April 24, 2024

Dog owners love their fur babies unconditionally, but when adding a second pooch, they are often met with frustration and confusion that can be linked to “second dog syndrome.”

Owners will get the idea that their second dog is not as smart as their first one. This phenomenon is also known as “survivor dog syndrome,” canine and human behavior expert Dr. Stanley Coren told Newsweek.

“Your dog spent all that time fitting in,” Coren explained. “Your expectation is the new dog will respond in the same exact way.”

The reason behind the feeling that a second dog is not as intelligent has nothing to do with the dog, but instead has everything to do with a human’s expectations, Coren, a professor at the University of British Columbia, said.

With your first dog, you’re more likely to spend time training them. This dog learns your routine. But when the second pup comes around, you know the responsibilities involved. You’re familiar with dogs and might not spend nearly as much time as you previously did.

Coren compared this idea to children. “Your first child comes into your life and becomes the center of your existence, attending to their needs, educating them,” he said.

“That is fine, that is what parents do. Then you get a second child. You already know a bit about children. You’re not quite as attentive and don’t really focus on their education as much.”

That does not mean you don’t love your second child as much. It is just that your perception is the first child is brighter and more accomplished. The same goes for dog parents. The first dog has learned your language, your routine, your commands.

But a puppy, or even a rescue dog, has not had the time to learn commands like come, sit, and down. Owners might get frustrated since the first dog is still responding perfectly.

“The important thing is not that the dog is less intelligent,” Coren said. “It’s us developing too high expectations.”

This idea was first researched in guide and service dogs by a group in Australia. Janice Lloyd of James Cook University and associates found those who use assistant dogs were nearly twice as likely to return their second assistant dog.

The return of guide dogs caused a reduction in independence for blind people, emotional consequences, and financial implications, Coren wrote in a Psychology Today article.

It was concluded that the problem was not with the second dog, since those returned dogs would get reassigned to a new home and they performed their duties with no problems. Rather, it was the higher expectations people held for the second dog.

A different team of researchers then found the same issue was happening in companion dogs.

Owners forgot about all the time and effort they put in with the first dog. They held higher expectations for the second dog and, when that dog fell short, owners believed they were not as intelligent.

But, as owners get a third or fourth dog, Coren believes it would have dawned on them that a dog will require work. They still might not put in as much time as they did for the first dog, but by the third dog, they won’t be as unhappy.

Coren does not fault dog owners for going through this phenomenon. He explained that when he brings another dog into his house, he’s sure he will say something too because he is human as well.

About 62 million U.S. households own at least one dog, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. About 21.5 million own two or more dogs, which means you are not alone if you go through this feeling.

Coren, who has published 18 books on the relationship between humans and animals, stressed to Newsweek: “The important variable is the human psychology.”

‘Second Dog’ Behaviors

A video trend has soared in popularity online where owners have been comparing their pets, initially showing off their well-behaved first dogs and cats, and the animals that followed in their footsteps.

The TikTok trend uses snippets from the “I’m Just Ken” song, performed by Ryan Gosling, in the hit movie Barbie, and the parody version performed by Pete Davidson on Saturday Night Live.

The footage compares the behavior of first and second dogs, perfectly set to the track change, summarizing many pet owners’ experiences when they get another pet.

The on-screen text often has a variation of the phrase “Your first dog that made you want a second.” Some of the clips have amassed millions of views, such as one posted in October by @justa5pack, with the added caption: “Like night and day.”

Numerous pet owners shared their own experiences in the comments, with one writing: “My first dog make me believe I can do this, my second dog teaches me not to judge other pet parents.”

But as Coren shared, maybe it is not the second animal at all-just a human’s expectation.

Do you have funny and adorable videos or pictures of your pet you want to share? Send them to life@newsweek.com with some details about your best friend and they could appear in our Pet of the Week lineup.

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This story was originally published December 9, 2023, 12:00 PM.

source: star-telegram

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