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Should I Get Another Pet for My Dog?


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Thinking about welcoming a new pet to your pack? Maybe you’ve noticed that your dog seems lonely or understimulated sometimes. Like many pet parents of an only furchild, you may have asked, “Would my dog be happier with another dog?” but you’re not sure if getting a new pet is the right thing to do. And you’re right to hesitate, as it’s a decision that’s not to be taken lightly. 

Read on to find out what you need to consider when expanding your animal family, and how to make introductions when your new pet comes home.

Is my dog lonely? How to tell

Just like humans, dogs get lonely too. After all, dogs are highly social creatures who descended from wolves (also extremely social animals) and evolved to become man’s best friend. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that your dog values companionship and may feel lonely when they don’t get enough attention or are left home alone. 

Signs that your dog may be lonely include:

  • Following you around
  • Exhibiting destructive behavior
  • Licking themselves repetitively
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Becoming uninterested in playtime or food

These can also be signs associated with depression, which could be caused by an underlying condition. It’s a good idea to take your dog for a checkup if you’re concerned about any behavioral changes before you add a new pet into the mix.

Dog and cat next to each other under a blanket

What to consider when getting another pet for your dog

Does my dog need another dog or companion? When should I get another pet? To help you answer those questions, here are some things to consider when you’re thinking about getting another pet for your dog. Keep in mind that getting a new pet is not always the best solution for a lonely or understimulated dog. If your pup has existing behavioral issues, you need to address those first, as getting another pet could make them worse.

Your budget

Needless to say, getting another pet means additional expenses. Budget for essentials such as food, food and water bowls, treats, toys, training and supplies, which will depend on the type of animal you’re getting.

  • For dogs: A leash, collar, harness, bed, crate, waste bags, and grooming supplies
  • For cats: A collar, scratching post, cat tree, litter box, litter, bed, carrier, and grooming supplies
  • For birds: A birdcage, carrier, bedding, and perches
  • For reptiles: An appropriate enclosure with heating and lighting, enrichment items like rocks, branches or toys

Vet bills and pet insurance should also be part of your budget. Most pet insurance companies offer a discount when you insure more than one animal. 

The species of pet you’re interested in

While it’s possible for dogs to live in harmony with other animals, it's important to consider the species of your new pet as well. Many dogs will love having another dog to play with, though it does depend on the kind of socialization they had early on. 

A puppy who develops social relationships with other dogs and other species when they’re about 3 to 16 weeks of age is less likely to be fearful or aggressive. Because they’re still learning about the world and how to behave during this critical socialization period, it’s easier for a puppy to adjust to a new pet than an adult dog. And the more things a puppy experiences during the critical socialization period, the less they’ll be bothered by new things that come their way in life. However, many adult dogs can be socialized later in life with success.

Dogs and cats can have a wide range of interactions. While many see each other as mortal enemies, there are also countless instances where they don’t just learn to coexist, but actually become BFFs. The type of bird you choose can play a role in your animals’ coexistence. Since dogs naturally view birds as prey, a small dog and a large bird will probably get along better than a large dog and a small bird. Different reptile species will interact differently with your dog, and it’s impossible for some of them to get along with canines. Snakes like rosy boas and ball pythons, for example, are very skittish and may strike in fear. Bearded dragons, on the other hand, are generally calm and sociable, making them better companions for dogs. 

Ultimately, every dog is different and will interact with a cat, bird, or large reptile in their own way. 

Your dog’s health 

Certain health issues can increase a dog’s irritability, making them more fearful or hostile toward other animals. Medical conditions that can lead to fear or aggression include dental disease, arthritis, orthopedic problems, thyroid abnormality, adrenal dysfunction, seizure disorders, as well as sensory decline, endocrine imbalances, and neurological dysfunction in senior dogs. 

If your pup has a condition which prompts aggressive behavior, it is recommended to talk to a vet before welcoming a new pet into your home. You can also chat with a veterinary professional to get fast answers about your dog’s health. 

Bernese Mountain dog laying on the grass

Your dog’s behavior 

Once you’ve figured out what kind of pet you’d like, consider how your dog has interacted with or reacted to this type of animal in the past. For example, if your dog is friendly with cats, then they’ll likely get along well with a feline sibling. However, if they tend to chase or lunge after cats, then it’s probably not a good idea to get one, even if it’s an outdoor cat.

If you’re planning to get a critter that your pup has not interacted with before, take this into consideration as well and remember to give your dog plenty of time to adjust to the new member of the pack. Taking your dog to a dog-friendly pet store to see the type of pet you are considering can give you a slight indication of their curiosity or aggression level on sight. Or if you have a friend who has the type of friendly pet you are looking for, ask for a meet and greet to see how your dog reacts. Once you bring the new pet home, be sure to give your dog plenty of time to adjust, as their reactions may be different in their territory.

Your dog’s breed and activity level

Some types of pets may not be the best choice for certain breeds. For example, terriers and hounds such as the Jack Russell Terrier, Dachshund, and Miniature Schnauzer were bred to hunt small animals, so seeing a reptile skittering across the floor might set off their predatory instincts. Similarly, breeds like the Labrador Retriever, German Shorthaired Pointer, and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever were bred to hunt birds, so getting them an avian friend may not be the best idea. 

You’ll also want to consider your dog’s activity level. While it’s totally possible for animals of different energy levels to become friends (e.g., an older dog and a playful puppy or a high-energy dog and a lazy cat), keep in mind that this discrepancy may cause some friction between them from time to time. Animals of similar energy levels would be a better match, or you can make sure that the more rambunctious pet has other energy outlets, i.e., lots of play and exercise so they don’t annoy their more laid-back sibling too much. 

