What is the Best Gender Combination for 3 Dogs?

3 dogs playingI’ve had so many readers ask me over the years what I think is the best gender combination for 3 dogs. Having lived with multiple  dogs for more than 30 years, following is what I think based on my experience.

These are pics of the most recent combination of my 3 dogs—two males and a female, all different breeds, and each spaced about 3 years apart in age.

3 dogs on couch

What You Need to Know About Dog Gender Combinations

Because I started with a dominant female. I went with two males. They loved to play and they loved each other. But it took work to get there. 

To start, this post is going to assume that you already have two dogs and are thinking of adding a third. (If you are starting with a different combination, I’ve already answered many of your individual questions about whether you should add a second and/or third dog, and if you do, what is the best gender combination in this post. Read through the comments and you can probably find your specific situation.)

What to Consider

While gender combination is a very important consideration when adding a third dog, it’s equally important to take into account your current dogs’ breeds, personalities, ages, sizes, training, and whether they’re already tightly bonded to each other. Whether they’re neutered/spayed or intact should also be factored in. And, last but not least, whether either of your dogs have any aggressive tendencies.

The Bond

If your dogs are already tightly bonded and doing well, then I’d ask you to think long and hard about why you’re feeling the need for a third dog. If you’re determined, just know that strongly bonded dogs will take more time to accept a third dog. You should plan on initially introducing them on neutral territory and then keeping a careful eye on them while they are adapting to each other in the home.


If either of your dogs has any aggressive tendencies, I would consider passing on a third dog all together. Pack behavior intensifies with each dog that’s added. Aggression has a way of spilling over and coming out sideways in all kinds of unexpected ways. Don’t add fuel to the fire. It’s not worth it—said from deep, sad experience before I knew better.


In a perfect world, it’s better to have dogs of different ages (so you have time to bond with and train each one, as well as to fully understand their personalities). That said, it’s important to consider the overall dynamics. For example, if you have an old dog, an energetic puppy or young dog could be too much. You don’t want your old dog feeling badgered, even if it’s for attention and play. On the other hand, an older dog can be a good role model and help with training of a younger dog. Dogs close in age can make good playmates, but they may also be more likely to compete for status within the family. A good general rule of thumb is to stagger the dogs a few years apart.

Breed & Size

Having the same or different breeds isn’t as much a factor as the individual personalities. Size and weight difference matters. It’s a good idea to have no more than a 40% weight difference between dogs so the smaller dog doesn’t get plowed into and accidentally injured.

Proper Introductions Matter

It’s never a good idea to just throw dogs together and assume/hope it will just work out. Dogs, like people, have strong preferences. So, when choosing a new dog, it’s important have the dogs meet on neutral territory before you make a final decision. While they may not play right away, do they pay any attention to each other? Are there any signs of stress or aggression? Pay close attention to how they respond to each other. If you can, it’s even better to have a positive dog trainer with you to help you observe.  But also pay attention to your instincts. If your gut is telling you it isn’t a good match – no matter how much you love the dog you’re considering, for everyone’s sake – keep looking.

What is the Best Gender Combination for 3 Dogs—Final Answer

Unless you have dogs with same sex or sibling aggression (in which case, again, don’t add a third dog) or intact animals and your dogs are well-adjusted and generally like other dogs, the best gender combination for a group of three dogs is one male and two females, or two males and one female–not from the same litter or the same age. You want to try to stay away from all three being the same sex to reduce the potential for trouble.  Opposite-sex dogs generally get along well and are less likely to fight or trigger dominance issues.

But, I can’t say this enough, the most important factor in determining the compatibility of a group of dogs is their individual personalities and temperaments, rather than their gender. For instance, if your dog is outgoing, it may do best with a friendly but less demanding dog, If your dog is shy, you might think of staying away from hyperactive bulldozer types, etc.

Just know that no matter what sex your new dog is there will be an adjustment period where it will be important that you don’t leave them alone unsupervised until the new pack order has been established.



26 thoughts on “What is the Best Gender Combination for 3 Dogs?”

  1. Oof messed up…sorry!
    Please disregard first comment. Corrected below:
    Hi there,
    We currently have an almost 2 yo male Rhodesian Ridgeback (92 lbs) who really needs a playmate. He’s a typical ridge: high energy, playful, but super sweet.
    We also have an almost 13 yo female chihuahua/Jack Russell, (12-14 lbs. shy & nervous, but loved to play w/the ridge when he was a small puppy). She will ignore or snarl at him when he wants to play now.
    We lost our almost 14 yo male lab end of January.
    We’re all grieving his loss, so not rushing into anything.
    We know we’ll eventually need to add a 3rd dog for our ridge.
    With an outgoing, young male & older, reserved female, we are thinking a young dog, maybe out of the puppy stage, but we don’t know if a pup would be better to learn correct behaviors. We’re waving on female vs male…seeing both sides, but maybe leaning toward female.
    1. Anyone have a gender recommendation?
    2. Age recommendation?

