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Much to consider about another dog
Dear Dr. Spiegel, I would like to get another dog as company for my eight year old male neutered Cocker Spaniel who is at home alone while we're at work. He was never socialized with other dogs and most often exhibits dominant type behaviors when encountering other dogs, similarly on a leash, while out on walks. Additionally, he has been given elevated status at home and is what many would call "spoiled." Do you recommend our getting another dog as companion for him? Our vet suggested a cat but I'm allergic to them. What about a bird? Any insight you might have would be appreciated. Thank you. Sincerely, L, V, and M
Dear L, V, and M, With the terms you've used it's tough for me to get a good feel for what your dog is really like. It's a rare Cocker Spaniel that isn't spoiled. They just love to be the center of attention and they can have an almost insatiable need to be a part of everything you're doing, whether it's sharing your snacks or following you from room to room wherever you go. Instead of telling me he's spoiled, I'd rather hear that he sleeps wherever he wants, which is usually in bed. But don't stop there. To you it may not mean anything. But to me, and to your dog, it also means a whole lot whether he sleeps down by your feet, or whether he's got his head on the pillow too. Or perhaps he's stretched out wherever he wants, and you contort your body every which way so as not to disturb him. And then what happens if you should bump him or try to move him from where he's resting. Has he ever growled, snarled, lifted his lip to show his teeth, snapped or bitten? "Dominant type behavior" and "spoiled" doesn't tell me this. And this I need to know if any advice I give is to have any value/worth. Most of the time, it helps to get dog #1's problems straightened out first before you embark on dog #2. Once you add a 2nd dog, the dynamics of how and what they learn can change dramatically. If you add a puppy, you can rest assured that the puppy will probably idolize your older dog, learning most, if not all of your older dog's habits, both good and bad. If you add an older dog, then it's a question of how well their personalities and desires match up. For instance, if your dog loves to play and dog #2 also loves to play, then they may do well together. However, if yours is one of those Cockers that is often moody and irritable, and dog #2 wants to play, then this is a match that's probably ill-fated. If he's showing any signs of aggression toward you or other members of your family, these signs are likely to become significantly more amplified if and when you get another dog. Every time I read your letter, I keep coming back to the same question in my mind. That is, why is it, at this point in his life, that you want another dog, and what makes you think that he does? If you are in fact thinking about this to meet his needs (as company for him), what, if anything, is going on that suggests another dog is the answer? Is he becoming distressed when you leave him during the day? Is he overjoyed to see you when you come home from work? These signs can be associated with separation anxiety, and most of the time another dog is not an effective solution. If it's more that you want another dog, and are just concerned whether he will take to it or not, this all depends on him. If he's been an only child for all of his eight years, he could probably care less about another dog, and the likelihood is it will probably add more stress to his life than joy. However, for some dogs a puppy can be just what the doctor ordered. Without seeing him and gaining a genuine understanding of his personality and desires, it's really just a guessing game. If you'd like a more definitive answer to your situation, you can always call my office to schedule a house call. I can also be reached by E-mail at: DSpiegel@ix.netcom.com