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How Many Dogs Are Too Many?

By Aviram K.
June 27, 2021
8 min read
How Many Dogs Are Too Many?
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

On average, an American household has 1.6 dogs (about 38.4% of American families own dogs).

While it is funny to picture what 1.6 dogs may look like, let’s just say the average American household has 1 or 2 dogs.

So, if you already own at least 2 dogs, you already have more dogs than the average American.

But you can never have too much of a good thing, right?

When it comes to dogs, it depends. More dogs mean more cuddles, more kisses, and more love. But it also means bigger bills, increased commitment, and greater responsibility.

As a dog lover, a lot goes into figuring out how many dogs are suitable for you and your family. So where do you even start, and how do you figure out how many dogs are too many?

Having too many dogs is subjective and can be defined as the number of dogs you cannot commit to taking care of financially, physically, or emotionally. Also, legally speaking, most cities consider having more than 2 or 3 dogs to be too many, with rural areas being less restrictive.

In this article, I will present the realities of owning multiple dogs and discuss the differences between rescuing vs. hoarding dogs.

After that, I will discuss pack dynamics and discuss a dog’s sadness and jealousy when a new dog is introduced.

Finally, I will explore whether having multiple dogs is easier than having one, and I’ll close with the benefits of having multiple dogs.

Let’s get into it!

Can You Handle Multiple Dogs?

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There are many things to consider when trying to figure out if you can handle multiple dogs. More dogs will definitely equal more love, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Let’s first make sure that you are ready to handle the responsibilities that come with the territory:

Time Commitment

Even if your dog has a doggy companion to keep them company, your dog still needs you.

Another dog can definitely interact with your dog in a way you can’t, but the opposite is also true. Another dog cannot give the same kind of affection to your dog as only you can.

More dogs mean more time taken out of your schedule.

Are you able to give each dog the one-on-one attention they deserve and need to feel connected to you and loved by you?

Financial Obligation

On average, Americans are spending about $253 on vet bills alone per dog per year.

This is only one of the added costs of adding another dog to your home. There are several more expenses to take into account:

  • Unplanned medical problems like illnesses or surgery
  • Training costs
  • Daily care essentials like food, treats, and grooming supplies
  • Boarding or dog sitting fees, etc.

All in all, the cost of owning a dog per year can be estimated at about $1,400-$4300.

Can you handle the added financial burden by adding a new dog to your family?

Attention to Detail of Daily Routine

Having multiple dogs will require you to do some things differently than you would if you only had one pup.

For example, you will want to discourage your dogs from resource guarding by feeding them in individual crates or in separate parts of the house. This helps to prevent fights between dogs and competition over treats and food.

This will require more time and attention, but it is necessary to maintain a peaceful multi-pup household.

A More Watchful Eye

If one dog can get into things around the house, imagine what two or more dogs can do!

This threat is even more real if one or more dogs have proven to have more destructive tendencies.

One dog tearing stuff up or relieving themselves around the house is a lot. Imagining a few more dogs doing the same can feel overwhelming.

You will want to make sure your dogs are playing well together and not injuring one another. You may also want to crate them when you are away from home to avoid finding a mess upon your return.

Consider Pack Dynamics

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When putting multiple dogs together, there are several factors to think about.

There are no hard and fast rules about what types of dogs to place together. I can offer a few suggestions to help as you select your perfect mix of pups.

It is important to consider:

Age

Sometimes two puppies will work well together. Other times they may not. Each dog is an individual, so their temperament will play a massive part in whether a group of dogs will get along.

Puppies also tend to be way more energetic than adult or senior dogs. If you already have old (or lazy) dogs in your home, their energy and temperament may not sync well.

A pro tip is to stagger the ages of your dogs. This is more so for your own benefit.

When it comes time for your pet to pass away, it may feel harder to lose two older dogs around the same time. It can soften the blow to have a younger dog to still love instead of dealing with two losses within a close time span.

Health

Even if your dogs are healthy when you get them, you never know what can happen down the line.

Researching the common health conditions of the breeds you are considering can help with your decision.

Are the conditions these breeds are prone to something you can deal with? Could you handle two dogs with their specific mix of potential health problems?

Also, taking into account the mental health of the dogs is helpful. Is this breed prone to anxiety? Do they need more attention than you can provide?

Size

Size is another significant factor when matching dogs and thinking of how they may live in your home.

  • Do you have a small space, and two giant dogs would be too overwhelming?
  • Can you handle two larger dogs jumping on you, your furniture, or your children?
  • Are you looking for cuddle buddies and two small dogs that just don’t seem like they’re sturdy enough?
  • Do you want larger, more intimidating dogs with louder barks for security purposes?

Think about mixing sizes too. A small dog with a larger dog may help offset the issue of not having enough space.

Gender

It’s often thought that a boy dog with a girl dog is the best mix, given they are both fixed.

Sometimes this is true, but other times two girls work as well as two boys. This is where individual temperament comes into play.

