As a dog trainer as well as coordinator for Holidays 4 Dogs I often come across people who have made the decision to purchase two pups at the same time, usually siblings from the same litter.
At first, especially to the novice dog owner, buying two puppies together might seem as logical as buying two budgerigars – it may seem they would keep each other company, entertain each other and therefore be less trouble for their new owner. Some people feel sorry for puppies being taken away from their mother and feel that taking another sibling at the same time is kinder.
However, the reality in my opinion is that taking two puppies on at the same time is a disaster for the owner and can impact in negative ways on the socialization of the pups in question. Indeed, in the majority of cases I have dealt with where the household have taken on two sibling pups at the same time, owners have quickly run into problems in terms of behaviour of the puppies and all owners find that they struggle with management and training. Some owners have even had to come to the difficult decision of re-homing one of the pups after a few weeks.
It is often very difficult, if not impossible depending on the breed of dog, to socialise two puppies at the same time. Socialising a puppy takes a great deal of time and effort and with two dogs, this can only mean that each pup is going to be lacking in time spent on this important aspect of puppy rearing by their owner.
Furthermore, two puppies will instinctively bond with each other meaning that the bonds created with their human owner will be weaker and much more difficult to achieve. Two pups will ‘listen’ to each other and be much less likely to react or engage with their owner.
It would also be a mistake to assume that two siblings raised together will never fight, because in reality this can and does happen frequently. When establishing rank order at around twelve to eighteen months siblings brought up together can start to show signs of aggressiveness in their drive for one or the other to become pack leader. This can pose a big problem for owners since dominance and power relations build over time – bearing in mind the dogs are still less likely to respond to their owner – until the issue becomes so problematic it is a big deal for owners to manage this behaviour and much more difficult to reverse.
Two pups raised together have the potential to be more aggressive, more territorial, more dominant with other dogs and sometimes human family members and generally much more rambunctious and harder to handle than a single pup raised in a household. In severe cases, the pups become so bonded to each other, attempts to separate them result in acute separation anxiety – so in cases for example where one dog needs stay overnight at the vet, the other dog can become destructive and vocal. Even taking one pup for a walk and leaving the other can create long term problems – simply put, you cannot easily split yourself in two as an owner and this impossibility creates hardship not only for you, but for the dogs in question.
Occasionally, it possible to successfully raise two puppies together – but this very much depends on the owner’s ability to be a good pack leader along with experience in training and behaviour. It is crucial that if two puppies are brought into a household at the same time that they are kept separate for much of the time and socialised and trained separately. This may initially seem harsh, but in order for each puppy to blossom as an individual and learn signals from humans, it is crucial that they are provided with the opportunity to do so.
It is not to say the puppies cannot interact or play, but this has to be limited if there is any hope of the pups growing up to be well adjusted adult dogs. This process in itself is not easy – time spent with one pup, means the other will be alone and again, this must be limited – so owners really need to ask themselves if they can commit to the full time care and training of two pups, free from any other commitments or distractions. As an experienced dog trainer I myself, would never embark on raising two puppies at the same time.
Sibling puppies growing up successfully is rather more the exception than the rule and depends on the environment and expertise of the household in which they are being raised. Puppies brought up in an environment where there is a lot of space and time in which they can be separated in order to develop their own personalities, where the owner has knowledge of managing and training multiple dogs have more chance of growing up to be well adjusted.
As a general rule the average pet owner, particularly the novice, should always avoid buying two pups at the same time. Certainly, no responsible breeder would ever entertain selling two puppies at the same time, so it always wise to be wary of anyone who tries to persuade you otherwise and likewise, rescue centres will never re-home pups or young dogs at the same time for the same reason. The only exception would be two older dogs who have always lived together and may or may not be siblings.
I have frequently met owners who have taken on two puppies coming to training classes, many of them at their wits end and I have often felt torn between the problem of upsetting the owners and the welfare of the puppies. In many circumstances the only real option is to re-home one of the puppies. This is of course an incredibly difficult decision for owners to come to terms with and the older the puppies are, the harder it is. The only other option, as already mentioned, is to proceed by separating the two puppies as much as possible in order to create two individual dogs. However, since the reason for the pups being purchased in the first place as pair might be that the owner felt they didn’t have enough time in the first place, therefore two puppies would entertain themselves, this is usually an unrealistic option.
The modern dog needs to develop as an individual and at eight weeks of age they are ready to do this. They need to create bonds with their human owners and they do this readily when they leave their littermates and move on – keeping littermates together interferes with this process and makes the human-canine bond so much more difficult to achieve – many owners feel disappointed in the lack of bonds they have with their pups even if they decided to keep them together into adulthood.
If you do decide to take on two puppies at the same time please be aware, that this will entail double the time and double the work and the pups must be kept separate for much of the time. This does not mean they will always have to be separate but for the first year at least, this programme of management is necessary. They need to be fed separately, played with separately, walked separately and trained separately – join a good dog training club but do not take the pups together on the same night and most certainly not to the same class (a good dog training club will never recommend you attempt to train two pups at the same time as this is simply an impossible notion). Not doing so will all too often create problems that the average pet owner will find impossible to repair.
Of course, many people own multiple dogs and with careful and timely introductions this usually works well – please see our other Holidays 4 Dogs article about multi dog households. If you do want to add a second dog to your household it is better to wait until the first dog is at least a year old so that you have time to form that all important bond with your pet.
Andrea Gordon – Dog trainer & Holidays 4 Dogs Coordinator