Is Having Three Dogs Better Than Two or One?

[Since Google is sending people here re 3 vs 2 dogs (which I wrote as a fun fluff piece), please also read this more serious post for my honest opinion: What I Really Think About Having 3 Dogs vs 2 Dogs first before you decide. Updated 10/25/22]

I’m often asked if there are benefits to having multiple dogs. I’d have to say it depends on the number of multiples you’re considering. For instance, is having two dogs better than having one dog alone?  That’s an easy YES, if you have the time and the space. Any herd or pack animal benefits from having another of its species (when it’s the right match).

And sometimes I’m asked what it’s like to have three dogs vs. two dogs, and the answer is I wish I had a third hand to pet and train. But three, for me, is much better than only having one. This is definitely a case where a few pictures are worth a thousand words.

dogs talking


3 dogs running


dogs playing


dogs running playing


more dog running playing


3 dogs playing


3 dogs talking


you can't catch me


3 dogs on couch

Tired dogs are good dogs…

3 on the couchAnd to all a good night!

2 sleeping dogssleeping aussie

46 thoughts on “Is Having Three Dogs Better Than Two or One?”

  1. Hello, I have 2 male dogs a 4 yr old Jack Russell Terrier, and a 1 yr old Maltese. My Jack Russell is very lazy, but loves meeting new dogs, and my Maltese is stubborn and lazy too ,and hates other dogs other than my Jack Russell, I’m thinking of getting a 3rd dog should I get a male or female ?

    1. Hi Jonathan,
      I’m thinking there are some caution signs here. If your Maltese hates other dogs, I’d be inclined to keep your happy pack of two and not add a third. You could be asking for trouble. If you feel compelled to get a third anyway, a female has a better chance of causing fewer problems.

  2. Have been reading your articles while searching for information and hope you might see my comment. We have an 11 year old black lab female and a 10 year old male cat. We lost our male yellow lab 4 years ago and are ready to add to the family again. We are interested in a bonded pair of black lab females, age 2, both medium energy. Thoughts on going from 1 dog to 3 and with that gender mix? Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Katie,

      There’s enough of an age difference that having all female labs shouldn’t be an issue–labs aren’t usually prone to aggression. But it is possible that since the 2yo labs are already bonded, one of them may try to become more dominant since they are all females. Or they may make the 11yo feel left out as they are already a pack of 2. Or they may all get along swimmingly (pun intended :)) There is no way to know without introducing them to each other first, to see how they might do.

      1 to 3 dogs is a big jump up in general energy and wear and tear. But I’m guessing your 11yo is slowing down, so you may not find it all that much different than when you had your 2 before.

      Is there any way you can set up a play date/meet n greet on neutral territory to see how they all do together first?

      And do you know if the 2 labs are good with cats?

      If you do decide to go ahead, make extra sure that you’re giving your old girl lots and lots of love and attention so that she doesn’t get depressed.

      Best of luck.

  3. Hi Karen
    I’m looking into going from 2 to 3 dogs. I currently have a 2 year old male (entire) collie x shepherd who is as soft as pudding. Not in any way aggressive. I also have a reasonably calm 21 month old border collie female (spayed) – again not aggressive in anyway – and also 2 cats. Both dogs have a garden to run around, walk well on the lead, no aggression issues, both do flyball and agility and have no problems with cats, dogs, kids etc. I’m looking into getting a cockapoo – who will also be doing flyball. Would this be a good idea? Male or female?
    Financially we’d be able to do it.

    1. Hey Megan, I’m not sure how to answer your question. Having a happy animal family of 2 dogs and 2 cats already, is quite a feat. The odds of that remaining true go significantly down with each animal you add. What the exact tipping point for turning a good situation into one you may regret is hard to say. But if it were me, I’d stay where you are and pass on adding a third dog. That said, if you can’t resist the urge, I’d go with a male.

      If you haven’t had a chance to also read this post on 3 vs 2 dogs, it may help in your decision.
      What I Really Think About Having 2 vs 3 Dogs

  4. Hi Karen, I am thinking of going from 2 to 3 dogs, I have a Labrador bitch 9 yrs old & a whippet lurcher bitch 3 yrs old, both very laid back easy going with each other, both walk well on the leash, friendly with other dogs, people & children they have a good walk twice a day & I do dog agility with the whippet. I am considering adding a male toy poodle puppy to the mix.
    Am I just dreaming that this will work out, my husband thinks I’m mad, but puppy will have the same training the other 2 have… Puppy classes, lots of socialisation with other dogs & people, obedience classes & one on one time with me.
    What could go wrong??

