How to Tell If a Dog Needs a Companion

By Lisa McQuerrey

Pay attention to how your dog behaves around other animals to get a sense for whether he would like long-term company. While some dogs enjoy the companionship of other animals, others are loners who prefer their own space.

The Pack Mentality

Dogs are pack animals who enjoy the company of others. If you can take on the responsibility of having more than one animal in your home, getting a companion for your pet can be a positive and fulfilling experience for the entire household. Keep in mind that a second pet is no replacement for human interaction, care and attention. Another pet will require your time and love as well as appropriate training to make him a well-socialized and well-behaved addition to your family.

Watch for Socialization Cues

When you take your dog out in public, arrange play dates or go to dog parks, watch how he interacts with other dogs. If he shows an interest in playing and socializing, it can be an indication he would enjoy the company of another pet at home. If he cowers, hides, growls or shows general disinterest, he may be perfectly fine being the lone top dog of the house.

A companion doesn’t necessarily have to be another dog. Dogs and cats can make good company for each other, particularly if they’re introduced at a young age.

Look for Behavioral Signs

A dog who is frequently left alone at home can become bored, lonely and destructive or can suffer from separation anxiety. This may manifest when you change your work schedule, the household size is reduced or in the aftermath of losing an established household pet. Your dog may show signs of depression such as being despondent and inactive, experiencing changes in sleeping patterns or eating habits or acting out of character, crying whining or eliminating in inappropriate spots.

Making the Right Choice

When selecting a new companion, take into consideration the size and age of the new animal to enter the home. For example, adding a very large dog to a small dog home or vice versa can result in territorial disputes and safety issues. Likewise, adding a second dog who has a vastly different temperament than the resident dog can lead to problems. A young dog may irritate an older dog with his exuberant energy and desire to play nonstop. Gender is important as well. Dogs of opposite sex -- both spayed or neutered -- do better than same-gender pairs. If possible, allow your resident dog the opportunity to meet and interact with a prospective new companion prior to making a commitment to adoption.

Making the Transition

Any time you bring a new pet into the household it requires a transitional period for everyone involved. Select a time when household members can be on hand to help with the integration process. Animals should be introduced to one another slowly with leashes on, with positive reinforcement for positive interaction. Both animals should have their own food and water bowls as well as their own sleeping places and toys. The dogs will sort out dominance issues on their own. Don't feel compelled to aid in this attempt unless fighting breaks out.