Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Does Gender Matter when Adopting a Second Dog?

By Langley Cornwell

The short answer is yes, gender does matter when selecting another dog to bring into your home. Of course there are exceptions to this; I had two female rescue lab mixes (from two different backgrounds, years apart) peacefully live long and happy lives with me. But experts agree that, for things to have the best possible chance of working out, the second dog should be of the opposite sex.

Here’s the situation. A family I know wants a second dog. Their older male dog, Rover, is a sweet and gentle old mutt, and they are completely at ease when Rover and their young child play together. Still, they feel it’s time to open their home and their heart to another animal.

During their search for a second dog, they fell in love with a male puppy that needs a safe home. This pup is in an urgent situation and they feel they must step in and help. Still, the family did the responsible thing and consulted animal behaviorists and trainers about their situation. Right now, their household is harmonious; everyone is comfortable with their routines and the home runs like clockwork. While they are ready to adopt another pet, they want to do it the right way.

Every one of the animal experts said the family should keep looking. Even though the family has fallen in love with a male dog, experts strongly recommend they avoid getting a second male. Why? Because although Rover is a sweet and gentle senior dog, there will be some level of conflict between the two males. Yes, they may work things out in the beginning, but experts fear the dogs will likely go to battle in six months, a year, two years or more – when the dogs determine it’s time to change the pack order. The risk is there for the dogs’ entire lives.

Additionally, experts fear that Rover’s kind and safe disposition with the child is at jeopardy once they bring a second male dog into their home. The male dogs could fight over their toys, their CANIDAE dog food, or their human’s affection. Anything could set it off, and the child could be nearby.

When two dogs of the same sex live in a household together, they are required to decide which one will be the top dog and which one will be the bottom dog. The ‘decision making’ can become nasty and even violent. The ultimate pecking order can have an undesirable effect on both of the dog’s personalities—one of the dogs can become dominant to an unhealthy degree and the other can be pushed so far into submission that it’s not good for him. In this common scenario, the top dog becomes tyrannical and the bottom dog lives a nerve-wracking life of perpetual submission. This is an unyieldingly stressful set of circumstances for the entire household.

A female really is the best choice for this family’s second dog. With a female in the house, sweet old Rover can still be the alpha male dog and the new girl can be the top female. Since Rover is neutered and the dog they ultimately adopt will be spayed, there’s an excellent chance the dogs will get along fine and never engage in a serious battle (harmless posing and snapping is common, especially in the beginning).

While passing on this male puppy will be a short-term heartbreaker for the family, the situation they have with Rover is special and worth preserving. This little male puppy is a charmer; the rescue organization shouldn’t have any problems finding him a loving home. Moreover, if he doesn’t have to live in a home with another male dog it will be a better situation for him, too.

The family is now convinced that bringing in a second male dog will potentially jeopardize their peaceful way of life and Rover’s contentment.  It will be a better situation for the dogs and a safer environment for the child if their dogs are of the opposite sex. So now this family is happily looking for the perfect female to round out their pack.

Photo by Scot Campbell

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell


  1. We were heartbroken when we tried to adopt another female dog for Finn and found out it is better to have opposite sexes involved. Hopefully we will fall in love with a male and grow our family.

  2. Wow, that's very interesting! I love coming here and learning new things (which happens a lot!). :) Happy Valentine's Day!

  3. I have always had female dogs and I have no idea why. I never had any trouble introducing a new dog but then it was always a puppy and of course the older dog was the queen and most of all I was the main queen. So I don't remember any major fighting. I know that my female cats get along a whole lot better than the male cats. At least, my bed is always filled with girl kitties. good information.

  4. I believe I'm experiencing this with my two female dogs. I have a 4 year old male, a 3 year old female, and a 7 month old female. Ever since we've brought the puppy home, we've had a couple fights between the females. Never had any fights with the male. No one has drawn blood...(other than my pinky finger from getting in the way trying to break them up), but it is still concerning. I try to pay close attention and catch them by the way they are looking before anything happens, but sometimes it's just so quick! Any advice for this sort of situation?

    1. I had a pack of 6 dogs...2 boys, 4 girls. But after dealing with the fighting(for years) between 2 of my girls, I finally rehomed one of them to a friend of mine. Even after getting and implementing tips from a trainer, they still fought. My friend happens to have 2 girl dogs and they all get along great. As heartbreaking as this was, it was the best decision. Our home & remaining pack is less stressful. I feel sometimes no matter what, some dogs just do not get along. If after trying your best, this might be the best option for you. It's not your fault or the dog's.

  5. We've always had a mixed group of multiple males and females. Never had a problem. If they're fixed, you're not likely to encounter problems. Occasionally "pecking order" problems happen regardless of gender, in my experience, especially as the puppy gets older. But one or two scuffles and they sort it all out.

  6. @Anonymous, I'm sorry to hear you are experiencing discord between your female dogs. It sounds like the dogs are figuring out where the new female fits into the pack. At this point, it really comes down to the individual dogs and how they sort our the hierarchy. It's important for you to establish yourself as the undisputed pack leader. My best advice would be to avoid any situation that leaves the dogs alone, unsupervised, together. Beyond that, you may want to consult a local animal trainer/behaviorist to offer specific based on his or her observations with your particular dogs. Best of luck!

  7. I've never had this issue. Not saying that I won't but I haven't had this issue. I have two neutered males and they get along great, they're actually inseparable. One is a 10yr old American Pit Bull Terrier and the other is a 4yr old Yorkshire Terrier mix. In the past(before adopting my Yorkie mix) when fostering I've always fostered male dogs and the American Pit Bull Terrier has never had any issues with establishing dominance.

  8. *touch wood* ! LOL!

    We first had Laura until she was 7 years old and we brought in Mika. Laura was okay with Mika and a year later, we adopted Hana. We were quite worried about two females and a male being together but Laura and Mika were kind and gentle to Hana. A few months after adopting Hana, Eva was born and she was welcomed by everyone at home.

  9. I would say it depends on the dogs that you have and the dog you are bringing in to your family... I had a female and she was three when I brought a male puppy in.. He is the dominant one and has been from the beginning... she is very docile and calm and he is a mexican jumping bean... so I would say it depends on the dogs

  10. Does size play a factor in this at all? We have an adult female Miniature Schnauzer. She's been spayed since she was 6 months old. We'd like to add a Saint Bernard to the family. What do people think about having a giant breed female puppy added to a family with a small breed, spayed female?


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