    1. Hi Susie, There is often a tipping point with adding same-sex dogs so if you want to add a third dog, no matter what breed, you should definitely go with a male. The fact that you have 2 easy going and well-socialized dogs is a big plus. As to what could go wrong, the main issue I see with a toy poodle is the disparity in size. I’d be very nervous about accidental injury in play, or even just running out the door and the little guy getting accidentally hip-checked or trampled by one of the other dogs. The other factor I personally found a bit shocking in adding a third is the additional space emotionally, physically, and financially that gets taken up. Also the fact that you have a 9 yo dog–it’s kind of a lot to ask of older dog to adapt to adding another dog, as it will absolutely jostle pack stability–even with two laid back dogs. My suggestion would be to wait until you’re down to one dog, and then add another dog.

  5. Hi Karen;
    I hope you can offer me a bit of advice. I have two Goldendoodle pups. The female just turned a year old and the male is 10 months old. They are big buddies and there are no issues between them. My daughter just came for the holidays with a brand new rescue pup who is a 7 month old German Shepard cross. Sometimes all is good but then the two males will play and the female will sit back until it gets really excitable. Then she starts barking and then all chaos breaks loose. There has been no major fights, just a lot of growling and snapping. When the three are outside, all is fine. We are giving the dogs turns together outside and we introduced them all on loose leashes, one at a time which went well. Any advice on if we should separate them for periods during the day or should we let them work it out when a little scrap happens? My two are very gentle and soft mouthed. The new rescue pup doesn’t have a lot of social skills yet. Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Lynn, first–kudos for you for being so fast-acting on recognizing and wanting to deal with a budding problem instead of ignoring it! The best advice I can give you is to find a local Trainer who specializes in positive training techniques. You need to have the trainer come and evaluate the situation and make recommendations. Unfortunately, I’m limited in the advice I can offer because I’d need to be there and watch the dynamics for myself to see what the triggers are.

      That said, the main thing is to try to prevent the chance for escalation before it happens. Don’t give them the opportunity to get to the point where growling and snapping can happen. I was given the advice once of letting my dogs work it out, and I can tell you that can be a recipe for disaster. My dogs wound up doing serious damage to each other and got to a point where I could not safely leave them together at all.

      Wishing you good luck and good advice from a great trainer.

  6. I have and bischon/poodle mix F/4 yr and havanese F/2yr and am thinking about getting a miki, another girl. Good idea/bad idea? I have a house with a yard. The girls get along great.

    1. Pat, these are typically low aggression breeds, and none of the dogs are from the same litter or the same age. So you should be okay. But you should ask a local trainer to help you evaluate your dogs for adding a third. Every pack dynamic is different.

  7. Hi Karen,

    I have two seven-year-old female dogs (a 15 lb cock-a-poo and a 6 lb lhasa-poo). We would like to get a third dog – a toy poodle. Would it matter if we get a male or female – especially since the size of the dog will be about 8 lbs?

    Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Terra, size doesn’t matter when it comes to possible aggression issues. Breed, temperament, and gender do. So with 2 females, I’d go with a male to be safe. You don’t mention if either of your girls has any strong dominance or snappy tendencies. If there are no signs of any of that, and with the breeds you have, and the age difference, you could probably get away with another female.

      My best advice to everyone who is thinking of adding another dog and you’re uncertain of how to evaluate your current dog(s) with regard to adding another dog is to pay a trainer to come and advise you.

      Good luck!

  8. I have an 8yr old golden retriever(male) and an 3yr old Flatcoated retrieve(Male).
    Iam considering adopting a lab mix, 10 weeks old, also a male. I have cinsidered all the financial etc issues that go with a puppy, I just struggle with how they will interact, and is three to much? I have a fenced in yard and I only work 3 days a week.
    My Flatcoat is high energy and somewhat a nervous dog, the golden is very passive. Iknow he will be OK. I have to let” Fortheloveoflabs” know today, pleae HELP

    1. Kathleen, while I think the combinations of the breeds would be fine together (though you don’t mention if your Flatcoat has any dog-dog aggression), before you decide please read my post “What I Really Think About Having 2 DOgs vs 3 Dogs”.

