Two Dogs: Twice The Fun Or Huge Mistake?

“You’ll need the rigor of a drill sergeant.” That’s what one no-nonsense breeder said to me when I mused about getting two dogs instead of one.

I went with one.

However, around the same time my brother and his partner took the opposite route, and brought home two littermates. Theirs are cattle dogs. Mine is a boxer. Theirs are girls, desexed. Mine is a boy, intact. I live in a city apartment. They have a country acreage. So there are those variables in the mix as well.

But here’s what I learned from observing the differences in our experience.

1. A single dog will pay you more attention than two dogs

Two dogs entertain each other, which I guess is a large part of the reason for getting two. They keep each other company when you’re out. What I love about having just one dog though is the bond you get to form when it’s just the two of you. There’s something special about that. 

Raising littermates successfully poses a particular challenge. There is something known as littermate syndrome that can cause a range of issues that can lead to either intense attachment or aggression between siblings raising in the same household. 

2. It’s easier to train one dog than two

Training one dog is enough of an undertaking. If you want two, the best advice seems to be to bring home one puppy first and raise him through to adulthood, make sure he’s all trained up and then introduce the second puppy. Otherwise you are going to be training two dogs simultaneously and will need to set aside time for each of them separately, multiple times a day, which can be easier said than done. I watched my brother and his partner trying to contend with two pups and, even with a 1:1 human to dog ratio, it seemed pretty stressful. They didn’t persist with training for long.

3. With two dogs, behavior problems can amplify

Getting a second dog to try to fix behavioral problems in the first is kind of like having a baby to save a failing marriage. 

My brother’s dogs would bark at possums in the trees. One dog was the instigator and she would set off her sister — who may well have been quite well behaved on her own. A year or so down the track they were contemplating having to use electric shock collars to break a barking problem that was generating complaints from their neighbor. (If you ever contemplate using these devices, make sure you thoroughly understand how to shock collar train a dog and possibly seek the advice of a reputable dog trainer.) This is another reason it’s good to have one dog trained first if you’re getting two. That way the older dog can actually be a good influence on the younger by modeling expected behaviors. 

If you already have one well-adjusted and well-trained dog and are getting another, research how to introduce two dogs and how to get to two dogs to get alone. 

4. Potential for fights

To state the obvious, there’ll be no dog fights when you have just one dog. When there’s two, dominance and hierarchy have to be established and that can mean fights, or at least conflict at times. Depending on how it’s managed it can be more or less of a problem. Something to be aware of. Here are some quick tips on ways to avoid and break up dog fights

5. Two dogs can be harder to socialize 

My dog would get ganged up on by my brother’s two dogs, even though my dog was six or so months older and bigger and stronger. The two dogs were a pack and my dog didn’t belong. If it had been just one dog from each household, the dogs would have been on an equal footing and perhaps would have had a more harmonious dynamic during play dates (which we ended up discontinuing).

6. Two dogs might force you to neuter if you get a boy and girl

On balance I concluded it was better health-wise to leave my dog intact. If I ever get a second dog, and that dog is a girl, it will no longer be that simple. It is possible to have intact dogs of different sexes in the same household, but it will necessitate careful monitoring and separation a few times a year when the female is in heat. 

In conclusion

So, overall, is it better to have one or two dogs? It’s hard to say. There are pros and cons to either scenario. 

Of course two dogs can be successfully raised together and there’s nothing more enjoyable than watching two dogs play and romp together. But if you’re considering a pair, it’s worth carefully considering how you’ll go about it, for their sake and for your sanity.

There are accessories to help with two dogs. You can, for instance, buy a leash for two dogs. There are dog houses for two dogs. and crates for two dogs. Which raises another important point: two dogs double the expenses. 

Now my dog is grown and trained, I could get another. But to be honest, I’m not sure I want to share him. 

More reading

Mucus in dog’s poop: When it’s actually a good sign

Neutering: Why the old advice is wrong

Are you speaking your dog’s language?