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How Much Does a Dog Need Other Dogs?

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

dog lying down with two dogs standing

Sierra is a furry social butterfly. Not only does she love people, but she loves to play with other dogs. Most mornings I take her to the dog park early, before the other dogs arrive, to meet canine friends for play dates. We let the dogs run and wrestle, and then, when unfamiliar dogs begin to arrive, we take our dogs for a two-mile walk around the park perimeter. It’s fun for the dogs and nice socialization for us humans as well.

On the days I don’t take Sierra for play dates, my husband takes her for hikes. They warm up by walking around a local park, and then head out into the arroyo, a vast, unpopulated area where Sierra can roam as far as the long-line will allow, following scents and having a great time. It’s great exercise and fun for both her and my husband. In addition, we periodically engage in sports like urban mushing, where Sierra and her best husky pal can indulge their breed tendencies by pulling a person on a scooter. I recently realized that my wall calendar is filled with many more “Sierra dates” than special activities for me!

Even with all of the exercise, and the endless Kongs, chewies, training, games, and tons of affection Sierra receives daily, I’ve wondered whether she would be better off having a dog buddy at home. It’s true that she sleeps for a large part of the day after her morning workout, but as is natural with canine biorhythms, she becomes active again around 5-6 p.m. This is the time when I look at her and say, “See, if you had a buddy, you’d be wrestling now.” I’ve perused various “boy toy” candidates online, and we’ve met with a few. So far, we have not found the right dog. After introducing Sierra to a husky from a rescue group this past weekend—he jumped on her in a rough way, she said, “I don’t think so!” and a skirmish ensued—we are regrouping and questioning whether Sierra actually needs another dog at home or not.

I’ve noticed the way Sierra inserts herself between me and whatever dog I happen to be petting at the park. It makes me wonder just how jealous of attention she’d be with a new dog in the house, and how much of a problem it might cause. And, perhaps selfishly, we like our life with just our girl. She knows the daily routine, and is an easy keeper in the house, especially for a young husky mix. She’s practically non-destructive, and if she steals anything, well, she has an odd habit of bringing it to you with her ears back and eyes squinting as if to say, “I couldn’t help myself!” It’s hard not to laugh. And there are the long cuddle sessions that make me feel just as good as she does. Of course, there would still be cuddling with another dog present, but it is divided attention any way you look at it.

Sierra is not completely baggage-free: we’ve been dealing with her separation issues since we brought her home seven months ago. She’s made huge improvements, especially for a dog who’d been in the shelter four times before we adopted her. A second adult dog would come complete with his own issues, some of which might make him more of a “project” than I’m looking for; it’s easy to rule some dogs out immediately, but harder to see the underlying issues until the dog has been in your home for a while. It is true that having another dog might well solve Sierra’s separation issues entirely, since she’s got more of an “isolation distress” than a true separation anxiety from a particular person. But it might not solve the problem, and either way, that’s not a good enough reason on its own to get another dog.

Right now, we’re regrouping and considering what would be best for all of us. But it got me thinking about how many “only dogs” are out there, and how many opinions there are on the subject. I’ve heard behavior specialists who I respect lecture that dogs need to have other dogs at home. I respectfully disagree, assuming the dog gets some form of regular socialization with other dogs, and plenty of exercise. In a way, it takes more of an effort to have a singleton dog, because you are responsible for all of the exercise and play. You’ve got to work hard. But to us, Sierra is worth it, and whatever we decide in the long run, for now she’s our one and only.


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