What I Really Think About Having 2 Dogs vs 3 Dogs

3-aussies-playingQ: From the Mailbag: Natasha asks, I currently have two male dogs (a Labrador 5 yrs and a Yorkshire Terrier 2 yrs) and 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.

A: 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, time for training and exercising, 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, given that you’ve got two males, I would go for a female.

Updated October 22, 2022: The above was what I recently wrote in response to a reader asking a question about adding a 3rd dog. She came by way of my post:  Is Having Three Dogs Better Than Two or One?  In that post, I show a series of pics with my three dogs running and playing and generally having way too much fun. Clearly, they’re enjoying their game of tag.

But in that post, I didn’t elaborate on the not-so-small-detail that it took months of serious training and management to get them to a point where they could all do so well together.

The truth of the matter was that it took Kiera quite a while to warm up to Graidy when I first got him, but he eventually won her over and they established a stable pack. When we added Wink, Graidy’s place in the pack became destabilized, which caused him to develop some emotional issues (which have since been worked through). And with a destabilized pack, I had to watch both Kiera and Graidy for aggression toward Wink. I did not leave them alone for the three months it took for a new pack order to become firmly established. There were many moments where if I had not been there to lead and intercede as needed, it could have turned ugly.

In the midst of this, we had house training and obedience training to do with Wink. And Graidy started marking in the house to reestablish his sense of territory, so he needed remedial training. In other words, as the saying goes– It weren’t no picnic!

Granted, I have a couple of pretty intense dogs. But too many people assume that you can just throw any number of dogs together of various breeds and they’ll do just fine. Some people get lucky, and that’s their experience. But, unfortunately, just as many people find that they’ve opened Pandora’s Box and they’re not prepared for what gets unleashed.

Here’s what I really think about adding a 3rd dog
(or more)
to your 2-dog pack:

Don’t do it!

If you have a happy family, keep it that way. Two is a manageable number and enough for them to keep each other company when you’re not around. Having more dogs than that is an invitation for trouble. If any one of your dogs has any aggression tendencies, not only will those amplify significantly, the other dogs will also likely pick up those same aggressive tendencies even if they didn’t have them before.

Don’t underestimate the power and influence of pack behavior on each individual dog. As well, the wear and tear on your house, your wallet, and your heart become exponential with each dog you add.

So much so, that I’m going to repeat myself: Unless you are advanced in your ability to train and understand dogs, and you’re independently wealthy (only half-joking)– DO NOT ADD A THIRD DOG. Okay, there– I had to come clean.

196 thoughts on “What I Really Think About Having 2 Dogs vs 3 Dogs”

  1. Hi,
    Just came across your post at the right time though still not sure what to do. I have a 6 year old Bernese (they have a short lifespan) that I adopted when she was 1 and she has dysplasia. She lived with my 15year old mini dog and she’s an angel, now she’s very calm as she’s becoming an old lady. Aftet my mini dog passed away and seeing my Bernese grieving for months, I adopted a toy poodle who is 7 months old now, she’s an excellent dog. But she cannot be alone (as in, without another dog to keep her company).
    I know that when my Bernese passes away, which hopefully is in a long time but (from experience) I know could happen anytime starting the 6th year, my little one will be extremely lonely.
    This next month I will be off work all month (something that rarely happens in my life). And I’m seriously considering getting a third dog (a doodle, standard size). I would have 6 full weeks to train it properly, and yes for a couple of years (hopefully more) I would have a 3 dog pack… but they would still have each other when the oldest one passes away. If I wait, I might not have the full time dedication I would have now and the small dog would also be older.

    1. Hi Mary, given the info you’ve shared, it looks to me like the stars are aligning just right for you to go ahead. If you’re able to set up a meet-n-greet first on neutral territory introducing each dog separately, that’s always a good idea. Good luck!

  2. Hi,

    We’re contemplating adding a third dog. We have a four year old male Spoodle (11kg) and a 3 year old female Moodle (6.5kg). They are seven months apart in age and from the same breeder and share the same sire, so half siblings. Male is super friendly, female is sweet but a little more timid around people. Both have been well socialised though and are fine with doggie visitors to our house or when they go to doggy daycare. We also have a 4 year old Cavoodle who lives across the road that we look after whenever his owners are away. Our guys get on well with him but he is not as well trained as ours and as an only dog is an attention seeker, so it does upset our dynamic and we’re all relieved when he goes home.

    Our two adore each other and get along fabulously. No aggression, no issues. We’d add another male if we go for the third but as our breeder breeds both Moodles and Spoodles, we’re wondering which breed would be the better option? Or would it not matter? Will adding a pup be an issue?

    1. Hi Lola, given the description of your dogs, it’s not likely that adding a third would cause a problem. Though having had three dogs and two dogs, I’m a fan of keeping it at two. Adding a third will change the dynamic. As the saying goes, two’s company, three’s a crowd. Somebody can’t help but feel a little left out. I’m wondering what you feel is lacking in your current happy family that’s making you think of adding a third?
      As for which you should go with if you do add a third, I’d ask your breeder who is familiar with your dogs and both breeds for advice on which to get.

      1. Hi Karen,

        Thanks very much for your response. I forgot to add that because our two are close in age, they are very bonded, and we think our girl Moodle is maybe too bonded to our boy Spoodle (he socialises well with other dogs, while she is only really comfortable if he is also there), so we thought adding another dog might help her by bringing in another buddy for her to socialise with. When we have the neighbour’s dog staying with us she spends a lot of time with him and they will curl up together while our Spoodle has a fetch session, so we thought another dog may help her be less bonded to him.

        1. Hi Lola, it’s not a guarantee that adding a third will make her less bonded to your Spoodle. He will likely always be her go-to guy. But adding a third can create more of a “family” dynamic rather than just a “couple” dynamic. But it still may not make her more comfortable or ready to socialize with other dogs she doesn’t know. It’s different having another dog come to your home vs having your Moodle go somewhere outside the home. It’s a territorial thing. She feels in control of her home turf so she can be more relaxed with other dogs coming in, but she likely doesn’t feel in control of “foreign” turf and therefore isn’t sure what to expect initially, which is why she’s relying on your Spoodle for both protection and cues.

          If you’re okay with adding a third dog only possibly improving your Moodle’s cautiousness with other dogs, and you’d just be happy to have 3 dogs to love, then you’ve got a green light. If the third dog is really only to help your Moodle, then you’ve got a yellow light.

  3. We currently have 2 female dogs, a 7 YO mutt “bird dog” and a 15 YO mutt “border collie”. We’ve been a 3 dog household before (our dachshund passed a little over 2 years ago) and are considering bringing in a 9 month old male bullmastiff. The 7 year old really loves to play, but our 15 year old just doesn’t have any interest. The 7 year old will almost bully her into play that she obviously doesn’t enjoy. We intervene and it stops, but I feel like she would be much happier with a playmate. She has tons of energy and loves to wrestle. We housesit pets for friends when they are out of town and whenever that happens the 7 year old ignores the 15 year old and plays with the younger dog. This seems to the best for both of them. There have never been aggression issues from either dog. They are both around 40 pounds, so I’m not too worried about the size of the new dog as he’s a runt and will likely only get to 110 . I work from home and am around all day. We have a big fenced yard, doggie door, and the financial means for a 3rd dog, but I’m just worried about their dynamics. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Stacy,
      I’m with ya on adding a male, but a 70lb weight difference is huge. I have to supervise my daughter’s Aussie with my 2 Cavaliers because he just bowls them over without even meaning to, and I know he’s even holding himself back (he’s a pretty good self-handicapper) Still I worry about my dogs unintendedly getting injured by what’s a full body slam to them, and only a gentle tap to the Aussie. And that’s at only a 20lb weight difference.

      Please don’t underestimate the weight difference. If your bird dog experiences him as too much, it could possibly have the opposite effect you’re looking for. Instead of playing together, you could wind up with 2 dogs who avoid each other and avoid the new dog.

      If it were me, I’d look for a male dog of a similar weight. Everybody will be happier.

  4. Hi Karen,

    I would love your help, especially given the advice that 3 dogs is a bad idea!

    My husband and I have 2 Frenchies, both 4 years old, Wilbur (male) & Elsie (female). They are not related, but have been with us since pups, and are bonded. Due to some unfortunate incidents in our home, I need a larger dog for protection. I work from home and am alone all day. I love my Frenchies, but they’d lick the face of an intruder. We think either a Bullmastiff or an English Mastiff. We love both breeds, and they’re so gentle. It would be a puppy from a reputable breeder, not a mature dog.

    We are considering a female because at the dog park, Wilbur gets jealous when Elsie gets attention from another male. He has growled faintly a few times. When I tell him firmly, “no,” he immediately stops. His only desire is to make me happy, so I trust him, but still….

    Is a female pup is the right move? Or could 2 females become a bigger issue down the road? (Elsie is great with all dogs at the park.) Is combining two small dogs with a GIANT breed a bad idea, or could there actually be a benefit to this? Will it make a difference that the new dog will be a puppy? Do puppies generally start at the bottom of the pack, regardless of size?

    I feel confident in our training ability. I just want everyone be happy and healthy, and avoid future problems. I appreciate any advice! Even the possibility of making Elsie and Wilbur unhappy makes ME unhappy, but I really need the protection of a larger dog!

    1. Hi Charon,
      Because you are going with a different breed and they would be different ages, the gender is less critical. If you know your boy doesn’t like other males around Elsie, you’re probably ok getting a female.

      BUT the size differential is huge! Literally and figuratively. You’d have to be vigilant in introducing them and then watching over them. There is little chance these breeds can play together safely simply because of the power of the size of the breeds you’re considering that would tower over your two. Even my daughter’s Aussie is somewhat problematic for my two cavaliers, even with that size and power differential. He’s as sweet as pie. But he literally bowls my other two over. It’s gotten better with time and management, but my female still runs for cover when she sees him running toward her to play.

      It’s difficult to offer helpful advice here because if you need a protection dog, and there are no other options for safety, then you need a protection dog. But I don’t want you to underestimate the challenge of the size and power differential. It can be done. But it should be done with great vigilance. If you decide to go that route, I would enlist the help of a positive trainer to help with getting them integrated.

      Good luck!

  5. I’m sorry but I’m going to have to disagree. And while I’ll admit I don’t have your same experience I’ve had animals my entire life. I’ve always felt you should have either 1 dog or 3 dogs-that is if you can handle it. And for the record I feel the same way about cats… And my reasoning may sound a bit morbid which I honestly isn’t my intent. For anyone who has ever lost a pet it is among the purest and most painful of all losses. To think our pets do not experience any grief as well is a little thoughtless especially if you have two dogs that have grown up together. And especially if those dogs kept each other company while you’re at work all day. The impulse might be to get another dog at that time but the timing would obviously be all wrong. I do understand not everyone can take on 3 dogs which is why I think if you can’t have 1. My only point is dogs are not like humans or even kids—there is not a lot we can do to help them through their grief. I love all 3 of my dogs. I have 2 that are siblings 4 years apart and they are very close- the oldest of the two may be facing an illness currently and I’m glad her brother has my younger dog. He will no doubt feel Gracie’s loss should it come to that but it would be worse without her younger “sister”.

  6. Hi Karen,

    Thank you for putting together this post! It has been great reading the feedback and responses to all of the comments above and was wondering if you had any thoughts on my similar situation. We currently have two female cocker spaniel/ shar pei mixes. The oldest is 9 years old, and we added the second 2 years later from the same breeder. We originally got the second for the oldest to have a friend/ playmate, but that dynamic has never really developed. The oldest is very content around people but isn’t very interested in other dogs/ displays protective behavior around us when we are on walks. The second is the complete opposite, she gets along very well with other dogs and always tries to play with the older dog. She really does love her sister, and enjoys having another dog as company. When we have taken her on one-on-one playdates with friend’s dogs, she seems to really enjoy having another dog to engage with. The second displays mild resource guarding behaviors, which I believe mostly stems from her trying to get the first to engage with her.

    We have the opportunity to get a 14 week old female puppy from the same breeder, and the puppy does seem to have the playful demeanor of the second dog. Our hope would be that the second and third would be play mates and the older dog is content with just having her people. I am also concerned with the first dog getting older, that if something were to happen to her, the second dog would be devastated not having a sibling. Finances are not an issue in adding a third, just concerned/ curious as to what the dynamic would be.

    Any thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi James,
      Since you’ve read through some of these comments, you already know that I’m in favor of mixing genders for safety reasons. While adding a 3rd female may be fine, I’d have less qualms if you found a male to add. But since you have a female you’re already considering, again, the best thing to do is to set up a meet-n-greet somewhere neutral if you can. If all goes well there, then try another meet-n-greet at your home. Then you’ll get a chance to see what issues, if any, you might run into. The one thing going for you in this scenario is the great age difference between the puppy and your two.

      I’d also like to remind people that adding a third dog absolutely will change the dynamics and it’s highly likely that one of the dogs will be pushed aside–at least a bit. In your case, James, since your 9yo doesn’t seem that interested in other dogs, she may not mind being left alone.

      Good luck with whatever you decide.

  7. Hi Karen – I came across your post and appreciate the time and generous spirit that you are giving to those asking for advice.

    We have two Shihtzu mixes, a male 12 year old and a female 11 year old. Though seniors, they are both in relatively good health though activity level has slowed and they like to sleep a lot. My female senior is reactive and anxious around other dogs outside of our household, and my male senior is aloof and is not interested in making friends with other dogs and only cares about his pack.

    We have an opportunity to adopt a female Maltese-Poodle puppy, 14 weeks old who is in need of a home. We have the financial means but are nervous about adding a puppy to our senior dynamic, especially with their social issues. Your insight would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Sherry,
      Is there a way that you can introduce each of your dogs to the puppy separately in a neutral location, giving them a few minutes to just hang without trying to get them to interact?

      For starters, we’re just trying to determine if your dogs would tolerate the puppy. They don’t have to be lovin’ all over her, they just need not to be attacking or obviously upset. So that’s step one. Can they just hang in the same space.

      Step two. If they can hang separately in the same space, then trying adding both of your dogs together with the puppy to see what pack behavior kicks in. Obviously no problem if it’s a happy love-fest. But if they mostly ignore the puppy again, then you have a decision to make.

      Are you really ready to add a third dog, and specifically this dog? Does this puppy have any known issues that concern you, etc?

      If you are ready to add a third dog and there are no known issues that are deal-breakers, then I’d say you’re okay to take the puppy in.

      But ONLY if all the above steps are passed.

      If there are any signs of aggression or obvious distress on anybody’s part, then I’d take a pass.

      The reason why it’s okay if they don’t love each other to start is that can still happen over time. But you at least have to be starting with a neutral base.

      Good luck!

  8. Hi Karen,

    Very happy to come across your article. Would like your advice.

    We currently have 2 dogs both male – Chocolate a 13yr Chihuahua mix and Toby a 4 yr Rottweiler mix (rottie mix is slightly bigger than the chihuahua). Thinking of adding a third male similar in size but want to ensure our dynamic isn’t shifted too much.

    Chocolate is introverted, shy but loves being around me, always by my side. At first he was very antisocial with dogs until we brought Toby. Toby is the social butterfly, always wants to play which as helped Chocolate (he now goes up to greet other dogs on his own).
    Toby is very attached to Chocolate, follows him around but Toby has lots of energy, always wants to play. Since we adopted Chocolate, he’s never been the playful type also think it’s his age. Although they’re both very happy we go on 1-2 mile walks 2x a day, we think Toby would benefit having a playmate but we’re unsure how that would impact our oldest Chocolate.

