If you’re thinking about getting another dog, there are several things to keep in mind, like finding the right dog for your current family—including the four-legged family members. After all, canine siblings will need to live together in harmony. You can help them succeed by purposefully pairing them, says Mikkel Becker, a professional dog trainer based in Seattle, Washington.
“Most dogs are compatible with other dogs, but there are some who are very selective about who they want to live with and which dogs they’ll consider friends,” Becker says. “So before adding a new dog to your home, take a look at your current dog’s character traits.”
What to Consider When Getting Another Dog
So, how do you choose the right dog for your existing pack? Consider these six critical factors before getting another dog.
1. Should You Get the Same Breed?
If you love your current dog, chances are you’ll enjoy another dog with the same traits that attracted you to the breed. Perhaps you enjoy the comical and couch potato nature of Bulldogs or an active, intelligent and driven herding dog.
Your dog might prefer another of his own kind, too. Many dog breeds are clannish, Becker says.
“My dogs, which are Pugs, go to doggy daycare quite often, and it’s really interesting to see how the Pugs congregate,” she says. “A lot of that is from having littermates and becoming familiar with others of the same breed really early on.”
Same or similar breeds share other likenesses as well, Becker says.
“They are likely to have similar play styles and ways they interact with other dogs,” she says.
If you’re considering adopting a second dog that’s a mixed breed, try to meet the parents first, Becker says, to get an idea of the dog’s personality as it matures. Mutts often are the most adaptable of all dogs and accept most any dog as a companion, but it still depends on each individual dog’s temperament.
“If it’s a puppy, see what the parents are like,” she says. “That’ll give you a good idea of what the dog might be like—but remember, whether it’s a purebred or mixed breed, it’s hard to know how the dog is going to develop or be like.”
2. Can Your Current Dog Keep Up?
Another factor to consider is your existing dog’s activity level. Is he on the lazy side? Is he a senior who prefers to snooze on the couch all day? If so, a rambunctious puppy might not be a perfect match, Becker says.
“A lot of older dogs have a lower energy level,” she says. “They don’t have the pace they once had. In that situation, a new puppy with a lot of energy may not be the best fit. If you’re getting a new puppy, it’s important to think of how you’re going to get that puppy’s energy out in ways that aren’t going to be antagonizing [to your] other [dog or] dogs.”
Breed type often dictates a dog’s energy level and play style. A laid-back Basset Hound might not welcome the off-the-wall energy of a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd.
“A Collie and a Pit Bull-type dog, for instance, don’t play the same way,” Becker says. “A Pit Bull-type dog might do more of the body play, and a herding breed might be more into the stalking play.
“Their play style might be different enough that one dog doesn’t know what the other is doing or doesn’t understand that [he’s] playing,” she continues. “So, when getting another dog, find one that will match your current dog’s play style.”
3. What’s Their Age Difference?
Let’s talk ages. Whatever their age difference, it’s important to have reasonable expectations about how they’ll interact, Becker says.
“One expectation is that younger puppies should acquiesce to the older dog,” she says. “They expect the older dog will always have the privilege, the first right. They were there first, and the puppy needs to understand that, but it doesn’t always play out that way.”
That’s where rules and training come into play.
“Puppies get excited,” Becker says. “They want to have access to the toys. They’re way more interested, too, when another dog is already interested in them. That’s where you can see a lot of conflicts happen.”
A little training can go a long way.
“The more structure you have in those situations, the better,” Becker says. “That could be teaching your dog to wait for resources and rewarding both dogs for being patient. They can see that if the other dog is getting something good, I get something that’s really good, too.”
4. Does Size Matter?
While small and large dogs can be best friends, realize that a small dog can get hurt easily by a larger dog in the heat of play.
“You might have a really friendly dog, like a playful, easy-going Great Dane, but [he] could inadvertently scare a small dog by stepping on [him] or playing a little too roughly,” Becker says. “It can set both dogs up for failure unless you really carefully manage them.”
Another danger is the larger dog’s prey drive.
“There is a very slight chance in some situations that a dog might consider another dog to be prey, especially if he wasn’t well socialized with a variety of dogs when he was younger,” Becker says.
To help minimize the risk, consider a breed that your dog already knows.
“Look at what kinds of dogs your dog is already comfortable with and what types of dogs your dog has been socialized with,” Becker says.
5. Will They Get Along?
Compatible temperament can be as important as size. Adopting a second dog with a similar personality to your current dog is a wise plan.
“Find out what your dog really enjoys doing,” Becker says. “If your dog loves to play with other dogs, that can be really helpful to know because you can then look for another dog that likes to play. You want to find a match where your current dog will get along with the new dog and vice versa.”
Avoid pairing a quiet, sweet dog with a rambunctious, wild puppy who can overwhelm or upset your dog. Sometimes, however, a shy or worrisome dog can benefit from the easy-going confidence of a younger dog. You can improve your current dog’s outlook on life and make him come out of his shell by adding an outgoing newcomer to your family pack.
But don’t think a new dog will “fix” your current dog’s bad social skills, Becker warns.
“Getting another dog isn’t going to make your dog more social,” she says. “I see that quite often—a person will get a second dog because the first one isn’t that social. That’s really a recipe for disaster, and it can be really hard on the dog you bring in as well.”
Along the same lines, any imperfections in your current dog can be passed along to the new one, Becker says. Mischievous habits—from digging, door darting, fence climbing, begging and even food- or toy-aggression—can be passed along to the new pup. Two naughty, disobedient dogs are not easier than one!
“Look at your dog’s current problems and how you’re training him,” she says. “Is your dog reactive on a leash with other dogs? That’s something to keep in mind. In some cases, it’s better to delay getting a new dog until you can get some of those issues under control.”
6. Brothers, Sisters or Both?
When it comes to the second dog’s sex, most experts agree that opposites get along better.
“Having a male-female match can definitely be helpful,” Becker says. “And getting a slight variation in size can be helpful, too. Dogs who are built the same way tend to compete more with each other.”
Two neutered males usually will get along OK, she says, but use caution when pairing two females.
“Lots of females can get along with other females, but there is a chance that it won’t work out,” Becker says. “There is something called female-female sibling rivalry between female household dogs, and you’ll see competition in some cases.”
Where to Get Your Second Dog
If your current dog came from a reputable breeder and you’re completely happy with your dog, consider getting your second dog from the same person. You also can find loving pets—even purebreds—from your local rescue or shelter.
If you have your heart set on a particular breed, think about rescuing an adult dog instead of a puppy, Becker says.
“With an adult or senior, you already have a good idea of what they’re like,” she says. “Plus, they’re lower energy, and that can be more tolerable if you already have an older dog in the house.”
Visit the American Kennel Club website for information on national breed rescue groups. For a mixed breed, you can visit a local, well-run shelter and find all shapes and sizes to fit your home.
By: Wendy Bedwell-Wilson
Featured Image: via Norb_KM/Shutterstock