Breeds

When putting together a dog family, I would lean towards breeds that play well with others.

Take a look at this collection of the best dogs for multi-pet homes. The dog breeds on this list generally get along with others.

Take a moment to explore and mix and match. The possibilities are endless!

Do Dogs Get Sad or Jealous When You Get Another Dog?

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Dogs can definitely become sad and jealous when you introduce a new dog into your home.

Your pup is territorial and loves you, so any new dog can feel like a major threat to their sense of security.

Here are a few tips to ease any feelings of sadness or jealousy your dog may experience:

  • Introduce the dogs on neutral territory
  • Reinforce your role as pack leader by playing with both of them together
  • Keep your same routine going with your original dog
  • Give your dog some time to adjust to their new friend, and don’t force things
  • Spend extra time with the dog you had first as they adjust to the new dog

Is Having Multiple Dogs Easier than Having One?

In reality, having two dogs can actually be easier than having one. This is due to the rich benefits that come from the new bond your dogs share. This will cause them to reap rewards in several areas of life.

Multiple dogs can result in:

  • More exercise for all dogs, which improves their mental and physical health
  • Relief from boredom and loneliness; eliminating the issues associated with both
  • A rich emotional bond that fills a house with comfort, laughter, joy, and love

However, you also need to keep in mind that if your existing dogs are not well trained and already cause you problems, adding another dog into the mix can also mean double the trouble.

An untrained adult dog can introduce your new puppy to unwanted behaviors.

Benefits of Having Multiple Dogs

Besides the rewards listed above, having multiple dogs can have even more benefits. Having multiple dogs can:

  • Increase security and companionship
  • Reduce anxiety in dogs and owners
  • Enrich children’s lives with extra emotional support
  • Give your dog an enhanced sense of family and belonging
  • Make it easier to train your other dogs who see an already well-trained dog as an example to follow

Dog Rescuing vs. Hoarding

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It’s hard to see a lost dog alone on the street. As a dog lover, what can you do?

You may feel drawn to help out, which is admirable! One way someone may vicariously wind up with multiple dogs in their house is by bringing home strays.

It likely comes from a good place, but there is a fine line between dog rescuing and dog hoarding.

Let’s explore some of the distinctions:

Dog Rescuing

  • An organized process with clear and transparent steps
  • The rescuer brings the animal to the proper authorities to get help
  • The rescuer has the ultimate goal of reuniting the dog with their owner

Dog Hoarding

  • Takes place in secret and is purposely hidden from others
  • Animal welfare agencies and any oversight or regulation of process is usually avoided
  • Hoarder feels it’s in the dog’s best interest that they keep the dog for themselves

How Many Dogs Is Considered Hoarding?

There is no specific number of dogs you can have that would actually be considered hoarding. It essentially comes to the dog’s living space and wellbeing: Is the home messy and out of control? Are animals living on top of each other in squalor?

A few signs of dog hoarding include:

  • The presence of fleas, rodents, and other pests
  • A dirty, cluttered, unsanitary home
  • The owner is in denial about the state of their dogs’ health and wellness
  • The owner has lost track of how many dogs they have
  • Dogs appear malnourished, neglected, filthy, and/or sick
  • The owner is secretive about their dogs and what goes on in their house
  • The owner has far more than the typical number of dogs in their home

What Is the Maximum Amount of Dogs You Can Legally Own?

There is no universal and totally concrete number of dogs that you can legally own. Each place has its own regulations.

Most cities have a loose numerical limit that restricts residents to owning only 2-3 dogs per household. Puppies under the age of about four months are not factored into these limitations.

I say these cities have “loose limits” because there is no real way to enforce this. No one is going to come knocking on your door to check out the number of dogs you have.

The 2-3 dog limit is essentially more of a suggestion. Unless your dogs act up and draw a lot of attention to themselves or your home, no one will likely know or care how many dogs you have. If everyone is happy, healthy, and taken care of, there’s no problem with the number of dogs you own.

These restrictions aim to make sure the number of dogs in a community stays within control. The activity of dogs has to adhere to safety, sanitation, and noise standards in the community.

You can actually face a fine and jail time if your dogs cause a stir and neighbors choose to report it. The best ways to avoid any issues include:

  • Only owning as many dogs as you can properly provide and care for
  • Ensuring all dogs you have are trained and well-behaved
  • Making sure your dogs don’t violate neighbors’ property or make excessive noise
  • Cooperating with your neighbors to fix issues, so they don’t involve the authorities

Sometimes More Really Is Better!

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Multiple dogs mean more work, more time, and more money spent. There’s no way around that.

For most dog lovers, these are small prices to pay. However, I believe the benefits of having multiple dogs far exceed the downsides.

The benefits of extra love, exercise, less anxiety, and more companionship can actually cure many of the problems a single day may face.

If you feel like you can genuinely embrace the added responsibility that having multiple dogs entails, I say jump in! You’re going to do great!


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Multidog Household

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Dog Behaviorist & Trainer

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