17 Mar RESCUING LITTER MATES
Shelters are rescuing and re-homing dogs of all ages daily. When dog-moms are rescued pregnant, or puppies are found in pairs; the shelters may opt to adopt them out as a “bonded-pair”.
Occasionally, we have families that buy two puppies from the same litter or even two puppies from the same pet shop that lived in the same cage together. The intention is sweet- to not separate the puppies and feel guilty leaving one behind. You may think it’s a good idea for you to take both puppies so they have each other as companions. Time and time again we encounter this same scenario and find the same conclusion, DON’T DO IT.
Why you ask? What are the consequences for raising two puppies together?
IT’S LIKE A SINGLE PARENT RAISING TWINS
It’s not impossible but it’s hard as heck and most bonded pairs never get the proper training required. Which crying baby do you tend to first? You wake up at dawn, let both puppies out in the yard at the same time to prevent an accident in the crate and what are they doing? Playing with each other, fighting, running around- notice how I didn’t saying peeing or pooping OR notice that your puppy is NOT greeting YOU with that excitement. Everyday, the first thing your undomesticated canine does is play with their companion you got them. Wait…didn’t you want the puppy to be your companion? Many families that adopt puppies as “bonded-pairs” end up returning them back to the shelter by a year old after they have formed unhealthy bonds with humans and have become codependent on their litter mate.
LEADERSHIP WITHIN YOUR PACK IS WEAK
When you bring home a puppy, the first thing you want to do is BOND with your puppy. Establishing your role as a trustworthy leader is first on the list. Feed your puppy by hand while calling their name and encouraging them to follow you around the house. Lead them outside and explore the yard together whilst hoping for a pee or poop to reward with calm reassurance. This becomes very complicated to do when you have two puppies. They look to each other for fun, guidance, exploration and cuddling. They pick on each other like two Tasmanian devils, instigating unwanted behaviors such as destroying furniture in seconds during a bought of rough play or digging holes in the yard. Every moment is a fight for their attention and you become the omega in their pack. If you think showing your authority with your deep yelling voice is going to encourage their obedience, there lies a dark path ahead of you. If you think raising one puppy is hard… housebreaking and training two puppies at the same time is harder. Okay- so you get it, BONDING AND TRAINING IS THE KEY to raising your puppy. Having two can entirely prevent that.
If you already brought home two puppies and you want to give this a shot anyway then we have some great advice for you.
- Separate the puppies each in their own crates. Most of your time interacting with the puppies should be one on one. If you have a backyard and both puppies are quick to pee and poop in the morning, then take them out together initially to prevent accidents. The rest of the day should be mostly one on one. If the other puppy is nearby and cries when you take the other puppy out, we recommend giving them a bone to chew in their crate and cover the crate with a blanket. This may prevent the puppy from crying about being left out. You may have to continue this type of training for both puppies during the 1st year or longer depending on how much training you put in to teach a solid training foundation for both of your dogs. Both of your dogs should be under control before you give them more freedom together.
- Practice ALL puppy raising training with your puppies separately from each other, daily. Check out our blog on “Puppy Raising Rules, Routine and Training.
- Give them supervised time together where you condition that they chew bones laying down side by side. It takes a few attempts to get it right however, you can get your puppy to lay down and chew a knee bone or a pork chomps for at least 5 minutes in their bed or “place”. Your best bet is to first practice this when you have that individual time one on one, that way both puppies understand what to do when you bring them out together. Keep both of them on a leash while doing this to prevent them from stealing each others bones and set the boundaries now.
Rules to puppies learning to settle with a bone around each other:
- Keep leashes on the puppies.
- If one puppy growls or shows resource guarding, do not take the bone from them and punish them by giving it to the other puppy- this can reinforce resource guarding behavior.
- No stealing allowed, No fighting allowed. If one puppy is struggling to focus independently, you focus on encouraging that puppy to settle with their bone by blocking them from leaving their place and offering a few treats for staying on their bed. NOTE: Remember to have patience and try to accomplish a nice settle before putting them back in their crates. If this was too difficult this time, then continue conditioning your puppies separately a bit longer while they mature and their attention span strengthens. If you have a second person to assist you then this is easier, if not you can try to tie one leash to the leg of the sofa and settle one puppy, then hold the leash of the puppy that is struggling and work with that one.
- After you have mastered your house training, basic obedience (at least name come, sit, down) leash training with both puppies, you can start taking them out together for short walks and practicing the training commands together side by side. Make sure to put away all toys, keep leashes on and block them from ditching you to go play together or from trying to snatch treats from each other. These sessions can be 10 – 15 minutes long.
Raising two puppies is a challenging experience. Many litter mates become codependent with separation anxiety for another. Even puppies raised together yet not litter mates display insecure behaviors because of their pack relationship. If you decide to embark on this journey, please follow this articles guidance and reach out to us for more information. My Partner and I have been helping families raise and train puppies since 2016. We have raised our own litter mates , other families litter mates and 300+ dogs. This article is from many experiences and we have written it to spread awareness on the subject. Puppies are adorable and we all want many puppies, however, raising two simultaneously is stressful and sometimes defeating. Our goal is that with more light on the subject, we can encourage people that want a family companion to raise one puppy at a time. Remember, puppies are adopted more quickly than adults. You do not have to save all the dogs and your puppy will not be traumatized from separation. In the end, you will have a more confident and healthy minded dog and when that dog is 1.5 or mature enough to be a positive influence, you may return to a shelter to adopt your next puppy project.
Feel free to Call Us or comment any questions.
Ace and Sage are the puppies in the banner photo above. We raised them in the same home, separately for 1 year. Ace was adopted and lives in Massachusetts with his new family (2018). After he fully separated from the home, he bonded with his family and matured away from many insecurities and fears he had. Although border collies can be of shy temperament, Ace and Sages mother was also genetically shy and the puppies did not receive enough exposure with humans or even being in a house by 10 weeks old. Both puppies were fearful of strangers/humans or the unfamiliar. Without proper training and human bonding, these two puppies were a recipe for disaster. Today they are fantastic dogs, with excellent training. Thank you to everyone who helped us!