      Without mentioning why you want to add a 3rd dog–ie you absolutely have fallen in love with this puppy, or someone called and asked if you could help out, or you want another dog to help you excercise your Flatcoat–I think my linked post above should help answer your question.

      Good luck with whatever you decide!

  9. Thanks. Would ideally be looking for a smaller simply because of walking 3 bigger dogs on the lead. What is the smallest breed you would recommend? Collie is v small and lab x is around the height of a springer but finer boned.

    1. I hear ya! Walking 2 dogs is a feat by itself! LOL. As for size, we can rule out all toy breeds as too small. For safe and happy play I wouldn’t go smaller than your tallest dog’s elbow. Let me know what you wind up with. : )

  10. I have a lovely mellow labrador x and a lively and dominant younger collie. Lab is 3 and a half collie is one and a half. Would like to get a male toy poodle to be playful for the lab (collie wont play without getting too rough) and who could stand up to the collie (she seems to respect males more) seen a lovely 7 month one on a rescue website. What do you think? I am at home most of the day and my son is 15 and loves dogs.

    1. Tulsi, I would be very concerned about the size difference between a toy poodle, and a lab and collie. But if you want to add a third dog, I’d go with a male. You definitely want to avoid another female since you have a dominant female already, and they don’t play nice with other females typically.

  11. Hi Karen, i have two beautiful medium size goldendoodles and one is a 6year old female and the other is a 3 year old female. i was really hoping to add another one to our family. i was thinking a mini goldendoodle female because i love small dogs. my father said i needed to show him a good reason why we should get one. so i was just wondering what you think about it? were a family of four my mum, my dad , me and my sister. thanks
    p.s. your dogs are adorable

    1. Hi Emma,
      You don’t mention your age or how much time you have to give to a 3rd dog. You also don’t mention who your current dogs are most bonded to. (Is one especially sweet on you? If not, have you put in the time to win one of them over?) Going from 2 to 3 dogs can be a big jump in time, energy, and expenses. I’m not sure that adding a 3rd to get a small dog makes sense right now. Can you see yourself waiting until you’re down to one dog, or when you have your own place? I guess I’m with your dad on this one. You need to come up with a more compelling reason. : )

  12. Hi Karen! I have an 8 year old female spinone and a 6 year old female mutt. They are good friends and love to play with eachother but the mutt is very energetic and the spinone is lazy and sleeps all day. We walk them probably 2 or 3 times a month but have a large fenced yard for them to chase squirrels and swim! We also have two cats and are a family of 5. There is an adorable 10 week old female terrier puppy that we are debating on getting and I would love to have some feedback o’s bout whether or not this is a good idea or not. Our mutt is clearly the dominant one and can get aggressive at other dogs in addition to our spinone but very rarely. She doesn’t like dogs that are bigger than her but she gets along fine with smaller dogs. My middle child is DYING to get this little puppy but I’m very hesitant about having a third dog. Do you think it would be a good idea?

    1. Elizabeth, since you mention both your girls can get aggressive with other dogs, I definitely wouldn’t recommend adding a 3rd female, especially a terrier. If you must add a 3rd, go with a male. I’d also reconsider a terrier as a breed. Yes they’re cute as the dickens, BUT they’re not warm and cuddly dogs, AND they are extremely high energy. Your middle child may be happier with another mutt or a lab cross–a dog that only would have eyes for your middle child.

      For your sanity, though, I would recommend against a 3rd dog. Read my post on what I really think about adding a 3rd dog and you’ll see why.

  13. helen isherwood

    hi so glad i found a site to help! heres my problem, i have a 2yr male old playfull but timade jack russell from pupp who we have spoilt a little then 1 yr ago we got a cross border terrier male who we think is about 3 from rescue centre, he is calm at home then wow a nutter outside against other dogs. at home they mix well, jack russell wants to play but terrier isnt bothered, outside the jack russ has picked up some bad habbits from the terrier against other dogs and strange men??? I am hoping to add a 20 wk female jack russ whom we have had a couple of play dates on neutral ground which is fine. now planning a get together on home soil, what do you think my chances are for a house of 3???

