The ten paw tango

We’ve had Ozzy, our Labrador puppy, for six months now. And it’s over a year since I started Googling ‘getting a second dog’ and poring over the advice on how to make sure an existing dog and a new dog get on well. But on reflection, the internet only really gave half the story. So here’s my battle-scarred contribution to the great ‘second puppy’ debate.

When we got Ozzy, my only real concern was that Molly, our exisiting nine-year-old Labrador, would feel neglected. Because she’s been my constant companion since she was a puppy and I absolutely love her to bits. But she’s not getting any younger and I was keen to ensure an orderly line of succession on the canine front.

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“Did someone mention cheese?”

Molly’s not exactly a shrinking violet, though, so I didn’t really think that she’d end up being pushed around by a puppy, however rambunctious it might be.

And indeed she didn’t. She and Ozzy are now thick as thieves and play happily together at home and out and about. In fact, they’re curled up next to each other on the settee behind me as I write this.

Molly genuinely seems to like having a sidekick. And the two are sufficiently different in their personalities that Ozzy has opened up a whole new (and somewhat more mischevious) side to Molly’s personality.

This is not to say, though, that getting a second dog is plain sailing. Because much as I love having Ozzy about the place, there are a few things that the internet experts failed to mention.

Firstly, when it comes to getting a second dog, it turns out that there is no such thing as economies of scale. In fact, for reasons I have yet to establish, everything take more than twice as long, costs more than twice as much and gets more than twice as muddy. They get through so much food and rawhide chews that our kitchen is looking increasingly like a pop-up ‘Pets at Home’. And the washing machine is on a perpetual cycle to keep up with a torrent of soaking wet towels and muddy jeans (mine, not theirs).

Dog walking has also taken on a much more interesting flavour. Because Ozzy’s still growing, she shouldn’t yet walk as far as Molly, so I sometimes walk them separately and sometimes together. But when we’re all out and about, it takes my entire concentration to avoid getting so trussed up in dog leads that I look like an octopus on a particularly unsuccessful foray into macrame. I call it the ‘ten paw tango’. And it is in no way graceful or dignified for any of us.

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Second fiddle? Not so much.

Furthermore, it can almost be guaranteed that the two dogs will never want to do the same thing at the same time. If one wants to play, the other one wants to sleep. If one wants to go upstairs, the other one wants to be downstairs. If one wants to go out into the garden, the other one wants to come back in. The only time they want to do the same thing is when there are rawhide bones available. Except then they’ll inevitably both want to chew the same one.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that, as you might expect, two Labradors take up quite a lot of space. Certainly more than twice as much space as one Labrador takes up. In fact, like an ideal gas, they quickly fill any space that is available to them. They fill the settee, for example, leaving no room for anyone else. They fill the car. And our entire living room floor is carpeted with dog mats and beds. (Which remain empty, obviously, because the dogs much prefer to stretch out on the settee.)

That said, we’re making progress. Molly was already well-behaved and Ozzy’s training is coming on well, to the extent that she can now be regarded as a reasonably well-functioning member of society. And I can quite happily take both of them into shops, cafes, the vets, etc. without worrying that they’re going to cause chaos. (This isn’t to say that they don’t still, on occasion, cause chaos. I’ve just stopped worrying about it.)

I’ve noticed, too, that the two of them have started to work together as a team. When they’re playing together on a walk, for example, and another dog comes along, Molly and Ozzy will approach the newcomer together, one from either side, until they are sure that it’s friendly. And even at home, they’ll periodically come and find each other, to check that everything’s OK.

We’re only six month’s in, of course, and I’m sure we still lots of excitement left to look forward to. But for the moment, I’m extremely content with our new two-dog paradigm. It is, I would readily admit, absolute chaos. Something as simple as opening the front door to the postman needs to be undertaken like a military operation. I don’t have a single item of clothing that isn’t covered in dog hair or paw prints. And even my pyjamas have a supply of poo bags in the pockets. But, quite frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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