What is the ideal number of dogs to have? This is a question often discussed in my circle of dog friends. Some members of this circle have just one dog, while others have 10, 12, even 18. I have three, plus an occasional foster.
I love all three of my dogs, even quirky little Mira. I really can’t imagine life without them. And I am considering breeding Hannah in two years which will bring me up to four. And provided Ross stays healthy and lives a good long life (he’s about to turn 6) I may at some point have five, following the plan of bringing in a new one every 4 years or so.
Five dogs. I have friends who would consider that grounds to call me certifiable! Funny how perspectives on the matter differ. Other friends would call five dogs just warming up.
I actually don’t want to have five dogs. I don’t even want three. In my opinion, the perfect number of dogs to have – for me – is one. Yep, just one. Not that that will every likely happen in my life again, or at least not for a very long time!
I got my first border collie – Jake – in 1989. He was my best friend and partner for nearly 14 years. At one point, when he was a little over two, I brought home a second dog. I enjoyed having two, but it affected my relationship with Jake. After about 6 months, I gave my second dog to my dad. It was clear the dog was his from the start anyway. And Jake and I stayed a twosome from then on.
The relationship I had with that dog was incredible. We traveled extensively together, crossing North America several times, hiking long stretches of wilderness for days on end, exploring the Maritimes and the Rockies. At one point he and I lived out of my car for two months while hiking and photographing the American Southwest. Definitely the best trip I’ve ever taken. Jake and I lived in 7 cities, 2 provinces, 3 states and two countries. As long as he was at my side, I was always home.
I don’t think the above would have been possible with more than one dog. Maybe with two, but it gets tougher. It’s easy to sneak one dog into ‘no-dog’ hotels, but two? Definitely not three. Now when I travel I have to book ahead, finding hotels that will accept dogs and picking my route accordingly. Next week I plan on going camping for the first time with this crew, and I’m a little apprehensive. Multiple dogs feed off each other and I can just imagine trying to get all three to sleep quietly in a tiny tent in a camp ground, let alone behave in a canoe! Good thing I have my water wings…
Now of course there’s a downside to having just one dog. For one, the dog is alone whenever you have to leave him behind. While they can get used to it, dogs are social creatures and really are happier with company. I always had cats for Jake, or lived with roommates so he’d be alone less often. But it was something that weighed on me a lot when I’d get busy.
I don’t worry about that with two. The problem with two, however, is that if you take just one dog out, you have to leave one behind. Of course they’ll be fine, but I feel guilty about that. So when I had two, I took both everywhere together.
Now that I have three, I have gone back to taking just one dog out because the two left behind keep each other company. I’ve been doing this a lot lately, trying to build my relationship with each dog. When I train I of course spend one on one time with each, but I also like to have some fun time with them. Last night I took Ross for a really nice long hike, just the two of us. He’s a great hiking partner because he stays close and likes to stop and smell the roses (at least the ones that have been peed on). Tonight I took Hannah mountain biking. Tomorrow I’ll do something with Mira.
I notice that after spending one on one recreational time with any of the dogs, they stay close to me around the house. Right now Hannah is sleeping on the floor next to me. Usually she sleeps in the other room on the couch. After taking Mira out on her own the other day, she slept at my feet in the kitchen while I worked as well, when lately she’s been going off on her own upstairs.
I love taking my pack out together as well. It’s amazing to watch them run and play, and if I sit down they all come and pile on top of me. But there’s a different energy than when I am out with just one. It’s that intensity that I miss, the energy I had when it was just me and Jake. One woman, one dog. That’s my perfect number.