Monday, 7 July 2014

Two Dogs – Twice the Fun or Double Trouble?!

Two of our clients dogs, Meg & Archie, 
Perfect Pet Sitter frequently provides live-in care for two dogs. They might be the same breed and size - or as different as chalk and cheese. 
Sie & Chilli in May at Bay View
Sie & Chilli play at home and away...

In May we provided premium 24/7 live-in care to Chilli & Sie (Miniature Schnauzer & Jack Russell) who I’ve blogged about recently (click here to view). Sie was rescued at 18 months and Chilli came along as a puppy a couple of years later. The two are now inseparable, but not all pairs get on so well. 

This lead me to thinking about the pros and cons
of owning a pair of dogs. Every dog
Jack & Maggie. We've cared for them 
many times- always together
has its own personality and it's not possible to predict with 100% certainty how dogs will get on. An initial meeting might give clues, but only when they are living together will you know for sure. Even then it can take weeks and months for a pair to fully settle – especially when each is already mature.

For every statement I make about a pair not likely to work there will be examples to prove me wrong! For example, the perceived wisdom is when adding a second adult dog to live with your established dog, ideally do this before your family dog is 4. After that age it may become harder for the pair to bond. No doubt many will disagree and have a different experience. Nevertheless I’m going to stick my neck out and if you’re at the ‘making a choice’ time,  deciding whether to take on two pups, or maybe wondering whether to add a second canine to your family, her are some factors to consider:-

Vets believe direct litter mates (especially bitches) should be avoided.
My daughter had litter sister puppy Boxers. They got on at first, but after a couple of years fighting became regular and intense. At great expense every suggested solution was tried. However,  nothing worked and she was devastated to have to rehome one of the pair she loved.

Uncastrated males can start to fight - even after many years of harmony.
After years of getting on well Jake & Benny (Border Collies) suddenly began fighting. It got so vicious that they had to be castrated at ages 7 & 8. After their operations they finally resettled.

A second dog will be company and stop my current dog being lonely when we’re out.
The stress of anxiety separation will not be relieved if replaced by a different stress – a new dog that is a bad match. Flash, a German Shorthaired Pointer we rescued when he was 2, was with us solo for around 6 years. We loved GSPs – they’re big, energetic and loyal - which influenced our decision to rescue a second 2 year old GSP, Harry.

Oscar & Mia great big dogs
always together too
We thought Harry would be company for Flash, but with hindsight Flash didn’t want a companion and was honestly was happier pre-Harry. At least they didn’t fight, but they never interacted or bonded - and always chose to sleep apart. They remained individuals who just happened to live in the same house.

Different breeds work well, especially male and female. 
Usually yes, however sometimes disparity of size can result in bullying.

Indi & Lilo when not fighting! 
Indi the GSP was a small pup when she joined Lilo the 4 year old Jack Russell.  Now a mature – and big - 2 year old, Indi’s rough play has become too much for Lilo who has become snappy not just with Indi, but suddenly with people too.  But this is the only way she knows to protect herself.

I know this pair well having been with them for long sits on a number of occasions. The bullying has intensified since my previous sit, so I’ve been closely observing how the two interact. The result is that this year living-in I’ve introduced a Zero Tolerance approach to any ‘play’ (because this is always instigated by Indi and escalates to become rough). This approach is working so well that Lilo in just a few days is a much happier and less stressed girl demonstrated by the fact she in no longer snapping at people.
Indi & Lilo on my lap in harmony -  getting on
better since my Zero Tolerance policy!
As Perfect Pet Sitter I use my expertise and skills to advise owners on what I see whilst I stay. I’ve given the owners written notes on how - and why - to continue Zero Tolerance when they get back. But it takes close observation, interventions and persistence to break the cycle of bullying.

Walking two dogs is as easy as one.
Not necessarily! Two dogs walking to heel is a big investment of time to train. But if you don't, they can drag you all over the place as they sniff, or trip you up.

And if one needs more exercise than the other, or they go at different paces, it can make exercise routines a challenge.


The key point is to be aware that all pairings will not automatically be a success. The worst can be fights and having to rehome one of your pair. It might be they simply do not bond as in the case of my Flash and Harry. Having said that, a high percentage of dogs will get on once they settle who is top dog – but it can take time, patience and even a little ‘mediation’.

Never forget two canines will be twice the cost in food and vets bills. Perfect Pet Sitter only charges $12 per night for an extra dog though - so at least you won’t be doubling up on pet minding costs!

So, two  dogs – twice the fun or double trouble?!

Ultimately, whether one or two dogs, what could be more pleasurable than being out exploring, swimming, rock clambering  or just strolling with a canine ? One dog or two, they all bring a wonderful dimension into your life which I find better with them in it.

Thanks so much for the contributions to those who I asked for their stories when I was out and about.

Here’s just a few of their stories:-

Pugs:  Whoopi (5) & Otto: (9) Whoopi was brought into the home when Otto was aged four and the owner said Otto looked at her as if to say “Why did you bring this thing home?” She said Whoopie hung on to Otto’s dewlap for a year! But now as mature dogs they are close as can be.

Labs: Bear (4) & Harry (5)  Harry was 18 months when Bear age 6 months was brought into the home. The owner said Harry gave him the ‘stink eye’ for 6 weeks when he first brought Bear home. They wanted two dogs to be company for one another. Fortunately today they are.

Then there was Chaos (2) a Great Dane aged about one when they brought in a tiny puppy, Punk the Boston Terrier. Quite a difference in size! When Punk, now aged 1, was as little as a Guinea Pig, the intros were handles carefully and incrementally. They weren’t just thrown together but supervised.

Another pair, different breeds again but similar in size, was the Arnie the GSP (7) 
Arnie and new pal Zito at Bay View
Arnie was 4 when got Zito a big white part Irish Wolfhound was introduced. The aim of a second dog was to help Arnie with his separation anxiety. It took a while but the owner said Arnie and Zito have finally bonded and if ARNIE loses sight of ZITO he is immediately on the hunt for him. But even these two still choose to sleep separately.

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