Having a sweet dog or a cuddly cat is so wonderful that maybe you've been considering expanding your family even more. If you're wondering if you should get a second pet, there are a few things you should consider before making the leap. "The more dogs the better" might be a fun rule in theory, but in reality, if your existing fur baby would be unhappy with a new dog at home, that might not be the best choice for you. According to experts, there are some signs to watch out for that can give you a good idea of whether your pup would be into the idea or not.
If you do decide to welcome a new little life into your home, it's important to make the transition as low-stress as possible. "Slowly introduce your pets," Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a small animal and exotic veterinarian and veterinary consultant for DogLab, tells Bustle. Don't expect them to be best friends immediately. One key way to make the change go smoothly is to divide your attention evenly. "Get two of everything," she says. "Two water bowls, two food bowls, and two beds. This helps decrease the competition between the two pets."
Here are some questions to ask when you're deciding whether to get a second pet, according to experts.
Are They Well-Trained?
"Pets that are well-trained and well-behaved are better candidates for becoming a sibling," Coates says. When you get a new dog, they probably won't be able to follow your commands yet, which means that having a dog who already is pretty good at obeying can make the process much easier. Two pups who won't listen can be chaotic, but knowing that at least one of your cute canines will stop doing something if you ask them to can be very helpful, she says. Plus, a well-behaved dog can be a good influence on their new buddy by showing them what it looks like to listen to you.
Do They Seem Like They Need A Friend?
It's pretty typical for your dog or cat to get excited to see you when you get home from work, but if your pet seems lonely pretty often, they might actually want some company during the day. For example, if they are always active and want to play with you constantly but don't have enough human interaction to keep them entertained, they might benefit from a buddy, Ochoa says. "The new addition will help with your pet's activity level." Another way to test this is to watch how your dog acts when you take them to a dog park. Do they sprint off to eagerly interact with other dogs? If so, maybe their social needs aren't being met at the moment.
Are They Happy To Share?
When people have a second human baby, the oldest child has to suddenly learn how to share their toys, snacks, and space with another person. In a similar way, getting another animal means that your fur baby is going to have to be a good sharer. If your pup does not mind sharing toys or food with other dogs, that's a good sign that they'd do well with another pet in the house, Ochoa says. "When you have a play date, see how your pet does with other dogs playing with their toys or eating out of their food bowl," she says. If they get upset or aggressive when another pet touches their belongings, they might not be ready to share with a new animal sibling.
Do They Want Your Constant Attention?
When you only have one pet, they probably get all of the belly rubs and snuggle sessions that they want during your free time at home. But welcoming in another dog means that your attention will suddenly be divided between the two of them. "Pets that jealously guard your time and attention may not be willing to share you with another, which can lead to spats (or worse)," Coates says. So pay attention to how clingy your current pet is. If they insist on following you everywhere like a shadow, they might not be ready to share you. But if they're OK with doing their own thing every once in a while, they might be open to a new pet at home.
Do They Need Extra Care?
Even if your current pet isn't clingy, they might need a lot of your attention. "If your pet requires a lot of extra care (due to health problems, for example), adding a second pet to your home may have an adverse effect on their well-being," Coates says. Maybe your dog has serious anxiety or has to be carried everywhere they go. While this doesn't necessarily mean that they wouldn't thrive in an environment with another pup, taking care of a dog with extra needs plus nurturing a new dog might not be feasible for you. If you're in doubt, consider asking your current pet's vet whether you think they'd benefit from a new sibling or whether it could cause them emotional harm.
How Old Are They?
If your dog or cat is getting older and has been your only pet for their whole life, it can sometime be difficult to bring in a new pet. "Older pets sometimes become set in their ways, while youngsters are often more adaptable," Coates says. But sometimes an old dog will surprise you and actually appreciate having a spry new companion, she says. "Many an older pet has seemingly gained a new lease on life when a younger pet is added to the household."
Whether you decide to expand your family and welcome a sweet new pet into your home or you decide that your dog would be better off as an only child for now, be sure to give them plenty of snuggles and playtime. You know your fur baby better than anyone else in the world does, so you'll probably have a good idea of what would make them happiest.