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  • Writer's pictureMindy Schwartz

How Many Dogs Is Enough?


I used to think that two dogs were the perfect number. They could be playmates and keep each other company, and you'd get double the love. When the time came for one to pass on, you would still have another to help with your grief.

Introducing a new dog to your four-legged family members is usually an enjoyable experience, one involving a lot of sniffing and chasing each other around. A new rescue may be unsure of the permanence of their new family and will need lots of love and reassurance. If the new dog is a puppy, in addition to training them, you may have to reinforce the lessons your older dog has learned so that they don't mimic the puppy's behavior.

Adding an additional pet is not without risk. You must be patient and allow the dogs the time to get to know each other. You may need to learn to differentiate between actual and play aggression. The dogs will work out a hierarchy on their own, and the new one may end up being dominant, and that's fine. Some dogs, like our Alma, are just happier as followers. It is helpful to make sure they learn that you are the ultimate boss.

When you walk more than one dog, at times they probably will each want to go in a different direction. Although keeping two leashes from getting tangled is easy, it’s likely that the leashes will get wrapped around your legs once in a while. And if at least one of them is a boy dog, inevitably the other dog (or dogs) will stick their head in the way when the male lifts his leg.

We added a third dog when we became service dog puppy raisers. Sharing your life with three or more dogs is noticeably different than having one or two. At times it seems like one of the dogs always has some sort of health issue going on. Multiple big dogs (like ours) tend to get underfoot a lot. Walking three or more dogs means the likelihood of repeatedly tangled leashes. But if you believe in “the more the merrier,” having several dogs, especially if one is in training to be a future service dog, is a rewarding experience.

Pet parents must understand that with multiple dogs comes additional responsibilities. If you have one dog you can put their food down and leave it out all day. When you have more than one animal, one may stop eating, and if the other one is hungry enough, you might not notice immediately. Monitoring your dog’s food consumption is a way to make sure they are healthy. Dogs that don’t feel well will often stop eating and if you don’t notice until they’ve lost significant weight, their condition may worsen and make treatment more difficult and expensive. Of course, multiple pets means additional costs for veterinary care, food, supplies, grooming and pet sitters. For some people this might not make sense economically. But if you can handle the financial requirements, and have the time available, it’s definitely worthwhile to give more than one pet a home.

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