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Canine Behavior/3 dogs better than 2


I have a multi-part question I am hoping you can provide insight on. A little background first. We currently have two dogs: a 5-year-old, female English Bulldog and a 6-year-old, female Maltese. Our English Bulldog is so happy when she is able to play with others dogs, as most dogs would be. However, our Maltese refuses to play with her. Our Maltese is your typical lapdog, only wanting human companionship. We are starting to feel a bit guilty about our English Bulldog being bored with no playmate most of the time, hence our thought to potentially add a third dog to the mix mainly as a playmate/companion for our English Bulldog. We are unsure, however, if this is a good idea considering the harmony we currently have with just the two dogs. We do not want to disrupt this unless it is worthwhile, hence the reason I am here asking for your advice. Is it a good idea to get our English Bulldog a third dog as a playmate? Is having 3 dogs going to be exponentially more difficult than having 2 or just a bit more work? I am not concerned with extra food, vet expenses, etc., and we have enough room in our house for a third dog theoretically. I have been reading so many mixed reviews on having 3 dogs that it has made it confusing on whether or not my wife and I should pull the trigger on getting a third dog. The dog we are currently looking at is a 5-month-old Cocker Spaniel/Poodle mix as we thought a medium to small size dog might be best/easier in terms of the logistics of having 3 dogs. I had read that a new puppy would likely follow our dogs around, and they would in turn help teach him/her the ropes, potty training, etc. Is this true or am I way off base here? Also, with a 3 dog scenario, is a small to medium size dog best or would a larger dog be easier? Should we get a male or female?

Are there other options we should consider for our English Bulldog instead of getting a third dog, such as doggie daycare twice a week, etc.? Id really like as close to a definitive answer on this as possible as my wife and I have been going back and forth on this issue for several months. Is the third dog worth it? I appreciate your time and advice. Thank-you.

"Most" dogs are NOT happy playing with  other dogs, this is a misconception.  Play in dogs is not play in children; play is a social hierarchical behavior.  Yes, dogs do seem to enjoy it but it is always, inherently, a test of strength, stamina and temperament.  Your English Bulldog is not pining away because your Maltese doesn't want to play with her.  The Maltese is either not socialized to other dogs from very early puppyhood on a consistent basis, is making a statement of social hierarchy by refusing play behavior, or is simply much more bonded to you.  So long as your English Bulldog is loved, confidently cared for, secure and physically well maintained, she is better off than millions upon millions of other dogs in the world, including right here in the United States.

Adding another dog to this mix could backfire, big time.  Three dogs is a pack; the Maltese will suffer, the English Bulldog might not be too happy about the change either and you may very well have a mess on your hands UNLESS you absolutely KNOW how to manage it from the beginning and you are able to conduct serious temperament evaluation of the dog you want to add.  My answer: it's okay as it is.  As for doggie daycare, beware.  Many dogs do fine and other dogs do NOT do fine and then they come home with problem behaviors that are difficult to address.  If you can find a small playgroup where YOU can attend WITH your dog (NOT a dog park) and is well supervised by a knowledgeable trainer, just let "sleeping dogs lie" and pun IS intended.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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