Often when I’m talking with clients, I can sense their frustration about their dog’s behavior issues. Living with a fearful or anxious dog is hard for owners. And it’s normal to want things to be resolved as quickly as possible. And I’ve covered “How Long Will This Take To Fix” question already. But that doesn’t prevent people from considering what they think are quick fixes and one of the most popular ones is “should I get a second dog to help with my other dog’s behavior issues?”
The idea of getting a second dog is most common with my separation anxiety clients but I’ve also had it with puppy clients or others who think one dog will “show” the other dog how to behave. That’s just not how dogs learn. They don’t learn by imitation or “do as I do.”
For sep anx clients, often the thought is they want a second dog “to keep the other dog company.” But separation anxiety is defined as a very strong attachment to humans, and while some owners will claim that their dogs are “better” with a canine companion, this is a very small percentage of dogs and doesn’t address the underlying alone time anxiety. I promise you, your dog doesn’t have separation anxiety because he is lacking canine companionship. Dogs don’t get “cured” of separation anxiety by increasing their play opportunities with other dogs.
Complications exist also that if you’re relying on a second dog as the band-aid for your first dog’s anxiety issues, what happens if your second dog needs to go to the vet, groomer or be away? What happens if they pass away? Your first dog will still struggle with separation anxiety in those situations because it was never properly addressed.
Even for non separation anxiety dogs in multi-dog households I recommend alone time training so all the dogs learn to be comfortable being a solo dog. We just can never predict when life will throw us a curveball and I’d rather prepare dogs for it ahead of time than be surprised.
And, who’s to say your new dog won’t have their own set of behavioral challenges? I’ve had more than one client get a second dog (against my advice) and that dog had their own behavioral issues, whether it was separation anxiety, reactivity, guarding issues or stranger danger. So now, the client, who was already tapped out coping with and managing their first dog’s behavioral issues, now has a new dog with additional issues that need to be worked on. All of this adds additional things to the owner’s plate that they may not have the bandwidth or resources for – more money for training, more vet visits, more anxiety, more management and more emotional worry.
So my answer to the question “should we get a second dog?” is always this: if you really want to add a second dog anyway, then great – go ahead! But, adding a second dog as a cure for your dog’s behavior issues is not the answer.
This is covered in my free guide, 5 Suggestions That Won’t Help Separation Anxiety (And Might Make It Worse)! In this guide, I’ve compiled five of the most common suggestions found online that will not help your dog’s separation anxiety, and discuss how they could even make it worse. I also discuss how we can actually help give you and your dog some relief. Grab your free copy now!
If you think your dog might have separation anxiety or are looking for some guidance on separation anxiety training, check out my self-paced, affordable course, Separation Anxiety Training Foundations (SATF) course. Or reach out today and schedule your assessment.
For other behavior concerns, you can grab a one on one appointment with me here.