    Would appreciate your thoughts. Thank you!

    1. Hi Carolina,
      Adding a third dog always impacts the dynamics of the two existing dogs. While Toby might get a new playmate, it’s extremely likely because of Chocolate’s age, that he would be left on the outs. I understand the urge. And I think it’s a good one. I would just suggest that you wait until Chocolate passes. Let him stay happy for as long as he has left.

  9. Hi, Karen.
    Thanks for the post and interesting responses. One factor that doesn’t seem to come up is how even relatively young dogs can lose a lot of interest in play. So Im not sure the playfulness factor should matter as much as some people seem to think when they want to get another dog as a playmate for a current one.
    I have 2 little mutt dogs catching up to me in age (almost 10 yrs, 12 lbs; 10.5 yrs, 17 lbs; and Im 60).
    The first I got as a puppy as he was the most social pup ever until about 16 months. I looked for almost a year to find him a sister-wife or brother, but the small young nonpuppy dogs at the rescue were all about charming me and ignoring him. Then at about 16 months his personality changed almost overnight. He was/is still superfriendly to all dogs and still gentle, but mostly just interested in stalking squirrels and sniffing around now. About a month after that change I found my second dog who was about 8 to 12 months old. I had almost quit looking but saw a dog listed that caught my eye. I was sure he would get adopted before I got there, but I thought why not meet the cute dog and see how they get along. They got along like old best friends from the first sight and it was a perfect fit.
    But even when they were at their most playful ages, I dont think they ever played with each other when I was at work. They saved all their energy for me and the dog park. One stalks wildlife unsuccesfully, the other scavenges the picnic area and seduces strange women out of their life’s savings (dog treats).
    As they are getting older, I think a lot about a 3rd dog, and Im sure they would both be fine with it. The first was neutered so young, gender is meaningless to him. The second was a horny bastard for the first two months (he was humping every dog even the day after he was fixed); he would probably be fine with another nondominant male, but he definitely has an interest in females still (he sniffs them and seems to be thinking, “what does this remind me of?”), so I would go with a non-alpha female to be safe.
    I mainly resist the temptation because:
    *the idea of walking three dogs at once and trying not to trip over them at my age (we walk at least an hour or two, twice a day), plus
    *keeping track of and cleaning up after three dogs at the park (they always go at the same time, 100 yards apart).
    *the risk that a 3rd dog will have issues that mess up our great household dynamic.
    *i keep swearing not to get another dog just because vet care has got so insanely expensive in the last 6 years and when Ive had vet emergencies its been almost impossible to find a vet that is open and willing to take in a new patient.

    All the vet clinics around town seem to be getting bought up by monopolies. They gouge prices and cut staff, cut pay, and overwork them so that experienced staff leave the field. So even if they will see you after you beg and plead, they tell you to come in and hopefully they will be able to squeeze your dog in at some point in the day if there is an unexpected lull.
    Ive never been able to get them dental care, nevermind the cost, nobody is accepting new patients.

    1. Tim, thanks for taking the time to write such a great note! I laughed out loud and nodded in agreement the whole way through. All important (albeit often funny but oh so true) points for people considering adding another dog. Love your writing. If you’re not a professional, you should be.

  10. Hi Karen,

    Can you offer any reassurance please? We have a 9 year old spayed staffy (loving nature and happy with other dogs), we also have a 4 year old old Tyme bulldog intact. I lost my dad April and off the cuff decided to get a third dog (a bitch bull mastiff). We have had her three weeks and going through all th training with her.

    So far, the puppy mastiff plays with the staffy bitch, sometimes the bulldog male snails as if he’s trying to separate the play but all ok so far. The two bitches did have a scuffle about an empty packet of crisps but this was easily managed. What I didn’t realise is the puppy cannot be spayed until she has had a first season. This leaves me a little anxious (I’m anxious anyway). Now I’m feeling I’m going to have to have my male bulldog neutered to avoid any mishaps.

    Right now the two bitches are asleep together on the sofa.. I feel like they have accepted her so far. The pup has appeared to challenge the staff with her back end in the air and barking a little (not sure if this was play) but our staffie quickly gave her a telling off and she did back off out of her face. I suppose my worry is going to be the mastiffs size.. will she try and take over and it may cause aggression? As I said my other two are good natured. Do you think we are going to be ok? And this could work? I can’t help feeling I’ve made a mistake and this is causing me some anxiety. Can you help please?

    1. Hi Louise. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your dad.

      There’s nothing you’ve shared that makes me worried about future aggression problems. But you absolutely should have a positive dog trainer come to your house and observe all three together. Also video any instances where you’re not sure what’s going on that you can later share with your dog trainer.

      And yes, the only sure way to avoid mishaps with an unplanned litter is to get your male neutered.

      Good luck.

    2. The puppy can be spayed at any time. Who said they should have a season first? While 6 months is preferred. I’ve gotten multiple females from shelters. Shelters around me won’t release the dog until it is altered. Which means some have been pretty young. I’ve had one surprise heat with a stray dog in my house. 2 weeks later she was fixed.

      Your pack will eventually settle. But. If you are worried get help so you can get the best outcome the fastest.

      1. Hi Amy, thanks for contributing your thoughts.

        Determining the best time to spay a female dog can depend on various factors including the breed, the individual health of the dog, and the dog’s intended use (e.g., whether it will be a working dog, a show dog, or a family pet).

        Traditionally, veterinarians recommended spaying female dogs before their first heat cycle, which generally occurs between 6 and 9 months of age. This timing has several benefits, including:

        1. Reduction in Mammary Cancer Risk: Spaying before the first heat cycle significantly reduces the risk of mammary cancer, which is very common in older unspayed females.
        2. Prevention of Unwanted Pregnancies: Spaying prevents unwanted pregnancies, helping to reduce the population of stray and homeless animals.
        3. Prevention of Pyometra: Pyometra is a life-threatening infection of the uterus that can occur in unspayed females. Spaying eliminates the risk of this condition.

        More recent research has shown that there are benefits to delaying spaying until after a dog has gone through its first, or even second, heat cycle. These include:

        1. Orthopedic Health: Delaying spaying can be beneficial for the orthopedic health of certain large and giant breed dogs. Early spaying/neutering is associated with an increased risk of orthopedic issues like hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament rupture in these breeds.
        2. Behavioral Development: Some evidence suggests that early spaying/neutering can influence behavior, including increased fearfulness and aggression.
        Urinary Health: Early spaying can increase the risk of urinary incontinence in female dogs, a problem that often arises as they age.
        3. Health Conditions: If a puppy has a health condition that makes surgery riskier, the veterinarian might recommend delaying the spaying procedure.
        Lifestyle: If a dog is used for working or sporting activities, the timing of spaying might be adjusted to ensure optimal physical development and performance.

        So do your research to get up to speed on the latest information and research. And discuss with your veterinarian. It is a nuanced decision with a range of valid perspectives. I have landed on the “after the first heat cycle” for my female dogs.

        As to packs settling down on their own in time, that’s true for some circumstances but not all. I agree– the faster you get help, the better outcome you can ensure.

  11. I have been searching for a post like this. My husband and I have 2 rough collies. Both neutered males. I work at a vet clinic and constantly am complimented on their demeanor and behavior. They are never aggressive with each other. They have separate bowls but choose to eat out of the same one (and will leave food for later). They play with other dogs all the time, are gentle with our chickens and barn cats. Honestly we’re obsessed. We’ll we want another one. We feel like we have the time, money, resources, land etc. Would getting a 3rd upset things? If we do does it need to be a female? Vet med & behavior are very different things.

    1. Hi Kayla,
      Your two boys sound like the dream team! :) If you decide you definitely want a third dog, the safest combo is to add a female. There’s no way to know for sure how it may change the current dynamics (personalities, temperaments, and training determine a lot), but there’s no way it won’t. It’s like adding the third kid–definitely ups the ante on the general commotion. But after you have the third, often it’s hard to imagine life without that one as part of the family.

      Clear as mud, I know. But if you start with a well-bred, great temperament puppy, and you train as much as you did with your first two, and your heart says yes, go for it.

  12. Hi Karen,
    I’m so happy I came across this article and I’ve been reading through many of the post from other people too.

    I’d be interested to see what you think of my -adding a third dog- dream.

    I have two Australian shepherds already and have been dreaming of adding a third aussie to my family for over a year now. I can’t really explain why other than I feel like I have more love to give (like when people want more children I guess). I know it’s gonna be more work, but I’m already cleaning heaps and doing the big walks as is so thinking a third dog might not make a massive difference.

    My oldest is a 4 year old male who is very relaxed, smart and loving. He is always chilling at home, but outgoing when we leave the house and loves ball play. His only “thing” is that he can be quite protective of our house and will sometimes bark at the neighbours dog through the fence (they can’t see each other and the other dog barks too).

    My youngest is a 2 year old female and she is such a sweet and gentle girl who loves human attention and her selected doggo friends. She is extraverted when we are home and introverted when we are out. She will always stay close to me at the dog park while my boy is chasing the ball. She can get a bit jealous when patting another dog, but in a happy way not aggressive (if that makes sense).

    They have a very strong bond and everyday life with them is very easy as they never fight or are destructive.

    I work from home most of the time and walking them is my favourite part of the day! All of my family lives on the other side of the world so I feel very strongly connected to my dogs as they are my family here.

    We own our house with a big yard and I have the finances to look after the dogs well (have chosen not to have human children).

    Do you think a third aussie would be a great addition to my family?

    Thank you so much for your time.


    1. I should say that I’ve looked after my friends aussie puppy over Christmas and they all got along well.

      The breeder of my boy have just offered me a male puppy (also an aussie) which will be ready this September 25th.

  13. Gill Mitchinson

    Hi Karen
    I’ve never written on a blog before so I hope I’ve done it right ?
    My question is about bonding of 3 dogs
    I have a 4 year old male bichon frise (Billy) and a 2 1/2 year old male maltipoo. ( Toby )
    My lovely 12 yr old female bichon ( Lucy)died in March and my family obviously felt incomplete.
    I have now had my male Cavapoo ( Charlie Brown) for 3 weeks. He is an absolute dream.
    My only issue is that he has bonded so well with Toby and they play all the time together. This is great but they tend to leave out poor Billy.
    Have you any advice in these early stages of how I can get Billy to join in with the fun
    Thank you

    1. Hi Gill,
      Unfortunately, very often, “two’s company and three’s a crowd” also holds true in the dog world. Dogs, like people, have natural preferences.

      First, I would rule out that Billy is not suffering from any aches or pains that might disincline him to play. Does he seem sensitive in any body area? That could be one element.

      In your case, it may be a factor that Toby is younger. You don’t mention if he has always seemed more playful than Billy. Some dogs are more naturally playful.

      You can try to take Billy and Charlie Brown for walks together as a way for them to get some bonding time together. You can also insert yourself into the play and then focus more on inviting Billy into the mix. Then make sure to reward Billy for joining in the fun. Whether with a treat or with positive words and pets.

      It’s great that you’ve paid such close attention and are wanting to work on this early. That’s a big help.

      Good luck!

  14. Hi, we currently have 2 female tiny toy/teacup poodles. One is 10 years old, the other is 1 year old. We have an opportunity to adopt another teacup male. I’m super excited about him, but most ppl think 3 dogs is a crazy idea. It took a while for our older dog to get used to the younger pup, she was just stand-off-ish for a while, but now it’s good. Our younger dog is high energy and often tries to get the older dog to play, but our older dog seemed to stop playing as much once we brought the young one home… not sure if it was totally because of the new dog or because she was getting older, or maybe both. This feels like a rare opportunity to get this little male teacup from a breeder close to home, so as much as I want him, I also want to weigh the pros and cons of a third dog. Any help would be appreciated!

    1. Hi Halle, 3 dogs is a lot for sure. But the toy group falls into its own special category by dint of the diminutive size. Just generally easier to manage and less wear and tear. That said, adding another dog will change the pack dynamic, no matter what the size. Is there a way that you can introduce the male puppy to your crew in a neutral environment to see how they all do together? Otherwise, you’re going in blind and hoping you can make it good after the fact. And maybe you can. But the opposite is also possible.

      Your older girl may have stopped playing as much perhaps because she was getting older, but it’s also possible that she felt slighted by you with the attention the new puppy took away from her. We have a tendency to underestimate just how much our dogs depend on us for their happiness and how any changes we introduce into the home can affect their well-being in ways we maybe wouldn’t guess.

      Also, if you add another dog, you should expect that it will take a minimum of 3 months for all of them to adjust to each other and to see how the dynamics shake out.

  15. I am thinking about adding a third dog. I currently have a Pembroke male that is 15yrs old and a 5.5 month pembroke/vallhund mix. I got the younger one due to I wanted a younger dog that plays more, as my old man has slowed down. But he does enjoy interacting with dogs at the park.
    The reason for the third is to entertain the younger. As younger wants to play more then the old man and she gets frustrated because of that, will bark and then pull on his face. I am actively in training classes with her and working on some other minor behaviors.

    1. Hi Sarah, I would recommend that before you add a third that you finish with training and working on whatever the minor issues are. You want your girl solid before adding another dog, as the new dog will be inclined to pick up whatever habits your 5 mo old has. If you’re thinking of adding another pembroke/mix, I would suggest going with a male.

  16. Hello there! Wow, great advice so far. I’m wondering if you can help me figure out what’s best for my family. I’m a single mom working in vet med, I take my two female dogs to work (10yo pit/jack and 3yo Shepherd/x reserve special). I also have two preteen kids and a cat. I own my own home, and have a fenced yard, and walk the dogs frequently. We foster puppies between 8 weeks-2 years regularly for rescues.

    The pit jack is getting up there in age and though has minutes of spunkiness really doesn’t have the play energy for my shep/x. She’s rather hang out on the couch with her kids or me.

    I have the opportunity to get a really well-bred golden retriever boy from a reputable breeder. But I’m debating whether it’s the right time. My shep/x is reactive on leash but perfectly fine with every dog off leash. My pit mix needs patient introduction but within minutes is great as well. My shep tends to get jealous and stops my pit mix from having fun if I’m not there to direct the group.

    I’m wondering if I should get a a third now, or wait until my senior has passed. It will be a few years, she’s a healthy little mix! Thanks in advance for your advice.

    1. Hi Jody, I’m going to say that since you regularly foster and you’re in vet med, you fall into a different category. You’ve had a chance to see how the energy changes when there are more dogs in your house. And you’ve had a chance to have to deal with getting them all to “play nice.” So I’m fairly sure you know what you’d be getting into by adding a third dog.

      All of our animals have lived well beyond the average expiration date. Graidy, our BC mix even made it to 17 before he passed, so your pit/jack could be around for several more years.

      I’m also wondering if your Shepherd/x behavior is jealousy or herding behavior? Kiera, my Aussie, was the fun police in our house. Her’s was definitely herding behavior. She wanted everyone to stay calm and stay in place. : )

      There is nothing you’ve mentioned that makes me think you should not add a third dog, and maybe it’s just where I am in my life, but I’d be inclined to keep things on an even keel.

      Whichever way you go, wishing you good luck!

