Have you heard the one about how getting a second dog will fix your dog’s separation anxiety?
You’ll read a ton of commentators on social media pitching in it did the trick for their dog.
So, is this the magic cure you’ve been searching for?
Maybe. But most likely not, because a simple (we’ll come back to whether it is simple) solution doesn’t work for most dogs.
There really should be an “it depends” emoji to use on these posts.
A persuasive argument
There are so many of these “get a second dog” stories, that it really can seem like a persuasive idea.
But as my mentor, Jean Donaldson says, “the plural of anecdotes is not data”. In other words, don’t be swayed by a small number of examples. No matter how vivid, convincing or seemingly plausible they may seem.
You need to know for all the success stories, are way more situations where a second dog made no difference.
Research studies show getting a second dog does not improve the existing dog’s home alone issues.
In these studies, the second dog made the most difference when the anxious dog had lost a housemate.
For most dogs though, the separation anxiety was not affected by a new dog in the household.
We really don’t know why, but for most dogs with separation anxiety, only human company will do.
Double the trouble?
And what if you get a second dog but it doesn’t cure your other dog’s separation anxiety? Where does the situation leave you? You’ve doubled your vet fees, your food costs, and your gear costs.
Over the life of a dog, these things add up. According to a study published on Petfinder, a reasonable estimate would be $1,500 for the first year. And then $1,000 every year after.
These estimates don’t even include boarding, emergency vet care, elderly dog vet care, grooming, dog walking or training.
Another dog not only brings the certainty of extra costs but also the likelihood of more chaos. And who’s to say your second dog will come without behavioural issues.
Sure they might not have separation anxiety! But it’s very unlikely your second dog won’t have some issue at some point in its life.
How to know if a second dog is right for you
Now, I am not going to tell you not to get a second dog. I’ve got three dogs so I know the joy multiple-dog households can bring (and also the chaos!)
Dogs in households with other dogs have to negotiate complex social interactions every day. A complexity which is so good for their brains.
And there are lots of amazing dogs in shelters who are desperate for a home.
In fact, I’d say do it. Get a second dog. BUT do it because you want a second dog.
Do it knowing you might not fix your dog’s separation anxiety.
And do it knowing you’re up for the challenge an extra dog can bring.
Ask yourself, “would I still get another dog if I didn’t think it would fix my other dog’s separation anxiety?” If the answer’s yes, go ahead.
You never know you might, just might, find it does sort out the separation anxiety. If so, win-win all around.
Download my free checklist to see how ready you are for a second dog!
Ps: if you want to test it out, see if you can become a foster. Take in another dog for a week and see what happens to your dog’s separation anxiety. You’ll be doing something wonderful for the foster dog. And at the same time working out whether a companion will fix your dog’s separation anxiety.