As dog lovers we want to do what is right for our dogs, and I often get asked the question as to whether owners should get a companion for their dog – and in particular, whether getting a companion will help their dog’s behaviour. I am going to answer this question in 2 parts:
Should you get a companion for your dog?
This is a tricky question to answer, and the answer isn’t going to be the same in every case. Dog’s have their own way of communicating, so they would very much understand another dog. They are also pack animals, and know that greater numbers generally mean more safety. So in theory they would be really pleased if you took another dog into your home, as that’s a companion for them that they understand and can communicate with well, and it’s more ‘safety’.
However, all dogs have different personalities and not all dogs will be happier with a companion. Some are quite comfortable with the current dynamics of their pack (them and you), understand things very well and are quite content to have some relaxation time when their owners go out. Some would feel a bit put out to have another dog brought into the household, as the new dog may want to play when they would rather be resting (especially if the new companion is a puppy). They may take some attention that they believe is set for them too, so they may feel usurped by the newcomer.
This can of course be handled, and you can make the situation work. It’s just that making the situation work may feel like a lot of work to you! (I’ve actually got another blog on how to introduce a new dog into your pack.) So ask yourself that question, before taking the plunge. Are you prepared to do what it takes to smooth over any problems when bringing a companion dog into your home?
Should you get a companion dog to help your dog’s behaviour?
I do have a shorter answer for this one. It’s “no”. Definitely not. That’s not to say that another dog couldn’t help your current dog, it’s just that it’s quite a big gamble to take. If you have behavioural problems with your dog that means something significant isn’t right and this needs sorting out FIRST. Your dog needs help understanding its place in your pack, what your role is and what your dog’s role is. He/she will also most likely be suffering with some form of stress, so they will need help understanding that things can be calmer.
Introducing another dog into this mix is highly unlikely to be calm initially. It is also going to add further confusion to who has which role within the pack. Plus this new dog may come with issues of it’s own. Even if it is a puppy! They are all different personalities, yet they also learn from one another. Would you want your new companion picking up behaviour from your current dog? And would you want your current dog to learn new behaviour problems from the newcomer? Of course not! So with those two parts of the original question answered, the new question is:
What should you do instead?
If you are thinking about getting another dog to resolve your dog’s behaviour problems, instead seek the help of a qualified Dog Listener, who can help you to understand why these problems are happening and what you can do to resolve them. Once you’ve done this and seen the improved behaviour, you can then decide whether you still want to introduce another dog into the pack or not. If you do, you will be much better equipped to deal with the challenges that brings along with it. You new dog and current dog will both be getting the right messages from you, so the new pack will be formed as a strong, calm pack. So yes, you can introduce a new dog to your pack and that can be lovely for your current dog, but please please sort out any behaviour problems first.
What if I’ve already introduced the new dog?
Don’t panic. I can help – just get in touch and we can arrange a dog behaviour consultation to help you and your humans to take calm control of the overall pack dynamics. I cover all of Essex and the surrounding areas, including East London, Suffolk, Kent and parts of Hertfordshire.