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Dogs/3 better than 2?


QUESTION: 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.

Hi Mike,

Not every adult dog enjoys playing with other dogs, and not every adult dog likes the companionship of other dogs. I'm afraid getting a third dog may not be the answer. To be honest, having two female dogs that tolerate each other in a home is above the curve, as far as I'm concerned.

Dogs do not require other canine company, as much as they require human contact. As long as your dogs get plenty of love and attention from you on a daily basis, you can feel secure that they are happy, despite the fact that they do not play with each other. Having multiple dogs is NOT a substitute for human contact.

Having three dogs is a having a "pack". There are different dynamics evolved than there are with just two dogs in a home. A third dog may well lead to issues of dominance and conflict. You would need to be a strong "pack leader" to ensure peace and stability, and give each dog the attention and training it requires. It's more work, not less, to have multiple dogs.

I don't think I'm getting the whole story here. I don't understand why you would consider giving up your Bulldog. She sounds like the more social of the two. What she needs is your time and attention which means daily exercise, such as leashed walks and active play WITH YOU, not another dog.  You can't ever force your  Maltese into being the playful dog you want her to be, and yet both of your dogs are happy as long as you provide them with your attention.

You didn't say how much time your dogs are alone each day. If your dogs aren't having house training issues due to being alone for extended periods of time each day, a good long leashed walk (20 to 30 minutes) in the morning, and another when you return home in the evening could work. Exercise is not only keeps a dog fit, it's also mental stimulation for a dog. As long as your dog is physically capable, the more exercise he gets the better. Exercise generates mood-stabilizing serotonin within the brain producing a feeling of well-being and mental stability. Letting the dogs outside by themselves is not a substitute for the time and exercise spent with you during a leashed walk. Again, YOU are what your dogs need most.

There are things to do that would give your Bulldog more mental stimulation during the day, or when you're not home. Read more here:

Feel free to get back to me with the missing details of this story.

Best of luck,


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


I appreciate your response, but you are a little off base here. I in no way intended to imply that I was thinking about getting rid of my Bulldog. Far from it. I am also not interested in forcing my Maltese to play. I'm not sure where you got either of those ideas, but it must have been a simple miscommunication. We walk both dogs every day as well as give them tons of affection and as much play time as they can handle, which usually isn't much.

My main question pertains to whether to add a new addition to the family in hopes that our Bulldog can have some real canine companionship in addition to the human companionship she already receives. I will have to disagree with you about canines not needing other canine companionship. I realize human companionship is most important, which both my dogs already have. However, when we let our Bulldog stay at our friends house while we are away, they have two Boxers that she plays with. She comes away from their house so much happier from being able to play with their dogs and lay around with them as a pack. I am well aware that the pack dynamics can change when adding a third dog, hence the reason I am on this forum seeking advice. I am a strong pack leader and am not worried about that end of things. My main question is whether or not a dog who will play with our Bulldog is a worthwhile venture. Thank-you again for your time.


Hi Mike,

I'm sorry I misunderstood parts of your original message, especially the part about giving up your Bulldog! I really apologize. I get so many messages, and some of them are sort of surprising, to say the least.

Since your Bulldog enjoys the company of other dogs, if you can afford it, the simplest solution would be to have a little "doggie daycare", or take her to a dog park (if there's one in your area). A local dog training club could also put you in touch with local "play groups". With these options your dog would get the playtime she likes, and you wouldn't have any of the conflicts that adding a third dog to your household could cause. This site can help you locate dog parks:

You didn't say if the Cocker mix you've been considering is a male or a female. If you were to get a third dog, choosing a neutered male would be the best fit for your household. Having multiple female dogs (even if they're spayed) often leads to aggression issues. At five months old, the Cocker probably has a lot more energy than your dogs. When your older dogs are being pestered, step in to say when "enough is enough", and also give the puppy the extra exercise it needs, things should be okay.
While it's true that puppies do learn things like bite inhibition and maybe some of the household rules from older dogs, you shouldn't expect your current dogs to teach the puppy how to be house trained. To be a good pet, you want the puppy to be dependent on you, not upon other dogs.

If it's acceptable with whomever is keeping the Cocker mix now, before adopting "introduce" your dogs to it on neutral ground (an area where neither the Cocker or your dogs have been), and see how it goes. Here are some tips on how to introduce dogs:

Best of luck,



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To date, I've owned 7 dogs, all of which have lived into old age. Having cared for them in all stages of life, I feel I can offer sound advice to other pet owners, and people considering getting a dog. I am knowledgeable about the AKC (American Kennel Club) dog breeds, training and exercise, caring for sick and elderly pets, feeding, as well as many holistic treatments pets can benefit from. My only request is that you write me using standard English and punctuation.


My life experience in this field is more like "on the job training" rather than an actual degree in animal welfare. You may benefit from my experiences over the past 30 years. Aside from the dogs I've owned, I'm also involved in "breed rescue" and have fostered several dogs, all of which have been adopted to wonderful "forever homes". I find helping people who want a dog very rewarding.

Real life experience, based on over 30 years of dog ownership.

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