Pets Add Life!

The Christmas Puppy.  We’ve all heard it before, and most of us know someone who has actually done it.  Despite the best efforts of humane societies and shelters around the world, the holiday season is still among the busiest times of the year in terms of people adding new pets to their household.  And regardless of where people get their cuddly new friend, the sad fact is that January and February are often the busiest time of year for shelters taking back recently-adopted pets whose honeymoon period with their new owners has ended just as the holiday decorations are packed away for another year.

If you’re considering adding a pet to your life over the holidays, please make sure you’re not just caught up in the festivities and optimism that comes with the holiday season and the impending new year.  But for those who are intent on bringing a new furry friend into the fold, I thought now would be a good time to discuss this age old question:  When is the right time to add a new pet to the family?

My beautiful, brown Sadie.

Dogs are pack animals and don’t do well in social isolation so I often wondered when I got my Labrador Sadie if she was happy being an only dog.   I knew that she loved being with my family and me and thrived on the attention we gave her but she always looked so sad when we left her at home by herself that I worried about her being lonely.  She was not highly social with other dogs but once she got to know them she seemed happy enough in their company.   When I introduced Sadie into the home we also had a cat, Angelica, and even though the two tolerated each other, it wasn’t exactly a match made in heaven.

I was often asked if I thought it was alright to have just one dog and would always answer that as long as the only dog was given plenty of human attention and stimulation and not left on their own for long hours during the day, it was ok.  I still believe this is the case, but the question always made me wonder if I was doing the right thing.  If I did bring another dog into the home I wanted to make sure that I was doing it for the right reasons and not because I felt guilty.   I also knew that introducing a dog into the household had been a little stressful for my cat to begin with, and even though she relaxed pretty quickly in Sadie’s presence, I didn’t want to put her through any more stress by adding another dog into the mix.

My work introduces me to a lot of families that have multi-dog households so that their dogs have playmates.  I also meet a lot of people that ‘collect’ dogs and cats because they crave the attention their animals give them.  As a responsible pet owner I cautioned that though we may feel the need to love and care for every animal that comes along, it may not always result in what is best for the pet.  Of course a lot of these types of situations involved people who volunteered at rescue shelters and saw the immense need for more forever homes, but even then it was not always in the best interest of the animals they adopted.  Existing dogs and cats are not able to choose their new ‘brothers and sisters’ and sometimes the stress these animals experienced trying to get along with each other did not make for a happy or calm environment.


When Angelica passed away we started thinking about getting a second dog and I knew that whoever we added, Sadie also had to have a say.  If we were going to get another dog, should it be a male or female?  Inter-bitch aggression is very common, as are fights between competing males, and while dogs of the same sex can co-habit peacefully, it is often better to mix the sexes up.  It is also advisable that the second dog is either close in age or temperament to the existing dog, making sure their energy levels match.  If a puppy is brought into a home with an established older dog, every effort must be made to keep the puppy’s desire to play with the older dog to a minimum.  In some cases a younger dog will breathe new life into an older one, but age gaps can also be the cause of major irritations.

At the end of the day, the decision was made for us when my daughter and I spied Jasmine in our local rescue shelter.  The tiny six month old Chihuahua mix was perhaps not the best physical match for a 75 pound chocolate Labrador but the two hit it off almost immediately. Initial introductions were made on neutral territory with both dogs on loose leashes, so that they had the ability to interact without the frustration of being held too tightly and once the initial meeting went well, both dogs were allowed to interact off leash in a safe area, giving them freedom to form a relationship.

Jasmine sitting on Sadie

Established dogs can become jealous when too much attention is given to the new addition so I made sure that both dogs got equal attention as well as having quality one-on-one time with us.  Feeding the dogs separately for the first couple of weeks ensured that there were no fights over food bowls, and high value chews or toys were given to the dogs in separate rooms so that there was no fighting over valuable resources.  We rewarded Sadie when she behaved well around Jasmine and walked both dogs together to help the bonding process.

Now, of course, I can’t remember what life was like with just one dog.  Jasmine has made all our lives so much richer, including Sadie’s.  The two play, eat, and hang out with each other, sharing their toys and sleeping close together.  Jasmine loves to rest on Sadie’s back and Sadie loves the closeness of having her near.  I have noticed a pep in Sadie’s step since Jasmine came and the eight year age difference does not seem to bother either of them.   It might have taken a little while to get this point but adding a second dog was the best decision our family ever made.

I’m often asked ‘how many dogs is it OK to own?’  The short answer is that it depends on your specific situation, but I am a firm believer that adding additional pets to an only-pet household can often create far more net benefits than problems, provided you do it responsibly and take care to keep all of the animals’ best interests at heart.  You can find a lot of great information about adding more pets to your household responsibly via my friends at Pets Add Life (

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10 thoughts on “Pets Add Life!

  1. Stacey

    We have been thinking about getting a second pet for about a year. Our local shelter requires that all members of the family, especially the existing pets, meet prospective adoptees. The manager of the shelter does not allow the people to dictate what pet they will adopt, but instead attempts to get to know everyone, human or otherwise, and find the best match of personalities. When we have brought our now 18-month old dog, Red, in to meet and greet, introductions have been done in the manager's office, a.k.a. neutral territory. His opinion has been weighed more than ours. As it should be.

