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second dog syndrome

Second Dog Syndrome Explained

Ever brought home a second pup, expecting double the love, only to find your first fur baby acting like a jealous sibling? Welcome to the world of Second Dog Syndrome — a phenomenon that can turn your peaceful home into a canine soap opera! In this article, we’ll unravel the mystery behind Second Dog Syndrome, why it happens, and how you can keep the wagging tails and noses happily wet.

What is Second Dog Syndrome?

Second Dog Syndrome refers to a range of behavioural issues that may arise when a second dog is introduced into a home where another dog already resides. Common misconceptions about this syndrome include the belief that it only affects the first dog or that it’s a temporary phase that will resolve itself. In reality, both dogs can be affected, and without proper management, the issues can persist or even escalate.

Symptoms of Second Dog Syndrome

Second Dog Syndrome Explained

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When a second dog enters the home, the first dog may exhibit a range of behavioural changes. Aggression is a common symptom, manifesting as growling, snapping, or even biting. Anxiety can also be a significant issue, leading to destructive behaviours like chewing furniture or excessive barking. Withdrawal is another symptom, where the first dog may become less interactive, avoiding both humans and the new dog.

For the second dog, signs may include excessive energy, like constant jumping and running, or the opposite — subdued behaviour, such as hiding or avoiding interaction. Other signs to watch for include improper play with other dogs, sibling rivalry, and a lack of a good relationship with the owners, which could mean disobedience or getting into trouble.

A specific phenomenon called “Survivor Dog Syndrome” (SDS) may also occur. This is characterised by the second dog forming a strong bond with the first dog rather than the owner, leading to a pack mentality and ongoing issues like bereavement related to the previous dog loss and a lack of trust in the new dog.

Pros and Cons of Having Two Dogs

When considering adding a second dog to your family, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons carefully. While having two dogs can bring double the joy, it can also come with its own set of challenges.


  • Double the Love: Having two dogs can mean twice the affection, companionship, and loyalty. They can keep each other company, reducing feelings of loneliness.
  • Socialisation: Dogs are inherently social creatures. A second dog can offer constant interaction, mental stimulation, and playtime, enriching each other’s lives.
  • Exercise: With two dogs, they can play and exercise together, making it easier to keep them both physically active and healthy.


  • Financial Burden: The financial responsibilities of dog ownership can add up quickly. From food and toys to vet visits and potential emergencies, the costs can be substantial.
  • Time Commitment: Owning two dogs requires a significant time investment. Training, feeding, walking, and general care all take time, and that’s doubled with a second dog.
  • Potential for Conflict: Introducing a second dog increases the risk of behavioural issues like the second dog syndrome, sibling rivalry, or territorial disputes.

Things to Ask Yourself Before Getting a Second Dog

caring dog

Image via Chewy on Unsplash

Adding a second dog to your household is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here are some key questions to ask yourself before taking the plunge.

Is My Dog Ready?

It’s crucial to evaluate your current dog’s temperament and behaviour. Is your dog well-socialised, obedient, and free from aggressive tendencies? A well-adjusted first dog is more likely to accept a new companion without issues.

Am I Financially Capable?

Financial readiness is a significant factor. Dog ownership comes with recurring expenses like food, grooming, and vet bills. Adding a second dog will essentially double these costs, so ensure your budget can handle it.

Do I Have Enough Time?

Time is another critical factor. Each dog requires individual attention for training, exercise, and bonding. If you’re already struggling to find time for one dog, adding a second could lead to stress and behavioural issues for both pets.

How to Cope with Having Two Dogs with Different Needs

Managing two dogs with different needs can feel like a balancing act. Whether it’s catering to specific dietary requirements or varying exercise levels, the trick is to tailor care to each dog’s needs. For instance, consider setting up separate feeding areas to avoid dietary mix-ups. When it comes to exercise, plan activities that can be adapted to suit both dogs’ energy levels. And don’t forget, individual training sessions can often yield better results, especially when your dogs have different learning paces.

Is Having a Second Dog Twice as Hard?

Second Dog Syndrome

Image via Alvan Nee on Unsplash

The question of whether having a second dog is twice as hard has a nuanced answer. Financially, you’re looking at doubling expenses like food, vet visits, and grooming. However, when it comes to time management, some tasks like walks and playtime can be combined, making it a bit easier. But remember, individual needs like separate vet visits or training sessions will still require their own time slots.

Do Dogs Feel Happier in Pairs?

The idea that dogs are happier in pairs can be both true and misleading. While dogs are inherently social creatures that often enjoy company, compatibility is crucial. A forced companionship between two incompatible dogs can lead to stress and behavioural issues, negating any potential happiness.

Are You Feeling Guilty After Getting a Second Dog?

Feeling guilty after adding a second dog to the family is not uncommon, especially if your first dog appears stressed or unhappy. The best way to tackle this emotional hurdle is to address any issues directly. Consult a vet or a dog behaviourist if you notice signs of stress or conflict. And remember, give it time and don’t rush things.


Having two dogs can be a lot of work, but it’s often worth it. You get twice the love and your dogs get a friend to play with. Yes, there are challenges like Second Dog Syndrome or different needs for each dog. But with some planning and care, these issues can be managed. If you’re thinking about getting a second dog, go for it. The extra love and happiness make it all worth it.

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