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 like so many other things in life there is no clear cut answer. Another dog might help your dog feel less lonely, but if your dog has separation anxiety from you the presence of another dog isn’t likely to change his behavior.
In certain scenarios the addition of another dog can make things even worse.
A Second Dog Is Not a Cure For Separation Anxiety
In theory getting another dog to help with your current dog’s separation anxiety makes perfect sense. Your second dog will keep your dog company when you’re away & alleviate all that extra stress and anxiety, 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 have separation anxiety when you leave.
- Your current dog will teach your new dog that stressing out when you leave is “normal.”
- Your current dog will be less anxious with their 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 Wilde’s book (affiliate link) Don’t Leave Me!: Step by Step Help for Your Dogs Separation Anxiety. And here’s some articles that will help you understand canine separation anxiety & give you some tips on how to manage it:
- Is Your Dog a Velcro Dog, Or Is It Separation Anxiety?
- One Trick to Help Manage Mild Separation Anxiety
- Separation Anxiety in Dogs
- 5 Tips For Managing Canine Separation Anxiety
Disclaimer: Separation anxiety is a complex behavior to manage, and cases range from mild to severe. It’s a behavior that often gets worse when not managed properly. If your dog exhibits severe anxiety when left alone please consult a professional behaviorist or trainer.
Great write up!
Lindsay Stordahl says
Great topic and post, Jen! I hear these types of comments a lot. I see why someone would think adding another dog could help but in most cases it does not. You could just end up with two nervous, barking, destructive dogs! I’ve fostered dogs with separation anxiety and it can be so difficult! In each case, the dog could care less if my dog was there or not. The dogs were afraid of being away from ME, the human.
Jen Gabbard says
Thanks so much. My previous dog Carter had separation anxiety and having another dog around didn’t seem to effect the behavior at all. But unfortunately it’s one of those situations where it seems like it would be a nice, quick fix; but it doesn’t usually turn out that way.
So true. My dog’s separation anxiety did not change at all when we added a second dog. Luckily the second dog did not pick up on her anxiety (I was worried about that!) and they get along great…but the anxiety is about the human leaving, and another dog being there matters not at all.
Thanks for writing about this, Jen. I’ve known a few people that were looking for a quick fix by getting a second dog and in both cases it didn’t really solve the separation anxiety issue. It is a complicated problem with some dogs and the links you provided may be really helpful. Sharing!
Pamela | Something Wagging says
I adopted two litter mates who used to howl when I left the house. I think their discomfort with each other made their anxiety worse when I left.
People overestimate how much dogs need to be around other dogs. Obviously some do. But many dogs prefer human company over dog company.
This was exactly why I got my 2nd dog and it didn’t turn out the way I hoped for. For a few years I was able to take my dog to work until an irresponsible pet owner started taking his dog to work. Long story shot, he ruined it for all of us. So my dog went through a tough time being left alone at home. Then I decided that the 2nd dog could be friend with him. Oh boy! I was dead wrong. The older one didn’t want anything to do with the new pup. He turned his back on him. Three years pass they started to get along and even these days they acknowledge each other present but they don’t really play together.
Linus had mild separation anxiety before we brought home our second dog Stetson. Having a second dog didn’t really help Linus with his separation anxiety, but what it did do is elevate his anxiety when he was left home alone without Stetson. 🙁
I have a 7 year old femal Boston terrier. Who doesn’t get separation anxiety when left alone by herself. But when she is left alone with my parents dog or friends dogs other at our place or their place it’s a completely different story. She just barks and sounds distressed. I have filmed it and it’s upsetting to see. Has any got any advice please?
This is a great article! I totally agree that you shouldn’t get a second dog just to help with the originals dogs separation anxiety. However I am one of those lucky few that got the second dog for my current dogs severe separation anxiety and it worked like a charm. My situation however was much different than others. We adopted my 3 yr old husky lab mix when he was 9 weeks old and in our previous home our roommate had 3 other dogs. So my dog was raised within a pack of dogs from from 9w-3 years old. We bought our first home 3 months ago and we knew separating him from his buddies would devastate him. And it did, as well our our home. Bc he is part husky he is also an escape artist and we had to install and electric fence on top of 7 ft wooden fence to keep him in the backyard. But during the transition period he destroyed door frames and carpets while we had to leave for work. I just had a strong gut feeling that once I got him another dog he would be happy so I got a 1yr old lab mix from the shelter shortly afterward and immediately they fell in love and he hasn’t howled barked whine or destroyed anything in the home. I also monitor my dogs through nanny cams while I’m at work to monitor their behavior which I highly recommend. Bottom line if your dog was used to being with other dogs in a previous living situation and your new living situation is lonely for him/her I say go for the second dog but if you only have one dog to begin with and they are destroying your home then definitely seek proffessional help!
We thought a second dog wouldn’t be THAT much more work than one. They could keep each other company and play together. Boy were we wrong! A week after adopting Benji, he began stress eliminating in our apartment (which was new to us, our first just cried at the door until he got tired of yowling). We didn’t even need to leave, we just had to be out of sight (i.e. going into the bathroom). This was definitely more than double the stress of having one dog. We did extensive training to be able to live with 2 dogs. So much so that we added a 3rd. Our hands are full but our hearts are fuller
JynxiMaru on IG says
So I’ve just added a new 8 week old pug male to my pack of two. I have a 10 month old, female. Pekingese. You really don’t know which way this could go as every dog’s personality is different. I think age, sex and breed make a difference as well. A lot of times opposite sex dogs will get along better as well as dogs with similar activity levels. I just thought I’d share my experience. Day 1 she flipped out. Unfortunately it was bad timing as that day she went into her first heat. I will never know if she was just extremely moody already or if it really just was the puppy. She’s relaxed a great deal within 5 days and now she is excited to play with him, and vice versa. There was a good deal of her growling and showing signs of aggression in the first few days but she’s still so young, it seems she’s mostly gotten over it. I just make sure to pet her first, treats, feeding, etc first to keep the hierarchy. I’ve let her correct him, when he gets too rough, while keeping a close eye to make sure she didn’t go overboard. Now she’s letting him play like a puppy while rolling over and yesterday even brought her toy to him! You just really have to do your research and know your first dogs moods and body language. He escapes to his crate and pen when he’s had enough, she leaves the room when she’s had enough… so far so good. Definitely crating him when I’m not around or home. I will say I was prepared to find him a new home if it didn’t work out. She does seem quieter and less anxious lately, so maybe we were the minority.
‘A Second Dog is Not a Cure for Separation Anxiety’ is misleading, simply because it can condemn a very lonely dog to eternal loneliness.
Of cause some dogs’ separation anxiety (from humans) cannot be relieved by another dog, regardless of how calm it is – but – firstly, the diagnoses might be wrong and sometimes separation anxiety is relieved by the company of other animals.
This blog gives the impression that there is one answer only and that is to spend money on a product.
Just ask yourself this question – would you like to be left alone all day, every day on your own while your people go to work?