The Australian Shepherd is a very active and intelligent dog. They are also affectionate, playful, and loyal. A breed of dog like this needs to keep busy and needs companionship. Often they do not do well if left home alone, particularly if it is frequent and for long periods.
Australian Shepherds require a good volume of daily exercise (more on exercise here) and being smart also requires lots of mental stimulation. See here for enrichment ideas for Aussies here. Failure to meet their exercise and mental stimulation needs results in a dog that is hyper and unsettled. For more on how to calm an Aussie see here, It can also result in behavior issues such as destructive behavior, nuisance barking, and escaping.
This leads many Australian Shepherd owners to consider whether they should get a second dog either of another breed or more often than not, another Australian Shepherd. This will provide company for their existing Australian Shepherd making them less reliant on human company.
The obvious questions are would your Australian Shepherd like having another dog in the family and would it be a good idea?
Do Australian Shepherds do better in pairs?
Most Australian Shepherds do need companionship and prefer to have company. Whether it is their owners or another dog they are a breed that is better off having company most of the time. They are highly social dogs and most Australian Shepherds that are well socialized get along well with other dogs. For more on Australian Shepherds and other dogs see here.
The Australian Shepherd is a breed that doesn’t like to be alone all the time and can be prone to separation anxiety. However, with our busy modern lifestyles, we are not always around to give them the company and attention they require.
They are also high energy and need to be kept busy to prevent boredom and burn pent-up energy (both physical and mental. With another dog, they can entertain and engage with each other and be less reliant on human company.
An Australian Shepherd that is understimulated, bored, and lonely can develop behavior issues such as barking, destructive behavior or even escaping to seek out company and adventure.
Do Australian Shepherds need another dog?
There are many Australian Shepherds that are the only dog in a household and are perfectly happy. However, this does require that the owner gives a lot of time to them and provides them with plenty of attention, interaction, and activity.
Having another Australian Shepherd or dog for company can help to provide for some of these needs. This doesn’t mean the owner doesn’t still need to spend time with their Australian Shepherd. In fact, having two dogs can increase the workload on the owner.
Is my Australian Shepherd lonely?
If your Australian Shepherd is lonely it will show in their mood and behavior. They are very social and friendly dogs that enjoy the company of their families and other dogs. If your Australian Shepherd is not receiving adequate social interaction they will become bored, frustrated, lonely, and even depressed.
Signs that your Australian Shepherd is craving more company and companionship can include –
- Low energy and reduced appetite. If your Australian Shepherd has a change in its eating patterns or is refusing to eat at all along with being lethargic it could be a sign they are lonely and depressed. It can also be an indication of a medical issue so have your vet eliminate this first.
- Nuisance barking and vocalizing. If your Aussie Shepherd has become very vocal they are bored, frustrated, and lonely. Your Aussie is clearly calling out for attention from anybody who is listening. They may also be whining a lot.
- Destructive behavior. If your Australian Shepherd has become destructive and chewing things they shouldn’t it is a sign that they are bored, frustrated or they are lonely and depressed. This can also happen if they are not receiving adequate exercise and mental stimulation.
- Toileting accidents. If your Aussie is toileting inside and they are normally well toilet trained it can also be a sign of them feeling depressed and lonely. Again, this can have a medical cause so consult your vet.
- Aggressive behavior. Australian Shepherds are not an aggressive breed. If they have suddenly started to display aggressive behavior they may be showing that they are depressed and lonely.
- Clingy behavior. An increase in clingy or needy behavior can also indicate your Australian Shepherd is lonely. Australian Shepherds are known to be velcro dogs (stuck to your side like velcro), but if they are being excessively clingy they are trying to tell you something.
- They seem stressed. Your Australian Shepherd may be lonely if they are exhibiting signs of stress such as pacing, salivating (drooling), shaking, uncontrolled urinating, or their eyes and expression are sad.