Your dog’s training

Ensure that your dog has a good grasp of obedience fundamentals before you get a new pet. Basic commands such as “come,” “sit,” “stay,” “down,” and “leave it,” are not only useful during introductions, but can also facilitate interactions and prevent potential problems such as fights and territorial aggression.

Additionally, dogs learn from other dogs, and if your current dog displays bad behavior, their new companion may try to copy them. Imagine how much of a handful that would be! Consider enlisting the help of a dog trainer if your pup needs a refresher course. The sooner you start, the sooner you can bring your new pet home!

Two Golden Retrievers playing in the grass

How to introduce a new pet to your dog

A successful introduction will go a long way towards a good relationship between your dog and their new sibling. Read on to learn how to introduce a new dog, cat, bird, or reptile to your dog. 

Tips for introducing a new dog to your dog

A proper introduction is very important when you’re getting a second dog. As excited as you are for the new addition, your current dog has no idea that they’re about to get a new roommate, and even the friendliest pooch may not appreciate an unknown dog barging into the house! Here’s what to do instead.

  • Introduce them on neutral territory. The first meeting should take place outside the house. Take both dogs for a walk, ideally somewhere with plenty of open space. Each dog should be walked separately and at a distance initially.

  • Let them interact in their own time. Don’t rush the introduction and allow your dogs to approach each other at their own pace. Don’t force them to say hi or push them towards each other as this could create tension.

  • Use treats. Both you and the other walker should carry tasty treats and reward either pup for appropriate behavior, such as looking at each other in a relaxed manner.

  • Pay attention to body language. Watch for signs of stress or unease such as growling, prolonged staring, or raised hackles. If this happens, divert your dog’s attention to something else. 

  • Continue supervising at home. After a successful introduction outside, both dogs should walk into the house together. Make sure there are no toys or food lying around, and that there are multiple beds and water bowls throughout the house to prevent potential fights. Continue to monitor your dogs for the next few weeks until you are certain they are comfortable with each other. 

Gray cat snuggling with a Golden Retriever

Tips for introducing a new cat to your dog

Dogs and cats can be the worst of enemies, but they can also be the best of friends. Increase your chances of a successful introduction (and a lifelong friendship) with the following tips.

  • Separate them at first. Keep your dog and cat separate for the first few days. Confine your cat in a room that your dog cannot and doesn’t need to access, and make sure your cat has everything they need in this room. This allows both animals to get used to each other’s presence without face-to-face contact. You can also feed them on opposite sides of the door to help them form positive associations with each other. 

  • Let them meet in a common area. Introduce your dog and cat in a neutral part of the house. Keep your pup on a leash and let your cat come and go as they please. Be sure to keep the first few meetings short.

  • Reward calm behavior. Have your animals’ favorite treats handy for each meeting. Reward them for behaving calmly and not showing aggression.

  • Don’t ditch the leash yet. When your dog and cat appear to be comfortable with each other after a few (or several) leashed meetings, you can let your dog loose, but keep their leash attached so you can quickly grab or step on it in case they get excited and try to chase the cat. 

  • Don’t rush unsupervised interactions. Unsupervised time should only be allowed after a significant period of supervised time and when you’re absolutely sure that your cat and dog won’t hurt each other. Otherwise, continue to separate them when you’re not around.

Two small dogs relaxing on couch with a pet bird

Tips for introducing an exotic pet to your dog

Getting your dog to accept an exotic pet and vice versa is a process that takes time and patience. Check out these tips on how to teach your dog and a new bird or reptile to live together peacefully in the same environment. 

Introducing a new bird to your dog

Dogs and birds can live under one roof, with some precautions. Here’s what you should do (and not do) when introducing a new feathered friend to your canine companion.

  • Introduce them slowly. Remember that dogs naturally view birds as prey, so you don’t want to rush the introductions. Always keep your dog on a leash and your bird in their cage and let them interact for only a few minutes for the first couple of weeks. 

  • Choose a neutral space. Let your animals meet in a room where your bird’s cage isn’t normally located and where your dog doesn’t spend a lot of their time. This will lower the chances of aggression.

  • Offer rewards. Have treats on hand for your dog and bird before bringing them into contact with each other. Reward both animals for good behavior. 

  • Never leave your animals unattended. Always supervise your bird and dog even after they’ve become comfortable with each other. Accidents can happen even with the most well-trained canines. For your bird’s safety, never let them out of their cage when your pup is present. 

Black and white Chihuahua posing with a pet lizard indoors

Introducing a new reptile to your dog

Welcoming a reptile into your home? Dogs and reptiles can coexist, depending on various factors. Follow these tips to help your pup become friends with your new scaly family member. 

  • Let them meet through a barrier first. Have a closed door or baby gate between your dog and reptile when they meet for the first time. This allows them to see, hear, and/or smell each other safely.

  • Introduce them in a neutral part of the house. When it’s time for them to meet face-to-face, make sure that it’s not in a room where your dog eats, sleeps, or hangs out to prevent territorial behavior. 

  • Plan for multiple meetings. It’s a good idea to reintroduce your dog and reptile a few more times even if the first meeting goes well. 

  • Always supervise your animals. Even after your dog and reptile have become friends, you still need to supervise their interactions. Always be ready to separate them when necessary. It’s also important to learn common dog and reptile body language. 

  • Don’t force them to interact. Despite your best efforts, there’s still a chance that your dog and reptile may never become best friends, and that’s OK. Never try to push your animals to do something they don’t want to do. 

Getting your dog a pal can be a rewarding experience for your dog and the whole family! By letting your dog meet the new pet at their own pace, you can increase the chances of a peaceful and happy coexistence, and perhaps even give your canine bestie a new life-long friend. 

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