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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  1. Ruth says:

    Why does our dog eat the kitty litter and feces he has just started this and has been scratching like crazy?

  2. Zina James says:

    If I buy two Male dogs as puppies, the same age, different breeds will there be a problem later?

  3. Vijay A M says:

    I brought two male dogs from a different breed…one is German Shepherd and the other one is Doberman thus.,, this both the dog’s will be together and friendly…??!!

  4. Mardi says:

    I’ve had Shaggy the male dog for 6 years. He is very rough and wants to dominate the entire area.He is feared by all dogs because he doesn’t back down when fighting. I adopted 2 puppies male and female 2 years ago to keep him company but he would bite at them. I kept them separated for peace sake.Now the female puppy is a grown dog.Can I re-introduce her to Shaggy again?

  5. Vanessa Bell says:

    I have a 5 year old male chihuahua mix who is fixed and is constantly trying to get my cats to play with him so I want to get him a dog playmate and I have come across another 5 year old male chihuahua mix that is almost identical in behavior and looks and I really want to adopt him but I’m not sure if they would get along or not my friend tells me she thinks they will fight because they are both males I could really use some helpful advice on this.

  6. TERI WARD says:


  7. Jeanie Telfer says:

    Need help,I have 2 small dogs,1 girl which is the Eldest and the alfa as say,and 1 boy,and he is more laid back and goes with the flow and lets the girl over take when she does, not sure to get girl or boy now,they are both desexed and new one will be to ,They are both inside dogs and very much loved ,need help with either girl or boy,?

  8. Susan Thau says:

    I had male and female littermates, and 2 years later introduced a girl puppy to the mix. The male kept everyone in line until my he suddenly died. The little girl kept challenging the older female to be alpha female, and the older one would not relinquish her spot. Girl fights are not pretty

  9. Tracey says:

    Not quite on board with this as we had a 3 year old male husky/wgsd and then adopted a 5 year old male husky/wgsd. The two of them bonded the moment they met, it was magical watching the two of them. Unfortunately the adopted one passed on 5 years later so 2 years later we adopted an 11 year old female husky/wgsd and she could be at times a real hag bag to our 9 year old male. They co-existed and would play occassionally but never truly bonded. He is now gone and she just turned 12 and is a wonderful girl. So it just goes to show you just never know.

  10. Caroline Young says:

    Good article! I had three dogs during the 90s – 2 males, 1 female. The males constantly fought for dominance while the female was fine with everything and everyone. I learned my lesson with my second brood: 1 female and 1 male. No problems whatsoever. My neighbor had 2 females from the same litter and they fought each other constantly for dominance. They would tear each other apart, blood all over the walls and carpets, very frightening to witness. It lessened as they got older, thank God!

  11. darcee jr says:

    I only get rescue dogs
    my mom recently as today introduced a new female dog (very submissive) into the family we already have a female dog whom is very dominant and jealous it took us a while for her to get use to the new (male) rabbit we adopted a few months back. But getting back to the point my other dog likes to fight the new dog by either biting the face or neck i pull her away immediatly. I want them to get along bc well there both rescues and i would feel awful to let one go.
    My question what is the best way to introduce the two female dogs.
    I cant find any information online .please help!

    1. Ginger says:

      Based on my two male pits 6 mo and 6 yr who are legit besties; not sure in what ways female dominance/dog age differs….Make sure to introduce off the property to avoid any territorial behavior right off the bat. First dog gets acknowledged and eats first. Enforce sitting prior to feeding in separate areas to avoid them feeling their food is threatened/maintain your position at the top of hierarchy. My dogs eat in the same room, separated by a couch and they sit until we say release to let them eat. Just in general, make sure the older of the two/first dog is not feeling forgotten in any way, even if they pout and act like they hate it for a month they will come around once they get used to it, especially if you still treat them as top dog, although keep in mind that YOU should always lead the pack. Be attentive to their interactions ALWAYS and separate when that is not possible(when you’re not home). My puppy likes to play bitey face and doesn’t notice when the old guy has had enough so I have to step in and make sure he knows. Old dog has come to appreciate and expect this gesture (I get “the look” and I know he wants help). They say things without words so just watch and learn your dog. Good luck, I hope all goes well.

  12. Linda says:

    My dogs always know that I am the Alpha dog and they are just followers. I don’t allow fighting or even threats. We have always had females and no problems.

  13. Hi, I have a 14 month old Mi-Ki. I love him so much & he is the reason I get up every morning. His name is “Buddy”. I was thinking about giving Buddy a sibbling. I just don’t want to upset him in anyway.He is a very friendly dog and loves Everyone. Will adding another dog upset him? And if I do, is it better to get a female or another male? I just don’t want to disrupt his happy life. He only has 1 issue, he isn’t a good eater. He’s so picky. Sometimes he just eats a few bites a day. I was hoping another dog around inspire him to eat better as well as having a sibling( which would really be his sibbling, his parents are Matting as we speak. Help! Yes or No- male or female?

  14. Kelsey says:

    We currently have a 1.5 year old male Newfoundland/Great Pyrenees m mix and we decided to try out a second dog, we found a 2 year old male Newfoundland. While they do wonderful on walks, playing in the yard and basically anywhere outside. My newf/pyr is guarding pretty bad. Food, the couch and our bed as well. Is this something that can be fixed? It is only day two, but we only have a week trial before we have to decide if we are keeping the 2 year old Newfoundland. We are not sure what to do

  15. Sharon Bradley says:

    This is valuable information even experienced dog owners don’t know.
    The dynamic is something I sensed, especially with my very attached female dog and her reaction to any other female dogs who paid me attention.
    Thanks you.

