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Monday, November 17, 2008

Think twice about getting your dog a buddy

So, you think your dog is lonely and you'd like to get a second dog as a playmate and companion. Seems like a logical idea, and it usually is a good one....but not always.

Frequently I've seen well-intentioned dog owners bring an additional dog into the family primarily for the enjoyment of the first dog...and, lo and behold, the first dog is crushed. Now he has to share his family and their affection, and put up with the sometimes silly antics and pestering of another dog whose personality really doesn't match his. Sometimes this starts grumbling, sometimes fights...but often the original dog will just sulk quietly in a corner, longing for the good old days before the new little "pest" came to stay. The first dog may enjoy bits of time with the new one...but if you asked him his preferences, he'd still vote for being an "only dog."

There's nothing wrong with having two dogs; they do keep each other company, and they generally learn to cohabit in relative civility. But if your ONLY reason for getting a second dog is to entertain the first, be very sure your original dog wants the company. A good way to assess that is to take him to a doggy day care facility, drop him off, and get a report later from the attendants on how he did. You'll want to take him to doggy day care several days, actually, since the first day or two are periods of huge adjustment and he won't necessarily act "himself" until he settles into the pack.

After several days, the doggy day care providers should give you an honest assessment of his attitude toward other dogs. If he's truly playful and runs nonstop with the pack, chances are he'd love a companion at home. If he sits in a corner most of the time and will only be drawn out by the other dogs on rare occasions, he probably isn't interested in having a full-time sibling at home.

When you come to pick him up, see how he acts around you when his new buddies are present. If he's glad to see you, but still very interested in saying goodbye to them, that's a good sign. If he has a "Mom, get me out of here" expression on his body, he's clearly had enough of other dogs for the day and is glad to escape to the quiet solitude of your home.

Maybe your dog is the clingy type who's very possessive of you. She hugs your leg when she's in a new situation, she mentally withdraws from the other dogs, and she has eyes and ears turned upward toward you. If another dog approaches her in this situation, she will glance at the dog and utter a low growl saying, "Stay away. This person is MINE." This dog doesn't want you to bring another dog home. A few days of doggy day care may change her mind, but chances are she wants you all to herself, for good.

If you're still unsure about getting a second dog, look at the financial and practical reasons for keeping him solo. Two dogs cost twice as much as one. Figure one dog will cost you anywhere from $600 to $4000 a year, depending on how much you pay for food, training, dog beds, toys and vet bills. Double that and you're talking "serious money." Two days a week of doggy day care may cost you $1500 a year, but that might be less than the cost (and responsibility) of owning a new dog... not to mention damage to your yard and house from TWO destructive dogs left to their own devices.

As dog owners, most of us will admit that two dogs (or more) are more fun for us, the owners. And again, most dogs love the companionship of additional pets into the household...but not all! Make sure you're doing the right thing by your dog. It could be that what your lonely dog REALLY wants is just more time with YOU.

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