Are Labradors Better In Pairs? (Or With A Different Breed?)

Some Labrador parent owners just can’t get enough of the affection, and the invaluable companionship a Labrador offers that they’re tempted to get a second Lab.

Whereas, some are wondering if having another Lab would double the happiness of their current pooch, given that they’re social butterflies by nature. 

Also, some are wondering if Labs would fare better with a companion of a different breed. There are subtle nuances to look for in the factors behind the compatibility of a second dog companion. 

Labradors have friendly and outgoing personalities overall, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that ALL of them would get on well with other pooches, regardless of the breed. 

Here’s Whether Or Not Labradors Are Better In Pairs:

Labradors are highly domesticated pets that thrive on human companionship and attention which makes them susceptible to a much more closer loving bond with humans compared to other dogs as per a scientific research.

Though Labradors may thrive on having an animal pack or a dog companion due to their high sociability, that doesn’t necessarily replace the human companionship that they truly crave and deserve.

Most Labradors are better-off being the only pet at home provided that their psychological and physical needs are met with adequate attention and love. Only get a second Labrador if you want another pet for yourself, not for your existing Labrador per se. 

It’s worth noting that we will take a multifaceted approach to determining the factors and reasons behind the compatibility of a second Labrador companion.

First, we’ll analyze whether or not your individual Labrador is suited to having a dog companion based on a wide array of factors and consideration. Second, we’ll further analyze the factors on why Labradors tend to fare better when paired with one another of the same breed. So let’s get on to it! 

Note: Our articles are comprehensive and in-depth. Feel free to expand the table of contents below and skip ahead to sections that interest you.

Do Labradors Really Need A Companion For Themselves To Be Happy?

Labradors, as a breed, thrive on companionships and on being social butterflies as it’s been ingrained in their DNA to be friendly and outgoing, even with strangers. Labradors would most likely revel in the permanent company of a second pooch or more, as they have evolved through the years to have a strong pack mentality. 

Labradors, in general, have a high pack drive due to their strong natural instinct to live and work in social settings thanks to their breed history. As a whole, getting a second pooch would be an extra added bonus for your Lab. 

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Labradors NEED a companion to remain happy and healthy. It’s important to note that dogs have been domesticated twice to be human companions nearly 20,000 years ago. 

Though their natural animal pack instinct still carry over to this day in implicit ways, selective breeding of docile and mellow human-dependent wolves thousands of years ago have made way for the evolution of domesticated canines which favour human companionship even more. Hence why humans have been regarded as pack leaders and why dogs are more in tuned to having closer bonds with humans compared to other dogs. 

So, the whole notion of Labradors needing a second company by necessity in general is inaccurate. Getting a second Lab for the wrong reasons as Listed Below is not only futile, but it’s also counterproductive as it will only exacerbate the supposed problems your current pooch has.

Wrong reasons to get a second Lab:

  • to combat loneliness in the current Labrador.
  • to meet the current Labrador’s exercise needs.
  • to mentally stimulate your Labrador with tons of playtime.
  • to make your current pooch happier. 

Getting a second dog is only recommended when you want a second dog for yourself when you're able to; not to compensate for an existing problem in your Labrador, i.e combating its loneliness, lack of mental stimulation and physical needs,etc . This is because most Labs are better off being the only dog in a lively household if their physical and psychological needs are met, alongside an adequate amount of given playtime, attention, exercise, rest and mental stimulation from their human family pack. Labs certainly don't need a pet of its own. 

If a parent owner needs to compensate for the lack of their existing dog’s physical & psychological needs as well as to combat its loneliness by getting a second dog, they’re in for a rough ride as it will almost always backfire and exacerbate the problem at hand. If a parent owner can’t mentally and physically stimulate and lacks the time for even one Labrador, let alone two. 

Owning a Labrador is a huge responsibility and parent owners need to make sure that they’re able to devote their time, energy and resources for the sake of their existing Lab’s happiness and well-being instead of looking for a quick fix by getting a second dog. 

Read also: Do Labradors And Dachshunds Get Along Well? (Complete Guide)

Why Are Labradors Better In Pairs Of The Same Breed Compared To Different Breeds?

Based on my experience at any daycare centers, boarding facilities and as a pet owner, I’ve noticed a recurring theme where Labradors and Golden Retrievers would almost always “find” each other. Every dog I know naturally gravitate towards another dog of the same breed, and they tend to love meeting each other, where they’d play and copy from each other like no other! 