    I can also relate to bringing a puppy home to an older dog. Growing up, we had an ancient old English Sheepdog named Heidi who was on her last legs. Some friends had another Old English who had puppies but couldn't nurse them, so I would often help with feeding. As a thank you, the family gave me a puppy, who I named Tiffany. As soon as I brought Tiffany home, Heidi got more youthful, growing back lost hair, walking with a renewed spring in her step, and the seizures she had been having stopped. She thought she had had the puppy herself and was so proud! When Tiffany died three years later of a birth defect (she lived the longest of all the litter, despite having been the runt), Heidi reverted and grew old again. We had to put her to sleep six months later, as she was in obvious pain. 🙁

  2. kendra

    how do you feel about introducing a cat into a dog-only home? my dog is a lab mixed with, maybe, a heeler. she's about forty pounds and just looks like a lab that was left in the dryer or something. but she loves cats, unlike many dogs. my parents live on a farm and have many outdoor cats. when she's outside, they will follow her around and play with her and she plays with them. there's one in particular that she loves and it's still a kitten. i've considered bringing it to live with us, however, i'm not sure that it is what's best for either of them. my family keeps telling me i should, but it's mostly because of the way the kitten just watches and waits for luna, my dog. (she waits on the porch for the dog to come out to play). i've grown up in a mixed pet home, having had cats and dogs, inside and out, so that i am used to. it's just me, there is no one else to help take care of them, so that's part of my hesitation on getting another dog and why i considered a cat, as it's a different kind of care involved. but i do understand the worry that luna might be lonely. i always wonder. she loves playing with other animals and people; has a great temperament. i couldn't ask for a better dog. sorry this is so long, i'm just curious what you think.

  3. samiamisme

    I have been mulling over the idea of getting two puppies, siblings, a boy and a girl. What are your thoughts on this? What's the best way to train two puppies at once?

    Thank you

  4. Jean Barber

    We have had a lab/shep mix, adopted a 9 month old American Eskimo when Shadow was 2 years old - in retrospect, they got along together, but Shadow was too overpowering for Snowfy. When Shadow died at age 7, Snowfy blossomed into a very happy, solo dog! We thought of adopting another dog, but decided that Snowfy was happier being the only one. She died early this year. I wasn't going to get another dog for awhile, but fell in love with Sydney, a year old rescue from Taiwan. She was very skittish, and it took a lot of love and patience to get her used to our family and other dogs. She has an incredible amount of energy and we did our best to keep her active. We were asked to foster another rescue from Taiwan, a 4 month old black lab mix named Sasha. Sydney was in love with her immediately, so of course we had to adopt her new little sister. They are the best of friends, love to chew on each other's faces, and help each other with leftover rescue fears! They just love playing with each other - it's been hard to get used to two excited puppies after having a senior dog, but we are so thankful for both of them! I hope they will have many, many years of playtime!

  5. Kelby

    We recently moved into a new place with our 9 month old pit bull. The house we moved into had an older jack Russell terrier. The 2 of them had a blast playing with each other and now they are the best of friends. They are so close, I fear what will happen we we move out next winter. We were thinking about getting another dog when we leave here, but we aren't sure if we will or not. We will just wait and see how Bella (our pit) does when we move.

  6. Sue

    I find your article very interesting Victoria. Though you state that when you bring a new dog into the home, it should ideally be of the opposite sex and close in size and temperament to the established dog, you choose a dog of the same gender, much, much smaller than Sadie and a breed that traditionally would be of very different temperament from a lab. It just goes to show that while the "rules" of getting a second dog are very important to take into account, sometimes it can work out even if you throw every one of them out the window!

    It sounds like you have found the perfect addition for you, your human family and for Sadie. Jasmine is a cutie and Sadie is lovely. Both are very lucky dogs!!

  7. Pingback: On the First Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me a Puppy in a red coat | Dogs in Singapore

  8. kim sawtell

    i have been raising dogs for most of my life. was even a dog grooomer for a few years. i always have at least 3 dogs. my new one we got was a rescue from a breeder friend of mine. she's a weenier dog!! we kinew that when she opened her eyes she was going to be blind. (she wasnt able to be sold and they couln't keep her) when i brought her home in a few days we found out that shes deaf too. very go happy dog, but i cant figure out how to train her. i want her to have the best life possable. but im lost on how to house break her. ive used the potty pads but then all my house rugs have become potty pads, we have other isues too we really could use some help to make our live coexist together!

  9. Lindsay

    My fiance has a dog with separation anxiety that is so severe, she chews on the door frames, drywall, and carpeting around all the entrances and exits of the house. We have tried so many things to help her issues, from medication to training, but nothing seems to be making a difference. She is an only dog. We've toyed with the idea of getting a second dog to keep her company while we're gone, but I don't know if that's the best idea. What are your thoughts? We need help!

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