Rethink Adopting Litter-mates

I should title this post don’t adopt litter-mates but that may be a little to harsh.  There are certain realities in dog training that seem to be fairly consistent across the board.  Between trainers, we would most likely advise to take one dog at a time home and almost never two litter-mates.  Why? There are a few very good reasons.

The first reason being they are likely to bond between the two closer than you will, making it harder to get their attention and train them.  Puppies start bonding weeks before you get to take them home and do so through crucial socialization periods.  Taking two home at the same time leaves open plenty of time for the puppies to continue bonding faster than they might to you.  It’s hard if not impossible to match the amount of availability and attention the other puppy has to offer.  You may also consider that they have to learn our very challenging language and it’s just more work for them to engage with us.  We are inherently confusing to our dogs as it is.  This intense bonding lays the groundwork for real anxiety when they are separated down the road. Walking one dog at a time may be an impossibility.  Taking on a single dog to the vet or to see a friend will make the other lose its mind.  Imagine how hard it would be taking both dogs everywhere together.   It isn’t pleasant and it isn’t easy dialing the emotional behavior back after it’s in place.  Having said all that,  I have seen many pups who are litter-mates adore their owners, and bond well with them. They usually don’t listen well though.  It’s generally harder to get their attention, harder to teach emotional control and harder to teach boundaries.  Getting and keeping a dogs attention and boundaries are most of my business.  Resolving unwanted emotional responses make up a lot of the rest.  

The second and lesser problem is siblings may start to quarrel with each other when reaching adolescence and continue into adulthood.  I see it happen too frequently when working with litter-mates.  It could be over a resource, access to go outside, or just bully like play.  It can happen unpredictably and be challenging to address.  It doesn’t seem to be as prevalent in adopted dogs come into the home at different times. 

If you have to have litter-mates at the same time I would first address why you feel it is necessary.  If you don’t have TWICE  the time and motivation to manage and train them it’s highly discouraged.  Litter-mates should likely be separated a large proportion of  habituate to the family.  They should be walked, fed and taken to the vet and for outings separately.  Typically the decision to get two puppies is an emotional one.  If you already feel guilty or sad about not bringing home a litter-mate friend than you’re likely to have a a hard time with guilt and other emotions keeping them separate for much of their young life.  It is just a lot of work too. 

Be well and wag tail,

OC Canine Coaching      

About ocdogman

I am a private dog trainer and behavior consultant in Orange County California. I focus on making training and conditioning simple and offer insight to common problems faces by the majority of dog owners. I employ several methods of training using corrections and varied reinforcers. I generally stand by limiting aversive principles and focus on the behaviors I would like to teach using food and marker training. I often encounter nutrition issues and have been successful in remedying many leading to more focused, relaxed and balanced dogs.
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