      1. Thanks very much. Yes the shepherd is most likely a cattle dog or husky mixed in with the shepherd, high energy fun police sounds familiar :)

        Thanks for your thoughts.

  17. Maria Deschamps

    Hi I have two dogs -chow lab and mix border collie both females. I love doing agility with my dogs. We live in the country – my husband even built me a shed to practice agility in the winter. My problem is that my mix border collie hurt herself and is unable to continue on with agility – she’s a very nervous dog – not sure how she would be with a puppy. I was thinking about getting a third dog to continue on with agility. Do you think it’s right to get another dog because I want to do agility- there’s no guarantee that the new dog will like agility aggghh

    1. Hi Maria,
      I feel your pain (and your BC mix who hurt herself). Many questions to consider:

        Does getting a 3rd dog throw off your nervous BC and make her nervousness worse?
        Does getting a 3rd dog throw off the stability of the current pack order?
        Does getting a 3rd dog to continue agility guarantee that you would be able to continue at or beyond the level you reached with your BC?

      All unknowns until after you’ve taken the plunge and committed to a 3rd dog.

      I guess my question to you is how badly would you miss agility if you stayed with 2 dogs? It’s always a balance to do what is right for our dogs AND do what is right for us.

      If you’re thinking of getting another BC or something like an Aussie or any other breed typically considered likely to do well with agility, then it’s a matter of finding and speaking with breeders who know their dogs best as to whether they would both enjoy and have the potential to be good at agility.

      Also if you are considering a rescue or shelter dog, I’d investigate if they have a meet & greet area where both your current dogs and the new dog could meet, say, in an outdoor fenced area on loose leashes.

      If you do decide to get a 3rd dog, I would get a male. Your BC would be less likely to be bothered by the presence of a male.

      Wishing you the best of luck in finding peace with whatever you decide to do.

      1. Hi Karen, just wanted to give up you an update! I did get another pup. It took a couple of weeks for my other two to feel comfortable around the pup! Now everyone gets along. It’s actually a lot of fun! Just wanted to thank you for your advice – you gave me some good advice to think about. Thanks again Maria Deschamps

  18. Hello, we currently have two dogs: one shih-tzu mix (male, 18 lbs, 5 years old), the other is a toy/mini Aussie (male, 30 lbs, almost 3 years old). We are thinking of adding a third to the mix. We really have our sights set on a Papillon (male or female) from a litter we found. Neither dog is aggressive to the other, they love to play, but sometimes the older one gets annoyed when the younger (bigger) one wants to play too much or bothers him. (The older one is kind of a diva lol) If they have any issues it’s jealousy. They both love attention, and we definitely give them a lot of it. I think anything behaviorally we can always work on better. Just want to see what your thoughts are on adding a third into the mix, and would you do male or female?

    1. Hi Chris, there’s nothing you’ve shared that make alarms go off in my head. My only minor concern is that papillons are so small, and even though you say you have a toy/mini aussie, at 30 lbs, that’s enough to send your paillon flying if they accidentally crash during play.

      If you decide to go ahead, I would strongly suggest that you go with a female.

      Good luck!

    2. We currently have a 14 year old Borgi female (Border collie x Pembroke corgi) about 30 pounds and a 9 year old Chihuahua x cairn terrier male about 16 pounds who do exceptionally well with each other. Sadly our 3rd in the mix died suddenly last summer (heart attack). He was a 13 year old Doxie x Pekinese x toy poodle mix about 22 pounds. They all got along famously BUT there is a trick we learned on how to introduce a new dog to the mix, regardless of the size, breed or sex.

      We are thinking of getting another dog (probably a mix as we do tend to like mixes rather than purebreds) but won’t do that until winter’s over. Where we live the winters are long and cold so housetraining in cold is hard on us ;-) We do have 2 acres for them to run around on though at our former home, we lived in town with a rather small yard.

      I’d say, write down the pros and cons of getting a third dog for your own situation and then look up Caesar Milan’s books. That’s where we learned the right way to introduce a new dog to the pack :-)

        1. Hi I have 2 dogs one male.qmd one female aged 13 and 4 I have an 11week-old puppy which my 13 yr.old is.fin with ho.but my 4yr old male one.minute.hes lickin him.then nxt.growlin but also.goes upto.the pup.to.play and constant wags tail.when sees him. what do I do I’ve had pup a week but I’m.juat worried when he growls at the pup as he’s an American xl bully .pl? advise needed

          1. Hi Michelle,
            I understand your concern, and I agree something needs to be done sooner rather than later, but not enough information is provided for me to be able to give advice. Your best bet is to get a positive trainer to come to your house and observe the dogs together to be able to tell if this is potential aggression that could escalate or whether your 4 yo is just appropriately communicating with the puppy to let him know the rules of the house.
            This is not something that should be answered by text or by phone. You need to physically get a trainer to your house to observe.
            Hope this helps.

  19. We have an 8 year old male working Labrador and a girl of 6. I honestly couldn’t say who is alpha and who is beta. She is slightly more needy and pushes him out of the way to get cuddles. She will ignore other dogs and people on walks while he is more protective and can greet some male dogs with a small growl and high tail. They have never had a cross word with each other.

    A friend’s Labby has just given birth to 11 puppies and we are sorely tempted. I love the status quo but thought that introducing a new pup to the family before the others are too old would be better than when they are 10-12? The idea of losing either of them is unbearable – that is definitely a reason why we’re considering getting another young dog.

    Male? Female? Yes? No?

    1. Hi Penny, this is really a question only you can answer as to whether you have the time, energy, space, etc to deal with having 3 dogs.

      Because your male tends to be protective and your female doesn’t seem to care one way or the other about other dogs, if you do decide to go ahead, I’d go with a female.

      1. Hi Karen,

        I am wondering if you can give me your input on my situation. I got two female littermates they are so well tempered and easy going . They are the sweetest dogs age 3.5 . The breeder I got them from is having a litter and he offered me pick of the litter if I want one, I said I am concerned it will throw off my happy household. I worry when one of the littermates passes it will be devastating for the one left. One of the litter mates can be jealous but never aggressive. I go back and forth with it and always think the worst will happen . Any thoughts ?

        1. Hi Jenni,
          There are just too many variables when adding a third dog, so my vote is not to upset the apple cart. You have a happy dog family now. I’d keep it that way.

  20. Hello! We currently have 2 female litter mate long haired doxens. They just turned 10 this past August. We also have an 8yo son and 5yo daughter. We have been considering adding a third dog to our family, a golden retriever puppy (for temperament reasons and likely male considering we have 2 females already), so that our children can experience the joy and responsibility of having one while they are young. We are thinking now would be a good time as our doxens are older, but not so old that an addition of another dog would overly stress them or affect their health in a negative way. However, one of our doxies can get aggressive towards our other one. She is alpha and does resource guard on occasion if we don’t keep it in check. She has also physically attacked our other dog a handful of times over the years due to treats, etc. Our other dog is the absolute sweetest of dogs and does very well with all other dogs. So this has been one of our concerns with adding a third. We have been able to manage our alpha dog’s bad behaviors but it takes doing sometimes. What would your advice be here? Add a third male puppy, with caution? Don’t do it at all and wait for our two to pass before even considering it? Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Jess, If you want to be completely safe, since you have a female with aggressive tendencies, I would say wait until both doxies are gone. That said, the fact that you have 2 same-age female siblings is likely contributing, if not entirely causing your one doxie’s aggression. Same-sex aggression is not uncommon.

      You don’t specifically mention how your aggressive female does with other dogs. If she has been okay with other dogs and just mainly has a problem with her sibling, going with a male of a different breed and age can work. If she is also not good with other dogs on top of being a handful to manage with your other dog, I go back to my original comment–better to wait.

      1. Thank you! She is ok with other dogs after proper introduction, but still always makes sure she expresses her dominance/alpha status with a high tail and an occasional growl, otherwise she does get along with others. She’s only ever attacked her sister and again those instances are over treats or food if we don’t step in soon enough.

        1. If you really take the time to do proper introductions and do the sloooow work to get a new puppy integrated, then I’d give a cautious thumbs-up to getting the male golden puppy.

          It sounds like you really try to stay on top of the issue with good management, which is really the key.

          Also you may find some of the info in this post helpful. How to introduce a new dog to an old dog

          Good luck! Puppies and kids… is there anything better? : )

  21. Hi!

    We have an 8.5 year old 50 lb boxer/terrier male and a 6 month old ? (maybe whippet something) female (likely adult weight 40 lb). The former is very well-trained, the second is hopefully getting there. They don’t have an behavioral issues so far. We were thinking about adding a third dog several months in the future (once the 6 month old was fully trained). The main reason (besides for more rescued dog love) is that the older one likes to play, but quickly gets tired. The young one can go forever. It seems unfair to both (either one is getting pestered, or one doesn’t get to play). We also separately and together do a lot of walking/hiking/running, toy play, and training, so they have a lot of other stimulation. The young one also gets daycare, dog park, and training class time. Any thoughts or red flags about adding a third pup? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jessie, I totally relate on the “thinking ahead” tendency, but in this instance, I would recommend giving yourself some time before seriously considering this question. Let your 6 mo old get to a year and then assess (especially since she is already being provided with a lot of outlets for stimulation). Then you’ll have a better idea of how your two really do together with energy and play. Maybe they do fine and you want to wait a bit. Or maybe you decide you want the 3rd dog. But at least you’ll be making the decision from a more thoroughly informed position. I say that because adding a 3rd dog really amps up everything–energy, time, commitment, cost, heart space. So it’s good to really be sure this is what you think is the best decision for all involved, including the humans. :)

      1. Thanks so much for the reply! We were thinking around the 1 yr mark for the younger one because hopefully she’ll be done with training fundamentals and settled down a bit (so perhaps the two would do just fine). But glad to see no immediate red flags. We’ll see where the situation stands with energy/emotional readiness in half a year! Thanks!

  22. We have two dogs that get along well and well behaved. No trouble sharing or food aggression yet they do like to bark when people come to the door but mostly notification rather than defensive. We keep them well exercised as we are an active outdoor family. A 2 yo F Aussie and 8 yo M Border Collie. We also have two cats. We are considering adding a small dog to our family as a snuggler for those who enjoy snuggling. Snuggling is not something that our current dogs or cats do well currently. Specifically, a 10 lb dachshund to be a snuggle companion for the family. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Carolyn, from what you’d told me, on paper, there shouldn’t be a problem. The only caveat is to make sure you get your dachshund from a reputable breeder. Dachshunds are more prone to aggression than some other breeds–often making the “Top 10 Most Aggressive Dog Breeds” list.

      If you want cuddly, have you considered a King Charles Cavelier? They are cuddly and loving toward everyone. If you want to go that route, make sure you get a Blenheim. They are typically the sweetest and most loving of all the color combinations.

  23. Rachael Erickson

    I have two male dogs one is a 4 yr old pit mix and the other is an 8 month old great Dane mix that I adopted at 4 months old. He has a lot of energy and my older one is very lazy and laid back. However is a jealous type and we have definitely had to work out some issues. Right now I live alone with them and all in all they get along pretty well and give each other company. There is an 11 week old female pit mix that I would love to adopt but I’m not sure, especially because of my jealous one. Also when my parents come over they bring there dog and she is a dog selective type. I want another pup but at the same time I don’t want anything bad to happen. Do you have any advice?

    1. Hi Rachael, from what you’ve described, I would be very reluctant to add another dog. I understand the temptation, but it sounds as though you have a very delicately balanced situation as it is. I don’t recommend rocking the boat.

  24. Jean Ellen Sisson

    I have 2 rescues (3.5 yr old labradoodle who we’ve had for 2 years and a 2.5 year old rescue (42% lab, 12% chow etc) and we’ve had her for a year. I recently decided to foster a 1.5 year old doodle. We’ve had him almost 2 weeks. Overall everything is going well and I’m thinking about adopting him. I’m just trying to make sure it’s the right thing to do. Occasionally 2 will growl a bit about a toy but they work it out quickly. We have 4 acres for them to run and the foster is the best listener ever. I’m so impressed. They mostly run around together and all really like the cat. Sometimes when they run the lab mix gets into a scuffle with the foster. It’s happened a few times, but I clap my hands and tell them to stop and they do and keep running. The lab mix and foster got along the best the first week and we were worried about the other doodle being sad. Now it seems they have switched. The doodles play well and the lab mix sometimes plays too rough. I think it’s going well but how can I really know for sure. What are good signs to know if we should complete the adoption? Thank you so much!

    1. From what you are describing, all of them seem to just be feeling each other out and figuring out who’s who. That they are easily interrupted and redirected when any issues come up is a good sign. That tells me they are just communicating with each other in “dog” about what they like and don’t like with each other.

      With rescues, I have found that you don’t really know their full colors until 4-6 months in. In the beginning, they are mostly just cautiously sussing out the new situation to know what’s safe or not (depending on their background, this can be mild to severe). So IMO 2 weeks isn’t enough time to make a decision.

      But the best way to know is to contact a good positive dog trainer and have him/her also come and observe to pick up anything you might be missing.

      Good luck!

  25. This is such a great post and super helpful comments. Thank you for giving so much time and generosity.
    I wondered if you could advise.. We are in the UK and have a pair of litter sisters black labs (rehomed from a breeder when age 3) who are now 6. We’ve only had labradors – they are our 5th dogs. One is more dominant than the other and can sometimes show aggression to a passing dog. When other dogs are in the pack ( like when we dog sit for a neighbour) she is perfect and accepting. They are very well trained and super calm but are slowing up and no longer want to go running or hike long days… we are big runners and hikers. We like to take them away and hike for miles and hours in the hills and spend our weekends running with the dog. They’ll go for 5 or 6 miles but not 10-12 which is what we like to do. When will be the right time to introduce a new dog? we’ve done a lot of breed research and would like an English Pointer for it’s running and hiking ability combined with gentle nature. My kids are grown up and away at Uni etc. I’m worried about the ageing labradors and combining with a puppy.. is it better to do it now? leave it a while or wait until we are down to one dog? we have the finances and capacity for exercise and training (I work at home and feel confident to train a pup) but I’m concerned about the dominance of the stronger lab.. plus the logistics of 3.. especially hiking trips etc. and girl v’s boy? what are your thoughts? Thanks

    1. Interesting dilemma…

      First, if you decide to get another dog while your 2 labs are still alive, definitely get a male. As to when is the right time, it really depends on how much you feel hindered by your labs tuckering out at 5-6 miles when you want to go 10-12. What would you do with the labs when they hit the 6-mile mark, but you and the new dog are ready to keep going? Or would you leave your labs at home and only run with the new dog?

      I don’t think handling the adding a 3rd dog now is the issue so much from what you’re telling me about your circumstances. But rather how you manage your labs when they’ve hit their limit. If they are left behind, it’s possible they could feel–abandoned is too strong a word–but it could instigate some separation anxiety.

