It that’s the case you’ll have no need to “plan” time for them together.

Other dogs don’t get along all that well (like my two), so I have to carefully think ahead and manage them closely.

Now that Ace is feeling better (he was sick), I’m planning on starting a routine where I drive them somewhere fun together each Friday afternoon. At the very least, we will go on a group walk. It’s important for them to have positive experiences together.

6. Remember why you wanted the second dog.

When I start to feel guilty about adding a second dog to our family, I remind myself why I wanted a weimaraner in the first place.

Our Weimaraner puppy Remy

I wanted a running and hiking buddy, a dog that can walk to the beach, play for an hour and still walk home. I wanted a dog to take to training classes and agility and walks around our town.

Ace can no longer do most of these things (his mobility is limited), and he would get left at home even if we didn’t have the puppy. So really, things haven’t changed all that much other than I’m a lot more tired from entertaining a crazy little puppy!

So that’s how things are going with us!

I wrote about how Ace has been aggressive to the puppy, so we’re closely managing them. There will be ups and downs but it seems like things are getting slightly better. Here they are.

2018 update: Ace and Remy get along really well these days (12 yrs old and 2 yrs old). They’re not best friends by any means but they hang out on the same dog bed almost all the time!

2019 update: Sadly, our senior dog Ace has passed away.

Did you feel guilty when you got a second dog?

Let us know in the comments!

35 thoughts on “I Feel Guilty for Getting a Second Dog”

  1. I feel guilty for fostering. It is something I wanted to do when I retired, and I love doing it, but clearly our 3 year old male lab does not. We have a 5 year old GSHP mix who does – whether we are fostering puppies or an adult, she clearly enjoys this. Toby, however, clearly does not. He always seems to be “third banana” -even the way the dogs come in the back door from the yard: it is always Sienna, the foster, and Toby. He just seems so forlorn.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Aww poor guy! At least fostering is temporary. I love fostering too but I only do so once a year or so since its stressful on all of us.

  2. I am so glad you said this! My older dog was 5 years old when I got the puppy, she seemed to be getting old before her time, and as much as I could lavish attention on her, I thought she may benefit from having a younger dog around to keep her more active and socialised. He was bolshy right from the start – barely bigger than her head, being the runt of the litter I assume that he had to be a bit more in your face than his litter mates. He would crawl all over her trying to play fight with her, mistakenly, I thought being an older dog, she would discipline him if he was pushing it too far, but she never has, she’s far too laid back for her own good, and even though I would remove him, I always felt to awful that I was putting her through this, she seemed to look at me and say ‘so when is he going home, when can I get some peace and quiet?’. I like you tried to separate out some one on one time with her, let her know she was still my baby girl, but what I also found was an immense help was having somewhere for her to go when she’d had enough, somewhere he couldn’t access. In the beginning it was the sofa as he was too tiny to get to her there. Now, some 4 years on, they wouldn’t be without each other, the younger dutifully following her nose to tail on our walks, but there was a lot of soul searching and times of me thinking ‘what have I done!’ It was really helpful as well to really tire him out before they had time together, so he wasn’t so full on with her, but I feel your pain, I really do!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m glad to hear 4 years later they are doing much better. Similar to your example, it’s just that crazy puppy energy that Ace does not have the patience for. Tiring out the puppy is so important!

  3. Hi Lindsay! As you know, Buddy is my “once in a lifetime” dog as well. I had moments of guilt when I was thinking about getting another dog, because I was worried that Buddy would think that I was replacing him. As you know, I adopted Sully so he can hopefully continue Buddy’s therapy work when Buddy retires. It has been easier for me because Sully is a year old and catches on to things very quickly. He is playful, but he has a calm energy that I think Buddy appreciates! Buddy has been a great teacher and Sully is very respectful toward him. Whew! You are doing everything right! I think that it is normal to have feelings like, “what have I done!” Ace knows that you love him!

