Does Gender Matter when Adopting a Second Dog?

February 14, 2012

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

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Pet Foods.

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