Dear Labby, Help me Choose Our New Dog
A few weeks ago, Dear Labby started a new series in response to a letter about adding a 2nd dog to the family. We discussed the factors you should consider in your decisionmaking, including the time and cost involved. In this post, we’ll provide some tips on choosing the right dog for your family.
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right dog to add to your family, but first and foremost is your existing family situation and the pets that you have in the household. You want the new addition to fit in well with your family, get along with your pets and not disrupt the energy of your home. If you have a dog who chases cats, adding a cat might not be a good idea. The same holds true if you have a cat who stalks and kills birds and mice…adding a fish or a bird might be, well, a disaster.
If you are adding a 2nd dog to a one-dog family, here’s some tips on choosing that 2nd Dog:
What kind of dog to get? There are lots of breed selectors and ‘tests’ you can take to determine the type or breed you might want. You may already know what breed of dog you want, or you may not have a preference.
Where to get the dog? We always prefer rescuing or adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue group. Even if you want a ‘purebred’ dog, there are breed rescues where you can find them. Many of them will also have puppies, so you can get a young dog if that is your choice. If you want to buy from a breeder, just be sure and do your homework about them and make sure you are not supporting backyard puppy mills. Please steer clear of Craigslist.
What to look for in a second dog? Since you are adding a dog to an existing household, you want a dog that will compliment your family and not be disruptive. The most important thing is that the new dog gets along with your current dog. Here are some additional factors to consider:
- Age: Many folks like to get young dogs when their family dog is getting older based on the theory that a pup will liven the older dog up. That may work in some cases, but it may just annoy your senior citizen to have a bouncy puppy jumping all over them. A dog closer in age and maturity is probably a safer bet or at least a dog who is mature enough to properly read the behavior of your senior. Dogs within 2-4 years of each other is the optimal age range.
- Sex: There is much debate over having opposite sex or same sex dogs. We’ve always had a male/female mix, but know many people that have two, three or more of the same sex. I think there is something to the theory behind same sex dogs being a little more competitive with each other, particularly with breeds that have a tendency to be more dominant, but I also feel strongly that it’s a training issue. If you are willing to put in the time and effort to train your dogs and feel you are a strong leader, then having same sex dogs shouldn’t be an issue.
- Size: I don’t think it makes much difference what size your 2nd dog is other than logistics. Handling two 80lb+ dogs is more difficult than one 80lb dog and a 25lb sibling. There are some theories out there that two dogs of the same size and breed might feel more competitive with each other, but as with same sex pairings, I think it can be addressed with proper care and training.
- Temperament: Examine your dogs temperament – is he playful and goofy or serious and contemplative? If you have a serious dog, getting a goofy dog won’t necessarily make Mr. Serious more playful. You should try to find a complimenting temperament. A good way to identify the type of dog your dog likes is to observe him at the dog park – what types of dogs does he gravitate to? Who are his friends and who does he avoid? I’ve seen this clearly with Maggie and Jack – both of whom are the more serious types and they both gravitate to dogs who are friendly, but mind their own business and don’t invade their personal space or activity without an invite.
You can also look for a 2nd dog with traits that compliment your family dog or vice versa. For instance, Jack’s confidence and high self-esteem has helped his little sister Maggie overcome her shyness and fears. She is braver and more confident when he is around.
- Energy levels: If you have a very active and energetic dog, getting a couch potato isn’t going to calm that dog down. Same goes for dogs who are low energy or need only a short walk or two each day. It will disrupt the balance if you bring in a high energy dog that needs to expend copious amounts of energy each day – he’ll drive your poor dog nuts. You should look for a dog with a similar energy level so that they can play together and possible expend energy in a healthy and playful manner.
In our next post, we will discuss introducing your new pet to the family.
Do you have any additional tips on what to look for when choosing a 2nd dog?