“Everything in moderation…including moderation.” - Ben Franklin
So you’ve got one dog you’re having problems with. Maybe Fido is hyper. Maybe Fido is bored. Usually Fido just won’t listen to you. You’re at your wit’s end trying to cope with this dog. And then you stumble upon a wonderful idea….a second dog! The logic seems sound – another dog will help with the separation anxiety. It will help wear your first dog out. Perhaps things will be easier with another dog to keep your first dog occupied. It’s like communism – it only looks good on paper.
I have indeed seen quite a few instances where a second dog helped out tremendously with keeping the first dog occupied/not alone/stable. But only if your first dog is successfully Piloted.
Let me put it this way: suppose you have a child who is giving you no end of trouble. They are constantly getting bad grades, not doing homework, and talking back all the time. Would your solution be a second child? Of course not. You’d try to work with the issues you first child is having and then, perhaps, once those are sorted out, have a second child. The same goes for your dog.
Once you have your dog successfully Piloted, a second dog may be a good idea, but only if your first dog is getting the Piloting, Activity and Work that they need. Only when you are consistently answering all of your dog’s questions. Yes, it may take a lot of work, but you’re doing it, and you’ve got your dog at a pretty good place. Now is a good time to consider a second dog to help you out. Adding a second dog doesn’t negate your need to Pilot either of them. You still must answer both of their questions, but instead of bringing in more chaos, you are controlling the situation before adding stimulation.
You’ll have an adjustment period where you have to answer questions for two dogs, which may initially be tougher, but keeping things running smoothly and answering questions as they arise is so much easier than trying to untangle a mess that a lack of Piloting creates.
Adding another dog isn’t like adding more sugar in your sugar bowl. It’s more like adding another book to your library. What kind of book are we talking here? Dr. Suess? James Joyce? Are you looking for an adventure book? Perhaps a self help or maybe Sci-Fi? There are so many books to choose from! Dogs have personalities, so you aren’t adding a dog so much as a new flavor to your pack. You are trying to create a recipe of personalities, and just like those chocolate raspberry bacon mint cookies you saw on Pinterest may take some …uh, getting used to, some flavors are simply more difficult to palate when combined than others.
When choosing a new dog, don’t forget to make a checklist of wants vs. needs, but this time you are going to be taking into consideration your current dog’s personality. It’s a balancing act. Your dog has a lot of energy, perhaps another dog with a lot of energy will wear your Fido out, but it may also create a situation where all these guys want to do is play, including in the house (which is where your Piloting skills need to come in). If you have a dog who has separation anxiety, getting another dog who is prone to it as well won’t help -you want a calming influence, not a partner in destruction (remember, separation anxiety isn’t about being left home alone so much as being left without a Pilot). Feel out your potential new dog’s personality, and consider how it will mesh with your current dog.
I personally have two dogs: Sparta and Orion. Sparta is slow, steady, calm and has no separation anxiety. She does, however, have dog reactivity. Orion is fast, hyper and has separation anxiety. The two balance each other perfectly. Sparta relies on Orion to give the alerts (which he never does). Sparta has a calming effect on Orion. However, both are Piloted by me.
If your dog is depressed, due to the passing of another pack member, allow them time to grieve. Dogs do indeed mourn, so don’t turn around the next day and get a new dog. Your dog may have lost their Pilot (yes, you may be their Pilot as well, but there is a pecking order). First make sure you have strengthened your bond with your current dog, and then consider adding to your pack.
When working with dogs, always remember to start with calm. Only then can you add stimulation (or in this case, another canine). If you start while you’re in a good place with your current dog, adding a dog will be a very rewarding (and entertaining!) experience.