If you are a single dog household owner you have more than likely been asked the question if/when you are going to get another. When I got my second husky, Groot, I realized just how addicting it can be adding dogs to your home, the unconditional love, cute puppy gazes, and hilarious interactions between Groot and Skylar. Enough pros to weigh out the cons of taking care of a new. Although I would love to add another to my pack I just do not have space, however, if you are searching for something to rationalize the adoption of your latest dog or trying to figure out how to break the news of your latest adoption to your spouse, start here.
Why the Correct Number of Dogs Is Always N+1
Living your best #packlife is easier than it looks
Wes Siler, Oct 23, 2018
Without a whole lot of forethought or preparation, my fiancée and I just brought home a third dog. Does that make us crazy dog people? Probably. Is it ruining our lives with expenses and hassle? Not at all.
You see, I have this theory that each additional dog is actually exponentially easier to care for than the previous ones. Allow me to explain.
How We Got to Three
Well, we like dogs, obviously. I was given Wiley almost five years ago while I was recovering from a terrible motorcycle crash that left me unable to walk, bankrupt, and well, sorely in need of some unconditional love. I got Bowie for Virginia a little over a year ago in order to lock her down, once I’d realized she was the one. This summer, we moved to Montana and bought our first house, which gave us some more space, so we started talking about adopting a female dog to balance out our two males.
We weren’t planning on adopting this soon. But as I was looking around online for a dog for Virginia’s mom, I came across a litter of Great Pyrenees puppies in need of adoption here in Bozeman. I’ve wanted one of those dogs ever since watching “Belle and Sebastian” as a little kid, and was surprised to feel so disappointed when I learned they had all found homes. Well, moving the distance slider on Pet Finder up to 300 miles brought me to two four-and-a-half month old Pyrenees-mix puppies. Adorable? Check. Females? Check. In need of a forever home? Double check. Cut to a few days later and we were driving north with a box of puppy gear in the back of the truck.
A five-hour drive through an un-forecast blizzard later and there we were meeting two adorable puppies. The bigger one looked me in the eye, shoved her nose in my armpit, and wiggled while I scratched her. I asked Virginia if we were doing this, she told me she had reservations, I interpreted that as a “yes,” so I signed some papers and loaded the dog we’d eventually call Teddy into the front seat for the drive home.
Her mom’s definitely a Great Pyrenees, but the dad’s an unknown. Maybe a German Shepherd, according to the lady we rescued her from, but looks more like an Anatolian Shepherd to me. We named her after a male president, which my dad says is confusing.
Apparently she was born on May 28, and the vet measured her at 60 pounds last Friday. According to online calculators, that puts us at a little above 100 pounds, fully grown. Her sister Grettel is actually still available.
Having a puppy this big is a new experience. She’s incredibly calm and sweet, so it’s easy to forget how young she is—until she launches into her twice-daily fit of puppy energy. Her size also means that countertops and tables are just a bounce away; we’ve had to learn the hard way to put stuff away immediately. After a dinner party the other night, she climbed onto the dining table to snuffle crumbs, then got scared of the height, starfished, and knocked over a bunch of wine glasses. I had to lift her back down to the floor.
She’s eaten my nice pair of Glerups slippers and this morning I found half an Icebreaker sock on the back porch. But other than her taste for merino, it’s been easy going. She learned how to walk on a leash the day after we brought her home. The next day, she was too scared to cross a footbridge over a stream at the beginning of a hike, but was confident enough to jump across it on the way back. In the week since, she’s learned sit, down, and her name. I’ve started taking her off-leash on hikes for short periods. She’s learning all that faster, and with less effort from us, than any dog I’ve had before.
Which brings me to why more dogs are easier dogs.
Training Another Dog Is Both Easier and More Effective
I have to juggle three bowls of raw meat between the kitchen and the back yard now. But, once I’m there, Wiley and Bowie plant their butts on the grass immediately, and Teddy’s learned sit without much other guidance. To teach her down, we lined up all three dogs, gave the two older ones some bacon when they did it, and when it was her turn, Teddy figured it out on the first try. She also learned she likes bacon.
One of the easiest ways for a young dog to learn is by modeling the behavior of older dogs. So, each additional dog is easier to train than the previous ones. Bowie learned a good bit of his behavior from Wiley, and now Teddy has the additional benefit of two mentors. This doesn’t mean you can just skip the training, but it does mean that there are additional reinforcements.
Modeling also helps a young dog learn its relationship with the world around it. Teddy is too scared to walk down steps if she’s on her own, but if she’s following the other two dogs, she doesn’t even note that the steps might be an obstacle.
That dynamic has also been used to explain how dogs learn much more complex behaviors that often defy traditional training protocols. St. Bernards who perform mountain rescues, for instance, do so in teams of three. Two stay with the victim to keep them warm, while the third goes for help. No human trains those dogs to do that—they teach each other.
How does that apply in our much more mundane lives? Well, Wiley and Bowie wait calmly when tied up outside a grocery store, for example, so Teddy sits there calmly as well. The two big dogs leap enthusiastically into the back of our truck when it’s time to drive to a trailhead. Teddy can’t quite get up there on her own yet, but she’s trying. On off-leash hikes, we let the dogs enjoy themselves, but expect them to stay within 50 yards or so. Teddy doesn’t know how to come when called yet, but I can let her off-leash in safe places, secure in the knowledge that all she’s going to do is follow the other two dogs around, while everyone gets treats for good recall….
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