If you look at pet dogs, would you say that it’s better to have an only dog or should your pet live with canine pals?

For me, the question comes down to nature. Dogs are social, just like we are. They are born into litters of three or more pups, and they are raised with their siblings by their mum. Just like humans, dogs rely on their family being around them to feel secure.

Even feral dogs maintain a group structure. Usually the girls stay close to their blood relatives while the boys may stay or may move to join other families, but no matter what they do, homeless dogs live in groups.

Pet dogs live with us, so for me, it’s a question of working with the dog’s essential needs and nature. You can have just one dog but then you are your pet’s only family. To keep your dog happy, you have to spend lots and lots of time together. If you go to work and there’s nobody at home, your pet will be miserably lonely – it’s just like leaving a human child by itself.

If you have two dogs, they keep each other company, which means you have time to do your own thing, like go to work or to the shops. However, there are exceptions. I’ve known dogs who grew up alone and who don’t like other dogs. Also, there are times when pups don’t like their litter mates. It’s rare but it does happen.

For me the issue is something that should be considered carefully on a case to case basis. I was therefore terribly surprised to see an overseas charity tell people never to adopt two dogs. Their reasoning was that a single dog is totally dependent on its humans. Frankly, that seems a dreadfully selfish and cruel way of thinking. Can you imagine having a human child and not allowing him or her to have friends, just so that the kid is totally dependent on you?

However, while I find the philosophy of that charity heinous and reject it, there’s no doubt that bringing up puppies can be a difficult and messy job. Me, I love watching a pet mature and I have no issue with toilet accidents, noise, fur, and the occasional wreckage that goes along with having young pets.

However, we’re not in a doggy friendly space at the moment so it’s been a while since we raised pups. I’m living with cats, which is a little bit different. I thought it was possible that I was looking back with rose tinted spectacles to the years we had puppies around, so I called Dona Drury Wee.

If you haven’t met her, Dona is president of the Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She also has a furry family that consists of cats Simba, Gizmo and Yoda; as well as Obi, a husky with his own air-conditioned kennel; Nano, a husky-Chihuahua mix; and Luke, a three-legged mutt named for Luke Skywalker, the Jedi warrior in Star Wars who lost an arm.

“Two is definitely better than one,” Dona said decisively. “Puppies bond with their siblings and if there’s been a disaster and they’ve lost their family, they bond with another dog.

“Where two dogs are brought in together, we don’t like to separate them because it’s very, very stressful. We’ve had cases where one was adopted, and the one left behind stopped eating and died from heartbreak. That’s why when we have two dogs together, we always ask adopters if they can take them both.”

Clearly, not everyone can have two dogs (see How many? opposite) but if you do take two on, Dona offered three good tips.

“If you’ve adopted a puppy and it’s lonely, you can adopt a second dog that’s a bit older. We’ve done that before and it worked very well. Mind you, you have to make sure you pick dogs that get along.

“If you go with two pups, it can be mayhem. It also means doubling up training time. However, dogs are copycats, so you can take advantage. Have one watch while you’re running through an exercise with the other.

“Also, if you have one that is quicker on the uptake than the other, work with the smart one first so the slower one can see.

“Finally, if you’re looking for a guard dog, do consider that some big dogs can be rather quiet. Our old dog, Jabba, for example, was a lovely mastiff. But when people came to the gate, he’d trundle along silently and it was Nano, our little dog, who’d do the barking.”

When our circumstances become doggy friendly, we intend to adopt a medium-sized pet with some cattle dog ancestry. We like the way they think, and they’ll get along nicely with the cats. Whether we can have two dogs will depend on space and money but as we’re home-based, companionship is not an issue.

For you, though, it may be different. So if you’re getting a dog, have a think and decide what suits you. Either way, adopting man’s best friend into you life has got to be good, right?

Ellen Whyte is currently ruled exclusively by cats but she sneaks out to talk to her dog friends. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/ewhyte.

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