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Double Down on Dogs

Someone I was introduced to a few days ago asked me what kind of dog I have – a typical question for someone like me. I said, “I have a mutt and two Schnauzers.” The next logical question might be about their names or ages, or maybe even where I got them, but in New York City, the reaction is quite often, “You have THREE DOGS???”

Yes, I have three dogs. In New York City. Is it a miracle or an aberration? I know people who have six dogs in New York City – Chihuahuas, but still, six.

Urban people who don’t live with dogs seem to have a notion that a dog is a very complex animal to care for, and that you’d need unlimited time and patience to deal with such a complicated being. That it would put such a burden on your life that you’d become helpless under the weight of such a responsibility. And more than one? Forget it. You’ve got to be either crazy or a saint.

A dog is a very simple creature. He needs eight things:

•    Decent food.
•    Water.
•    A warm bed/shelter.
•    Something to chew/play with.
•    Exercise/walks to relieve himself.
•    Veterinary/dental care.
•    A loving/responsible human companion.
•    Affection.

In all honesty, does this seem like a long list of impossible things? So, I replied to the person with my usual response, “One dog and three dogs are exactly the same amount of work.” I say this a lot and I stand by it.

Let me repeat it: One dog and three dogs are the same amount of work.

Here’s my logic. If you have one dog, you have to walk him, feed him, water him, take him to the vet, wash his bed, etc. If you have two dogs, you don’t have to do these things twice, you just do them with two dogs. The same with three. I’ve had five dogs at one time and found it only slightly more time-challenging than three. Assuming everyone gets along and no one is too naughty, one dog and five dogs are just about the same amount of work – if you can call it “work.” I call it “joy.”

By this logic, if you have one dog, you have plenty of room in your life for at least two more. I would like everyone who reads this who lives with one or two dogs to consider another one. The shelters are bursting with great dogs who just want a second chance, and who won’t create more work in your life since you’re already walking, feeding, and watering anyway.

Some of the most well adjusted dogs I’ve encountered live with other dogs. My most challenging training clients in New York City are single-dog households. These dogs often live a very “un-dog-like” existence with owners who are hyper-focused on their every move. I sometimes see these same issues in two dog households, generally when the dogs came into the home as a pair of puppies. Get three or more dogs and it’s harder to obsess on the little things. You tend stop sweating the small stuff, and when you chill, the dogs chill.  

My caveat is that puppies will turn your life upside-down. If you are prepared for that, more power to you. But I’d definitely recommend an adult or senior dog, preferably from a shelter or rescue. If you bought your first dog from a breeder and you love the breed, there are plenty of breed rescues just a Google search away.

New dogs catch on quickly to the vibe of the household. The stranger will become part of the family in a snap, assuming that your other canine(s) is dog-friendly and willing to share. Dogs typically like hanging out with each other. They enjoy being in a pack. Sure, there are a lot of dogs who loathe other dogs, but even they can learn to tolerate others once the pack order becomes established. Don’t bring another dog into a dangerous situation if you have a very aggressive dog. But short of that, go for it.

The catch is this: Double the dogs does mean almost double the cost. You will spend more on food, boarding/sitting, and veterinary care. But if you can do it, it’s worth it, and I promise it won’t take up any more of your time, and you may have better adjusted dogs as a result.

Do you have multiple dogs? Did caring for them get more difficult as your pack grew? How many dogs is the perfect number? Do more dogs mean more work or more joy?

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