A Second Dog Is Not a Cure For Separation Anxiety
“Help! My dog panics when I’m gone. Would getting a second dog help him feel less lonely?”
I have heard that question so many times, but unfortunately there’s no clear cut answer. Another dog might help your dog feel less lonely, but if your dog has separation anxiety the presence of another dog isn’t likely to change his behavior.
In certain scenarios the presence of another dog might even make the situation worse.
Why Getting Another Dog Is Not a Cure For Separation Anxiety
In theory getting a second dog to help out your first one makes sense. Your second dog will keep him company when you’re away & alleviate all that extra stress, right?
In practice it’s not so simple.
When you get a second dog because your first is experiencing separation anxiety one of three things is likely to happen:
- Your current dog will still be anxious when you leave
- Your current dog will teach the newer dog that anxiety when you leave is “normal”
- Your current dog will be less anxious with a new buddy around
The problem is there’s no guarantee that the third option is going to happen.
Dogs with separation anxiety get anxious anytime 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.
Dogs learn from one another, and there’s a possibility that your current dog will teach your new dog that being anxious when you leave is “normal.” This is especially true if the second dog you’re considering is a highly impressionable puppy.
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 behavior to spread from the resident dog to the new dog than for confidence to flow in the opposite direction. – Separation Anxiety: Getting a Second Dog?
Getting a Second Dog is Great, But Do It For the Right Reasons
Unfortunately separation anxiety is a rather complex behavioral issue, and it often takes multiple methods to get under control. The anxiety comes from the separation from you, the owner, not just being alone. So while another dog might make your dog less lonely, it’s not likely to cure your dogs anxiety when you’re away.
If your dog has separation anxiety disorder, the presence of another animal in the household probably will not ease the distress he experiences during times of separation. If your current pup suffers from this condition, work with your veterinarian or a certified professional dog trainer to address the problem before you bring another canine into the equation. – Advice to Consider Before Getting a Second Dog
If you’re planning on getting a second dog that’s wonderful, but don’t make that decision just because you hope it will help your current dog. When you add another dog to your family you’re making a 10-15 year commitment. Get another dog because you want one.
If you do choose to add another dog to your home and want to make sure it’s a nice fit I suggest finding a local rescue that has a foster to adopt program. That gives you the chance to make sure your new canine companion is a great fit for the whole family.
If you decide you’d like a second dog make it easier on yourself by waiting until your current dogs separation anxiety is under control. Don’t let that anxiety spread; it’s much easier to manage one anxious dog than is is to manage two.
Resources For Managing Mild Separation Anxiety
My favorite resource for managing separation anxiety has been Nicole Widle’s book (affiliate link) Don’t Leave Me!: Step by Step Help for Your Dogs Separation Anxiety. There’s also some articles that will help you understand the behavior & give you some basic steps to help manage it:
- Is Your Dog a Velcro Dog, Or Is It Separation Anxiety?
- Separation Anxiety: Prevention & Solutions
- Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Disclaimer: Separation anxiety is a complex behavior to manage, and cases range from mild to severe. If your dog exhibits severe anxiety when left alone consult a professional behaviorist or trainer to help you come up with a management plan that’s appropriate for your dog.