  14. Hi i currently have two male dogs (Labrador x 5 yrs) and a (yorkshire terrier 2 yrs) they both get along great. I,ve always wanted a rottweiler. Do you think it would be a bad idea getting a 3rd dog? What sex would you say would be better? Thanks

    1. Natasha, having had one dog, two dogs, three dogs, and four dogs at various times, my favorite number is two. Adding a third dog is a big jump up in time, energy, and expense. I don’t know enough about your circumstances to really advise you (yard space, dog experience, etc.) other than to say that if you have two happy dogs who get along well, I’d be inclined to encourage you to enjoy what you have and not add a third–the pack energy with 3 dogs is way more intense than with just 2 dogs. If you feel compelled to get a third, I would go for a female.

  15. Hi Karen! I am considering adding #3 to the mix. We have a 5yo female rottie and 2yo male shep mix. Both dogs get along well and I feel that my male needs the female more than she needs him. His energy level is 3x the amount of hers and after a good exercise, she shows signs of wear while he’s ready for more.

    I am gathering more information on a dog that is several states away and just rescued from a kill shelter. She is about 4mos old and has the face of a beagle and the body of a cattahoula. Not sure what else is in there. She is doing well in foster and has made friends with the foster dogs.

    I would like for her to integrate into the current pack and be a friend to the current dogs but also able to keep up with my active male. Both of my dogs go to an in-home boarding monthly and tend to go their separate ways while there. My male finds an energetic friend to romp with while my female would rather hang with the family.

    I’m scared to upset the dynamics and don’t want to go into this without proper thought. Any suggestions? Also, we have a large yard with an invisible fence, and two young children with a passion for the current dogs.

    1. Hi Tiffany! You’re a brave woman–you’re going to have your hands full for a little while. :)

      Without having had a chance to test the new puppy with your current dogs, there’s no sure way to know in advance how things will go. Her breed mix should have low aggression tendencies, which is important anytime you put females together. And since you don’t describe your Rottie as having any issues with other dogs, that’s good.

      I highly recommend that you work with a good dog trainer to help integrate your new dog with your current two. (Having three dogs is definitely a different dynamic than just two–you’re going to begin seeing much more true pack behavior.) The trainer will know how to set up a successful introduction and keep an eye on all parties to make sure all is going smoothly. They will also be able to give you many helpful tips for how to set up your home initially.

      But briefly, when you introduce them, I’d start with somewhere off your property — perhaps in a calm area at the boarding place. I’d introduce one dog at a time and run a few quick “meet and greet” walk-by’s on loose leashes. If that goes smoothly and all dogs seem fine together, I’d move them (again, one at a time with the puppy) to a small enclosure with leashes dropped to let them sniff and interact.

      When you bring the puppy home (again, hopefully with the help of a trainer) have all dogs on leashes meet outside first. When inside, make sure all dogs have easy escape routes to get away from each other if they’ve had enough of any other dog. At least initially, make sure feeding time is very controlled and all dogs are safely separated from each other until they’re done. I’m a big fan of baby gates to help create house zones.

      For the first few weeks, I’d really keep an eye on management to make sure that if there are going to be any issues, you can get right on top of them before they have a chance to blow up into something bigger.

      Good luck!

  16. I have a 12 year old basset hound female, and a 7 year old boxer male. Both are nice as can be and love other dogs and people. The basset is the boss, although a laid back one. Anytime I’ve had a third dog over, they’ve been fine with it. I’ve babysat for a week at a time and my dogs were still fine and just seemed to include the dog right away. I am considering getting a great dane male. What are your thoughts?

    1. John, you don’t mention whether you’re thinking of a puppy or an older dog. With your Basset Hound being 12, a puppy might be a bit much for her. But, in general, if neither of your dogs seem anything other than happy to mix with another dog in their home, it sounds as if you’d be safe to add a third dog.

  17. I have a 9 year old female beagle and a 3 year old female beagle mix. They are very compatible with each other. The 9 year old has no interest in playing, she is very laid back and enjoys her time on the couch. I am considering adding a third female beagle that is 1 1/2 years old from a shelter that I volunteer at. The third dog is playful, but not hyper and loves other dogs. I think she would be a great companion for the the 3 year old. I am concerned about the how the 9 year old will react. I am alittle anxious about upsetting the balance we have now, but I am hopeful that it will work out.

    1. Susan, it sounds like there are some possibilities here. It would be worth testing the 3 dogs together first though. I’d start with your 3 yo and new beagle and see how they do together (hopefully, at a neutral location). If they like each other, then I’d move on to test the 9 yo and the new beagle alone together. Then the three of them together. Adding a third dog definitely changes the mix and does have the potential to throw off the balance of the two you have now. So going through the testing process is key to knowing whether this is a good idea. Ideally, it’d be great to add a neutered male to the mix. But knowing beagles and their (typically) low aggression toward other dogs, in theory, I’m less concerned about throwing three females together than I might normally be. Good for you that you’re being so thoughtful for each of the dogs involved.

