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Choosing a second dog

All dog lovers want to adopt more dogs. Our significant others and family members have learned this the hard way.

I know that at some point there will be a second dog in our household. This very day, week or month is not the right time, but that could easily change.

My problem is not whether or not to adopt a second dog, my problem is deciding on “the right” dog.

I know the correct way to adopt a dog – take my time, set my emotions aside and find a dog that will compliment the energy in our house. That’s exactly what I did with my mutt Ace when I adopted him almost three years ago through a great rescue in Fargo called Adopt A Pet.

The second time around will be much harder for me because I’m more involved with dog rescue and it’s hard to set my emotions aside now that I spend time with so many dogs in need of homes. When I adopted Ace, I had no connections with any rescues in town and in many ways this made it easier to find “the perfect” dog.

‘The right’ dog

The dog I have always wanted to adopt does not fit that “ideal” profile for our household.

Ideally, a new dog should be more submissive and less energetic than the existing dog (and cats) so she can fit nicely into the order of the house. Most people make the mistake of adopting a hyper, young dog that ends up bringing chaos and stress to everyone.

I know from experience as a foster owner and Fargo pet sitter that the above advice should be taken very seriously. Higher energy, dominant dogs will create problems. Calmer, laid-back, submissive dogs will mold with the other animals almost seamlessly. It’s pretty amazing, yet it’s a very simple concept.

If anyone were to ask me for advice on adopting a second dog, I would highly advise them to choose a dog with less energy than their current dog. At the same time, I am going to have a hard time following my own advice.

Most dogs are more dominant than Ace. In case you forgot, my 9-pound cat will sit in an entryway blocking Ace just because he can. Ace will sit and cry until I come and “rescue” him.

The ranking in our house is very clear – humans, cats, dog.

The dog that I have always wanted to adopt is a dominant animal. Although she has no trouble following a consistent, knowledgeable human, there would naturally be a power struggle between her and my more dominant cat, Beamer. Not only that, but this particular dog has shown aggression with other animals.

Rescuing a dog

I’m writing this post because my conflict is one that every dog lover should think about.

At what point is it OK to adopt a more challenging dog?

That answer is different for everyone, and some people should never adopt certain dogs. It’s something I struggle with. I know how to properly choose a “perfect” dog, but I am also willing and capable of offering a great home to a dog with a few “issues.” We all know there is a lack of homes for these dogs.

I work with a lot of rescue dogs, and I can say that I am better than most as far as not getting too attached. I never want to keep my foster dogs. I don’t even want to foster a dog right now.

But … there has always been this one dog.

Am I “the one” for her? It’s easy to believe I am, but I know it’s mostly my emotional needs getting in the way again – a danger for every dog lover involved with rescue.

This dog doesn’t need me, as much as I want to believe she does. She needs someone – me or any other capable dog owner.  I imagine there must be hundreds of dog lovers out there who could be right for this dog. They just haven’t met her, at least not at the right time.

So … for now we are a one-dog home (with a lot of visiting and temporary dogs). Sooner or later though, there will be a second. The “right dog” for us is yet to be determined.

Why did you choose the dog/s you have?

Denise D

Monday 24th of October 2011

I have a 20 week old male beagle he gets bored very easy and I was wondering if getting him a companion would help with his boredom. I have never had more than one dog so I'm not real sure if it is a good idea? I had a lady at the pet park tell me your dog will behave better if you had another dog. So I was needing some advice if I should go with a second dog and if so same breed or a different breed.

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 24th of October 2011

If you get a second dog, you should get one assuming you will have to spend twice as much time entertaining, training and exercising your pets. Not less time. So getting a second dog because your current dog is bored may not be the best idea. However, if you want a second dog because you want two dogs for you, then go for it. It's not so much the breed that matters. It is more important to find a personality that compliments your other dog. Usually it's best to find a second dog that has less energy than your current dog.


Tuesday 23rd of November 2010

Sasha sounds like a wonderful dog and she's clearly made a real impression on you. It sounds like she and Ace might get along well... Have they ever met?

I fantasize about getting a second dog even though I only JUST got my first one. \She's cute, and a rare breed (although I wanted a mutt), and I love her, but she's kind of a handful. My second dog, when I'm older and more settled, will definitely be chosen for TEMPERAMENT. A quiet dog, who is friendly to strangers. I love my dog but she is so not perfect. She is scared of a rawhide. I have to micromanage her interactions with other dogs. She sometimes pees on herself when she's scared. When she barks, people look around for the big savage dog because they don't believe such a nasty bark could come from the cute little pup in the little pink jacket.

Lindsay, you've been thinking about this Sasha-dog for a long time... I hope she gets adopted soon so you don't have to brood over her any longer. There are just SOOOOO many homeless dogs. I think you'll find a better fit when you're ready.

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 28th of November 2010

Thanks, Thea! I can't wait to adopt a second dog when we find the right one and realize we are ready. Your dog sounds adorable.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 11th of May 2010

No problem. I'm glad you are thinking of getting a second dog. I'm sure the "right" dog is out there somewhere.


Tuesday 11th of May 2010

Thank you for the great advice, Lindsay.

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 10th of May 2010

It is hard to find the right match sometimes. You may want to find an older, calmer dog rather than a puppy, and realize that it will take a few weeks for the dogs to adjust to their new routines. I would avoid high-energy dogs, but in your case it wouldn't be so bad to have a slightly more dominant dog to help balance your dog.

To help your dog feel more comfortable, avoid having other dogs approach her head-on with direct eye contact. Instead, take the dogs for a walk side by side and then allow them to smell one another once both are comfortable. If your dog is abnormally shy, submissive or anti-social, other dogs will pick up on this and will cause some to attack or act more dominant around her. That's just something dogs do around other dogs they see as "weak." Others might completely ignore her. If you aren't already, try introducing her to new dogs as often as you can in order to boost her confidence and social skills. Obedience classes are great for this, or set up playdates with your friends' dogs.

I would talk to some rescue and shelter directors in your area and explain to them the kind of dog you are looking for to match your dog's energy and personality. They will notify you if they have a potential candidate.

Good luck!