      That all said, your labs are only going to continue to slow down…

      If it were me, and I were to choose my dogs’ needs over my own, if the purpose was primarily to add a younger running buddy, I would wait until both labs are gone before getting a new dog. But please realize I am at the extreme end of the spectrum of putting my animals first. : )

  26. Karen,
    We have 2 female dogs now, an approx 11 yr old American Bulldog who is very sweet & laid back., & a 7 yr old Australian Shepard who has lots of energy. The Bulldog is ‘mommy’ to the Aussie as we got her as a puppy after having to put down another dog. We’re thinking of adding a 3rd. A mini doodle. We were wondering how that would go because our Aussie can get jealous, but not aggressive. And should we get another female or a male if we do it. And should we even do it? My boyfriend wants another so bad & I hate to upset the Apple cart. But would love another dog just the same, but of course, I would be the main one training it. Please advise. Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Joy, if you are going to add another dog, it should be a male. Another female may pose problems for your Aussie girl. Adding a 3rd dog is a lot. You don’t say how much yard space, time for exercise and training that you have. Without knowing that info, I can’t really advise. But I can go either way here. No, you don’t want to upset the happy apple cart. Yes, your 11yo is getting up there and it may be the right time to get another dog so your 7yo will have established company when your bully goes. Clear as mud, right? : )

  27. Hi, Karen! Thank you for your very logical explanation about adding a third dog. I would love it if you could share your thoughts on adding a third dog to our family. I recently saw that an 11 year old female yellow lab was needing a home because her second owner could no longer care for her due to serious medical issues. We currently have an 8 year old male yellow lab and a 6 year old golden retriever mix that we rescued at 4 months (and he had a hard start in his first 4 months). The lab is a lab. He has a heart of gold, loves food, loves life, is super chill. The golden is the alpha dog, he always wants to be the alpha dog and gets jealous when we pet the next door neighbors dogs at the fence. Do you think an older dog who is female and has a laid back personality could work? I would love to give her a good home to love our her golden years, but I don’t want to put her or my dogs in a situation that would make them unhappy.

    1. Hi Shannon, on paper there’s a good chance this could work. How you introduce them and manage first couple of weeks is key. Is there a neutral place where you could introduce them on loose leash to see how they do? If they do okay then when she’s in your home, make sure to continue to support him as the alpha dog to avoid him needing to escalate to hold his position. Let the 11yo simply exist in your space for a while without a whole lot of attention when the Golden is around. Eventually he should get over himself in regard to her and then you should be able to give her all the love you want. Slow and steady wins the race.

  28. Hi Karen, I have a 4-year-old female rescue who appears to be some kind of Jack Russell mix. We get along great, except for her separation anxiety. She’s been with me for 2.5 years and I’ve been considering getting her a little brother. The people I got her from recently found two five-month-old puppies, one male and one female, which look to be Greek hounds. Do you think this would be an OK combo?

    1. The quickest way to find out if this would be an ok combo would be to aks the person who has the puppies if you can do a meet & greet with all 3 to see how they do.

      Other than it is a LOT to take on two 5-mo olds at once, since they are neither the same breed nor age as your girl, that would tend to limit potential aggression issues.

      But please keep in mind, this is all said without knowing the temperaments of any of these dogs.

      If you can, it would be wise to enlist the help of a local positive trainer who can observe all 3 dogs with you to help you make this assessment

  29. I have a 7 year old boxer ( female ) who is the alpha . She is a very well balanced dog who gets along with all dogs .
    We added a mixed breed who will be a large boy .
    He is 5 months old and laid back .
    Listens very well and easy to train
    We are considering adding a brother for him in the fall ( same parents )
    That would make the boys be roughly 6 to 7 months apart .
    Reasons to add
    We find the female is a great teacher and has taught the current pup manners
    She is getting up in age and we feel getting the make a playmate closer to his age would be great .
    We have 2 acre yard and also do training and walks daily
    I know with the boxer breed the life span isn’t long why we don’t want to wait to get another .
    Was originally thinking a female but am now leaning to a male

    1. If you’re going to add another dog, I agree with getting a male–it’s the safer choice. Adding a female with an alpha female could get tricky. Might be fine, but why risk potential upset?

      1. Hello Ms. Shanley, We have two Multi poos one female 13 one male 8. Both shelter dogs. We have a 39 yr old foster daughter that had lived with us on and off. But not any more. She has a female dog about 7 years I have bonded with foster daughters dog.( Jack Russell Chihuahua mix) our foster daughter has issues with drugs and alcohol and depression, her dog is in the middle of her disease. We just returned her dog to her after 2 and 1/2 months. We are older (84,and 71) so three dogs are a lot for us. But we love her dog. All the dogs get a long well, Except if one starts to bark the others join in, it’s a lot of noise for me. We enjoy a quite home.
        You can take a trip with 2 dogs but with 3 might as well stay home. We are really on the fence what to do with her dog should she become homeless, while is a real possibility. Thank you for your in sight. Bob & Jan

        1. Hi Bob and Jan,
          Whew! This is a tough one! I feel for you. On all counts.

          If I am only thinking of your foster daughter’s dog, it’s a simple answer. It sounds like she’s already been through a lot. Older dogs don’t usually fare well in shelters. She belongs with you and your dogs.

          If I am only thinking of you, then it gets a lot more complicated. I know well how adding a third dog changes everything. Even for a younger couple, it can be a lot. BUT, since you say you love this dog and she gets along well with your two, I’d be inclined, still, to take her in and find a way to get help with the barking, and someone to maybe house-sit when you want to travel.

          Now, I’m really going to throw a sticky wicket into the mix and jump ahead. Hopefully, your 13 yo has many more years to enjoy. But even so, she’s starting on the countdown. Then your 8 yo gets left alone or you have to think about finding a 2nd dog to keep her company. You already know this dog does well with your 8 yo and that they would be happy keeping each other company. Win/win/win–you get to keep a dog out of a shelter, you have a built-in reserve for your 8 yo, and because I can tell how kind and thoughtful you are, you won’t have to feel guilty about making the hard decision of saying no.

          In short, your question has no easy answer. It’s a question of which decision would cause your heart to break less…

          Sending great strength and good thoughts your way.

  30. Hi,
    This article is really helpful thank you! We currently have two female border collies – a 7 year old who we’ve had since she was 10 months old as she was a failed sheepdog, our second girl is almost 2 who we’ve had from a puppy. Our youngster is the more dominant of the two as the elder has always been quite timid (we think she was left alone a lot when she was younger after the shepherd realised she wouldn’t work). Neither of them has ever shown any aggression to each other and have always eaten/ slept in different areas. The only time they become slightly aggressive is when our older dog is feeling threatened by another dog on a walk and our younger girl will defend her.

    Do you think adding a third collie into the mix would work? We’d ideally be looking for a slightly older pup 4+ months, or another failed sheepdog/ rescue up to 18 months as we’d like the new dog to be the youngest. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you :)

    1. I wouldn’t say their current behavior is a deal-breaker for adding another dog, but definitely something to think hard about. Remember that pack energy ALWAYS intensifies when adding another dog. Even if that dog is mellow on its own.

      To safely add a 3rd dog that you’d hope to include on walks with the other two, you’d have to do serious retraining with the help of a positive trainer to help with walks and meeting other dogs. Or you could drop the walks altogether and find another way to exercise them on your property.

      If you do decide to go ahead, I would strongly suggest adding a male and not another female.

      Good luck! :)

  31. Oh how I wish I had seen this article 6 months ago, I grew up in a home with 3 dogs So when my partner and I decided we wanted to add a 3rd to our family I never thought twice about it. We had a 12yr old yorkie male and a 6yr old chihuahua/terrier that got along excellent, always choose to sleep next to one another .. eat out of the same bowls by choice and just over all a very healthy relationship. We got a new little yorkie puppy male as well and ever since I feel horrible because the puppy and the older yorkie are both picking on ( pouncing, humping etc) the chihuahua/terrier, and the weird part is that he’s the only one that’s not neutered due to him not being able to be put under. I don’t know how to control this and have been hoping they would kind of figure it out and work it out but it doesn’t seem to let up. It’s not aggressive at all just seems like a lot for the poor middle guy.

    1. Hi Ty, I feel for you. Whenever you add 2 of the same breeds with a 2nd breed, this can often happen–the same breeds will dominate. Your best option is to find a positive trainer to help you get it sorted out. It won’t go away on its own.

  32. Hello :)
    I have 2 dog currently a male and a female :)
    My female is 1 year and 4 months old she is a golden retriever, German Shepherd, hovawart and Alaskan malamute mix, she is very sweet, layback, good with other dogs and people, protective and has a lot of energy when playing but a good off switch.
    My male dog is 1 year old and he is a Rottweiler and boxer mix, he is also very sweet, loves cuddles and is good with other people but needs to spend some time with other dogs to accept them, he is also high energy and is working on a better off switch lol he is also protective but a little bit more than my female.
    Both don’t want to share when they have something (which of course makes sense), they play good together and my male walks good on leash (working on that for my female) they can sit, come when I call, wait and other normal “tricks” and such.
    They eat beside each other without any problems.
    My female gets jealux sometimes but only because my male don’t want her close when sleeping, cuddling and such and she wants to be close to him.
    I had both from 8 weeks old.
    So have been thinking next year after my dogs have been neutered and have been recovering to add a third pup (from 8 weeks).
    I wanna wait till next year because I want to be finished with the training I’m still working on now and I want to have my dogs neutered before too and of course see how they respond to it first.
    I have been thinking I want another male but I’m not sure if I that would be smart since the male I have now is the more dominant..
    I have been thinking it’s most likely is gonna be an English staffordshire bull terrier mix or a Great Dane mix.
    Of course if they start to have problems with each other or some things turns for the worse I’m not gonna add a third dog.
    But since there’s still 1 year till I’m thinking about adding the new pup i feel like there’s a bigger chance for it to work? I live in the country in a bigger house I would have space for another dog and I have a big yard too planning on getting more of it fenced in next year :)
    I have the time for another dog and the money.
    Before the two dogs I have now I had another male that was my first dog but sadly had to say goodbye to him too fast ..
    I am very happy but I have been thinking about a third dog for a long time and when my moms dog is over I always think about how it would be if I had one more dog..
    I have always wanted a pack and read and learn about a lot at the moment to get a more realistic feel to it..
    But I’m not sure yet if it’s a bad idea?
    If you want to know more you can just ask :) thanks :)

    1. Hi Kameron, given the description of breeds and behaviors that you’ve provided for both of your dogs, I would strongly advise against getting a third dog. You have 2 dogs who are already demonstrating protective behavior. Adding a 3rd dog will intensify the existing pack behavior, which means that even if you get an easy-going dog (which I wouldn’t classify as an English Staffordshire bull terrier mix ) that protective energy could easily slip over into aggressive behaviors. It’s a recipe for potential disaster.

      And even though you say they eat fine next to each other, I would also recommend that you not feed them side-by-side but rather separate their eating spaces. Doesn’t have to be a separate room but just separate sections of the room you feed them in.

      1. Thank you for your reply :)
        I’m curious as to why I need to separate them when they eat? They have always been eating next to each and they have never had a problem at all they have learned to wait until I say go and they don’t even eat fast.. Of course I’m not a professional so I’m just interested in learning why :)
        And yea I see how it could be a potential disaster but what if I’m training them about the protective behavior? I still have 1 year plus minus.. and as I said of course I won’t get a third if things doesn’t seem to work :) again I’m just curious nothing I’m saying is trying to be negative or such :)

        1. Hi Kameron, you’re asking good questions, so no worries. Both of your dogs have a mix of breeds that can be intense. If they presently have sharing issues (say with toys), another name for that in dog training speak is resource guarding. Resource guarding of toys is only a hop skip and a jump from starting to resource guard food. Separating food bowls is a preventative measure. Because they don’t have issues eating side-by-side now doesn’t mean that wouldn’t or couldn’t happen in the future. It’s just one more potential problem to thwart ahead of time. Having them eat separately would also help to lessen the tendency to gobble their food because there’s another dog right next to them.

          Protective behavior is a hard-wired breed trait that’s difficult to completely train away from. It’s a trait that can be improved or worsened both by nature and nurture. So big Kudos to you that you recognize the behavior and are working with it to help mitigate it.

          While two dogs make a pack, three dogs make a PACK. The pack energy intensifies significantly with a third dog, emboldening all dogs to act more assertively. Whatever is present in the 2-dog pack gets magnified in a 3-dog pack. And again you already have 2 protective dogs.

          Is it possible you could significantly and successfully train away from the protective trait and add a third dog without issue? It’s possible but not the most likely outcome.

          To me, it wouldn’t be worth the risk of the resulting potential nightmare.

  33. We are considering getting a third dog and I would like your opinion we have a 15-year-old Bichon cockapoo mix who is blind and almost 2 year old morkie the morkie is very aggressive with the older dog anytime you go near the older dog the Morkie barks awful bark and nips.
    We have been working with the vet and have him on prozac not helping much. We were thinking about getting a Morkie puppy from the same breeder wondering if the morkie had a playmate, that he would leave the older dog alone. I know 3 is a lot.

    1. Hi Kathy, in this instance adding a third dog is not likely to solve the aggression problem. In fact, you could just be adding fuel to the fire. Until the issues with the 2 yr old are under control, I would not add another dog.

      Not all dogs want to be with other dogs.

  34. Hi Karen! First, thank you for this great post. ? Second, I have a HUGE ordeal and would greatly appreciate your insight and advice… 6 years ago someone was taking care of baby boy-pup Lucca, and they lost him! I was so devastated. I cried every time I thought of him, even years later, and did everything in my power to find him. He was my baby boy… Eventually, I was emotionally ready to adopt another pup, and so Inca came into my life. Soon after adopting her, someone gave up her sibling Maya…and since there was no home for Maya, I took her in too…. With 2 pups I told myself that is the MAXIMUM additions to the family I can take in and give my heart to ???? AND THEN. ??? Today… I get a text message from Lucca’s microchip company, 6 years after he was lost! They found him on the streets! I literally cried and cried tears of joy in my bedroom for the past hour.

    Now… To make things MORE crazy. I’m leaving on a 6 day road trip from CA to Florida tomorrow, right after picking up Lucca. And I’m planning to take all three pups! ??? I’m nervous. I have 2 girls and will be taking in Lucca as my 3rd pup, and going on a very long road trip with him and my girls the day that I pick him up to my new home across the country….. After 6 years apart.

    I never planned to have a fur-family this big. Lucca is apparently still very dog and people friendly, even 6 years later… I just don’t know how to be the best dog mom possible for 3 pups. Do you have any tips that will help me introduce my girls to Lucca? How to overcome pack manners? Should I walk the pups separately or together in the beginning? Should I feed separately at first. And do you think I’m crazy for taking him in? ? I truly could not just abandon him after searching and thinking of him for so many years, but I NEVER planned on having 3 dogs. I just need some pointers to help guide me in the right direction and keep me calm as I relocate across the nation with our new (but original) addition. :) Thank you in advance!!

    1. Oh my goodness! That’s a whole lotta lotta! You don’t mention what breed/mix or age your girls are. You also don’t mention how they’re getting along currently. I say that because having 2 female siblings would be the bigger worry, in my book. They may be fine together but be on the lookout for same-sex sibling rivalry. And, actually, Lucca can be a helpful mitigating factor for that. (I would totally have done what you did. There’s no way I wouldn’t have taken him back. No matter the consequences. Maybe not the smartest move, but the only one that I would be capable of, so I get it.)

      For starters, you definitely want to feed all dogs separately. And I’d make time to meet with a positive trainer before your trip, so s/he can set you and your dogs up for success. You will be glad you did. The main thing is to make sure to take plenty of potty and leg stretching breaks on the way. I would be inclined to walk each separately while keeping the others crated to minimize any chance for escape, accidents, or possible quarelling. And, depending on how they all do in the car, you may want to have some Benedryl or whatever your vet recommends to help keep them all calm and not car sick.

