Roxy is one of those dogs who makes everything easy: “She's just all love, very little maintenance,” Cameron Gearan says of her laid-back lab mix. “She never gets sick. She doesn't bark.”
When Gearen decided to bring a second dog into her Chicago home, she figured the new addition would offer more of the same. She soon discovered, however, that “you can't get that dog twice, actually. That's not going to happen.”
Her new dog, Zack, required much more time, effort and expense than Roxy ever had. Though he's now happily acclimated, Gearen says she struggled.
“We sometimes have expectations of pet No. 2 that are colored by our experience with pet No. 1,” says Candace Croney, an animal behaviorist and director of Purdue University's Center for Animal Welfare Science. “And it's not necessarily fair to either of them.”
Especially when a pet is getting older, bringing in a second animal can seem like a natural thing to do. Owners may hope a puppy can give the older pet an infusion of exercise and energy. They may also hope the presence of another pet will soften the blow when they eventually lose the older one. Some tips if you're considering getting a second dog:
It takes time, effort and money to add another pet to your home.
“That puppy phase, it's so time-intensive,” says Lauren McDevitt, co-founder of the pet placement service Good Dog. “So you need to think about whether you're able to dedicate that time.”
People often opt for a puppy or kitten, and that can work. Older dogs “can do well with a young puppy,” McDevitt says, “but sometimes it can be a little bit of a nuisance to them.”
Croney agrees: “Many of these older pets just want to rest and relax” and might be happier if their new playmate were closer to their age.
If you've found a possible candidate, Croney suggests introducing the dogs on leashes on a walk, so they can meet in a neutral space. Ideally, have them interact on a few different days.
Be sure the new pet is healthy to avoid any health risk to the other animal.