  16. Lisa Bonzey Bonzey says:

    I have always had female dogs in my household at different ages and I have had no problem at all.

  17. Vickie says:

    What if you have a male cat (2.5 yrs) and a female dog (2yrs). Do you get a male or female dog as a new addition? Looking to adopt a male (2 yr) old corgi x rescue. Is this wise?

  18. Lynne Simms says:

    Thanks for this helpful, informative article. I have a male and want to get another but didn’t know what sex would workout better.
    Thanks again!

    1. Fred says:

      I am thinking a female!

  19. This is an interesting viewpoint. I have two girls, and neither have particularly decided to dominate the other, even though they have a huge size difference. They both can be snippy with each other over food, but that’s to be expected – I’m careful to keep them separate around treats.

  20. Helen Simons says:

    What if the 1st dog is a bitch

  21. Atika says:

    We gave our other stray mixed with stray mixed with saint bernard because they were fighting and the golden retriever could have hurt him or killed him the mix started being aggresive and the golden retriever learned from him so i want to get another this joint to my last comment

  22. Atika says:

    I have a male golden retriever and a female dashund I want to get a yorkie next what gender should I get

  23. debra says:

    I have a girl shihtzu one year old she loves dogs and I’m ready to get a second shihtzu for a companion to her and a second pet for us what should I get a girl or boy and how shall I introduce them

    1. terry says:

      Didn’t you read the article?

  24. Molly M. says:

    Help. I have a very old (12) male pug who is so calm and doscile and a one year old female pug who is very possessive and aggressive. I just found out my brother paid 1500 for a lab – he let me know it is a Christmas gift. I have to pick the puppy up the day after Thanksgiving and I don’t know if I should get a male or female. Please help!

  25. Sorry, this feature isn't available right now An error occurred while processing this request. Please try again later says:

    I feel that it depends on the dogs. I have both male and female dogs. I have one female that has always been alpha dog and one female that mothers all the dogs. I had a male rescue that wanted to be the pack leader but now knows I am the alpha. Every dog that comes in my home earns his place in the pack . All new dogs are crated and do not get the run of the house unsupervised until they know their place in the pack. My dogs are greeted and fed and given treats in order and they know the order. They all have there own toys and know who can play with what and who will share and who wont! They are all loved and know that that they don’t have to compete for affection. They look to you to be their pack leader. You must know the signs to watch far and intervene before things get out of hand. I have had very few problems mixing sexes. Some dogs can be set off by toys that make noises. So those toys are only brought out at play time. Other toys can be left out for anyone. It depends on the dog and breed and their play and hunting drive also. Never ever leave dogs unsupervised together for several months until you know temperament of all the dogs. Dogs are family. Would you leave a toddler play with a infant, of course not. You teach all your kids to get along even the furry ones. You are the parent!.

  26. Annie says:

    We’ve always had sets of two males and they’ve always gotten along enviably well, to the point that they become inseparable.

    While I don’t dispute behaviorists’ findings, there ARE exceptions, so we shouldn’t think of them as set in stone. Dogs are like humans in many respects, incl. the fact that each one is different, so I’m afraid of generalizations like these. (People don’t normally ask, “should we pick a boy or girl to be our son/daughter’s sibling?”)

    It may also depend on size. Our poodle loved our Chihuahua and vice versa. When the poodle passed (RIP), our Chihuahua missed his big brother so much, we decided to adopt another brother, a Wheaten Terrier. They have such a great bond now, years later, that we don’t doubt it was the best we could have done.

    So don’t generalize, but at the same time don’t ignore any signs.

  27. Andy says:

    We have a 13-year old female and a 4-year old male, who get along fine. We are seriously considering bringing in a third, but aren’t sure which way to go. Our female has never been real keen with other females, but I understand the potential disaster of having two males in the house. Any suggestions?

  28. Deb B says:

    We brought a 5 1/2-month-old male mix, lab, golden-doodle, boxer rescue, into our home with a 7-year-old male cockapoo. After 2 weeks of what I thought was a good transition, the new dog attacked our cockapoo in the house. I couldn’t see any specific thing that would have triggered this aggressive behavior. (If you’ve never seen a dog fight, you don’t want to.) Fortunately, other than our cockapoo’s hair flying through the air, he was fine, but I felt the need to hire an animal behaviorist/trainer for our newcomer to make sure there wouldn’t be an ongoing problem that would put our other dog in jeopardy. Hundreds of dollars later, our $15 rescue dog showed great strides in adapting to our family. It’s now been nearly 3 years and there have been no other incidents. They seem settled and like pals. The newcomer clearly is the alpha though and our cockapoo moved over to let him in.

  29. Mary Hord says:

    Need permission to link to this article from our website please!!

  30. Cassie says:

    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?

  31. Anonymous says:

    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

  32. Priscilla says:

    *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.

  33. Anonymous says:

    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.

  34. Langley says:

    @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!

  35. RiverPup says:

    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.

  36. Anonymous says:

    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. Anonymous says:

      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.

  37. Marg says:

    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.

  38. meowmeowmans says:

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

  39. Finn says:

    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.