  4. Scott Wollins

    My fur-son Shian is my once-in-a-lifetime soul-mate – he was challenged first by Mega-Esophagus – which makes feeding him a marathon of effort and cost and challenges – and recently by PRA – a genetic eyesight deterioration. But nothing has challenged our relationship as much as getting my fur-girl Tofi – a remarkable combo of Border Collie and Great Pyrnees – an insanely good looking and intelligent canine – her dominance, athleticism and attention-seeking place Shian in the ‘backseat’ in many encounters in nature and socially – I of course have trained her to let him get petted and to keep his ball – but in some deep way – my relationship with Shian was permanently wounded – at least changed – by Tofi. I am not sure Shian will ever understand why I got her – and a big part was so he would have company. Now I know that it doesn’t work that way – when I got Tofi – Shian received a message that he wasn’t enough for me – that I needed more than him – and he had to fight through at first some sadness and and then insecurity over Tofi being in our life. It has mostly worked out – but I want to caution anyone who is bound at the hip with a dog – that getting a second dog is going to alter your relationship – make your dog question their place in your life – and it will never be the same after that. I love Tofi deeply and her and Shian get along very well now – but that does not relieve the feeling of guilt I have had about forcing Shian to be one of two dogs – vs – being my one and only fur soulmate. Think hard and long before getting a second dog – because sometimes it can make your first & only dog feel like a second dog in your life.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I can relate to a lot of what you are saying. The relationship I have with Ace is of course changed but I don’t think Ace believes he’s not good enough or that he’s being replaced. In my opinion dogs are much simpler than that. In this post I wrote a lot about my own guilt and most of those things are my own emotions, not Ace’s. He is actually probably doing just fine! But I feel guilty.

  5. This is a really interesting angle for me because I feel our household is experiencing the exact opposite. We’ve had at least 2 dogs at a time since 1999. We lost our 13 year old about a month ago and now we just have our boy. He’s so lost without her. He has never been an only dog. We’ve been compensating with extra outings and things, but he took all of his cues from MiMi. Maybe it is just the nature of the Labrador Retriever or the way they’ve been raised. It seems like an adjustment for Ace, but I think Remy will be much better off in the long run having a mentor.

    I say this without attempting to discredit the wonderful soul that is Ace, but in my experience every dog we’ve had has been a “once in a lifetime” dog in their own way. It surprises us because sometimes it isn’t realized until they’re gone. We talk about the dogs of the past as if they’re still around because they brought us so much joy and laughter. Remy has so much more time to make his mark. I don’t doubt that Ace appreciates all the extra time you make for him.

    As usual, it seems like you’re doing everything right. The puppy crazies are temporary. I think that is important to remember. 🙂

  6. We’ve definitely had a few bumps in the road that made me feel guilty for getting the puppy. Like when I get frustrated and yell at the puppy and Hiccup looks like he thinks he’s in trouble, too (although that’s more guilt over my temper then getting the puppy I suppose). Also, when I walk Link before Hiccup, but he still runs over to the leash like he wants to come, too. I tell him I’m saving the best for last; if only he spoke English. The worst was when we had a lot of unexpected expenses last month and I bought a cheaper brand of dog food to supplement the more expensive wet food I normally get. It made Hiccup violently ill. I felt so bad because I know I never would have bought it if I weren’t feeding two dogs; Hiccup eats like a bird anyways. I suppose a bit of “mother’s guilt” is normal, even with pets. It sounds like your dogs are both so lucky to have you as their owner!

  7. I never really felt guilty with Linus when I started raising guide dog pups. It’s probably because Linus even at 12 years old has always liked playing with the puppies (he likes to show them he’s the boss). Also, the guide pups in training alway went places with me where Linus wasn’t allowed to go anyways so his routine never really changed much. One thing I did do with my older dogs is enroll them in training classes which allowed me to spend more one on one time with them. Stetson has done K9 Nosework and I had Linus in additional obedience classes.

  8. Sandy Weinstein

    this is so true. Evie was 8 yrs old when i got Tressa. my dog breeder said to get a puppy instead of one that was a few yrs old b/c i wanted another one of her dogs that had retired from the showring and had wanted this dog since she was 8 wks old. so i went with a puppy. Evie was so mad, even to this day she does not play with the 2 younger girls. they would tease her, take her food. now i have to protect her b/c she has mild dementia, cant run, deaf and going blind. so i really feel guilty now. Evie would look at me with hatred in her eyes. i try to spend alone time with Evie every day. i give her extra attention. my mother got really mad and me and would not even look at her new grandchild or acknowledge her, she said i was very bad mom for getting another dog b/c Evie had been an only child for 8 yrs. now i have 3 little girls. i love them all so much, it is ridiculous. it is hard sometimes, especially trying to clip and groom them, which can take 2 days, since they are miniature schnauzers. the oldest does not like to be groomed now b/c of her age. i am not a fast groomer either. and the vet bills are very expensive as well as food, treats, etc. but i will survive and would not give any of them back for anything. if i could afford it i would have more. i wanted a 2nd dog b/c i wanted a show dog, although i dont show. i just wanted a very nice schnauzer, not that Evie was not nice, she is just not show material, but i love her so much. i sometimes take naps with her on the floor. she cant get in bed anymore and does not like it b/c she does not like height anymore at her age. she is almost 15 yrs old. she also does not like to travel in the car. it is hard traveling with 3 girls to the vet. i just make sure Evie has her time everyday with me. i give her extra treats, kisses and hugs.