      As for the initial meeting/greeting, if you have a friend with an enclosed backyard who’s willing to help you out. I would introduce each of your girls to Lucca separately at first, starting with each dog on a loose leash. Let them just be in the backyard together and if they demonstrate any sort of play behavior, YAY! If they demonstrate stress behavior–looking away from the other, hackles raised, snarls, tail up and stiff or down and tucked under, go more slowly. Again, a trainer present would be tremendously helpful. In fact, a trainer’s place would be a great place to introduce them in a nice controlled environment.

      This is definitely a case of hope for the best (because the best is possible) but also prepare for the worst, so that you feel ready and capable of handling anything that comes up.

      Yes, 3 dogs are a lot, but once they form a healthy pack, you’ll find they can all bring you a lot of joy.

      Best of luck!

  35. Thank you for this article! I have a female 3 legged lab mix who is about 12 years old and a very hyper male boxer mix who is 4. The two dogs get along most of the time, but the boxer annoys the lab and the lab occasionally responds aggressively . My neighbors just rescued a very sweet a 7 month old male pit mix, but it their current dog is too aggressive towards the puppy. My dogs appear to like him. Could a 3rd dog be good in my case as the boxer and pit would have similar energy levels and the lab doesn’t want to play – or would this be a disaster waiting to happen? My dogs are fixed. The pit puppy isn’t fixed yet.

    1. Hi Stacey, is there a way for you to schedule a few “playdates” with the puppy and your 2 dogs? A few repeated encounters would give you a more clear picture of how all dogs may do together. From the sound of it, it seems it may work, but if I were you, I’d want a stronger sense that it would most likely work before committing to take the puppy. Of course, there are no guarantees and more knowledge is power here. And the way to get more knowledge is to have all dogs spend more time together where you can observe the dynamics. If the lab isn’t interested in playing but can be comfortably present without the puppy also bother her, and if the boxer and the puppy seem happy to be/play together, then those are good signs.

      Because taking on a 3rd dog is a big commitment, I would also recommend having a knowledgeable trainer present at least one playdate for a second pair of eyes.

      Good luck.

  36. Hello Karen!
    We have a lovely 2 year old male fixed standard poodle. There is a rescuer we know, adopting a bonded pair of male fixed labradoodles about 5 years old looking for a home (owner passed away). Our friend says they are great with other dogs, but have never live with any others. We would love to rescue them, but aren’t sure if two bonded pals will take to our friendly guy. Can’t find much on this kind of adoption situation.

    1. Hi Andy! Are you able to set up a meeting with all 3 dogs on neutral territory? That would be the best way to check. What you’d be seeing is initial reaction only (which could change over time). If the initial reaction is neutral or positive, they would be likely to be ok. If the initial reaction is negative (actively ignoring/avoiding with wide physical distancing, barring teeth, hackles raised, etc) then think about taking a pass. While you could turn a negative situation around, it may take a lot of work.

      If you can have a trainer or someone with a LOT of dog experience also watch with you to have another pair of eyes to evaluate what’s going on (if less than obviously good, which is the most likely scenario) that can be a big help too.

      Make sure you give them enough time to get past the initial greeting to settle in to see how they do, like at least 15 to a half hour. I wouldn’t force them to greet and would keep all dogs on a loose leash just in case. Just give them time to be together without putting too much pressure on any of them and see how they do.

      Also remember that it can take a couple of months for all 3 dogs to form a new pack.

  37. Hi. I have two mixed breed dogs, one male 11 years old and the other female 9 years old. They have been living happily together for 8 years now. I’m interested in bringing in another mixed breed male about 2 years old. How do you feel about adding a third when the other two have been together so long? Will this completely disrupt my current situation?

    1. Hi Gena, I’m always disinclined to recommend upsetting the apple cart when you have a happy apple cart. While it may work out fine, it may also not work out fine. And there’s no way to know until it’s too late. My vote is that if you have a happy family, keep it that way.

      If you do decide to go for a third dog, try to make sure you can introduce all dogs on neutral territory first to see if there are any obvious immediate issues. And if you bring a third dog home, know that it can take 3-6 months before a new pack order is established.

  38. We’ve been wanting another Scottie since losing our girl last October. In June we had gotten a little rescue mixed breed dog because she seemed so sad after our Westie died in January (turns out she had other issues going on, probably a brain tumor) and he’s a very sweet boy. What’s come up is the opportunity to adopt a 3 year old female Scottie who is a (very responsible) breeder’s dog but recently had a difficult delivery so is “retiring” earlier than planned. The breeder can’t say enough about how sweet and cuddly this girl is and we’re excited about bringing her into our lives. Yesterday we found out one of her male puppies is still available and my husband wants to adopt him too. I’m excited about he prospect but also wary.

    1. Oh my goodness! Adding another female AND her puppy could make either or both females feel unseated and possibly territorial. Are you sure you want to have your current rescue and a new adult dog adjusting to each other while also adding one of her puppies? That’s a lotta lotta.

      While not an expert on Westies or Scotties, the dynamics of mixing same-sex dogs of the same breed can be a challenge. It could also go swimmingly. It sounds like your current female rescue did okay with your other female before she passed, so that’s a good sign. But adding one of the female’s puppies changes the dynamics.

      This is something where I would recommend you get a local positive trainer involved who can assess all dogs involved for temperament and guide you accordingly.

      1. Thank you so much for your reply! I should clarify, the mixed breed we currently have is a male (neutered, of course) and about 2 years old.

  39. Hi Karen,
    Thank you for taking the time to counsel on this topic! I have two females. One is a 6 yr old GSD mix and the other is a 5.5 yr old GSD. They get along spectacularly and have lived together since they were puppies. I’ve been toying with the idea of another GSD (9 wks old) but I’m not sure if I should go through with it. I do prefer females but would be willing to get a male. Does adding such a young pup to the equation tend make the transition easier, since the pup usually poses no threat? Or what are your thoughts on this? I live alone, have a decent size backyard and work from home at the moment due to covid.
    I look forward to your feedback.

    1. Hi Judy,
      Here’s my professional opinion: There is never a guarantee with adding another dog/puppy to an established pack. But you can increase those chances by getting a male so as to lessen any chance of plays for female dominance. The challenge is that if there are going to be problems, they often don’t show up right away. It can take a few months up to several months for issues to manifest. You would need to keep a watchful eye for quite a while and nip anything in the bud that may start showing up.

      Here’s my personal opinion: If you have a happy family with 2 dogs who get along spectacularly, don’t mess with that. To me, it wouldn’t be worth the risk. Maybe it would turn out fine, but if it doesn’t–at best, you’ve just opened the gates to long-term emotional struggles for all involved. At worst, you’ve opened the gates to hell on earth.

      I appreciate that you asked first. That shows how much you care about your two girls.

      1. Thank you, Karen! I’ll heed your advice and stay put with a happy family! And you’re right, I do value my girls’ happiness and stability above all!

  40. Hello! I currently own two Bichon frises, Elena and Ivy. They are 2 years old and both from the same litter, and they have always gotten along great. A few months ago, I heard that their mother had just given birth to a new litter. We signed up to adopt one of her puppies, and a few weeks ago the puppy arrived at our house. Let me say, Elena and Ivy didn’t really mind sharing the house with the new puppy. They adjusted well, and after reading this post I’m wondering if it’s normal for dogs to get used to a new pack member that easily. Or are they okay with the new puppy just because they have the same parents? I’m curious.

    1. Hi Kiara, some breeds adapt more easily to adding more dogs than others. While problems sometimes show up right away, if there are going to be problems, it can take up to 6 months for them to manifest. Coming from the same parents is no guarantee that dogs will get along.
      While issues can happen with any breed, most often problems come from adding same-sex dogs that come from more intense breeds.

  41. Hello –

    We have an 11 Week old Golden Doodle and a 13 Year old Lab/Whippet. The puppy sis a playful male who loves other dogs, the 13 year old is a female whom I rescued 12.5 years ago. She has a tumor on her head and she probably has six months left. I want to bring in another female to learn from her, before she goes – originally the 13 year old was my dog and my GF just got the puppy,. We have two separate living spaces. I found a 1 year old Lab/Husky/Corgi Mix at the shelter – I am due to pick her up tomorrow for a foster to adopt situation. We introduced them already and she just licks and plays and really read Whiskey, my 13 year old, well and left her alone when she wanted. After reading your article I am a little nervous now but what are your thoughts on how to introduce, how to not make whiskey feel so bad about it, etc. The puppy, Bear, is just happy to have anyone to play with, since whiskeys old age and pain from tumor if not managed, keeps her from really wanting to play… Thank you!

    1. Hi Reid. Is it possible for your GF to foster the 1 yr old until your girl passes? At 13 yo and not feeling well, she won’t be looking for new dogs to keep her company or train. She’ll only be looking for you and a quiet home to live out her days.

      If that’s not possible, then you need to make extra sure that the lion’s share of your attention stays on your girl until the end. It sounds like you’re already sensitive to making sure the puppy doesn’t overwhelm your girl, which is great.

      With that age difference and breed difference, you don’t need to worry about having 2 females. It’s really just about protecting the quality of life your girl has left.

  42. Hello! I would love your insight. We have two dogs, a 4yo spayed female lab mix- very submissive, but she will put our 1yo husky mix (male neutered) into place (never aggressively- she just lets him know with body language) when he wants to play too much. The lab mix is not playful. She just kind of hangs. The husky mix thinks everyone is his best friend. I assume he’s submissive as he sleeps with his belly up and will often roll to show his belly. We are looking to adopt a 12 week old husky/shepherd mix- male- who is supposedly very calm, gentle, and mellow. I did read your article. But also love dogs and my heart has grown so much with each pup. The husky mix would LOVE a friend to actually play. And I really love shepherds and huskies and have a good amount of large breed experience (Rottweiler, pitbull, boxer, husky). Curious as to your thoughts! Thank you!

  43. Hi,
    We have 2 full Labs, both boys.
    One is going to be 9 and the other 8.
    Slowing down some but still pretty active and happy.
    They have never fought and I can count the growls on one hand.
    Same parents, 11 months apart. They are super bonded and do everything together.
    We have no kids, just the boys. We got both of them as puppies.
    We are considering adopting a 3 yr. old female Shepherd mix.
    I am just curious as to your thoughts.
    They had a sister when they were younger. The 9 year old had her in his life for about 2 years.
    The other only a little over a year.
    They were so sad when she passed.
    I am now accepting the reality that one day, one will pass, and the other
    will be left alone, so been going around in my head to get another dog so it won’t be as hard when
    it happens for the one left behind.
    But, I also believe the boys may be happy the way they are. But wouldn’t a sister add some spark to their life?
    Would one feel left out now?
    I been in this situation before with previous dogs. Really almost the same exact situation except the 2 boys I had were not actual brothers. We brought in a rescue and they did play with her and they were a happy little family.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Of course, there is no way to know for sure in advance. But the fact that you’re thinking of getting a female is definitely a plus. And the fact that they both did play with the previous female you had is potentially a good sign. But there is no guarantee that the same scenario would play out again or that one wouldn’t feel left out.

      You don’t mention how much you know about the Aussie you’re considering adopting or if you’ve had experience with herding dogs before. Is there any way you can have the Aussie you’re thinking of getting meet with your dogs in advance? Do you know if she is good with other dogs? With both Magic and Graidy, I had them meet Kiera and spend time with her to see how they would do first.

      You can’t lose by keeping the happy pack you have now. And, if it was the “right” dog, it could be a good thing for all 3. If you do decide to go ahead with a 3rd female dog, I wish you all the best luck.

  44. Hi
    I’ll give you a bit of background before asking your advice.
    I have a female (2 years old) and male shihtzu.(1 1/2 years old) I had an unplanned litter ( what I’m calling my covid puppies) this summer. We kept one of the puppies (even though my husband said 3 dogs are too many) she is 5 months now.
    Up until recently they all have gotten along fine. This last week I have noticed the ( male) dad’ dog has been kinda snapping at the puppy and I’m not sure why. He used to be obsessed with playing with her.
    Now there have been a few times when she comes near him, he will without warning, snap at her.
    He does resource guard with his treats and toys with the puppy but not the other dog.
    When I notice they are both interested in the same toy I will put it away.
    Today they were both in my bed and the puppy walked past and he actually snapped and tried to bite her for literally no reason.
    I’m very surprised because he is the most gentle laid back dog ever.
    Any idea why he suddenly started acting this way and what I can do to stop it?
    I wrote twice because I put my email wrong sorry

    1. Hi Tonya,

      Essentially your male is communicating that he has been happy with the stable pack of him and your other female, and he may be not inclined to want to include the puppy in his pack. As she gets older and closer to her first cycle, this is typically when these types of “pack” issues start showing up.

      Since he hasn’t actually bitten her, he is just warning her to stay away. If she is a good listener, it may end with just warnings until she learns to keep her distance.

      To get help redirecting this behavior, I think it’s best if you can enlist the help of a local, positive trainer (one who doesn’t use punishment). Having a pair of trained eyes evaluating and helping with the situation is your best bet.

      Good luck,

  45. Hello!

    So we have a 4 year old Shih Tzu and a 2 year old Goldendoodle, both females. The Shih Tzu had a really hard time when we got the Goldendoodle, she would salivate and shake. She eventually got over it and they tolerate each other, but the Shih Tzu doesn’t LOVE the Goldendoodle. We are talking about the idea of getting a third dog. There is a 13 week old Cockapoo available near us, who is a male but is also deaf. We are saddened by the thought of no one adopting him, but are curious as to your thoughts if we would run into any dynamics between all the dogs that would be of concern. Thanks and hope all is well!

    1. Hi Zach, Not all dogs love having additional dogs added to their lives. In your instance, maybe the size disparity could have played into this.
      I understand your compassion for the deaf Cockapoo, but having lived with a deaf dog, that adds a whole other layer of complications. If you haven’t already, read up on living with deaf dogs to make sure you’re ready for what you’d be getting into.

      As far as how your Shih Tzu would do with this dog, being a male will help, but is there any way you can have your Shih Tzu and the Cockapoo meet and see how they do together? That would tell you a lot

      Wishing you good luck.

  46. Hello, we have a 12-year-old Shih Tzu Yorkie cross and a 3-year-old German shepherd husky cross. They tolerate each other but never play together, the older Shih Tzu likes to be alone and do his own thing. I put in an application and got accepted for a German Shepherd mix (black lab they think) she is 2 months old and she is a rescue puppy. I’m wondering if this puppy would be good for my german shepherd who loves to play, and then that way she will leave my older dog alone and my hopes is become best friends with this new puppy. I spend all my free time training and teaching them as puppies, we take both our dogs separately for a bike ride every evening. And we take our German Shepherd to doggie daycare for socialization. What are your thoughts on adding this third puppy?! Thank you so much for your time

    1. There are never any guarantees when adding a new dog that they will become best buds with the dog we hope they will. Is there any way you can do a Meet & Great with the two, to see how/if they hit it off?

      I am usually always looking for opposite-rather than same-sex matches, to avoid any possible dominance/aggression issues, but since there is enough of an age difference, you may be ok.

      Your best bet is to find a way to have them meet with an experienced trainer present who can give you feedback on body language.

