What Did You Get Yourself Into?! Littermate Addition
You went to meet a group of adorable puppies, and couldn't decide. You narrowed it down to two and will be bringing both puppies into your home. Now you're wondering, where do I go from here? You've got your work cut out for you, but it's not impossible! Here are some things to consider about your newest family members.
The biggest concern about bringing two puppies of the same age home at the same time, even if they are not actually from the same litter, is littermate syndrome. This is when your puppies become inseparable, becoming majorly stressed if you try and do things with one and not the other such as vet appointments or even walks. They only care about each other and will ignore their owner's commands. To help curb this behavior, it is important that from the very beginning of your relationship you separate your puppies at various times during the day. Have one in the crate while you work the other in the same or a different room. Take one on one walks until both are fully leash trained THEN walk them together. Get both puppies training solid on their own before bringing them together to work. Even two-dog households with adult dogs benefit from this approach. It can be convenient for you to schedule double grooming or vet appointments, but having separate ones in the beginning will make things easier down the line. This should start from the first day home, not weeks or months after.
Another consideration is the sexes of your littermates. Same-sex littermates, even if altered, can get to a point where they no longer get along at best and downright fight to the death at worst. The conventional wisdom was altering fixed everything behavior wise but we have learned this is not the case. Some dogs, many in fact, become more dog selective as they get older and this can be amplified by being littermates. Become well-versed in dog body language and behavior to tell the difference in play, appropriate boundary setting, and the beginning of fighting. Do not assume because you have two dogs they will tire each other out. They need YOU to engage with them, for more than just preventing littermate syndrome. One dog digging is bad, two dogs digging is even worse! If you aren't teaching them what you want them to be doing, they will make it up themselves and you will not want that. This in no way means never letting them be together/play together, but do not rely on that as their only outlet.
This seems it would go without saying, but we'll say it anyway; be prepared to deal with two of everything! Two sets of bowls, two sets of collars and leashes, two crates, two beds, two sets of vaccines; twice as many toys, food, time and poop. You will need the space and resources for this, so plan wisely. You will need the time to train both dogs, again it seems convenient to just muddle through both at once but you will be setting you all up for failure. If you have a helper, then you can each work with one dog at the same time. I get asked often what the trick is to training more than one dog, and this is honestly it. Get them solid apart and then bring them together.
As a last note, sometimes despite your best efforts, littermate puppies just can not live together. This can be disheartening and sad for your family. It is important that you understand management will always eventually fail, and often is less fair to everyone involved than it is to find a new home for one of the dogs where they can be themselves. This is not a failure, it is an unfortunate reality that some families go through. Keep this in the back of your mind before bringing home two puppies, littermates or not.
It is our sincere hope that this works out for you by following these tips and advice. If you need help with your puppies or dogs please feel free to reach out.
For the Dogs,