  9. My mom still feels guilty about all of us as we have all been second or third dogs at some point. It’s hard to spread the love and attention, but in time a new pattern sets in and everyone is happy in their new order of things.

  10. I can’t exactly relate because the only time I got a second dog was when they were both pretty young, and luckily they ended up being best buds..

    But I can certainly see where you’re coming from. No matter how prepared you are bringing in another animal (especially a puppy I’d imagine) changes so much for everyone in the home. And I can only imagine how tough it is to make sure you spend time with each dog individually, I know with Laika at least there would be a lot of jealousy involved.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and writing this article. I have a 10 year old golden retriever, Bailey, who I rescued 8 years ago. He definitely likes being an only child. My mom adopted a 5 year old dog last year, Cubby, and they get along and play great together. But when it comes to my attention or even my mom’s attention, Bailey gets really jealous. When I’m petting Cubby, Bailey just stares at me and starts barking. I’ve recently started to consider getting another dog and have been concerned about Bailey feeling sad and somewhat forgotten. You’ve given me some great advice and lots to think about. Thanks!

  12. Absolutely guilty ! My 12 year Golden Retriever Jack is, as you say your Ace is,,, the perfect dog. He is just so easy to be around and incredibly mellow and calm.
    Molly, our new Airedale, just turned 1. She is SO different. Boisterous, pushy, bossy. Everything Jack isn’t. She will grab toys from Jack’s mouth, snatch bones from him. Always gets between us petting and loving on Jack. And all thru this, Jack, being a typical Golden, lets her get away with it. We do things separately with him but I swear, he’s just a tad depressed he has to share his home with her.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Aww, sounds so similar to us! I just make sure Ace still gets plenty of attention and make sure he’s loved and happy.

  13. Sandy Weinstein

    so true, i felt so guily abt getting a 2nd dog, then i got a 3rd dog and really felt guilty. Evie was almost 8 and had been an only child, so she was not happy. now she is almost 16 and lots of health issues and takes a lot of time taking care of her now. takes abt an hr to get her feed in the am and pm, b/c i have to watch or hold her or hand feed her. she has dementia, almost blind, deaf, bad disc in her back and has terminal cancer. when i got my 2nd dog, i made sure i gave each dog time alone. i made sure Evie still had her place in bed, her same territory, toys of her own, etc. then along comes my 3rd child who is still a real brat at 6, almost 7. however, i try to make sure the other 2 gals understand that Evie is a senior and has first choice.

  14. My Collie Shadow is 3 and like other people have said. He’s my rock and my soul mate. I rehomed a 1 year old collie ajay earlier this week whose had a bit of a rough start. I’m the only human ajay seems to have attached himself too. He doesn’t like my mum. Brother or my boyfriend. Shadow and ajay play together constantly and Shadow seems to love that.
    I just can’t seem to shake this guilt of not being able to fuss him as much and him having to share the attention. Shadow is so calm, mellow and well trained and he just allows Ajay to take toys of him and bones etc. I’m probably just being the worried parent feeling guilty. But it’s not the best feeling and I hope I start bonding with him soon.

  15. I feel so guilty I have a Siberian husky Silas who I’ve had for 5 years from a puppy and we have been through so much together divorce moving several times to me getting a second job he is a mommas boy for sure he is attached to me to the hip I take him to events shows the dog park hiking swimming I work a lot and gone most of the day so I decided to get a female husky from the pound that’s 3 years old when she first saw him she growled at him this is the first day few hours later theyre playing I still still cant get over the guilt

  16. Jennifer English

    I am so glad I saw this. I was feeling super guilty as I lay here in bed with my 2 dachshunds. Miley turned 1 August 11th. She is so spunky. I just adopted her sister(same parents different litter) who is 10 weeks. They get along great but I was worried about bedtime. Miley snuggles in bed with me every night. I didnt want her to feel like she was being forgotten or replaced.

    1. I just got a new dog and i feel my 10 year old golden wont get enough attention she is the love of my life and is the best ever we were ready for a second dog and we were very happy to take her because her family was moving away. I am going to try to give equal if not more attention to my golden gal. Am i an awful person for getting a second dog ( they get along good so far).

  17. I live on a farm and have an amazing 7 year old blue heeler who is very independent. We are getting a new blue heeler puppy so my older one (Mila) can help teach her the way around the farm like mg first dog taught Mila. I am nervous she is gonna feel neglected because she won’t be able to mouse and run in the cow pens as much until the new puppy is trained. Any tips?