    1. Hi Melissa,
      Not surprised to hear 13 yo female chihuahua/Jack Russell doesn’t want to play with your Rhodesian Ridgeback. That’s another thing to keep in mind when adding dogs–size compatibility.
      And, if you get another dog while your female is still alive, I’m going to actually recommend a male medium size dog. Don’t really think puppy or young dog matters so much. The reason for male is that if you get a female, your Ridgeback could get protective of her as “his” mate. If your female is no longer with you when you add your next dog, then gender doesn’t really matter.

      1. Thank you for the insight!!!
        Sorry if post came back again…I closed out and came back, not realizing the new comment I’d started typing was still there. Embarrassed.
        Duke (the ridgeback) has had a significantly decreased appetite & is lying around more lately. He sometimes won’t get out of bed until we call in the morning.
        We know he’s grieving, and it’s a process, but we’re a little concerned about his wellbeing…don’t want to let it go on too long.
        We’re hoping the right size pack member will help Maddie, too.

        We don’t want to rush or wait too long.

        1. Hi Melissa, yes there is no question that dogs mourn the passing of their dog family. The way I’ve gone about finding all of my dogs is that I quietly look until they find me. :) I hope the same happens for you and Duke before too long.

          1. Thank you. :)

            Every dog we’ve had has been because of a specific circumstance….things aligned, and it was meant to be.
            Sounds as though you understand. :)

  2. Hi there, I’ve seen very good tips here and wanted to ask your opinion on this. We currently have a bullmatian male who is very goofy and playful and loves attention, we also have a Doberman pinscher who is more shy and reserved , more needy in the sense that he’s always wanting to sit by you or be on you if you’re not already petting him etc.. both males. Both pretty healthy temperaments and attitudes towards each other. The bullmation tends to be the more assertive one. we are considering adding a third dog, a German Rottweiler, do you recommend against having a third male, considering it being an entirely different breed as well?
    The new dog would come as a puppy while the other two males will be near the 2yr old mark.

    1. Hi Nahum,
      Having three male dogs can definitely be challenging when it comes to dynamics and getting along. However, since your current two dogs have relatively healthy relationships and temperaments, adding a Rottweiler puppy could potentially work.

      A few things I would consider:

      • As I’m sure you know, Rottweilers tend to be confident, strong-willed dogs. Make sure you have the time to dedicate to the puppy, so he respects you as the leader and gets along with your other dogs.
      • Supervise all interactions closely, especially as the puppy grows. Dogs can become less tolerant of puppy behavior as the puppy matures.
      • Make sure all three dogs get one-on-one time with you, training sessions, walks, etc. This prevents jealousy or competition for your attention.
      • Having multiple crates, beds, toys, food/water stations can help prevent resource guarding issues.

      If managed properly from the start, three male dogs can co-exist nicely. But it will take more leadership, training and management than just two dogs. Make sure you have the bandwidth for a third before getting a Rottweiler pup – they require a lot of dedicated hard work to become well-trained, obedient members of the household.

      BUT… would adding a female german rottweiler puppy instead of a male be a safer addition?

      Yes, adding a female Rottweiler puppy instead of another male could potentially be an easier introduction. Here’s why:

      • Two male dogs with an existing bond (your current Bullmatian and Doberman) may see another male dog as more of a “threat” or competition for resources and attention. Whereas a female is less likely to disrupt the male-male balance.
      • Female Rottweilers tend to be a bit smaller and less pushy/demanding than male Rottweilers. So she may be easier for your current two dogs to accept as she grows.
      • There would be no risk of same-sex aggression between males. Female-female issues are rarer in most breeds.

      However, you will still want to take precautions by:

      • Properly introducing the new female pup slowly and in a neutral setting
      • Supervising all interactions at first as she gets to know your resident dogs
      • Making sure all three dogs are obedience trained and see you as the leader
      • Providing spaces, toys, food that allow comfortable separation

      With training, proper socialization, and management, I think a female Rottweiler pup would blend well with your existing dogs and be less likely to cause tension than bringing home another male. If you take your time with introductions and are patient – three can work!

  3. Hi, thank you so much for this information. I have a 14 month old, female pitbull, who has been spayed and an intact 20 month old male. The opportunity to adopt a 5 year female Cane Corso whos parents were show winners that has a great personality and demeanor has come about and Im considering it. What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Mark, you don’t mention temperament of either of your 2 current dogs. Since both Pitbulls and Cane Corsos are no joke, and 2 females are always more of a concern than 2 males, is there a way you can introduce them on neutral ground to see how they do first? Since the Cane Corso is so much older than your girl, that’s a help. Usually same-sex issues arise when they are closer in age. Again, not knowing the personalities of your dogs, my best suggestion is to introduce them to see how they do. Even then, if all goes well, you won’t know for sure for a few months. That’s how long it takes for a new dog’s personality to become fully apparent in its new home.