      Your intentions are in the right place. Just want to make sure that you aren’t going to add more difficulty.

      Of course if they meet and love each other. Problem solved. : )

  47. Hi Karen,
    Thanks for your informative and thoughtful advice. I have two dogs, a very fit 9 year old female labradoodle and an energetic 3 year old male aussiedoodle. They get along well. The female is always the alpha and the male is willing to go along with that. I walk dogs and have been asked to take a male one year old portuguese water dog who has been in his current home for only three months and is proving more challenging for this older couple than they anticipated. He is a sweet dog, but on the wild side. My husband and I do lots of things with our dogs every day. We take them for a walk/run of about 30 minutes in the morning. Late morning they get a strenuous playtime,then another 30-45 minute walk in the afternoon.

    I know we could be great for this young dog and he is a breed that fits into the activity level we already have with our two. I do have concerns about the balance/ peace in our household. I am inclined to proceed carefully, with meetings for the dogs on neutral territory, and possibly asking the couple if we could try fostering for a while before we make a final decision. Do you see any pitfalls that I might be missing?

    We are home or in and out most of the time. We do not have a fence, but a natural border that is enough for backyard playtime. The bulk of our outings are in parks or on trails.

    Thank you so much
    Ann Manning

    1. Hi Ann,
      It sounds like you’ve got the bases covered. I think proceeding by going through the steps you’ve outlined is a very wise move. It gives everyone a chance to see where things land. The fact that this new pup is male bodes well when having an alpha female. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you–there is no doubt you’d be able to give this dog a better quality of life.

        1. Ann, my only additional thoughts would be to initially introduce your dogs individually/separately at first before it’s a 2 against scenario. Your 2 guys already have an established pack, and “packs” aren’t always happy to have a new-comer show up. This levels the playing field a little better for the puppy. I’d make sure each of your dogs, individually, are cool before introducing all 3 together. Best of luck!

  48. Hello Karen,
    We have 2 miniature schnauzer male right now, one is 6 and the other one is 2. They get along well and the older one is the the alpha. We are considering getting a 3 month old male miniature schnauzer also. We also have 2 kids under 11 years old and they all get along and love the dogs. What are your thoughts on adding a third same breed and sex?
    Will the behavior of the 2 change(like will they be different dogs is we add a third one) ? Thank you.

    1. Hi Marie, if you’re here by way of this post, you already know my bias–if you have 2 happy dogs who get along, don’t rock the boat. Adding a third dog will absolutely change the pack dynamic. The question is how? There’s no guaranteed way to know that in advance. Could be great. Could be a disaster.

      If you’re determined to get a third dog, I would encourage you to consider a female. That at least would buy you a little insurance for providing the best shot with maintaining pack harmony.

  49. Hi, I have a 11yr old Toy Fox Terrier and a 11mo 47lb (done growing) Vizsla. Both are well behaved and trained how I would like them to behave. The puppy, however, constantly annoys the older and much smaller dog when we are home. He does listen, but only when the Toy gets frustrated enough to lose her temper with him–and even then, he will still return to instigate with her after 10min have passed (poking with the nose and play pouncing, though never “on” the lil one–my V is very gentle, with a timid personality). Things aren’t horrible by any means (they still nap together) and we are overall “alright”. Still, I am toying with the idea of getting another V in a year or so with this idea in mind: I want the big dogs to play and leave the lil one largely alone. I love my dog family, but probably will never go for the size difference in the future for this reason. Do you think adding a V will help this issue? Whatever the case, I do plan to wait a year min to see if the puppy learns the rules a bit more… he is still young. Thanks for your time!

    1. Angela, this is a case where having an experienced positive dog trainer come to evaluate your situation could be worth its weight in gold. You (and your dogs) shouldn’t have to live with the current stress, even though things are “alright”. You can and should get help so that everyone is doing better than alright. Then, if in a year, you’re ready to get another V, again I would urge you to solicit the help of a good trainer to help you evaluate and decide.

  50. Hey Karen! I am so confused.. me and my partner have no children , both work full time and don’t have a fence ( lol I know ) and we have Rayner ( pug min pin mix ) who is 8 and then we got Rhonda ( pug chihuahua mix 1 year old )a few months ago and her and rayner have fallen in love but rayner tends to get annoyed very easily by Rhonda and so we have decided to foster a 1 year old male chihuahua mix ( unsure of other breed but he is kind of puggish too. Rhonda and the new guy seem to be having the time of their life but I’m afraid things are going to get nasty ( Rhonda is very dominate) and I’m wondering if this could bode trouble for rayner and trigger a depression? ( rayner is also the most socialized!) I hope all that made sense lol

    1. Hi David, if you have concerns (and it sounds like you should) I’d call in a positive trainer pronto to help you evaluate the situation and give you advice. This is definitely something where you need professional eyeballs physically there to determine exactly what’s going on and what should be done about it.

      Don’t wait until full-on trouble erupts. The sooner you get help, the better for everybody.

  51. Hi Karen,

    I have an 8 year old male Biewer Terrier and an 8 year old female Biewer Terrier. We got them 3 months apart, and funny thing is their birthday is only 3 days apart. We are currently considering getting a 3rd dog. Our house has recently gotten broken into, and my mother wants a large dog at home so she feels secure being home alone sometimes. We usually take our dogs to work, since we have our own business. So the dogs will usually not be alone. They usually just lay next to us in our office. Neither of the dogs seems dominant, and they get along great. We have no children at home.

    I Don’t know which breed, but we are leaning towards a Doberman Pinscher or a Rhodesian Ridgeback since they are protective breeds. Rottweiler is out of the picture since they have a short lifespan, and German Shepherd is not an option since my mother was attacked by one in the past. Do you have a recommendation in the breed and gender?

    Thank you,


    1. Hi Karen,

      I also forgot to point out that we have a large fenced in yard. About an acre space for the dogs to run.

      Thank you,


    2. You don’t mention how much dog experience your mom has. Guarding breeds are no joke and require massive socialization and training to be safe–even for the owners. I would not recommend a Rhodesian Ridgeback-way too hard to handle. Dobes are totally dependant on good breeding. A good Dobe is a sight to behold. A bad one is a nightmare. Believe it or not Australian Shepherds make great protective dogs. A well-bred Boxer might also work well for you.

      I’d speak with your vet and a well-regarded local trainer for more suggestions and insights.

      Good Luck!

      1. Thank you Karen for taking the time to reply. My mother has some experience with dogs. When she was growing up she had up to 8 dogs in a household. She personally had taking care of a variety of dogs, however she has no experience with large dogs. The largest dog she had was around 40 lbs. My neighbor who are in their 70’s also suggested us to get a doberman, since they too have 2 of them themselves. I will look into Australian Sheperds, Boxers, and good Doberman breeders while talking to my vet and local trainers for further insights.

        Thank you,


  52. Hi! I have a 10.5 yr old min pin and a 1.5 yr old staffy mix. They get along for the most part, but my min pin doesn’t really bother with the younger dog. He tries to get her to play and she just gets annoyed. I should also mention that my min pin is litter box trained and spends most of her time indoors.
    There is a 10 month old pit mix for adoption through a rescue we follow who is submissive, gentle, house trained and respectful of all animals according to the foster mother. He is also a tripod, having lost a limb recently due to a coyote attack. I think he would be a great playmate for our staffy mix, and we could give him a nice home. There’s not much info out there about a situation like ours…I’m curiousif you think it would work!
    We also have two kids-3 and 5.

    1. Julie, I don’t know enough about min pins, staffys, or pits to feel comfortable answering how they might get along. You also don’t mention sexes or how much room or time you have to train or be home. Having very young children also adds a layer of unknowns. I wish I could help you out.

      The only thing I can say is that because you have small children, I wouldn’t be inclined to add another really powerful dog breed to the mix.

      Might be awesome. Might also be a disaster waiting to happen. No way to know ahead of time.

  53. Philip McIntosh

    Hi Karen! I am considering adopting a 3rd dog. I recently purchased a home with a large fenced in yard and would love to rescue another pup. I currently have two dogs. One Male and one Female. They are both 3 years old, with the male only about 3 months older than the female. I adopted the female when she was only 16 weeks old. She is a mountain cur mix and weighs about 35 pounds. She is definitely a hunting dog as far as instincts go. She has a very mild temperament but does enjoy playing rough with other dogs and is not scared of dogs bigger than her. She can be affectionate but also likes spending time alone. She is the more independent dog of the two. My male dog is a purebred Australian Shepherd. He is about 55 pounds. He is your stereotypical herding dog. I adopted him as an adult when he had just turned 2 and have had him for about a year and a half. He is very much attached to me and is my shadow as I like to call him. He follows me every where and likely has a mild case of separation anxiety. He does not do well with strangers initially. He barks at humans and dogs alike that he does not know. I have had him through training and the trainer says he is not aggressive towards strangers, but rather gets himself so worked up and excited that it comes across as aggressive to those who don’t know him. Basically, he is socially awkward. Once he has time to meet someone, he is much better!! SO my question for you is, do you think adding a third dog to our dynamic would work? Right now I really could not tell you who the alpha is (really it is me.) I have seldom seen either dog submit to the other. They are both different and have different tendencies. I am looking at the same rescue that I got both of them from and I fell in love with a 2 year old female Lab/retriever mix. She is listed at 55 pounds as well. Would a female or male work better? Again, I have had the two in apartment settings and now that I own a house with a large yard, I would love to rescue again. Thank you for any help and insight!!

    1. Hi Philip, since your current 2 dogs are not the same breed or sex, you could probably go with the female Lab/retriever, since she is also a different breed and age. BUT, big caveat, you should try to have all 3 dogs meet on neutral territory to see how they interact. It would also be helpful to have a skilled dog trainer with you who would know what to be looking out for. There are many micro-expressions that a non-trained person might miss that could be very telling.
      If you have a happy home now with the 2 you have, I’d ask you to think long and hard before adding the third. It really does change things a lot. Best of luck!

  54. Hi!! Right now my family has two adult dogs that are both pitbulls. They’ve both been to doggy daycare when they were puppies and have done well around other dogs (like my mom’s dog who sometimes visits when she does, dogs they see on walks, et cetera). They just get overly excited. Anyway, in February we got Nyxie, a pitbull husky mix and she’s adjusted really well. They weren’t aggressive with her, just didn’t know how to act around her at first and now they’re protective of each other and love her to death and act like her big brothers. She’ll play and rough house and bite and hang on them and they don’t do anything to hurt or scare her, just occasionally growl or show their teeth if she’s being annoying enough but only as a way to tell her to back off a little. Anyway, my grandma got asked by a patient at her work today if she could take an adult male rescue pitbull. Given how well the other two adjusted to the puppy and how well they typically do with other dogs, how do you think that’ll go? Apparently the dog we got asked to take is really sweet, just timid. He got left at a house; that’s all my grandma told me. One of my older dogs, Toby, the one that spends the most time with the puppy and took her under his wing (showed her how to use the dog door and walk down the steps and other dog things) has anxiety. We have him on Prozac. He’s been medicated for a couple years now. That being said… Do you think he’d take the other dog under his wing and help him come out of his shell or would they just clash? Wanted advice and saw you were still answering.. Input would be appreciated?

    1. Hi Aurelie, truthfully, I think you’d be pushing your luck. If you’ve already got one dog who is stressed enough to be on Prozac, I’m thinking you should quit while you’re ahead. The kindest thing you could do for all involved is to help find another good home for the dog.

  55. Hi Karen, so glad I found this and that you’re still answering!

    We are planning to get a golden retriever pup, coming home at the end of May. Our current dogs are both 7 years old, both neutered males. One is a black lab/ golden retriever mix, the other is a cavalier. They are both typically friendly with other dogs –I say typically because I know they’re animals and could potentially be aggressive, but I’ve only ever witnessed wagging tails and happy play, both in our home and yard and at other locations..

    Do you have a recommendation on gender for a new puppy?

    This article sure has given me pause, but it’s nice to read something that doesn’t just gloss over the issues. This seems like good timing for our family, but we can change our minds at any time if necessary. Thanks!

    1. Hi Michelle, since both of your dogs’ breeds are not typically prone to aggression, and your intended pup isn’t either, gender isn’t quite as critical. But, still, I would recommend getting a female this time to be sure there’s near zero chance of aggression problems. Though, do expect some adjustments (not necessarily bad, but perhaps just some changes in dynamics) as your dogs get used to your new puppy.

      And I’m so glad that you understand that any animal could become aggressive situationally or if circumstances change. Many people naively don’t get that.

      Wishing you great good luck!

  56. Shara Charlier

    Hello! So we made the jump into getting a 3rd dog. We are on a day to day basis. The wonderful lady we bought the pup from was informed of our situation & told us should any problems arise her door is open. Now on to my current pack. We have myself, husband, a 5-year-old, 4-year-old, 9-month-old, & 2 mixed (Texas healer/Pitt bull) pups one male (neutered) and one female (intact) pups who will be 4 in a few weeks. Our new pup is a darling mix (lab/German shepherd/staffordshire) & is 7 weeks old.
    My dogs are not thrilled. While puppy is crated (in the kitchen) my female will willingly smell him and walk away. My male has avoided him nearly all day. While they are leashed separately they have their dominance dance but aren’t aggressive. But when all 3 become leashed the older two feed of each other and it gets messy. They also are not a fan of the pup moving, as long as he is lying submissively they will walk away, but if he stands they lean over him or growl. I am just beginning this journey but fear in my gut this will never change. (Let me add I always fear the worse)
    I am terrified of having a bad mixed pack, but we rushed into this and now this puppy has stolen all of our hearts… my question is how long do we play this game? How can we tell if this is typical behavior or the beginning of a nightmare?
    I keep thinking that if it was a permanent hate that the dogs would show aggression while pup is crated or on the outside of the yard fence, which they do not. This is our first time adding a 3rd dog into the mix. Had I read all the warnings of adding a 3rd dog, I would have told my puppy fever to float off, but he’s here now.

    1. Hi Shara,
      The first thing you’ve done right was to get a male. The 2nd thing you’re doing right is to manage their interactions until they’ve established a new pack order–which can take a few months. You don’t mention how long you’ve had the new pup. If it has only been several days, I wouldn’t be thinking the worst. And, to some extent, given the breeds involved, none of what you describe is surprising.

      I would strongly recommend that you find a positive (not traditional) trainer to come and evaluate the situation, and to help you work with your dogs. This is going to take some work and some time.

      If you can’t afford either the trainer or the time, then give your puppy back now–for safety reasons for kids and dogs. I know that sounds harsh, but with the ages of your children, this has to be completely resolved one way or the other

      Good luck.

      1. Thank you so much for the input! We have already been talking of looking into a trainer if we cannot get things worked out on our own. I will definitely keep in mind a positive trainer vs a typical one! This is only day 3, so we are still very early in our journey! Thankfully our female (the donimant of the 2)is showing amazing signs. The puppy has been submitting to her on his own and she’s fairly calm while around him. My male is still less than amused and mainly ignores him. I assume he is just salty and hopefully will learn to cope as time goes on. For now we are not forcing them to mingle & are trying extra hard to give him more one on one attention to boost his spirits and let him know we have not forgotten or replaced him! We said we will evaluate the situation in a week and for now are taking baby steps to ensure all dogs are safe & comfortable. I really hope this all works out because this puppy has proven to be a smart one! No inside accidents, he’s caught on that the baby is a human not another puppy, & is doing very well learning his sit command! Thank you again!