Different dog breeds have different personality traits and studies have suggested that dogs perceive and respond to a personality similarity when interacting with their own breed. Research have also indicated that each modern day dog breed communicate with different signals as opposed to their ancestors due to selective breeding modifications for the past centuries. 

Hence, this explains why certain breeds would get aggressive towards breeds with altered muzzle, eye shapes and ears as they can’t communicate with each other nor can they decipher the body signals due to alterations. Studies have also revealed that the signals for communication have also been altered for highly domesticated dogs, for instance a Labrador tend to display wolf-like signals present in all dogs at a much higher frequency compared to other breeds. 

Check also: Why Are English Labradors Bigger Than American Labs? (6 Reasons Explained In-Depth)

Labradors also respond better to dogs of the same breed due to the similitude of play styles and energy levels. It’s well-known that Labradors are high energy dogs and they tend to vibe with other dogs of the same energy level as it makes it easier for them to play and socialize without getting overwhelmed or underwhelmed. 

It’s important to note that each breed has a different play style in concordance to their energy levels, and dogs can associate certain appearances to a certain play style, and hence why Labradors with matching energy levels & play styles would bond easily in no time compared to that of a different breed. 

Dogs have long-term memory of their mothers, other littermates, and of the things they regularly experience on a daily basis. Also, they tend to pick up social cues early on from their mothers and littermate and in turn, these memories remain intact for as long as possible. As a result, they would associate similar physical traits and breed-specific signals in other same breed dogs to that of their mothers and littermates. 

These associations would also come with a sense of comfort, security and familiarity which explains why Labs tend to get more much more bubblier and playful with another Lab. 

On the other hand, different breeds of varying temperament, energy levels, prey drive, pack drive, characteristics and play styles would almost always take time for your Labrador to familiarize with. Therefore, making a combination of similar dog breeds ideal for a harmonious home. 

If you’re into adopting dogs of different breeds, it’s crucial to get a grasp of their breed intelligence for better compatibility. With that said, do check out this article on Labrador & Golden Retriever intelligence comparison: Are Labradors Smarter Than Golden Retrievers? (A Comprehensive Analysis)

Read Also: Why Do Labradors Look Different? (7 Reasons Explained)

Factors To Consider Before Getting A Second Lab. 

1) Time, Finances & Space. 

It costs twice as much to have a second Lab in the family. Expenses ranging from vet bills for vaccinations & medical check-ups, pet insurances, toys, foods, grooming, leashes and collars etc. would definitely burn a hole in your pocket if you can barely afford a single dog. 

It’s also important to note that more time is needed to equally devote your energy and attention when adding a second pooch — especially in the beginning when the new pup is need of training and familiarity. There will be twice the amount of poops and shenanigans but there’ll also be twice the amount of love and comfort.

Ask yourselves these questions:

  • Is the juice of having two dogs worth the squeeze to you? 
  • Do you have the time to exercise and mentally stimulate the dogs individually as well as both of them together? 
  • Do you have the resources to feed them with high quality healthy foods (not kibbles)? 
  • Do you have enough space at your home for a second Labrador?

As high energy dogs with intense play styles, accommodating a spacious area for both of your pooches are of paramount importance. In the beginning, it’s crucial to separate both dogs by their crates, pens and yard. It’s best to have a large enough yard of at least 500 ft² for two Labs, in particular, due to their large sizes and intense energy levels. Another important tip is to always make sure an easy access for outdoor pottying, especially for the newer puppy. That way, you don’t have to take potty-break walks for both of your dogs which can be very time consuming. 

Their contacts with each other in open space must be supervised for the first 3 to 5 months to avoid any unnecessary aggression, conflicts and stress. The younger pooch should also be trained separately, at least in the beginning. 

I wouldn’t recommend you getting a second dog if you barely have the time for your existing pooch. 

Read Also: Why Are English Labs So Expensive? (All You Need To Know)

2) Temperament & Energy Levels

It’s important to note that though Labradors usually get on the best with its own kind as explained earlier, they are individual dogs as well. Each Labs have their own individual temparaments, and it’s important to make sure that your existing pooch has gone through proper socialization, training and are calm enough in the presence of another dog before even considering getting another Lab.