  4. Hello please could someone help, we have a male pit mix 6 almost 7 months old and a female pressa canerio 1yr 8 months. We are going tomorrow to view a cane corso as me and my partner have always wanted one. In doing research(probably a bit late) we have found that female cane corso could display aggression towards other females and our priority is of course our current dog. However I have seen a lot about it being about the dogs temperament and our girl gets on with all dogs of all genders but maybe slightly prefers females, she is a big friendly giant she isn’t aggressive or assertive or dominant at all she is just a lover same as our boy and we don’t want to risk shaking up our family unit throwing in a completely different dynamic. Again our dogs are completely loving and I don’t believe they would fight even if it was forced upon them which gives me hope. The cane corso puppy is 4 months old so I assume that it wouldn’t display any care for dominance for at least 6-8 months and by the time she might display that they would already know here positions in the “pack” and wouldn’t need to have any problem. Again my dog would instantly back down so I don’t believe they would still need to have any type of problem. But I really don’t want my dog to not feel like she is my priority as she is literally my best friend, why I think I want another female. I’m just worried that it doesn’t go well but I still really want the pup. From what the current owners have said the pup is socialized and lives in a home with 5 or 6 adult dogs and all there sibling and have good temperaments. As I said I’ve seen a lot of people say just it’s all on temperament so I hope that is true but would love some outside opinions and advice. Thank you

  5. Hello could someone please help, I am considering getting a 4 month old female cane corso tomorrow and I’ve heard they display aggression towards same gender and I have an amazing pressa canerio female 1yr8 months. She has a lovely temperament and is quite timid and not assertive or dominant at all and likes all gender dogs from what we have gathered whilst socializing. She is generally kind to all dogs and very accepting. We also have a boy pit mix who is 6 months and the kindest dog too. We love the cane corso but don’t want to throw another dog in the mix if she won’t fit into the family unit we currently have. I have done a lot of research and a lot of people say it depends on the temperaments and my dogs have amazing temperaments so I feel like it will be fine especially as she is a puppy and won’t show any dominant traits for a while and by the time she gets to have these types of emotions they will already be bonded and be friendly. Of course our priority is to our current dogs but we have always wanted a cane corso and planned on getting 4 dogs 2 boys and 2 girls without realizing the complications before hand. Please help, thanks.

    1. Hi Shannon, I hear what you’re saying, but having lived through same-sex rivalry, you wouldn’t believe how ferociously awful it is. I would never take the chance again. Your call, and it sounds like you’ve done your research. But since you’re asking me, I would say don’t take a chance on blowing up your current happy family. Maybe if you had a coupla fluffy dog breeds and were considering another fluffy breed… but your dog breeds are no joke.

  6. We have a 8 year old laid back Cane Corso (female) a3 year old Silver Lab (male). Looking to add another lab…..think male would work best. Your thoughts?

  7. We have two male cavalier King Charles, one is a Velcro dog and follows my every move. The other is independent and hangs alone. We want to add a golden retriever but can’t decide male or female.

    I have dogsat 2 other male dogs in my home for a week at a time and everything went well ( but they know them from walking together)

    1. Hi Jeannette, in your case with Cavaliers the gender combination isn’t as critical as it is with some other breeds. You could safely go with either, but my vote would be for a female next, if I’m being uber safe.

  8. I have one rescue, male, and he’s a corgi jack russel mix and we also have enorher dog male toy poodle who’s still a puppy however I have been considering adding a Australian shepherd puppy but my two male dogs behave perfectly should I add another?

    1. Hi Hannah,
      You don’t mention the motivation for wanting to add a third dog/puppy, so without being privy to your thought process, I’m probably missing some key information that might sway me more one way or the other. But strictly going from the info you’ve provided, my vote is always if you have two happy dogs together, keep it that way. I would also be concerned about the size disparity between a toy poodle and an Aussie. You don’t mention if you’ve had Aussies before. If you haven’t, then I would be even more inclined to encourage you to keep your happy dog family as is. More is not always better… :)

      1. Hi there,
        We’re considering getting a 3rd pup because our almost 2 yr old male ridgeback needs a playmate. He’s your typical ridge: high energy, playful, strong-willed, and super sweet…think Baby Huey.
        We also have an almost 13 yr old female chihuahua/Jack Russell mix rescue (Maddie) we’ve had since she was 1. She is shy & nervous, but she’s not afraid to stand her ground.
        She absolutely loved to play w/our ridge when he was a puppy, but she doesn’t want to pay with him now that he’s huge. I get it. She is happy to curl up with him to sleep, but that’s about it.
        We just lost our lab rescue end of Jan. He was almost 14, and we got him at 9 wks from the pound.
        Since we’re all grieving his loss, we’re not rushing into anything, but we know Duke (ridge) needs a buddy.
        We’re thinking a younger rescue, maybe under 1 yr, something mid-sized, (maybe a hound or boxer mix…not sure), so maybe Maddie will have more fun, too.
        We’re not positive on age…concerned if we don’t do a puppy, we can’t train the way we’d want.
        I walked all 3 at once; they’re all very good on a leash.

        Since we have a male & female, any suggestions regarding gender?
        Suggestions regarding breed?
        Thanks in advance for any help/advice.

  9. Thank you for the insights Karen! We have two male Labradoodles and are considering adding a third dog. Our two boys get along well and play well together. The older one is definitely the alpha of the pack. Based on your advice we clearly should be going for a female to compliment the boys.

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