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Is a Second Dog a Good Idea?

01/08/2013 10:08 BST | Updated 01/08/2013 10:08 BST
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Obviously, you need to be meeting the needs of your current dog before another dog can be considered. Is he well socialised? well behaved? Are you meeting his grooming, walking and general needs? Can you afford another dog? It is vital to carefully consider these things, as introducing a second dog when the first one is not well balanced and under control can create an out of control rabble that more than doubles the trouble! Rehoming dogs is a very sad thing for all dogs and people to go through, and it can usually be avoided with careful consideration before adding another pet.

Roodie the border collie arrived as my Vizsla, Gonzo, turned 4 and a half. He is a smart little character, and mildly suspicious of anything. Where Gonzo bull-dozes cheerily into any situation, Roodie is more careful, and takes his time weighing things up. A hellium ballon tied to a bench causes him to creep, belly to the ground, ears pricked, while Gonzo bounces ahead to nuzzle it and wrestle it free. Roodie uses Gonzo as a gage. If she survives what ever peril lies ahead, he is then happy to crash in too. This goes for strangers too. If Gonz says hello, Roodie will. If Gonz doesn't, Roodie slinks past warily. Both dogs are as affectionate as it is possible to be with humans they know, and in Roodie's case, delightfully, all other species, including dogs and even bees. But they are very different souls. Roodie is still uncastrated and a fearless defender of me when the situation calls, he appreciates Gonzo's presence as a backup, though she barely pays attention to the things he perceives threats, and he is far less confident without her at his side.

At 8 months, Roodie is keen to chase anything that moves, and being a border collie, he really is as smart and as fast as they come, having been able to keep up with Gonzo's long range sprints since he was 6 months. But it's easy to keep him in hand, because he returns to you before you even finish whistling, waiting for the next game or command. He was born on a farm, and both his parents are working collies; his dad is actually a champ at the sheep dog trails, and it shows. Roodie is a working dog through and through, and with every minute you give him, you get an extraordinary amount back. The sheepdog specific training has been especially useful.

Roodie's birth last year came just as I had started studying for a BA in Canine Psychology. This proved to be perfect combination. Now at the end of our first academic year, having sat through hours of training classes, covering everything from clickers to TTouch, working with police dog handlers, show trick trainers and of course our dear agency dogs, we have come a long way. I feel blessed to have Gonzo and Roodie, who have taught me more than all my course books put together!

All the dogs I work with have wide ranging strengths and weaknesses. Anyone who claims to have one catch all method is wrong. And dogs, emotionally, are in many ways closer to people than even I ever imagined. Time, patience and kindness are rewarded with trust. Bullying dogs creates problems. Time and attention are what makes a great relationship. Dogs that are ignored grow quiet and depressed, rather similar to the Romanian orphans who were so neglected that they were unable to show love. Grooming too, is another way of showing bonding and caring. If you don't groom your longer haired dog, and he looks unkempt and tangled, you can be pretty sure he is feeling neglected as well as looking it. In contrast dogs that get lots of interaction absolutely bloom and show a far greater social intelligence with both other dogs, and people. A well cared for dog knows he is loved, you can see it in the way he moves.

Roodie may not use human words, but we talk to each other lots. His language sounds so close to mine that I understand every word, from the singing intonations of "it's not fair that you are eating cheese and i'm not!", to the gruff call of "intruder! alert!".

My dear darling Gonzo, the Hungarian Vizsla, ranked no.26 on the intelligent breeds list (Border Collies are number 1, with a vocabulary often equaling that of a two year old child), was a rescue dog. For the first few months of her life she hadn't played with other dogs, and had spent much of her time alone, crated and muzzled. I rescued her 5 years ago and we have rarely been apart since. She is extremely affectionate, highly confident and can be jealous when im giving attention to other dogs. I was never keen to get a second dog, as I didn't want to damage our bond, which is so close that she seems to know what i'm thinking and often does what i ask, as i ask, but just like having different human friends, it has been healthy and envigorating for us both to have another pack member. I didn't know how Gonzo and Roodie would take to each other, but it's been a joy to watch.

6 weeks is what you can expect it to take for 2 dogs to form a bond. Dogs consider "pack members" animals that they sleep, eat and hunt with, so other dogs that come out on dog walks do not fall into that catergory. It took Gonzo a couple of weeks to start to really play with Roodie. Normally she only plays with a select few other Vizslas, but Roodie was very persistant. Roodie's brains have been his ace card. He has judged Gonzo perfectly, knowing when to invite her to play, when to leave her be, when to snuggle up and clean her, and now is so advanced at reading her that he can even clean her ears after she has told him in no uncertain terms to let her sleep. Roodie and Gonzo go everywhere together, they happily share from the same bowl and are rarely more than a few feet apart on walks. When Gonzo and I go on CaniX runs without him, he is heartbroken and apparently sobs by the front door so we have to make sure he is taken for another walk with someone while we are out. The changes I've seen in Gonzo have been wonderful. She is far more social and interested in other dogs now, and far less clingy around me. Our bond is as strong as ever but at last she is getting the 24 hour attention and interaction she was looking for me to solely provide, and we are all happier for it.

If the original dog is well socialised, well behaved and well cared for,and if you are able to afford a second dog, it can be a wonderful additon to the family.