      I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it turns out being a great match for everyone!

  18. I have 3 dogs.
    Remington is a 1-year-old black lab/coon hound mix.
    Scout is an 8-month boston terrior.
    Bandit is a 10-week border collie/german shephard mix.
    I also have a cat: Lucy, 10-months.
    They all get along great. I wish I had a yard for them to play in but they do it pretty well in our living room (lots of space). They all eat and drink together (including Lucy).
    I think it helps that I have all boy dogs. They are also very similar is color and temperament. I added each dog individually so that Remington to get used to Scout and then the two of them could get used to Bandit. Bandit is the newest addition and the biggest issue I’ve noticed is having Scout peeing on top of his house messes.
    Right now they are all laying on the floor chewing on the same (large) toy together!

  19. Hi Karen,

    I’ve given some thought recently to adopting or fostering a third dog, and would love to get some input from someone who has experience. I currently have an eight year old female and a two year old male, both bichons. I do not have kids. My male is sweet, highly energetic, and passive; he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. My female is lazy and can be slightly territorial at home, but this fades quickly with repeated contact with dogs or humans. Outside of the home she is timid, a result of her rescue background. My male would love to have a companion to play and wrestle with and he tries to engage my other dog, but my female is just not the type due to her personality and some health issues.

    If we were to have another dog in our household it would be a young adult male, most likely the same breed, from a rescue organization. I would look for one who enjoys playing with other dogs but is slightly less active than my current male. I think it would be important to be selective in a third dog to ensure he would fit within our current family dynamics. Mostly, I would want a dog who would be a playmate for my male, but not overwhelming to my female.

    I would love any insight you have to offer. Thanks!

    1. Hi Krista,
      You’ve done a good job thinking this through. I don’t know that there’s more I could add that you haven’t already considered. As you’ve outlined your plan, it sounds like a good one to me. I agree — definitely a male who is less active but enjoys play and other dogs. Good luck! Keep me posted.

  20. Hello, I was wondering if you could help me with something, I currently have a 7 year old male springer spaniel and a 2 year old female Lhasa apso cross Yorkshire terrier & they’re best friends, we’re thinking of adding a 2 yr old cocker spaniel to our home, would my current dogs accept him? I’m more concerned about our male springer and whether there would be fights for authority? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! X

    1. Hi Rebecca. Making changes to any established pack can present all kinds of interesting challenges. So, the first question I have to ask you is why you are concerned with your male springer? Have you seen that he’s not always good with other dogs? If so, I’d forget adding a third dog. It won’t be worth the stress and potential problems you’d run into. If you’re just inclined to worry about any changes for your dogs, then enlist the help of a trainer to help you have the dogs meet in a neutral place so s/he can observe how your springer and the cocker relate to each other. A trainer would better be able to tell you whether this is a situation that could work. Not knowing you or the dogs in question, I can’t help with a definitive “Yes” or “No”. Good luck.

  21. I am considering getting a third dog, i have an 8 yr old terrier/lab mix and a 17 month old begle/spaniel mix at the moment. I’m having trouble deciding whether it would benefit my other 2 dogs or make lots more work for me/and them unhappy??? Help?

    1. Wendy, you don’t mention the sexes of your dogs or how they’re currently getting along, or what age and breed/mix of dog you’re thinking of adding , or what your level of dog experience is, or what you’re hoping to get to experience by adding a third.

      If you were to tell me that your current dogs really enjoyed each other’s company, were good buds, and liked playing/hanging together, I’d be inclined to suggest that you not upset the apple cart. Adding a third dog takes considerably more time and work than adding a second. Right now you have an established pack into which you’d be trying to integrate a third dog — and that’s a game-changer.

      As well, depending on the breed and sex you’re thinking of adding, that significantly affects the likelihood of how all dogs would get along.

      I find that having 3 dogs vs 2 changes the experience from a human culture that includes dogs to a dog culture that includes humans. Some people thrive on being part of a dog pack. But I would have to say I think they’re the exception to the rule.

      If you can give me a little more info, I can be more specific about whether I think it’s a good idea or not for you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top