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Adopting a second dog: Does gender matter?

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

Dogs are incredibly sensitive and social creatures. They form attachments to their owners/families relatively quickly which inevitably leads to boredom and loneliness when they are left to their own devices for extended periods of time. For this reason (and many more), dog owners are often electing to adopt a 2nd dog.


Bringing a 2nd dog into the home is not a decision that should be taken lightly. There are many factors that should be taken into consideration; how the addition of a 2nd dog may impact existing pets, age, breed, energy level, amount of training the animal currently has, temperament/personality and of course gender.


Generally speaking, animal rescues will avoid placing one of their dogs in a home that has an existing dog of the same gender AND there are valid reasons for this. Dogs of the same gender need to establish a ‘pecking order’, that is, who will be the more dominant dog. This often results in physical altercations that can lead to serious injuries and in some cases, death. These altercation can extend to things like toys, food, bedding and for the affections of their owner. It can be particularly dangerous when there are small children living in the home who can be inadvertently hurt during the process. This can result in even-tempered dogs assuming roles/personalities they may not have otherwise had. One dog will usually attempt to ‘overpower’ the other. This lends to overbearing/domineering behaviours if left unchecked. The other will lapse into a more submissive role which can lead to timidness and aversive behaviours. Both dogs can become emotionally and mentally unhealthy. These behaviours can then become prevalent towards other dogs they may interact with.


The safest option when adopting a 2nd dog is to consider one that is a different gender to the current dog you have. With a male and a female, the male will be the alpha and the female will not threaten his role- she will be, the alpha female. This will give both dogs the best chance at living in harmony as there is need to compete over positions.


Cover photo courtesy of AllSorts Photography by Karyn Williams.

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