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Canine Behavior/Is 3 dogs/puppies better then 2


Hi.... I currently have a 1 1/2 year old German shepherd.  We now have a 4 month old female mini labradoodle ( currently 6lbs)...... Since we lost our 13 year old lab.  They love each other  but he is still very big to let them run around together.  They play with each other through an exercise pen and also while the gsd is in a down stay .  We know of a  6  moth labradoodle (will be 60lb as an adult) that owner is looking for a good home for him.  Will that be a good idea for us to adopt the dog ?  I feel he will be comparable for both dogs.

Hello, and thank you for contacting All Experts,
It's really difficult to predict how things may go, especially down the road, once all these dogs mature. Your German shepherd sounds like is happy to have company, but at this moment your 4-month old mini labradoodle is a puppy and the 6-month old you may be planning to adopt is a puppy too. Things tend to go smoother when you are dealing with young dogs. Problems, tend to start when the dogs reach maturity which varies between 2-3 years of age depending on breed and size. In general, large dogs tend to mature more slowly than smaller ones. You didn't mention the sex of these dogs. Generally, male and female combination tend to work best.

To answer your question, generally speaking, 2 dogs are much more manageable than 3. When you have 2 dogs playing and you add a third, there are chances that 2 dogs bunch up together against one. Also, with 3 dogs, there are always 2 of the same sex, which can sometimes be problematic. Three dogs greeting the owner over enthusiastically have a higher chance to engage in a squabble, (but this can also happen with 2). However, I must say, that there are many cases of people with 3 dogs that get along just fine.

I am guessing that you are looking for a play mate for your German shepherd while your mini labradoodle grows or an intermediate, way in between the two other dogs in regards to size. It looks like your mini labradoodle will possibly grow to be 15 to 30 pounds and you mention the labradoodle will be around 60. I must say, I have seen households with large German shepherds and smaller dogs and they were great playmates. Of course, there are always those chances for accidents when mixing smaller and larger dogs, but it's very endearing to watch how some large dogs self-handicap.

To learn more about how self handicapping works and play behaviors I am including some reads on play behavior part one and play behavior part 2, self handicapping is on part 1:
Play behavior part 1:
Play behavior part 2:

Here are some tips on choosing a play mate for your dog:

As seen, there are really no guarantees on how things will work out for you. When people often ask me if they should add a dog to their household and they already have say 1-2 dogs that are social, I tell them to try to foster a dog and see how things work out. They therefore get a feel how it is to walk several dogs, socialize and train several dogs, feed several dogs, watch them interact etc. But of course, even if things look like are going well, there are no guarantees things will always be that way especially when the dogs are puppies. I often say it's sort of like predicting how a marriage will work out. You may have couples that start off great and end up divorcing, then those starting roughly and then get along just fine, then those who always get along well and stay "till death do us a part." It's really not easy to predict, especially in the long run.

Yet, there are so many wonderful stories of multi-dog households getting along well, but we must keep in a corner of our mind also those unfortunate cases where dogs do not get along and owners must keep them separated and rotate, or worse re-home one dog. In your case, the good thing is that most of your dogs are fairly young, your German shepherd is at the teenager phase and the younger dogs may have good chances of growing up together and accepting each other. You may expect some squabbles along the road as the mature, but if you are very diligent in supervising them and having them respond to a cue to pay attention to you when things start to heat up a bit, you may keep them from getting too aroused which paves the path towards fights. However,it's also true that when you have more than 1 dog, dogs may get into squabbles over the owner's attention or when they are all out in the yard and see other people or dogs, they may re-direct over each other which may lead to fights.

It's important that dogs communicate well among each other using ritualistic displays (a stare, a growl) without engaging in true aggression. I often say it's important that dogs use "their words" to communicate and that the other dogs read them and respect them. If you are hoping to add another dog, I would recommend an excellent read, the book: "Feeling Outnumbered: How to Manage and Enjoy Your Multi-dog Household" by Patricia McConnell

I hope this helps. As seen, I cannot give a definitive answer, as there are too many variables and dogs are all individuals with their distinct personalities. I send you my best wishes for whichever choice you make. Best regards, Adrienne

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Adrienne Janet Farricelli CPDT-KA


I can answer questions pertaining dog psychology and general dog behavior. Why is my dog doing this? And what can I do about it? are common questions I am asked. I will not answer questions concerning health problems as this is out of my spectrum, but I can recommend a vet visit if there are chances behavioral problems may stem from a possible underlying medical problem.


I am a certified dog trainer (CPDT-KA) that has attended seminars on dog behavior. I am acquainted with behavior modification programs and have read several books from reputable authors such as Patricia McConnell, Turid Rugaas, Nicholas Dodman and Bruce Fogle to name a few. I have rehabilitated dogs affected by moderate to severe behavioral problems.

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