The answer to the question posed in the title of this article is that the answer to that question is going to vary by person and ultimately it is up to an individual to determine that answer. However I want to help talk through some of those factors. I will be frank. I have taken a lot of crap about the number of dogs that I have. This post is in part designed to address those detractors and I will get into my own personal decisions on the subject.
Firstly, when answering this questions, consider how it is going to impact you financially. And I want to stress that one person's preferred level of care may be different than someone else's. And as long as the dog is healthy (not underweight or overweight) and well taken care of (all mental and physical needs met, well groomed including nails and teeth) it doesn't matter if you are using gold food bowls, dog food that is $150 pounds a bag, $500 collars, homecooked food or whether you're feeding Pedigree out of a paper bowl with a twine collar. Fed is best. Cared for is best. And some of my very favorite client owners didn't have a ton of money, but they absolutely invested the time and energy in their dogs, which I will prefer to see any time, personally.
There's also the fact that there are ways to make money stretch to care for your animals - insurance, shopping sales, second-hand gear, buying in bulk, rewards programs and more. For me that even includes finding events that are most cost effective. For instance, I can race 5+ dogs for $90 a weekend or I can show a single dog for $66. Which am I going to choose? Similarly, I usually will drive down early the morning of an event rather than spending on a hotel.
Next, while I believe there has been decided overreach by legislators who are not experts in animal advocacy and care (this is different than animal rights activism), you do need to consider laws, ordinances, rental restrictions, and HOA provisions. Many landlords and HOAs restrict to 2, maybe 3 total pets. And increasing number of cities restrict to 2-3 pets as well. So make sure to check those restrictions as well as licensing, microchipping, and local vaccination requirements every where. For most people who want more than a couple dogs, the country is your friend.
And then for me, you move on to the most practical question: how many dogs can you handle? How many can you handle living with, walking (or providing other outlets), existing with in the house, training, and more. People constantly exclaim over how many dogs I have but there is a reason I have sighthounds. I love a dog with a solid off switch who wants to cuddle up on the couch and relax. Even most of my puppies (Azhidar excepted for the first two months) have been easy in the house. I could never live with 6 Labs or Border Collies or Jack Russel Terriers. I'm not even sure I could happily live with one of them, let alone 6. Because please remember, not all dogs are the same. Their breed/mix and original purpose inform how well they are going to fit into your life.
For me personally my hard lines are:
I won't have more dogs than I can safely (crated or harnessed) transport in my van.
I won't have more dogs than I can walk by myself (once trained)
I won't have more dogs than I can take hiking by myself (once trained)
And I haven't remotely exceeded any of those standards. I love being able to take all my dogs out at once. It is incredible bonding and relaxation for everyone involved. So yes, perhaps walking 6 dogs at once seems crazy to you, but I've done 8 at once we found a rhythm it worked fine.
Your lines are probably different than mine. If left to his own devices, my husband would never have more dogs than he can pet at one time (so 2). My parents wouldn't have a dog at all. I know a lot of people who say they don't want their dogs to out number the human family. Which is also super valid.
I'll admit that it is more challenging to give one on one time to dogs when you have more. I will frequently take one or two dogs to work with me because they are the specific dog I need for that purpose that day. But Anubi does therapy dog, none of my others do. Amidi likes dock diving practice. Amalu's favorite thing in the world is agility. Ash wants to cuddle up to Whitman on the couch more than just about anything. Tabiri is restful to take for a walk and just sit with. Azhidar is a kick ass daycare dog and makes for a fun companion at my side dog daycare gig. All my dogs have niches and I have an individual bond with each of them.
The last piece that I want to talk about for me specifically is the breeding component. How many dogs do I actually want to have at any given time? Roughly 3-5. I'd like some seniors aging out (but not so close in age that I lose them close together) a couple adult dogs competing and a puppy or two in training. However, here is the thing. I'm in a rare breed and finding stud dogs and working with enough genetic diversity is challenging. It is, in many ways, easier to keep my own stud dogs myself. Additionally, I've set myself up so that I have two different female bloodlines that I can work between without getting to pressed for options regarding diversity (if done well).
What's more. The fact is that the majority of the dog fancy are on the older end of the general population. In every breed, including mine, there are going to be breeders aging out. This makes it likely that as those breeders retire, they will either need to place their dogs or let their bloodlines (and thus diversity) die out entirely. Which means that this is a reality I know I will be faced with as time goes on.
I'd love to be able to work my way down in numbers over the next decade. I'd love to find people to share the preservation of my breed with, people I can trust, and work with, and share dog lines with. Is this a pipe dream? Potentially. It's tough to have that level of trust and cooperation. But if I can find it, I can place more dogs without truly losing access to them and the entire breed benefits. I truly am not trying to hoard dogs. I want to be able to devote individual attention to every single dog in my life and that becomes more difficult the more I add.
But regardless of your feelings about how many dogs a person should have, stop harassing people. Please. Stop nitpicking. Stop the constant comments of: "Another?!" "You have so many!" Because ultimately, it's their choice, not yours. What's more, often dogs are a person's passion, their hobby, their love. I don't judge if you want to spend your money on fancy cars or shoes or raves or DND. That's your choice and it makes you happy and fulfills you. Dog people are the same way. Their dogs are their passion and it just feels mean to belittle a person for loving another living being.