        1. All good news! You’re on the right track. Getting input from an experienced trainer early on will help you avoid making costly mistakes, and give you tools to make sure your situation is successful.

  57. So my husband and I currently have 2 dogs and have always said we would have 3. We have a 1yr 8 month old Min Pin/jack russell mix Female (Skye) and a 5 month old shepherd mix (looks like a Doberman) Male (Russell). The female is fixed and our vet wants to wait a little longer to fix Russell since he is still growing. We found a litter of Catahoula/pit mixed puppies, which my husband knows are my two favorite breeds and since we like to rescue not always easy to find (Catahoula) especially mixed. We got Russell as our second dog over his sister upon peoples advice but are unsure about the third dog. My husband and I both greatly favor the girl puppy but just can’t find much advice on third dogs. I wouldn’t say either of our dogs are submissive but they love each other and we’re great pretty much off the bat and though we do feed them seperately if one finishes before the other they will just sit and wait for the other to finish and respect the other ones food. Now we do make sure to alway give 2 similar toys and try not to give them a reason to fight. Even when we are training together (they are both in training classes) they may jump all around and over each other when I have treats but they have never fought over the treats while I’m getting the other dog to lay/sit etc. I’m pretty set on getting this third dog just looking for some input/insight as to how much the gender would matter. Also all the puppies in this litter are ALREADY FIXED. So no fear of puppies either way.

    1. Hi Delaney, there are so many factors to consider here that I wouldn’t feel comfortable making a recommendation.You could pretty much toss a coin and the concerns only change slightly. Size differences, overall breed intensity, unknown parents’temperaments, you already have 2 dogs that get along great and there’s no way a 3rd dog isn’t going to impact that… So all I can do is wish you great good fortune. I think your best bet is to ask your vet, as he or she already is at least familiar with each of your dogs, and would presumably be meeting your third dog before final decisions get made.

  58. Hi Karen,

    I am so glad I found your website. My husband and I have 2 longhair dachshunds who turn 2 next month. They are 5 days apart and have been together since they were both 8 weeks old. They absolutely adore each other. Female and Male, best friends, cuddles, the works. The female is definitely the Alpha and she is also bigger than the boy, who is a bit shy of other people and dogs. Also he is more of a lap dog than she is.

    We were considering a 3rd male dachshund puppy. I love dachshunds so much and had always wanted a little tribe haha.

    I guess I am concerned about disrupting the harmony we have and their relationship. They have never been apart really, and neither is aggressive at all..

    Being that they are all close in age and the same breed, would this be easier?

    Any inputs on Yays or Nays would be appreciated. Thank you!


    1. Hi Kyara, if you are going to add a third, it should definitely be a male, given that you describe your female as having dominant characteristics.

      It does sound like you currently have the perfect situation with 2 dogs you adore who also adore each other, and while I understand wanting to have a tribe–I really do–when it comes to dogs, we’re talking pack. And that’s a whole other kettle of fish. While having 2 dogs makes a dog pack, have 3 dogs makes a dog PACK. The energy gets amped up on every level.

      If you’re prepared for that, and that’s what you want, you should be okay. But that’s the thing–there is never a guarantee. I guess it depends on how much you’re willing to risk your current balanced situation. Would it be a huge risk? Probably not, if you were to add a well-bred puppy. But it would be a risk.

  59. Hi Karen,
    I have a 10 yo JRT male called Odie and Labrador X dalmation 2 yo female. They get on very well and are very happy in each oher company. I have 2 daughters a 12 yo and a 10 yo. My 12 yo suffers with depression and we were wondering if a new puppy is the answer? My lab mix is very socible and would LOVE a playmate.What do you think? We think its a good time but is havng 3 dogs more work etc…

    1. Hi Tasha,
      You don’t mention anything about yard size, fencing, hours at home alone, how much time people have to train, socialize, play with dogs, etc. You also don’t mention whether your 12 yr old is interested in or spends any time enaged with your current dogs. Without knowing that I can only give a partial answer.

      And that is– adding a third dog really ups the ante on every level. More wear and tear on the house and yard, more expense, more pack energy. Also more dogs to love. But definitely “more” on every level.

      If you were to get a chilled out breed, you decrease the odds of territorial or same sex aggression. Definitely stay away from herding breeds or other intense breeds.

      Whatever you decide, I wish you good luck.

  60. Hi Karen, I found your site by chance as I am considering going from a 2 dog home to a 3 dog home. We have a 10 year old male chorkie since he was a puppy. When he was 1, we adopted a 3 year old female yorkie. They got on well over the years, but sadly we had to say good bye to our girl in August 2017. He seemed to really miss her and was not himself (refused to go on previously much loved walks etc). In November we were to adopt a 4 year old female Maltese (rehome from a breeder). Long story short, she turned out to be pregnant at the time, but we did take one of their other dogs – a 3 year old male. He is lovely, and they get along well, though the older male is not as playful at times as the younger. We are thinking of still getting the female (in February or March – and yes, the boy we took home was the father of the pups!) We liked the female a lot when we met her, also, Lord willing my oldest boy will be with us for several more years, but I don’t want the younger one to be left alone when that day comes. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Also, I do not work outside of our home, and have adult children and 3 grand children who visit.

    1. Diana, since all of the dogs you mention are small, there is no mention of aggressive or dominant indications and you are home, that changes the dynamic somewhat. There isn’t anything in this mix that screams “NO don’t do it!” But as mentioned previously, when there is an “old” dog in the mix, it’s good to always think twice, and then twice more. If you do decide to get the female, just make sure to lavish a lot of time and attention on your older boy until everyone acclimates.

  61. Janissha Williams

    Hi Karen, I am not sure if you are still monitoring this discussion thread but I was looking for information on having a three dog household so I thought I see what you thought of this situation. I have a 9 year old male neutered lab/mix (Max). I got him from a shelter when he was 8 weeks old. He is usually very laid back. He was the only dog in the house for 8 years. In Dec 2016 I adopted a new fur baby (Pandora) at 8 weeks old. She is a pure breed Akita. She is very playful and loves to be rough and tumble, When we she goes to the dog park she loves playing with the other dogs, but she definitely displays dominate tendencies. But she does not growl or bark at any dog. When we are walks and she sees another dog she whines and gets in her “I want to play couch” and wags her tale. With that being said, Max does not have the energy level that Pandora does. He will play with her when he gets ready, but she is constantly trying to get him to play. She has actually taught him to play tug of war, I have been trying to get him to do this since he was a pup. Now I am considering adding a male Akita to our family, because he would have the same energy level as Pandora, and Max could relax, I have had an Akita before, so when he died I wait 2 years to get Max.
    There has been one fight between these two, when Pandora was about 7 months old. This stemmed around a coveted item. She would usually allow Max to take whatever he wanted and he took her toy. This time she wanted it back and went to get it back. Since this time she has been the alpha between the two.
    Our household consists of myself, my hubby, 2 adult daughters (21 and 19) and my 4 year old granddaughter (the boss) who bosses both dogs around.
    Do you think adding another dog to the mix would cause total chaos?

    1. Hi Janissha,
      Since you mention your female Akita has dominant tendancies, if you want to add a 3rd dog, it should definitely be a male. While I understand the sentiment that the 2 Akitas could play, and Max could “relax,” what may be more likely is that Max is left out/shut out. So you should be aware that he could experience some depression and would need more individual attention. It could go either way–all is well, or Max suffers. And, unfortunately, there is no way to predict.

      1. Janissha Williams

        Thank you Karen for your insight. I just took Max to the vet and they said he has begun to have cloudiness over his eyes. I think I will just let him live out his life, without the stress of a puppy.

        1. Janissha, I am secretly relieved for Max. I should amend this post to say that if there is an older dog in the family, it is best to let that dog live out its days before adding another dog. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness and consideration you’ve given to the matter. Max is a lucky guy!

  62. Hi Karen, I am hoping you can help advise me regarding our current situation. We recently lost our Shepherd / Lab mix and wanted to get another dog so our other dog wouldn’t be too lonely when we weren’t home and so our kids would have a playful dog to love. We have a female lab mix who we rescued. She sleeps almost all day and is pretty mellow. She was the youngest of our three dogs for 9 years after we adopted her. Sometimes I feel home alone when she is here because she isn’t the kind of dog who follows its person from room to room like my shepherd mix was. She is only 9 but acts old and sleeps all the time, often upstairs all on her own! So we were looking at dogs and found a male Maltese Shih Tzu puppy that needed a home and also a female whippet mix. The Shih Tzu Maltese is very sweet natured and my kids (both kids are 13) are in love. We brought it home and our 9 year old lab is mostly ignoring it … no one is growling. It is 5 months old and we are housetraining it. It tries to play with our lab but she’d rather just watch. Here’s the third dog situation: we also love the whippet mix we met. We already had a whippet mutt for years and he died of old age. She is a very small cream colored whippet mix (not sure what she is!)and very very sweet too. When I met her and put her on my lap, she lay there still as can be and was happy and calm for ages even though she is about 6 months old. She got along fine with our 9 year old female lab mix, except our lab didn’t like it if the pup licked her mouth. Our lab would sit there and once made a tiny growl but didn’t show her teeth or anything. They walked around together in a pen just fine for 20 minutes and I had the pup in my lap on and off during that time. I really want to get this whippet mix too. I already adore her and she needs a home. She is such a cuddly lovey dog. We have a double lot fenced and my husband is a big softie for dogs. The whippet mix is already house trained too. Supposedly she does chase cats but we have no cats. Do you think the 6 mo old tiny female whippet mutt would play with the super playful but quite shy male shih tzu maltese mix? Would our old female lab mix be upset by having 2 young dogs around or relieved that the two pups were hanging out and playing together and leaving her alone. Any advice you have would be so appreciated. We already fell for both of the pups but we love our older dog very much too. We are an indoor pet house. We have a lot of rooms in the house if dogs want space. Our kids are in jr high. They already like both pups very much. I work part time so can supervise a lot in the beginning if we get both. Thx again.

    1. From your description, it appears your lab was just trying to teach the whippet some puppy manners, and letting her know who’s boss. Her closed-mouth growl was appropriate for the circumstances to let the whippet know that she didn’t want to be bothered. If the whippet paid attention and backed off, then they are communicating clearly, and I wouldn’t be too concerned. If she didn’t and persisted in bothering your lab, that could present a problem going forward.

      CAVEAT: It’s always risky to comment from a distance on matters like this because I can’t watch the interaction to know for certain. So whenever there is a hint of possible aggression, it is always best to have a knowledgeable, experienced trainer present to observe.

      1. Hi, Thanks so much for your reply! I am trying to remember exactly what the whippet did when my lab softly growled. I was so busy watching my lab. But the adoption center person who’s quite experienced at pet placement thought it went pretty well (and she agreed to go ahead with the adoption) and also the whippet and lab just wandered around after that and the whippet didn’t keep pestering my lab and so I think that’s promising! I am mostly worried about the three dog dynamic changing things. Hopefully the young ones will play a lot and leave my old girl alone. The male shih tzu maltese pup currently follows the lab a lot! We’re hoping it will follow the one month older whippet instead and they will become buddies and grow old together! Thanks again for your time and help!

      2. Hey there! We currently have a 2 year old male Boston terrier and a nine month old male French bulldog. Both are goofy, playful, loving companions to myself, husband, two kids and cats. They have never met a person or creature they don’t love and want to play with. We are thinking of adding a female French bulldog pup to the mix. Both my males are intact but I would consider neutering if necessary and the female would be spayed around a year of age. I would love your thoughts on our situation and recommendations. Thank you!!

        1. Hi Carrie, in theory, adding a female French bulldog shouldn’t be a problem. But you don’t mention anything about whose dog this would be (yours, a child’s, etc.) space, time for training, etc., so that’s why I say “in theory.” But given that you seem to be handling your current situation without issue, it should be okay.

  63. Hi Karen,

    I found your blog by chance and find your stance on the 2 vs 3 really interesting! I currently have two Husky mixes who are more husky than anything and are both roughly 2 years old (one who was rescued and one who I’ve had since he was 8 weeks old). They are high energy and love to play with one another and really any dog we encounter at our local dog park.

    I live with a family of 4 plus my boys and we are looking at adding a female chocolate lab puppy in a few weeks.. What would be your take on this? Both my boys are high energy but generally well behaved. They love other dogs and we would love to add a little girl to our family. She is also joining the family to add into the hunting lifestyle that both myself and my boyfriend have.

    I’m worried to change the dynamic but I think it would actually calm my boys having an extra playmate as at times one will pester to play and the other won’t be interested. They have a decent yard to run in and are taken for regular walks/park visits.

    Am I crazy to add a third to our family..?

    1. Hi Shauna,
      Far be it for me to judge someone else’s sanity or lack thereof. :) Especially since it looks like the decision has already been made. But it sounds as though you have thought it through, and you and your family have the time, space, and energy.
      I can’t say whether adding a female Lab would calm your Husky boys or rev them up. But with your combo, a female is definitely the way to go.
      So all I can say is that I wish you the best of of happy outcomes!

  64. Hi Karen – curious to get your feedback. We have a 12 year old female chocolate lab (alpha grandma) and a 7 month old American Mastiff (yes it’s a breed) puppy. We got the puppy at 8 weeks and our older lab has done a great job keeping the mastiff in check when she gets too excited with the kids or does something she’s not supposed to do (like chase the cat).

    We have been obedience training the puppy and she’s doing very well. We have a happy home with the two dogs we have now, but we keep thinking that adding a rescue Male Mastiff that’s under a year old would be good for our puppy. It would give her a dog at her energy level to play with. I spend at least an hour with her daily between her twice per day walks and playtime, so time commitment isn’t really a huge issue.

    Our 12 year old lab probably only has 1 or 2 years left at max – would you recommend waiting to get another dog after she passes? I feel like a young male might give her someone she can bond with now that’s not a true “mother’ figure. We love mastiffs and want another one, but the question is really just around timing (now or after our grandma lab dies).



    1. Hi Jason, this is a tricky one. While, in theory, because your grandma lab has done such a good job teaching your puppy some manners, you might be inclined to think she’d be up for the task with another young dog. And…she might.

      BUT it could also quickly turn into a two against one– with the younger ones being emboldened by each other–to try to overthrow the queen. And then you could wind up with a depressed lab who’s been relegated to second class citizen status in her twilight years.

      So, long story short, this could go either way. The only way to know for sure would be to find a rescue male and introduce him to your lab on neutral ground and see how they do. I would highly recommend having a skilled and knowledgeable trainer along for another pair of eyes and to offer feedback. Even with that, unless the two obviously love each other, even if they seem to do fine, that could all change once the female puppy is in play and pack dynamics kick in (which could take up to three months).

      I know you want to give your puppy a playmate now, but if it were me, I would hold off and not risk making the time your lab has left potentially miserable.

      Then when you are ready for another dog, you’re right in thinking a male would be the way to go to avoid the likelihood of same-sex, same-breed rivalry.

