Does gender matter when adopting a second dog?

The short answer is YES, gender DOES matter when selecting another dog to bring into your home.

Experts agree that, for things to have the best possible chance of working out, the second dog should be of the opposite sex.

Here’s the situation. A family I know wants a second dog.

Their older male dog, Rocky, is a sweet and gentle old mutt, and they are completely at ease when Rocky and their young child play together. Still, they feel it’s time to open their home and their heart to another animal.

During their search for a second dog, they fell in love with a male puppy that needs a home.  

Still, the family did the responsible thing and consulted animal behaviorists and trainers about their situation.

Right now, their household is harmonious; everyone is comfortable with their routines and the home runs like clockwork.

While they are ready to adopt another pet, they want to do it the right way.

Every one of the animal experts said the family should keep looking.

Even though the family has fallen in love with a male dog, experts strongly recommend they avoid getting a second male. Why?

Because although Rocky is a sweet and gentle senior dog, there will be some level of conflict between the two males.

If you have a senior dog who may be arthritic or have other pain issues, a young puppy or unruly adolescent can significantly affect your dog’s

quality of life during his golden years.

Being jumped on or constantly solicited for play may be painful and stressful for your older dog, who might just prefer to relax alone — or in

the company of another low-key dog.

Yes, they may work things out in the beginning, but experts fear the dogs will likely go to battle in six months, a year, two years or more – when

the dogs determine it’s time to change the pack order. The risk is there for the dogs’ entire lives.

Additionally, experts fear that Rocky’s kind and safe disposition with the child is at jeopardy once they bring a second male dog into their home.

The male dogs could fight over their toys, their dog food,  or their human’s affection.

Anything could set it off, and the child could be nearby.

When two dogs of the same sex live in a household together, they are required to decide which one will be the top dog and which one will be

the bottom dog. The ‘decision making’ can become nasty and even violent.

The ultimate pecking order can have an undesirable effect on both of the dog’s personalities—one of the dogs can become dominant to an

unhealthy degree and the other can be pushed so far into submission that it’s not good for him.

In this common scenario, the top dog becomes tyrannical and the bottom dog lives a nerve-wracking life of perpetual submission.

This is an unyielding stressful set of circumstances for the entire household.

A female really is the best choice for this family’s second dog.      

With a female in the house, sweet old Rocky can still be the

alpha male dog and the new girl can be the top female.

Since Rocky is neutered and the dog they ultimately adopt

will be spayed, there’s an excellent chance the dogs will get

along fine and never engage in a serious battle (harmless

posing and snapping is common, especially in the beginning).

While passing on this male puppy will be a short-term heart

breaker for the family, the situation they have with Rocky is

special and worth preserving. This little male puppy is a

charmer; the breeder shouldn’t have any problems finding

him a loving home.

Moreover, if he doesn’t have to live in a home with another

male dog it will be a better situation for him, too.

The family is now convinced that bringing in a second male

dog will potentially jeopardize their peaceful way of life and

Rocky’s contentment.  It will be a better situation for the

dogs and a safer environment for the child if their dogs are of the opposite sex.

So now this family is happily looking for the perfect female to round out their pack.


Opposites attract

Generally, I like male/female pairings in a two-dog household, then male/male pairings, with female/female pairings at the bottom of the list.

That is not to say you can’t see successful duos with all of these combos, but I think most behavior consultants would agree that the worst cases

of inter dog aggression are usually between bitches, and when these dogs live in the same home, managing the situation can be a nightmare for

the owners — and is tough on the dogs, too.

Generally, a second dog of the opposite sex is a good idea for most families.

CONSIDERATIONS: What does your pet need?

Does he need an older, nurturing female dog that might bring some stability to the environment?

Does she need a young pup that can lead her in games at the same energy level and intensity?

What kind of breed and gender is best?

In this time of sticky transition, take into consideration which kind of breed is more docile and easier to train.

What breed will mix best with your other dog as well as your family?

Don’t forget that Jack Russell terriers are VERY hyper, and Pomeranians and Chihuahuas can be EXTREMELY yappy, and hard on your other dogs nerves.


  • As a general rule of thumb, if you have one gender dog, usually it is the safest bet to choose a dog of a different gender.

  • Dogs of the same sex have to determine the “pecking order” and fight for which one between them ought to be deemed the pack leader of

  • the two.

  • A pair of female dogs tends to vie for attention from their master, while two male dogs often face-off with intense power-matches to

  • determine the more dominant alpha male in the house.

  • (This can be particularly dangerous when there are small children around who can get hurt when the dogs are wrestling, biting and general

  • displaying their strength.)

  • Another unfortunate side-effect of adopting a second male, is that one dog will usually overpower the other and live with bossy unchecked

  • bravado, while the defeated dog will develop into a submissive and skittish creature.

  • Both temperaments are unhealthy and create a negative environment.

  • One way to avoid the battle for supremacy, is to avoid getting same-gender dogs of a similar age.      

  • Bear in mind when the introduction is finally made, the dogs will require patience while getting used to each other before they become

  • amicable companions.



  • Most dogs will generally engage in exploratory nipping, sniffing, growling and barking at the initial introduction;

  • but this is just a natural part of the process! We always say to give your two dogs at least a week to adjust. 

  •  We also find that dogs are just like children. It is just like bringing a new born baby into the home, with an older child at home.

  • They do get jealous, because now, this little puppy had ALL of the attention, and is allowed to eat out of MY bowl, and play with MY toys!!

  • Our Morkie babies have at least 4 naps a day.

  • We highly recommend that this is the PERFECT time, to give your older dog, some special loving attention, where he is groomed, given a

  • special new toy, a special new treat, and being able to “get away” from the new youngster, by going on a favorite walk, so that he or she

  • can have ALL of your attention, like it used to be. In this way, the jealousy will subside, and within a week, they will have started to create a

  • bond. Your older dog will no longer feel threatened, and you will enjoy your two dogs the way it should be.

  • Don’t forget that dogs are companion animals and pack animals, so they do love to have a new buddy to be able to romp around in the

  • yard with, clean each others ears, and enjoy having a friend.

  • Just understand that YOU are the ALPHA of your pack, and need to treat them in a respective manner, show equal love, and monitor them

  • always!


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