Ask the Dogfather: Should we get a puppy? Should we get two?

Multiple puppies present multiple challenges. - Photo courtesy Jamie Stringfellow

Tom Shelby, who has trained dogs and their owners on Martha’s Vineyard and in New York City, answers readers’ questions about their problematic pooches. Got a question for the Dogfather? Send it to

Dear Dogfather,
We are thinking about getting a puppy.
We are considering getting two so they will keep each other company while we are at work.

Do we need our heads examined?


Wondering What We’re In For

Dear Wondering What We’re In For,
I always felt that the movie Animal House was named after the house I lived in with a bunch of friends in the ’70s. Between the dogs, cats, birds, snakes, hamsters, and fish, our chief viewing entertainment wasn’t the TV; we didn’t have one. It was interaction and playing between the dogs and cats. Watching the puppies and kittens tussling was tremendously amusing. As a professional trainer I’ve often been asked your question, Should we get more than one dog so they have each other for company? Here’s the mundane truth. Usually, two puppies don’t require double the parenting and training effort. It’s more like four times the effort. Which one of you pooped in the dining room? Who chewed up my slipper, again? Maybe they’re taking turns? The worst part: They don’t need you! They have each other. Therefore, your shared bonding with the dogs will take longer and be weaker. Put a dog that loves to chew shoes with a dog that never touched a shoe, and you’ll quickly have two dogs destroying your footwear. If you have two pups, separate them from time to time. On hikes, to town, on play dates; make them dependent on you, not each other. My suggestion: Get one dog and it will depend on you for direction; train it well, then introduce a second dog.
Good luck,
The Dogfather