How Many Dogs Is Too Many?

Doritos are my love language and my compulsion. I don’t buy them at the store because I can’t control myself when they are in the house. My husband, when he knows I have had a trying day, buys me a small bag at the corner store, which is just one of the many reasons he is awesome. Years ago I was at my in-laws house, and a bowl of chips was sitting out on the table. Like an alcoholic drawn to the 7-11 beer cave, I stood by the bowl and proceeded to eat an enormous amount of chips. It is important to note that at this point in history, consumer products giant P&G introduced a fat substitue called Olestra. Olestra was supposed to taste exactly like the fat we love, but it wasn’t absorbed by the body. Olestra was used in all sorts of products including Doritos. The fat substitute was eventually removed from the market because it caused intestinal cramping and anal leakage. (Their words, not mine.) After I finished off most of the bowl, my mother-in-law mentions that she was serving Doritos made with Olestra. This detail would have come in handy before I started eating chips like a pig at a trough. One day later, I could personally verify that Olestra needed to be removed from the market. What’s the point of that story? The point is that sometimes a good thing is good in moderation but bad if there is too much. This point applies to all sorts of things in life from Doritos to Star Wars sequels to dogs. The problem is knowing when enough is enough, and that is what I am trying to decide regarding the number of dogs we should have in our home.

Our current canine count is two.  We have Forte, the high maintenance German Shepherd you can read about here, and Carmen, the perfect rescue dog that you can read about here.  I keep reading about how shelters are at capacity with adoptable dogs.  Many people are returning the dogs they adopted during the pandemic.  I say that without judgment.  With the current rate of inflation, some people simply can’t afford their dogs, and nobody should have to choose between feeding their kids or feeding their dog.  Facebook keeps putting videos from The Dodo in my newsfeed, and all those videos are of pathetic shelter dogs that get rescued by some selfless human.  “Maybe that selfless human could be me,” I think while scrolling.  Should I answer the call?  I like having multiple dogs.  Dogs are social animals, and I like being part of a pack.  How do you know what your pack size should be?

As a scientist, I feel most comfortable with systems that can be modeled mathematically.  For this reason, I am usually more comfortable studying quantum mechanics than I am mingling at a cocktail party.  Subatomic particles can be modeled mathematically, and inebriated humans cannot.  Let’s look to math to see if I should get another dog.

The maximum dog capacity for a specific household is dependent on many factors including free time, yard space, financial resources, etc.  Because that’s a complex system, let’s say that the maximum dog capacity must be determined experimentally.  We did this at my house in 2017.  When Forte was 12 months old and Carmen was just adopted, our house reached maximum dog capacity.

Maximum Dog Capacity = 1 Carmen and 1 Forte12 months

Forte required much more energy to maintain than Carmen, about 3 times the energy.  Forte needed about 5 hours of play a day when he was 12 months old.  He likes to have his pool cleaned and refilled every day in the summer, and don’t even get me started on what it is like to take Forte to the vet.  For that reason, 1 Forte = 3 Carmen. 

Going back to our original equation:

Maximum Dog Capacity = 1 Carmen and 1 Forte12 months

1 Forte12 months = 3 Carmen          

Substituting into our original equation:

Maximum Dog Capacity = 1 Carmen + 3 Carmen

Maximum Dog Capacity = 4 Carmen

Fast forward five years to the present.  Forte has a bad hip.  He only requires about two hours of play each day.  He doesn’t growl at us anymore.  He behaves most of the time.  At 6 years old, Forte is about 1.5 times the amount of effort to maintain as Carmen.

1 Forte6 years = 1.5 Carmen           

Current Dog Capacity in Use = 1 Carmen + 1 Forte6 years

Substituting into the above question we get:

Current Dog Capacity in Use = 1 Carmen + 1.5 Carmen

Current Dog Capacity in Use = 2.5 Carmen

So can we get another dog?  Well, we need to do more math.

Available Dog Capacity = Maximum Dog Capacity – Current Dog Capacity in Use

Available Dog Capacity = 4 Carmen – 2.5 Carmen

Available Dog Capacity = 1.5 Carmen

Mathematically it has been shown that our household has the capacity to get another dog that is up to 1.5 times the amount of effort that it takes to maintain Carmen. 

Now we know that we can get another dog, but should we get another dog?  We tried getting a third dog once before.  We adopted Nike and had to return him after 24 hours because Forte decided he wanted to annihilate Nike.  Nike was a super sweet dog that allowed himself to be dressed in sweaters by his foster mom.  We didn’t anticipate Forte’s reaction because we had no problem introducing Carmen.  The difference was that Carmen is not a sweater wearing dog.  Carmen came from the backwoods of Lewis County, Kentucky and I’m certain she smoked a pack of cigarettes a day before she came to us.  She has a smoker’s bark.   Carmen can’t be bullied, so she happily co-exists with Forte.  Any dog that comes into our home must be able to stand up for itself or run the risk of being steamrolled by Forte. 

Nike, who lived with us for 24 hours, and who I still think about. Nike was adopted by another family after Forte tried to eliminate him.

My husband has an interesting theory.  “I think Forte will accept a puppy,” my husband said.  You would hope that Forte’s instincts would kick in and that he would be gentle with a puppy.  I like the idea, but that is a risky situation.  What if we are wrong and the puppy annoys Forte and Forte tries to eliminate the puppy?  It would be a gamble, sort of like puppy poker. 

I started looking at Petfinder again, which is the emotional equivalent of drinking a bottle of wine and listening to Adele on repeat.  Why do I want another dog so much?  I once read something that sums up my current feeling.  The world is full of suffering. Whe you rescue a dog, you know that at least one less creature is suffering in the world.  Every time I see Carmen snuggled into her blankets, I think about how she once was alone in an animal shelter sleeping on a concrete floor. Then I want to go and rescue another dog.

What do you think?  Should we try again to get another dog?  What should we do differently if we do go for number 3?  This post doesn’t have a nice conclusion like other stories I tell.  I don’t know the ending yet.  I’m really hoping that the ending has four paws. 

2 thoughts on “How Many Dogs Is Too Many?

  1. Pam Bentley

    I don’t know, sounds like Forte wants to be your one and only and only puts up with Carmen as any older brother puts up with his little sister. Another sibling to the mix especially a baby might cause the whole lot to lose their minds, including the parents.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 67steffen

    We have had either two or three dogs at the same time over the last 20 years. We added a third when the other two were at least six years of age and set in their ways. Important: we always added an adult rescue dog two to three years of age, no puppies. The additions have always worked out and, in my opinion, helped the older dogs stay young. But the house required more cleaning.

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s