- Overall behavior change. Often it is difficult to know exactly what has changed in their mood and behavior but you will know they are not themselves. This can be because they are lonely.
If your Australian Shepherd is showing some or even all of these signs they are communicating something is not right. Obviously, it is important to consult your vet to eliminate any potential medical causes. If the vet feels it is not medical related they are probably lonely and depressed.
Making the decision to get a second Australian Shepherd or dog
The decision to get a second Australian Shepherd or even a dog of a different breed is a serious decision and should not be taken lightly. It is crucial to do the research and discuss it when everyone it may affect, especially other family members.
If it doesn’t work out it can be heartbreaking to have to rehome one of the dogs later.
Reasons to get a second Australian Shepherd or dog
There are many valid reasons that getting another Australian Shepherd or dog may be beneficial to both your existing Australian Shepherd and yourself. These reasons include –
- Companionship for your existing Aussie. Australian Shepherds are very social dogs and do require a reasonable amount of attention and social interaction.
- Separation anxiety. If your existing Australian Shepherd suffers from anxiety when left alone, a second dog may help to elevate this. Aussie Shepherds don’t like to be left home alone generally, so if you aren’t home a lot a second dog will certainly provide company for them.
- Training a second dog is easier. You will already have experience training one dog so will have a better understanding of what is required. Dogs also learn from each other. This can be good or bad. If your existing Australian Shepherd has behavior issues you will likely end up with two dogs with behavior issues.
- Helps with exercise. Australian Shepherds are very active dogs that require a reasonable amount of daily exercise. With a second dog, they will help burn pent-up energy by playing together. This does not mean that you don’t have to exercise your dogs just because you have two. They will still require daily walks and other activities. Just be sure you are able to walk two dogs.
- Helping a dog in need. If you adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue dog you will be providing a home to a dog in need.
- More fun. Having two dogs can be twice the amount of fun and enjoyment.
Reason to NOT get a second Australian Shepherd or dog
Just as there are good reasons to get a second dog for your Australian Shepherd, there are also many reasons it may not be the best decision for you.
- Financial cost. There will be more expenses owning two dogs and in case of certain expenses, it will be double. This includes the cost of food, veterinary costs and pet insurance, licensing or registration fees, grooming, toys and accessories, and so on. If you go on vacation there will be the cost of boarding two dogs.
- More mess. If you think the fur an Australian Shepherd leaves around the house is bad, it will double with two dogs. Not to mention two sets of muddy paw prints and you guessed it – twice as much poo to pick up.
- More work. If the new dog you are getting is a puppy you will go through all the work such as toilet training and so on that you did with your first dog.
- Risk it doesn’t work out. When introducing a new dog there is a risk that they don’t get along with each other. There is the potential for competition over resources such as food and toys. You will need to make a plan for the introduction of the new dog to avoid these potential problems.
- Behavior issues. If your existing Australian Shepherd has behavior issues such as nuisance barking or destructive behavior it is likely that both dogs will develop these issues. The existing dog may even become worse.
- Other pets. If you have other pets in the home such as a cat it may cause stress for them. Even if your existing Australian Shepherd is good with the family cat two dogs together may form a pack and bully the cat.
What is the best age to get a second Australian Shepherd or dog?
In the ideal situation, it is best to get a second Australian Shepherd or dog when the first one is at least 8 to 12 months old. Anywhere between 8 months and 5 years is good. This way the older Australian Shepherd is still young and active enough to play while being old enough to be a role model and make training the new dog easier.
Many people get two dogs together from puppies. This can be a good idea but can lead to littermate syndrome. Littermate syndrome is when two dogs from the same litter become so bonded to each other that they have no interest in anything else including their owners.
This can affect their development and can lead to behavior issues, difficulty with training, and fear of other people and dogs. As they become older they may even become aggressive towards each other and fight. This does tend to be more common with two females.
Not all siblings from the same litter will develop this syndrome. Dogs don’t even actually have to be from the same litter. It can occur with any two puppies or dogs that you get together.
