Last updated on February 18th, 2023 at 06:03 pm
Having two dogs in your home may be something you are considering. You may already have a dog and are thinking of getting a second one, so they will have someone to play with. But will two dogs always entertain each other? What if you get another dog and they ignore each other, or worse yet, fight?
In general, dogs who live together will socialize and entertain each other. You just need to select wisely when adopting two dogs by matching their size, energy levels, and if possible, breed.
Dogs are Very Social by Nature
Pups in the Wild Learn to Play at an Early Age
Dogs who roam freely usually form social groups or packs. They may be small communities, but usually large enough to help protect and nurture one another. And, like in any “society”, they need to learn to get along.
The term “Alpha” dog is a bit dated as it leads us to envision one male dog who is aggressive and commanding. In reality, however, dogs often take turns in leadership roles that are intended to provide guidance, protection, and cohesion within the group. Hunting for food and protecting mates and litter are key jobs in which all members of the pack generally participate.
Puppies learn to socialize at a very young age by playing together. They may play tug of war with a strong weed or chew on a stick together. Most commonly puppies will engage in play fighting, which teaches them the rules of social behavior. If they nip too hard they will hear a yelp and may get bitten back. When a pup has had enough he will simply quit and lay down signaling that he is done. A pup who is not interested in playing at the moment may also growl at a more energetic friend who playfully jumps on top of him.
Adopted Dogs May Need to Learn to Play
Playing is the key way that puppies and young dogs learn from each other. Therefore, playtime is a very important part of their development. But when you adopt a dog, it is possible that he or she never had this opportunity. Most puppies should have the chance to socialize by the time they are 12 weeks old.
Usually, pups learn to play with their littermates. In some cases, however, puppies are separated too soon and miss this opportunity. Even so, the desire to play and engage is inherent within dogs, and you can teach your dogs to play with you and eventually other dogs. Find out what intrigues them the most, such as tug of war toys, balls, sticks, frisbees, and games of chase. If your dogs’ history is unknown, you can experiment a bit to see what they like. You may also have to teach them the rules of not biting or pawing too hard and when playtime is over.
Take your dogs to a dog park where they can observe other dogs and learn. But be careful to stay close to head off potential fights. Some dog owners are not vigilant about keeping an eye on their dogs. Dogs who have had a rough past or who are afraid of other dogs may be aggressive and will not be good playmates for your dogs. If you have friends with dogs and a large fenced field or yard, that will be a much better option to socialize your dogs.
Get a Good Match
If your goal is to have two dogs who can entertain each other, then it is really important to get dogs who are pretty well matched. They don’t have to be exactly alike. Even a puppy can play with an older dog. And a lot of families have both dogs and cats who learn to live and sometimes play together. Again, animals, like humans, have an inner sense to play and have fun.
Just don’t get a lapdog who likes to sleep a lot like a French Bulldog and expect her to play all day with a Jack Russell Terrier! Or you may risk having a dog who gets grumpy because she wants to nap, as well as a frustrated, high-energy Jack Russell who is desperate to run around and have fun.
Check with the breeder or shelter where you adopt your dogs and learn as much as you can about their energy, play habits, and general health. For additional information about having two dogs please see my post, Should I Adopt a Bonded Pair of Dogs?
Here are key considerations with selecting dogs who will be able to entertain each other:
- Age of both dogs
- Health issues like arthritis
- Energy level
- Fearful dogs who are overly aggressive
- Openness to other dogs
Some dogs who have had an abusive past or have lived in isolation such as at puppy mills may be very fearful. That does not mean, however, that they will not make good future playmates. But they will need a period of loving rehabilitation first. In many cases, shy or fearful dogs can benefit from foster families with other dogs. In time they will eventually come out of their shells and socialize.
Just don’t expect them to jump right into the mix of frolicking with another dog in the beginning. They will need some quiet time to decompress first. Be sure to see my article, How to Comfort and Heal a Rescue Dog for more about this.
Games that Dogs Can Play to Entertain Each Other
Despite the endless amount of toys we can buy for our dogs, they really only have a handful of games they enjoy when playing together:
- Play fighting and nipping
- Tug of war
- Chasing each other
- Keeping toys or sticks away from each other
Play fighting and tug of war are the most common forms of dog play. It is probably much like human football or soccer. It is definitely a contact sport! If your dogs’ temperaments are pretty well matched, playtime should not end up in a fight. But monitor your dogs, in the beginning, to see how they get along.
The “keep away” game can be hilarious. I sometimes play fetch with my two dogs in the evening while watching TV. When my dogs get bored chasing the ball around, they play “keep it”. One of them might decide to just keep it close to her and dare the other dog to steal it. When the other dog who is watching very intently starts to move, she grabs the ball and runs off. They repeat this “game” over and over until the other dog finally gets the ball. See more about games that dogs play at dogstardaily.com.
Dogs Can be Very Creative and Will Entertain Themselves When Bored
Keep in mind that it is important that you continue to engage with your dogs and take them for their daily walks. After all, they are dependent upon you for just about everything and do not have free access to the outside.
Even so, dogs can be very creative when bored! I work at home and my dogs will frequently paw at me or just sit and stare to let me know that they want to be entertained. Because I need to work I can’t always accommodate every little swipe of the paw on my leg. So, I ignore them until I am able to take a break for a round of fetch or a walk.
Interestingly, when I ignore them long enough, they will often find ways to entertain themselves by engaging in one of the above-mentioned dog games. See this video below of a time they decided to playfight while I was ignoring them and reading the news in my recliner.
Having two dogs to entertain each other is usually a great idea if you can manage it. With a few exceptions for dogs who are too possessive of their owners and get jealous, most dogs who are matched well will be able to entertain each other. This will help reduce their sense of isolation and improve their socialization skills.
So, do your homework first. But if you can adopt and save a second dog’s life from the shelter, I highly recommend getting a second dog. Both you and your dogs will be much happier. Let the games begin!
Deanna Euritt is a dedicated dog enthusiast with over three decades of experience in raising and training a diverse range of dogs, including many rescue pups. Her practical expertise is rooted in real-life experiences, where she has successfully navigated the challenges of nurturing rescue dogs into confident, well-adjusted companions. Residing in Northern California, Deanna’s days are filled with adventures along trails and beaches with her beloved dogs, Charlotte and Georgia. In her writing, she offers insightful, compassionate advice to fellow dog lovers, leveraging her extensive personal journey in the world of dog care and training. See About Us.