What is the Best Gender Combination for 3 Dogs?

3 dogs playing I’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.



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

  1. 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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