What gender should the new dog be?
If you are going to be getting two dogs of the same sex it is usually better to get two males. Raising two females together can lead to fighting once they become mature. This is less likely with two males. Of course, this is a generalization and two females can be OK together as long as there are clear boundaries.
A male and a female dog often do well together. It is important to take into consideration whether to have them desexed. Having a male that is not neutered in the home with a female on heat can be difficult if you are not wanting to breed. They will need to be separated during this time.
How to introduce a new dog to your Australian Shepherd
When introducing your Australian Shepherd to their new companion it is crucial to set them and yourself up for success. If done right it will set the scene for a harmonious relationship between the two. If done wrong it can lead to ongoing issues and problems between the two.
Often it is a good idea to introduce your Australian Shepherd to the new dog on neutral ground. Your home is your Aussies’ den and they may feel disrespected if a new dog or puppy suddenly appears. If you have other dogs come to your home often this may not be necessary. This first meeting can be outside in the yard or at a park.
A few tips to help things go smoothly are –
Give them their own space
A new puppy should have their own crate and playpen. This will help with toilet training and prevent them from having the run of the whole house. It will also make it easy to separate the two dogs if required.
Your existing Australian Shepherd should also have their own area. This way they have somewhere they can go if they want to be alone, especially if the new addition is a puppy. Puppies can be a bit much at times.
Playtime should be supervised at first
Initially, all playtime sessions should be supervised. This way you can intervene if required. Playtime should be a positive experience for both dogs. Provide toys and treats to keep the session fun.
Both dogs should have some of their own things. Be aware of your existing dog becoming possessive or territorial over their things.
Separate when feeding
If the new dog is a puppy it will be eating a different formula. Many dogs can be territorial or food aggressive and this can lead to a fight.
You can feed them a small distance apart and supervise them. Don’t allow either dog to move towards or eat from the other bowl. Another option is to feed them on opposite sides of a door. This way they know the other one is their eating but there is a physical barrier to prevent issues.
Give the existing Australian Shepherd their food first. Once they begin to eat you can give the new addition their bowl. This will help establish an order in the pack hierarchy.
Issues with developing a bonded pair
The term bonded pair refers to two dogs that have developed a very close and tight relationship and can’t be apart. If they were to be separated for some reason it is likely to lead to the remaining dog developing depression.
Obviously, you want your two dogs to bond but it is important that they can be on their own at times. It is crucial that they learn to socialize with other dogs. This is especially true for the new addition.
It is also important to spend time with each dog separately as well as together. This will help prevent jealousy and rivalry for your attention. It will also help in building the bond between you and the new addition.
Best dogs to pair with Australian Shepherd
When choosing a companion for your Australian Shepherd it is important to select a new friend that is compatible with them. The old saying “opposites attract” does not apply when talking about dog compatibility.
Aussie Shepherds are active and high energy so you want a breed that can keep up with them. They can also play quite rough. Rough play is not necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be with a dog that is not bothered by it. The obvious choice would be another Australian Shepherd.
However, there are many breeds that would also be ideal to pair with an Australian Shepherd. Often sporting breeds or another herding breed is a good choice. These can include –
- Labrador or Golden Retriever
- Pointer (English or German) or Setter
- Springer Spaniel
- German Shepherd
- Jack Russell or similar high-energy terrier
- Siberian Husky or Alaskan Malamute
- Border Collie
- Australian Cattle Dog (Blue/Red Heeler)
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Boxer dog
Bottom Line – Are Australian Shepherds better in pairs?
The Australian Shepherd is a very social breed that enjoys the company of other dogs. Most Aussie Shepherd would love to have a companion. If you feel your Aussie Shepherd is lonely it is something well worth considering.
The decision to get a second Austrlian Shepherd or dog is a very serious one that requires you do your research, weigh up the pros and cons, and involve the whole family and any other party that may be affected by the decision.