If you’ve noticed that your existing Lab gets all excited, and rambunctious with other dogs around at the park and have not shown any sign of nervousness, agitation or stress in the presence of other dogs; then you have a properly socialized pooch that’s ready to mingle and co-exist with another dog. 

Another way of verifying your dog’s behavior is to observe its actions and temparament when temporarily fostering another dog. 

Typically, Labradors are laid back and sociable with just about any breed thanks to their exceptional adaptability skill, and hence it wouldn’t be a hassle in training labs for a faster bonding.

It’s advisable to pair up both labs that have the same energy levels because they tend to vibe with other dogs that are on the same wavelength as they are. They require constant physical and mental stimulation to keep them preoccupied. 

It would also help in figuring out who their ancestors are from a reputable breeder and what they specialized in to get a better grasp on how the Lab puppies would turn out as an adult. 

Be sure to pick the middle-of-the-road pup that is neither aggressive or weak in its litter. Also, it does help a lot in observing the behavior of its mother dog just to get a rough idea on how the puppies will turn out as an adult later. 

Nevertheless, these breeds will bond quickly if they are properly socialized and well trained together with patience, rather than having mismatched energy levels where they wouldn’t enjoy each other’s presence.

For instance, if a Labrador’s exuberance knows no bounds despite training and socialization, it’s best to not pair it up with a young Lab puppy who’s known to have a calm disposition in its litter. Consult a reputable breeder for further advice. 

Recommended reading: Do Labs & German Shepherds Get Along Well? (A Complete Guide) (9 Factors)

3) Gender

As far as the genders are concerned, Labradors of the opposite sexes are your best bet for a harmonious home.

According to the experts and from my anecdotal experiences, neutered breeds of the opposite sexes tend to get along much better compared to breeds of the same gender. A combination of two female would incite more violence compared to two males.

The presence of two males would inevitably lead to the need of forming a stable pack order — an establishment of dominance and submissiveness between the two.

Fights will always erupt if neither one decides to cave in, and it may permanently change their personalities. This is because your pooch may become more overtly dominant than it could have otherwise been, and the same applies vice versa in terms of submission. This may lead to distress over time.

On the other hand, two female dogs would lead to a much more brutal fight that would sometimes lead to death. This is due to the fact that neither female dogs would usually compromise to form a stable pack order as they are slightly more independent in nature.

Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, and some female dogs have formed amicable life-long bonds with one another but exceptions aren’t the norm.

Read also: Can A Lab Take Down & Kill A Coyote? (All You Need To Know)

When Should You Get A Second Lab?

It's highly advisable for you to get a second Labrador puppy once your current Labrador is fully grown at minimum 2~3 years of age. This is because this is the age when your existing pooch is physically mature and coincides well with the development of dog selectivity, reactivity and aggression.

That way you’ll know your current dog’s temparament like the back of your hand and you’d be wise enough to pick a second companion that matches your dog’s breed and personality. Or you could easily train a second puppy to get along well with your current dog which always works out great.

Hence, you shouldn’t get both Labs as puppies as they might grow up to be total opposites and not get along despite being close as puppies. They may also suffer from littermate syndrome if raised as puppies together.

Furthermore, it will be best for you to fully train and socialize your current dog in order for it to be well mannered and friendly for a second Labrador later.

Fully trained dogs are more likely to bond well as they arent aggressive nor do have socialization issues, and plus they have many more good habits to teach young dogs. As a result, that is little less high maintenance if you ever decide to get a second puppy.

However, you should never introduce a second young dog/puppy to a current old Labrador that has past its prime years. Senior dogs and young puppies don’t get along well in the slightest. Those rambunctious pups will be too much for an old dog with health issues to handle.

Check also: Should Labradors Eat Grain-Free? (Important Facts You Must Know)

How To Introduce a Lab Puppy To Your Existing Labrador. 

You’ll have to keep in mind that it’ll be harder on the older dog in the beginning as it will get annoyed with the puppy.

Don’t let the puppy constantly accost the older dog. Back the older dog up if it puts the pup in its place in a non-hurtful manner. It’s important not punish the older dog for correcting the pup as it will create negative associations with it. 

Give your puppy tons of toys or stuffed animals as a means of distraction from their mouthiness and hyper behavior.