  18. Hi,
    I have a 15-year old rescued mutt named Shelby. Ever since we got him 11 years ago, he’s been incredibly grateful towards me and my absolute soulmate. He’s not the first dog I’ve had, but the first I’ve had this kind of connection with.
    Since my wife and I separated a few months ago, Shelby’s been alone all day most days. I don’t think he minds, but it breaks my heart a little bit every day when I leave for work.
    I always swore to myself I would wait at least six months after Shelby died to figure out if I wanted another dog or not. I would like to enjoy a clean house 😉
    On a whim, I agreed to take on a second dog ; another rescued dog with no name. My kids love him and have named him Max. He is very nice. Nicer with the kids than Shelby. He was rescued from the street by my neighbors (who can’t keep him) and needs potty training. He’s 1. I only have a couple more days to decide if I keep him or not, and I really can’t make up my mind.

    When Shelby dies, and if I decide to get another dog, I would love him to be just like Max. If I let him go, I might regret it so much ! He already sees me as his master after only 2 days.

    On the other hand, I just might enjoy a dogless life, and I don’t want to feel overwhelmed by this new responsibility for another 15 years !

    If anyone has any idea on how to make this difficult decision, I’m all (dog) ears.

  19. Soo, I am picking up a new puppy tomorrow. I already have three dogs, all my best friends. But one of them (my past service dog, Junior) is super attached, which makes sense. We are always together. And im afraid bringing in a new puppy to start training to be my new service dog will upset him. Possibly make him resent me a little bit. He likes other dogs just he also has a small issue with other dogs getting a bunch of attention from me. He has to be involved to actually be okay with it. And even then he stills get jealous.

  20. Hey there!
    Dealing with this sort of guilt right now. My dog Scraps a dapple dachshund is my companion. He got me through some very hard times. He has been by my side through every step including my wedding. Ive wanted another pup for years but my husband wasnt ever ready until recently. We decided to go with a rescue pup. Lady had a rough first few years. She was found in very bad condition. So far she has been a very well behaved addition to our family. Scraps is doing better than i expected and I think it is more so his mama that is having a hard time adjusting. I want both dogs to feel loved, and I adore our new girl. Im just so afraid that I am hurting Scraps.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It sounds like things are actually going really well! Congrats on your new pup and don’t feel guilty. Dogs do tend to adapt really well as long as both are getting training, exercise and your affection. I’m sure the dogs are doing great.

  21. That’s exactly what I am feeling right now, guilty and depressed for getting a 10 week old puppy. My 12 yr old Boston Terrier has been by my side and she is the most chill and sweetest dog. I feel so bad for introducing a new puppy to disturb the flow of what we have a home. Although it’s only been a few days I am already ridden with guilt. I do give them treats at the same time and give her extra hugs on the couch away from the pup. Seems like I’m not doing enough and I am feeling so terrible.

  22. I have an older dog Zac who is 10. He still has so much life in him but we can tell he is slowing down. He has been my rock through many things and he is that one in a million dog he’s my best friend. I have always wanted to get another dog and finally we got a puppy he’s 8 weeks old. I felt if I got a puppy it would keep Zac on his feet and give him a best buddy. But when we brung the puppy home my dog was not that impressed he hasn’t been the nicest with him. I’ve seen Zac play with puppy’s and he got along more with puppy’s then older dogs but now this puppy is in his territory he’s been a big aggressive. He is slowly warming up to him but I can’t help but feel guilty. I’ve tried as hard as I can to stick with zacs usual routine. He sleeps in the bed with me and from day one of getting the puppy he hasn’t been allowed to sleep in my bed because I feel like that’s zacs thing. The puppy is still to young to go out so I’ve been trying to take Zac on his usual walks. I feel sad when I look at Zac now and I start to tear up, because I don’t want him to think that I got a puppy because he’s getting too old. I just don’t know how to stop feeling like this. My mum keeps saying to me it was unfair to get a puppy because zacs always been on his own and It makes me feel even more guilty.
    Will this feeling go away because I feel like I’ve betrayed my best friend.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Dogs can’t possibly comprehend that someone would get a puppy because they’re getting old. That is just something they can’t think about emotionally. So, while Zac might not be thrilled with the puppy, the best thing you can do is not feel sorry for him. Instead, try your best to feel happy and excited about the puppy. This will help Zac also feel better about the situation.

      1. Ben S- What did you decide to do?
        I hope you kept Max, it sounded like fate.

        I’m glad I found this thread
        I’m going through this right now. Was trying to work out why I’m struggling so much.
        I’m 1 week in with the new pup
        And can see it’s an amazing pup, but honestly wish it was just back to my only boxer Lola. Fingers crossed I change my feelings as I’d hate to send a rescue puppy back x

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