Weighing the pros and cons of getting another dog

Scout and Bandit have a busy day at The Funny Farm

A friend recently got a new puppy, a cute little pup that’s energetic but so far very well behaved. And now they’re considering getting another puppy and becoming a two dog family.

As the occasional pack leader of a two dog, one cat, eight chicken household (to the public, David’s the leader but we all know who really runs the show … Bandit …) my advice would be … DON’T DO IT!!!

OK, I’m just kidding. A little.

A year and a half into our two dog adventure, I can say that with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t give up either dog for all the money in the world. But the truth is that we went into the second dog decision pretty blind.

Scout and I had gotten ourselves into a great routine and adding Bandit to the mix really put a cramp in my style. Before Bandit, Scout and I spent quiet days without much excitement. Now, it’s all dog, all the time here at the funny farm. From sun up till sun down and beyond someone needs to play, be fed, and have a pound of mud washed off their first. There’s barking and wrestling and nudging my arm and chasing the cat and barking at the neighborhood dogs and “let’s play catch”.

Not only are two dogs ten times the work, they’re a hundred times the cost.

First there’s the obvious cost of the dog and the first vet visit or two that everyone anticipates. But they forget to plan for food, toys, treats, dog crate, dog bed, grooming supplies or costs, and other miscellaneous costs like replacing the things in the house that the dog chews.

And there are the vet bills. Oh, are there vet bills.  In the first six months of 2010 we’ve spent $951.39 on annual exams, shots, monthly flea/tick and heartworm medicine, and tests and treatments for worms and possible UTIs. (In 2009 that amount was much, much more, because it included visits to the emergency room when Bandit ate my inhaler and other assorted catastrophes. So far, we’re doing pretty good.)

Where you maybe could get away without going to training classes with one dog – although I’d never recommend it; I’ve learned that every dog will benefit from training classes –  classes are an absolute must with two dogs. And not so much for the dogs, either. It’s the family that needs to be trained on dog behavior and how to lead the pack. Two dogs will quickly form a pack without you in the lead if you’re not careful, and then you’ll be dealing with even more problems than teething and housebreaking.

And forget your routine. When you add the second dog everyone in the family has to reevaluate their place in the pack. The first dog, who once enjoyed being king of the house, may be sent packing to the bottom of the pecking order, and it’s not easy for a dog owner to watch what happens when dogs naturally act like dogs. Hence the dog training; believe it or not, it’s cheaper than therapy … for you …

Two dogs don’t take care of each other, you take care of two dogs. So while they will entertain each other, all you’ve done is double the number of walks you’re going on and the amount of time you’re playing catch and training.

Having said that, there are benefits. Bandit has brought us some much needed excitment to our family, and Scout has gotten over some of his quirks. It took a long time but everyone had adjusted very well and I can’t imagine life any other way.

Which is why it’s hard to tell our friends not to get another dog. But it’s not easy to keep two dogs happy and healthy. It’s exhausting and expensive.

But if you go into it with your eyes open, eventually it’s wonderful.

So tell me about your experience with two dogs.  What advice would you give to a dog owner considering getting another dog?

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3 responses to “Weighing the pros and cons of getting another dog

  1. Nice blog !

    Our magazine http://www.thefamilymag.com covers soemthing similar in Canada. They look for new stories and ideas all the time. Anything and everything that is non mainstream and everything that gets people thinking.

    Cheers
    Ryan

  2. Well I may not be the best judge and I agree with you 100% about dog training. We learned so much at school. It was more about teaching us how to train the dog. The dogs learned NOTHING is school. But several months later we realised that we had succeeded in traing the dogs ourselves. We trained the basic tricks, Sit, lay, Stay, Heal, roll over, shake. But we also trained obedience, and Respect.

    I strongly recomend a training facility that teaches positive training, Negative trainers are so demanding and taxing on the dog.

    If there is one key piece of advice I can give any dog owner, one dog or two is this. Before you ask anything of your dog you must be willing to do what your dog wants as well. A simple example is play with your dog/s walk your dog/s talk to your dog/s. You will be amazed at how receptive they are to your commands once they realise your on there side. It’s a give give relationship you want to mantian.

    As Joanne knows I too have 2 boarder collies. High energy, very intellegent, and yes very A posative personalities. So key advice to people looking for pets is choose your dogs well based on your lifestyle. If your Active get active dogs. If your a home body get lap dogs. Do your homework and learn what your getting into before you get your dog/s. You’ll be much happier in the end if you do a little work before hand.

    • You’d think that would be so obvious, but I’m always amazed at how many people think they’ll get a dog and like magic it’ll sit, walk on a leash, etc.

      As for the Border collies – these two were nightmares today. It was energy without limit. We went to the park. We played ball. We walked, We had treats. And all I heard all day was Bark Bark Bark (translation: we’re bored!). I’m exhausted.

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