As for the introduction:

  • Conduct the introduction through a fence or a barrier, or an exercise pen on a neutral space outside. 
  • Be sure the puppy has a way to get away from the adult dog as to not overwhelm the puppy if it gets nervous. And have the older dog behind a fence. 
  • Gradually walk the pup toward the barrier and watch for the body language signs on both of them. Look out for raised hackles, freezing or if its growling. Only proceed when both seem comfortable and unbothered in each other’s presence through the fence. Tails that are up and wagging with their mouths open are a positive sign. 
  • Walk them together apart with ample space till they’re comfortable with one another.
  • Make sure the older dog is comfortable on-leash when the puppy slowly makes its way to it. Here’s a recommended leash (Amazon).
  • Unleash the puppy and let it gradually walk towards the older dog for the introduction. Let the puppy explore the older dog by sniffing and following it, while making sure the older dog remains calm while on-leash. That way, the puppy can get away in an instant if it’s terrified or nervous of the dog.
  • There’s bound to be moments when the puppy backs away as the older dog sniffs it. And let the puppy gradually get back to the dog on its own terms 
  • Build trust and confidence in the pup that the older dog isn’t going to hurt it by ensuring the older dog remains calm and grounded in the introduction process.
  • Let the puppy follow along, explore and sniff the older dog as you walk it on-leash.

Here are some important tips:

Stay at this stage for a few days to not let the puppy get overbonded with the dog. It’s important to make sure that the puppy gets a redirection from you as the leader of the pack instead of the older dog. Establish yourself as the pack leader by staying in this stage for a few more days. This helps the puppy to avoid developing separation anxiety early on if it were to overly bond with the older dog. Limit the interactions during the first few days and keep them separated by having them exercise from each other’s pen in their own space until the puppy understands that you’re the pack leader. Let the puppy love you more than the other dog before considering full-access and interactions between the dog and puppy.

If the dog snaps at the puppy to correct its behavior, understand that it’s warranted as it’s a form of communication instead of aggression.

Also, always watch for the body language and change of behavior. Mouth closed, intense panting, hair heckled up, tail tucked in between the legs are a sign of distress and nervousness and the puppy should be calmed down immediately. 

On the other hand, watch out for the older dog and make sure the puppy isn’t too overwhelmingly hyper or nippy on the older dog. To avoid future conflicts, it’s crucial to feed them separately at the beginning for at least 6 months. 

You might also be interested in Will A Labrador Kill A Cat? (All You Need To Know)

How To Introduce Both A Young Adult Labrador To An Older Lab For The First Time.

The first introduction is key to making sure both dogs are set up for success together. If you’re introducing two young dogs at the same time, you’ll want to make sure either one of your lab is properly leashed trained on your command.

  • Set the first meeting outdoors out on an open neutral space with each dog on a leash. 
  • Then walk your younger Lab towards the other dog on your command by making sure they are fixated on your attention and the other dog. You’ll have to let your dog know that you’re the boss and the meeting has to take place under your terms.
  • If your dog seems a little more feisty than it usual would without even taking heed of your commands, pull back on the leash and walk in the opposite direction to let it know you’re not allowing your pooch to run the show.
  • After walking your pooch in the other direction for awhile, gradually walk your younger Lab again to the older dog and make sure its attention is fixated on you, as if its seeking your approval to meet up with the second dog.
  • Once both dogs are close to each other, let them sniff each other vigorously and pull back on the leash a little every 10 seconds and repeat the same procedure. 

Let them eventually sniff each other’s bottom to get them familiarized with their specific scents, and in turn learning more about one another. Also, keep an eye on their wagging tails.

If both of them are comfortable in each other’s presence with their tails wagging, then gradually take them for a walk together for 10 minutes and nip any aggression in the bud by pulling on the leash and walk away to reinforce a negative association to it.

Walk them long enough till you could gradually let them loose together without a leash on. And be sure to give them positive reinforcements on a good behavior during the introduction.

As for introducing them indoors, let the newer dog get familiarized with the house while keeping the residential dog separated outside. And let the latter walk into the house under close supervision. Chances are they’ll get along really well indoors if they’ve already acquainted well during the first meeting outdoors. 

Other Articles You’ll Enjoy:

Sources

JustLabradors: Two Labs Better Than One?

TheLabradorForum: Should I Get A Second Lab

LabradorForumsUK: Having Two Labs Better Than One?

PsychologyToday: Dogs Love People More Than They Love Dogs

Time: Strong Human Bonds With Dogs

ScienceDirect: Article on Paedomorphosis affects agonistic visual signals of domestic dogs

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