Dear Labby, Help me Choose Our New Dog

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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.

SlimDoggyJackandMaggie_2nd dog
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?

    Additional Resources:

    When to Get a Second Dog, How to Pick the Right One

    Adding a Second Dog to Your Family

    What to Consider Before Getting a Second Dog

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  1. Great article! Full of important information . I also heard that introducing a younger dog into an older dog family is done to maximize the influence your older dog may have e.g. Helps shape or mold the personality of the younger dog. Is that not the case? Thanks!!

    • Certainly a younger dog can learn from an older dog – I think it’s just important that the age difference is not too great.
      mkob recently posted…Dear Labby, Help me Choose Our New DogMy Profile

  2. My mom is big on matching, so any new pet in our home has to match our color palette. We couldn’t have an Irish Setter or Red cat as we are black/brown/white in colors. While we find this “thing” totally ridiculous, Mom has chosen a new pet partially by color match her whole life and we don’t see this changing. Thankfully, she also looks into the breed, energy level, all that other stuff too. Very good post for someone thinking about a second pet. Remember two, having two is a big change, most think if you have one two is nothing different, but it really is!
    Emma recently posted…Embrace WinterMy Profile

  3. Great tips although speaking from experience, with dominate breeds two of the same sex may not get along. It is not just a training issue. I think you have to be honest about what you may be getting into and provide accordingly. For example, we knew that eventually Thunder and Freighter would probably need to be separated (because two intact male Chessies together is not a good thing). We made sure that we could accomplish that before we brought him home and we made sure we were OK with that.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes–It’s Super Bowl Ad Preview TimeMy Profile

  4. Just got a female Lab, 4 years old, for my male Lab, 2 years old. He wants to play with her more than she wants to play with him, but when they do play, it really is adorable! After a month, she is learning to fit in without “Alpha” issues. Of course, during that time, I was fostering a mixed breed, so perhaps the easing back on the Alpha issue had to do with her figuring out my one Lab is better than 2 extra dogs in the house!

  5. Great post! I agree with you male/female mix seems the best. I learnt that for example two Weimaraner girls can be a hard challenge :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog TROUBLE THURSDAYMy Profile

  6. Balance, research and planning are key. But so is realizing that some days when you have two pups that all gets thrown out the window and you just have to wing it.

  7. These are wonderful tips to consider when adding to the family. Pierre is moving home this month and Bentley will be an only dog . He has only been in this situation once when our Golden passed, but that was different. We were all devastated. I hope this is a positive fun time for us. We do plan on adding another Basset Hound puppy. ☺
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…How to be a Good Pet NeighborMy Profile

  8. Excellent tips for adding another furry family member. For us, energy level seems to be the biggest thing. Size, sex, and age don’t seem to matter to Mauja and Atka, but if we bring an energetic dog into the house, it’s not good. We watched a friend’s dog for two weeks that was a Lab/Border Collie X. Mauja was so exhausted and grumpy by the end because the other dog just wouldn’t let her sleep (regardless of how much we exercised him on his own!). It wasn’t a huge deal since it was a temporary arrangement, but it never would have lasted long term.
    It’s Dog or Nothing recently posted…How to Have a Dog Friendly Super Bowl PartyMy Profile

  9. I would add to your list other pets – certain breeds are more prone to prey drive, climate of where you live, grooming needs, and making sure you know what health problems you may be getting into/can you afford it. 🙂
    Great post Slim!!
    DZ Dogs recently posted…Meet RobinMy Profile

  10. Great advice!!! I agree whole-heartedly about complementing your first dog with the second. For me, another issue would be not getting a domineering personality because it might flatten the self-confidence that Shyla has managed to build. Her brother, R, and she are a great combo.
    KB recently posted…Letting GoMy Profile

  11. These are great tips!
    Thanks 🙂
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…I scream, you scream, we all scream for . . . . Ruha Leather collarsMy Profile

  12. Such great information in this post. I found out having 2 intact males wasn’t the best choice as Norman hated Gamber. It works better with Glory and Nellie as Nellie is spayed but I bet if she wasn’t they would be crabby with each other. So if the animals are spayed and neutered I think you have a better chance everyone is going to get along. Dogs are just like humans and have their own personalities and do have conflicts with others.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Woods Walk~FitDog FridayMy Profile

  13. These are all great tips, and I’ve always agreed with the male/female thing. Of course, if you have more than two, then you’ll have to deal with it anyway. But if I was to go back to only two dogs, it would definitely be a male and a female.
    In our case, getting a puppy to make our older dogs more active did work out. But as the girls get even older, they may be less enamored with Luke’s playfulness, so we’ll see on that. That also wasn’t our only reason for getting a puppy though. Cricket doesn’t always like other dogs, so we thought she’d be more accepting of a puppy than an older dog.
    Jan K recently posted…B&W Sunday Selfie – ConradMy Profile

    • Yes, I think that’s true – dogs who aren’t crazy about other dogs, may be more patient and accepting of a puppy – maybe because they can ‘teach’ it manners.
      mkob recently posted…Working Out in the Morning with your DogMy Profile

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