      1. Hey Karen – I wanted to give you an update as to where we ended up on this one.

        We actually ended up rescuing a male mastiff within 2 weeks of me posting the original message. It’s worked out wonderfully for us. We did take your advice and introduced all 3 of them together on neutral ground at the rescue. He was only a couple months older than our puppy (he was 10 months and she was 7 months). At first we were hesitant to take him home because 3 dogs is a lot of dog, especially with 2 of them being mastiffs. The rescue worker was so confident in the three of them getting along, that she recommended we foster for a couple weeks to see how they all did at home.

        It took us two days at our house before we called and agreed to make him a permanent member of the family. Our old lab is still around, and he’s given her new life. He is extremely gentle and submissive, so she’s still the top dog. But she nuzzles and nibbles him when we let him out of the crate in the morning and she seems like she’s so happy to be a part of an actual pack. The best part is the younger mastiff female puppy and him have become best friends. She pretty much leaves our old lab alone other than to lick her face and show her submission, but she now has a friend she can run around the house and yard with.

        At any rate – having 3 is so great for our family, but I totally agree that testing them together at first was absolutely critical.

  65. So, a question for you, on specifics.

    My husband and I have been considering getting a third, but our family seems a lot different than most adding a third dog to their lives. We have an 8 year old male chihuahua who is very sweet but doesn’t really have any desire to spend time with our second dog. Dutch is a 5 year old greyhound who is rather shy and very sweet and VERY needy. He always needs someone to reassure him that everything is ok. The two tolerate each other fine, unless the chi is having a bully moment, but we’ve helped them work on things to a point where generally they exist apart from one another. The association we got Dutch from said he would be good candidate for a friend and that it might help him build more confidence and we have been considering getting another greyhound. We hope that the chi still won’t care about the new guy’s existence and that the other grey will help Dutch feel more confident and less like he needs to look to us for constant reassurance.
    They already are fed separately, have separate playtime, separate activities, separate everything really, since the dogs aren’t really friends.

    I wonder whether or not the third dog would really create that pack dynamic or if it will just be the two greys buddying up and the chi doing his own thing. Do you think that could be the case, or do you think the third dog usually bonds all household dogs together?

    1. Hey Samantha, there is no way to know for certain what the dynamics would be until you added the 3rd dog. But given what you’re describing, I think there’s a better than fair chance that another greyhound would be good for Dutch. I would just make sure to get a female for best opportunity for buddying up–especially since you already have 2 males. Because greyhounds are typically pretty laid back, it’s unlikely that the chihuahua would feel left out or bullied. More than likely, after the adjustment period of everybody getting used to everybody, the chihuahua would not feel much different about the situation one way or the other.

  66. Hi Karen: I currently have 2 dogs a 13 year old female Terrier and a 1 1/2 year old male pug. The Terrier doesn’t play with the pug. Years ago I had 4 dogs (2 pugs, Aussie, Terrier) and swore I’d never do it again. The breeder just told me that the parents of my pug are having another litter. I was thinking of getting a female pug out of that litter. 1. Someone to play with Loui the pug. 2. The 13 year old may last another year or two so someone for Loui would be good. 3. I know dogs are expensive and that is a downside. 4. I take Loui to small dog daycare which happens once a week. I’d like to see Loui get to “play” with another dog while he is young and wants to. 5. I don’t want to upset the balance as you say. Is getting a female pug a good idea? I thought female because with two males they may want to mark at least my past male pugs did.

    1. Sue, you would definitely want to go with a female if you decide to go ahead. But at 13 years old, it’s very unlikely that your Terrier will adjust or adapt to a puppy in the house. You could be consigning your Terrier to a lasting bout of depression at the change in energy and possibly pack order. If you truly think she only has a year left, I would be disinclined to upset the apple cart. Maybe for now, if Loui is enjoying daycare, you could up that to 2 days a week. Then once your Terrier girl makes it to the other side, get a female pug puppy. Your boy will still be young enough to play and appreciate the company.

  67. Interesting. We are considering a third dog. I have two females a Border Collie and a Spanish Mastin. They are two years old, and about to be neutered next month. ( the reason for the delay is that I wanted them to finish growing) we live in a remote location, on a farm. Ideally, I would like another Border Collie or GSD as I already have two girls I was thinking Male. Both my girls get on, the Mastin in laid back and the BC is in charge, and can get a bit growly but that’s usually around feeding times. Both my girls are “outdoor” dogs We are around all day and initially a new puppy would stay with us in the house until trained and bigger, then would be with the other two on the farm

    Any views on this I too do not want to upset the apple cart but would love another BC.

    1. Tanya, from what you’re describing about your current two girls, you should be okay to add a male BC–but definitely not another female. Would it be possible to bring your BC girl to give the final sniff test to the puppy you think you’d like to bring home? It can be helpful to first have them meet on neutral turf first (not with the pup’s mom or other adult dogs around). If she seems okay with that first intro meeting, that’s a pretty good indicator that she’ll be okay with the puppy at home. If you have good clear communication with her, and you keep an eye on any group time for the first month or so, it’s likely things could go smoothly.

      If she shows any signs of definite aggression to the puppy, that’s a red flag. Not an absolute deal breaker but I would go into hyper management mode at home until a new pack order is firmly established. And honestly if she votes with her teeth with a snarl or a growl, I’d be inclined to leave well enough alone. Having lived through a bad pack situation, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

      Good luck. I hope it works out for you.

  68. I also am glad I came across your article. My family is considering adding a 3rd dog. We currently have an 8 year old female Vizsla (Daisy) and a four year old female rescue (Sydney) that we believe is full Doberman We have always wanted a Newfoundland. Now I know they are big and shed and drool all the time, but we love them. We have 17 acres of land including a 4 acre pond for our dogs to explore. We got our rescue Doberman about a year ago after we had to put down our 2 year old Vizsla Gunner due to severe epilepsy. We had wanted to get a Newfoundland at that time, but the idea of going thru puppy phase again so soon after losing our 2 year old puppy seemed overwhelming. So when we were approached about adopting the 4 year old Doberman it seemed like a great fit and it was. Our Doberman is very sweet and gets along well with our Vizsla; however Sydney wants to romp and play more than Daisy is willing and Daisy sometimes gets upset with Sydney’s persistence. I know that Vizslas are supposed to be high energy and require much exercise, but Daisy would much rather hang out on the couch all day with the exception of running a few laps around the house in the afternoon! My son, who is 11 has been asking for a Newfie puppy for a long time and he is a very responsible kid(he raises goats and rabbits for 4-H). He doesn’t really remember Daisy as a puppy because he was only 3 and our other Vizsla Gunner developed epilepsy at an early age and was very high-maintenance and not a normal puppy. My kids were extremely attached to Gunner because it was their puppy that they picked out and raised so when we had to put him down they were heartbroken.As much as I loved and miss Gunner, his health condition controlled our lives for much of his life and right now our house is very routine and simple which we are not used to. I also have a fear of getting another puppy from an non-reputable breeder and the puppy having health issues. My son has been researching breeders and even emailing them regarding parent’s heath issues, genetics, etc. While we have the love, room and financial means to support another dog I’m not sure if we should mess with our now easy routine?

    1. Bethany, this is a tough one… It sounds as though you are an experienced dog person who knows what you’d be getting into. But your final question kind of says it all for me: “Should we mess with our now easy routine?” Having life be sane and manageable is not to be undervalued.

      There’s no question adding another dog with add another layer of bedlam (at least in the puppy phase – 1 1/2 yrs). AND you tell me that your son is very responsible. (He is a perfect age for having his own dog).

      Soooo… If it were me…? And I knew my son could/would handle the responsibility, and he found a reputable breeder–I think I’d go for it. Knowing that my house is going to be a lot messier, and animal management is going to be a little nuts for a while.

      Yes, you could be opening yourselves back up to more heartbreak. You could also be giving your son the gift of a lifetime.

      Really tough call. I’m glad I’m not you and I don’t have to make the decision. : )

  69. Hi Karen. I’m really happy to have come across your post. I have a sort of similar situation as Mike Lamb. We have two small female dogs, one is a 1.5 year old Mi-Ki (5.4 lbs) and the other is a ~2-2.5 year old Papillon (7.6 lbs). We adopted the Papillon from a rescue to be a playmate for the Mi-Ki a little over 1 year ago. Now, the Papillon is fully integrated and adapted into our home and we are all living happily. But, the Papillon is not very interested in playing with the Mi-Ki and she is much lower energy and only plays occasionally and also does not really understand how to play with toys, so she tires of playing quickly. We are considering adopting another small dog, a 6 month old male Shih Tzu Lhasa Apso mix (2.5 lbs). On the one hand, we don’t want to disrupt the harmony we have in the house now. We have discussed the extra time, effort, and money that will come with another dog. We can afford another dog and I think we have enough time and love to go around. We are wondering if it would be better to have another small and active dog for the Mi-Ki to play with and then the Papillon would just be able to chill and stop being harassed by the Mi-Ki to play all the time. The Mi-Ki is the dominant one. We were thinking getting a puppy male dog would be best because the Mi-Ki would likely continue to hold her dominant position and a male would be a better mix since we have two females now. What are your thoughts on this situation? Unlike Mike Lamb’s post, our two female dogs do play together a bit but just not as frequently as the Mi-Ki would like. The Papillon would rather be looking for food, sleeping, or cuddling with us. Thanks!

    1. Hi Maggie, first, if you do decide to add a third, definitely go with a male. The possible outcomes are the mi-ki and the new male bond and the papillon gets ignored, the mi-ki isn’t interested in the male you pick so you now have 3 dogs who don’t interact much and the initial problem isn’t solved. The male bonds with the papillon and the mi-ki is left out, etc., etc., through all the permutations. Or they can all get along great and problem solved. The problem is that there’s no way of knowing what the outcome would be until after you add the 3rd dog.

      If there is a way you can test the male dog with both of your dogs separately and together before you bring him home, that might at least give you a clue as to how each of your dogs would feel about the little guy.

      Good luck!

      1. Thank you very much for your advice! We put in our application for the little guy. If we continue in the application process then we will schedule a meet and greet for the three pups, so we will get a feel for how they all get along at that time.

  70. Forgot to add, Prince is about the height of a Lab. The third we are thinking of will be a Lab/Retriever cross type.

  71. Hi Karen,
    Also, I have just come across your website and very interesting read. We too are considering a third dog into our fold. Currently have a lovely (calm,gentle, never been aggressive to anything in his life) 17-year old cross breed. He still walks and plays (on his terms) with our other dog, Juno, an almost 3 year old Springer Spaniel. She is very passive, and plays with Prince a lot (and they all get on well with our cats too (we have 2), sleeping and cleaning each other), but we feel that with Prince’s age, that she is not having the best play mate/companion that she could be having. Juno is also passive with any dog we meet on our walks, more interested in her ball/stick/bottles/junk she finds.
    Another reason for the third would be to ease our suffering when he passes, and also for Juno. She has never been on her own as we had her from a puppy and always been with Prince.
    We also have 2 children (11 and 5) who adore dogs and would love another one.
    I am just wondering would now be a good time to get another, with Prince’s age he still comes on 1-2hours walks with me and Juno but does tend to sleep a lot otherwise.
    Many Thanks for your reply (if you can),

    1. Hi Dean, it sounds as though Juno doesn’t need another dog to be happy (not all dogs do) if she is not actively seeking out play with other dogs. So unless you’re able to find a dog that you can have Juno meet that she goes wild for, know that if you get another dog, you’d be getting it for the family and not for Juno.

      If you do decide to get another dog, I would recommend that you wait until your 17yo passes. Adding a new dog now could be very upsetting for him. At his age, keeping things the same is the kindest thing you can do for him.

      Good luck with whatever you decide!

  72. I too am glad I stumbled upon your post Karen. My wife and I have been considering a third dog as well, mostly as a playmate to one of our dogs. Let me explain. We have a 6 year old female Maltese and a 5 year old female Olde English Bulldog. We have a content home and routine which is wonderful. However, our Maltese prefers to be left alone from our Bulldog and absolutely refuses to play with her. That is the reason we started thinking about getting a third dog so that it will play and interact with our Bulldog. Our Bulldog tries to get out Maltese to play but never with any luck. We have an average size home with a decent fenced yard to play. My wife walks the Maltese off leash separately from my leashed walk each morning with our Bulldog. Do you think given our situation, a third dog actually would be a good idea? If so, should we change it up and get a male? What do you think honestly?

    1. Hi Mike, in your case with 2 girls, I would recommend a male. I also strongly recommend that you let your Bulldog be involved in picking her playmate, or you could wind up with a 3rd dog who isn’t interested in your Bulldog. You want the next dog to have definite play chemistry with her. So try to take her to meet the potential addition somewhere on neutral grounds, where you can get an accurate sense of how they might interact. What you’re looking for is a quickly responsive dog to your Bulldog’s play attempts. Size also matters in play, so try to go for a dog that ultimately will be about the same size.

      In your situation, I completely get why you’re considering a 3rd dog. In your shoes, I’d probably wind up doing the same. Again, not to sound like a broken record–just make sure the play chemistry is there from the beginning.

      Good luck!

  73. I am glad I found this post of yours. I’ve been seriously thinking of adding a 3rd dog (9 -week old French Bulldog) our family. Our family consists of my husband, me, and our two, female, 7-year old Coton De Tulears (toy breed). We both work and have a dogwalker that comes in mid-day to spend time with our dogs. Karen, thank you for your post – it was clearly speaking to me when you said “Don’t do it!” We have a happy family and our routine is pretty much established. Although I must say, I’ve been longing adding a 3rd canine-kid to our family. I even thought a male puppy might be a better balance. But the #2 seems to be just the right number.

    1. Malu, if you ever decide on a third, I’d definitely go with a male to avoid the potential of female/female aggression, which is fairly common. But I’m glad to hear that, for now at least, you’ll be keeping your happy family as is. : )

      1. Hi Karen! I’m so glad I found this post because I need some help!

        We currently have 2 dogs… one is a 5 year old mix male (65 pounds).. Extremely laid back ( always has been) unfortunately he has been diagnosed with a very rare lung issue and vet said maybe live another year but is doing really well right now.. Also have a 3 year old female golden doodle! She is laid back but loves to play! Both love other dogs! My older dog just doesn’t play anymore due to the lung issue but loves to be around people other dogs etc. my doodle is the same way but you can tell she is bored and wanting someone to play with… we are thinking about getting another dog (male bernedoodle) for her so she can play with another dog.. she is also attached to the 5 year old and HATES being alone, so we are afraid if something happens to the big dog she wouldn’t do well:( we are torn but leaning on getting a male dog! Our dogs are very well trained, have a big fenced in yard and no kiddos so right now we a lot of time to train a dog! I also only work 3 days a week and husband is only 5 mins away from the house so the puppy wouldn’t be alone much! We just don’t want to think our older dog is getting pushed aside! Right now he gets all the attention because we feel bad with his diagnosis but our Goldendoodle is also extremely lonely! HELP!!

        1. Hi Morgan–I’m so sorry to hear about your 5yo. That’s difficult news to get.

          Given what you’ve shared about your situation and the 3yo being so attached to your older dog, I think getting the bernedoodle now is not a bad idea. There’s no way that loss won’t hit your 3yo hard. Getting the male dog now gives all of them time to bond before your 5yo leaves his body.

          You’ll need to keep an eye on your 5yo to make sure he is neither overly pestered by the other two and their desire to play. And also to make sure that he doesn’t feel left out and still gets the lion’s share of attention. That would be really important for his continued well-being.

          Good luck!

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