Pets with Problems

Will getting another dog help my dog with separation anxiety?

Will getting another dog help my dog with separation anxiety is one of the most common questions we are asked. Read on to learn more or contact us for help!

A Second Dog is Not a Cure for Separation Anxiety

Your dog is displaying signs of separation anxiety – anything from barking, howling, toileting, anxiety or even destruction. You love your dog and knowing that he is suffering is heartbreaking. You desperately want to help him! You know that his anxiety is because he is alone so you think to yourself – “shall I get him a four legged friend to keep him company?” In theory getting another dog to help with your dog’s separation anxiety seems to make perfect sense. Another dog will keep your dog company when you’re away & alleviate all that extra stress and anxiety when you leave the home.  Unfortunately, it simply is not that easy.

Studies have shown that our dogs are actually more bonded to their humans than to other dogs. Two dogs may play together but its you they want to come to for affection and a cuddle and it is you they turn to when they are worried or frightened. Very occasionally another dog may be slightly helpful but more often than not getting a second dog is not the solution. In fact, I have worked with many people who already have two dogs but only one of them has separation anxiety. You also have to think about what would happen if one dog is absent from the house for a vet visit say, or has unfortunately passed away – how would your dog with separation anxiety feel then?

When you get a second dog because your first is experiencing separation anxiety several things will happen:

• Your dog will still have separation anxiety when you leave

• Your dog may teach your new dog that anxiety when you leave is “normal” and you will end up with two dogs with separation anxiety.

• The problem is there’s no guarantee a second dog will help your first dog be less anxious when home alone. In fact, in my experience, this is very unlikely.

Dogs with separation anxiety get anxious every time their owner leaves, regardless of how many other animals you have in the house. Other pets might bring some comfort to your anxious dog, but they won’t cure their separation anxiety.

Unfortunately, the short answer to the question “Will getting another dog help my dog with separation anxiety”, is usually no.

Dogs Learn Behavior

Dogs learn from one another and there’s a possibility that your dog will teach your new dog that being anxious when you leave is “normal.” This is especially true if the second dog is a puppy.  When a dog is young, they are in their formative years and learn behaviour very quickly from every person and dog they come into contact with.

Getting a second dog as a companion for an anxious dog is a very tricky decision that must be well thought out. Unfortunately, it’s much more common for anxious behaviour to spread from the existing dog to the new dog than for confidence to flow in the opposite direction.

You also have no guarantee that the two dogs will get on with each other, let alone become friends.  As a behaviourist I am often called out to cases where two or more dogs in a single household are fighting for a variety of reasons and the end result if often the rehoming of one of the dogs.

Separation Anxiety: Getting a Second Dog?

Getting a second dog is great, but make sure you do it for the right reasons!

Dog separation anxiety is a complex behavioural issue. Your dog’s anxiety comes from being separated from you, not just being left alone in the house. So, while another dog might make your dog less lonely, it’s not likely to cure your dog’s anxiety when you’re away.

If your dog has separation anxiety the presence of another animal in the household is unlikely to ease the distress he experiences during times of separation. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety you need to address this problem before bringing another dog into your home.  To learn more about dog separation anxiety, you can read our other articles here and here.

What to Consider Before Getting a Second Dog

Remember also that a second dog comes with a lot of other obligations and responsibilities apart from keeping your current dog company.  It’s not a decision to make lightly. When you add another dog to your family you are making a 10-15 year commitment – double the vet bills, double the walking, double the training, double the food and double dog sitting. Get another dog because you want one, not as a solution to an existing problem with your current dog.

If you decide you’d like a second dog make it easier on yourself by waiting until your current dog’s separation anxiety is resolved and no longer a problem. Don’t let that anxiety spread; it’s much easier to manage one anxious dog than it is to manage two.  Your first plan should be to help your current dog overcome his separation anxiety before adding another dog to the family.

When your dog has overcome his separation issues and you are ready to adopt another dog there are a few things to consider –

  • What sort of age should the dog be – remember puppies are hard work – owners of adult dogs often forget how much time and attention a puppy needs.
  • Is your current dog agile and young enough to cope with a bouncy energetic puppy.
  • If you want to foster or rescue a dog remember that these dogs can come with their own emotional baggage which may not at first be apparent and they may need behavioural help later.
  • If you do adopt be ready to think about everything that you will need to do to teach the dogs to live comfortably with each other – dogs with separation anxiety often find change difficult and may not take kindly to your attention being diverted away from them – you will need patience to ensure that both dogs adapt happily to living with each other.

All in all, before you take this step it is in your best interests and that of your dog both emotionally, financially and in all other ways to work with a qualified separation anxiety trainer to help your four legged best friend overcome his anxiety before bringing another dog into the home.

Contact Me For Help

If you are struggling, I cannot urge you enough to contact me for help.  The expertise I can offer is priceless when helping your dog overcome his anxiety and help you know that you need not be anxious when you leave your dog alone at home.

Remember, the best way to help your dog stop suffering from separation anxiety is through training, not getting a companion dog.

Please, contact me with any questions you have.  

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