A new pup is one of the most irresistible creatures and experiences imaginable. Only a cold, hard heart does not get all mushy over puppy’s expressions, habits, soft pink puppy pads, puppy breath and the enjoyment of helping the young dog discover its new environment. If one puppy is wonderful then, in theory, two puppies must be twice as marvelous? This does not often hold true amongst the professionals of dogdom! Most dog trainers, animal behaviourists and veterinary ethologists strongly advise against adopting two pups simultaneously.
The greatest challenge of adopting puppy pairs is their tendency to bond very closely with each other, often to the exclusion of a meaningful relationship with their owners. They can become inseparable. Also, people often underestimate the time commitment required to properly care for and train two puppies; as a result the pups often end up inadequately socialised.
This principle applies primarily to siblings that are practicing a hierarchy system immediately after whelping. This principle also applies, secondarily, to puppies from different litters, same age group.
If one analyses the human rationale behind double pup intake, the reasons given would be:
- I want to get two puppies so they will have a friend to play with while I’m all day at work
- I have two children and they each want their puppy
- We want to have two dogs eventually, anyway, so we might as well get them at the same time so they can grow up together and be best friends
- A second puppy will play with the first and keep it occupied when I’m too busy to spend time with them
- If we adopt a second puppy that’s one less that might be euthanased at the animal welfare shelter
- The breeder we are buying our puppy from thinks its best if we take two.
It is a considerate move to recognize that your pup could use companionship during the day. However, if you think one puppy can get into trouble when you are absent from the home, just imagine what kinds of mischief two pups can cook up when left to their own devices.
Ideally adopt your pup at a time when someone in the family can take time off from work to stay home and help the pup adjust gradually to being left alone. The time must be used wisely, so the pup can learn to happily accept being on its own when it is time to go back to work or school.
Another alternative is to find a reliable friend, neighbour or relative who is home much of the time and willing to provide daycare for your puppy – these people can experience the joys of having a pup to play during the day, without long-term responsibilities and costs of having a dog for twelve to fifteen years.
If you are socializing your puppy at formal training classes you may ask the trainer, or even your veterinarian, if there is another client, obviously with a similar-age puppy, to campaign for mingling the two pups at one of the puppy-proofed homes for puppy daycare – the visitor can then return home after work. The homes can then be alternated as long as they are safe for the young tykes.
Never allow children to make the rules of each wanting their own puppy. Most families have enough problems getting their kids to fulfill their promises to feed, walk and clean up after one family dog. It is always the parents who end up doing all the basic dirty work. It is imperative that the pup bonds first with the family then, later, with another dog. It is vital that the first one is trained so that it will assist the family, later on, in training the pup that follows. It is extremely difficult to get puppies accustomed to their names when there two at the same time receiving constant commands.
When you raise two puppies simultaneously they usually do grow up to be inseparable best friends, often to the detriment of the dog-human relationship. Inevtably they spend far more time together than they do individually with you, with a likely result that they become very tightly bonded to each other and you only attain secondary status in their lives. Many owners of adopted-at-the-same-time puppies ultimately find themselves disappointed in their relationship with their dogs, when they are much older and they are committed to keeping them for life.
This super-bonding also causes a tremendous amount of stress and related behaviour disorders when occasions arise that the dogs have to be separated – if one develops a health-related problem requiring hospitalization, or one goes to a training class and the other does not, or you can only walk one dog and not both.
If you are too busy to give one puppy the time and attention it needs, you are definitely too busy to consider two puppies. There are a wide variety of interactive dog toys on the market that can help occupy your pup when you cannot play – and do not think for one minute another puppy or a pen full of toys can ever be a suitable replacement for quality social time with you. Puppies are a time-consuming commitment requiring energy for vigilance and appropriate training. It is important you give serious thought before including a baby dog to the family. It is in order to give her pre-arranged playtime with a friend’s healthy and compatible puppy but do not think acquiring a second pup is an acceptable substitute for your own interaction with your puppy.
In many animal welfare shelters homing puppies is not a problem. It is the adult dogs who are most likely candidates for euthanasia because of reduced attractiveness for adoption. If you really have it in your heart to save an animal’s life, adopt a mature dog instead of a puppy – or acquire your puppy of choice first then return for an adult dog, of the opposite sex with an even temperament, after the pup has been socialized, trained and bonded with the family.
If you are purchasing from a breeder who prompts you to take on two from the same litter then you are being ill-advised and swindled by a disreputable person who does not have the animal’s or your interest at heart. A reputable breeder will, in most instances, refuse to sell two puppies to the same home, except on the very rare occasion that a prospective buyer can prove that he/she has the necessary skills, knowledge, experience, time, ability and monetary resources to provide an excellent and suitable environment for two pups simultaneously.
If you have already made the mistake of adopting two puppies at once and feeling remorse or if you have no regrets but you realize that you have bitten off more than you can chew and you are determined to proceed anyway then other considerations must be taken in to account to minimize problems and maximize your success as the owner of a puppy pair. The advice that follows is to help make things work out for humans and animals.
The two pups will have plenty time together; they do not have to sleep together in the same basket or kennel as well. You can certainly leave them together in their puppy-proof area when you are out of the house but they should be crated or accommodated separately at night. You can crate them in close proximity of each other – this is the perfect period to start habituating them to not always be in close contact with their sibling. This is not cruel but rather a means to an end – teaching independence, confidence and coping skills. When they appear comfortable, focused and relaxed in their respective crates close to one another, you can gradually increase distance between them until they can be crated out of view of each other, perhaps in another room or on the other side of the house.
One can do the separate crating arrangement cold turkey. If your children are old enough to be responsible for taking their pups out in the middle of the night, start from the first day with a pup crated in each kid’s room.
In any event, initially, the puppies’ separate crates should be in someone’s bedroom so they can wake up at night when the pup is restless and can be taken out to do its ablutions. There is a further benefit from the eight hours of close contact with you, albeit you are sleeping. This does not apply to situations when pets are never allowed in the house – placed in a kennel in the courtyard from day one and then forever outside – where the dogs can be dogs!
You can be guaranteed that if one puppy wakes up to go out, the other puppy in its nearby crate will wake up to do the same.
Your training schedule will be much more rewarding and successful if you sacrifice the time to work with your pups individually. If you happen to adopt the method of clicker training you will probably find it confusing and complicated to try to click and reward one pup for carrying out a desired behaviour when the other pup is doing an unwanted behaviour. During this procedure both pups associate with the clicking which means that you are rewarding the positive and negative activities at the same time. One pup gets better, the other gets worse! To aggravate this chaos it is much more difficult to obtain and maintain any level of attention from either puppy if the other is present – as a distraction!
Training time is an ideal opportunity to give your pups a positive association with being separated. One pup gets the chance to play, be trained by you and receive attention, clicks and treats, while the other is confined in another area, preferably far enough away it cannot detect the activities and distracted by the behaviour toys left in its crate.
If there is a second volunteer trainer in the household that person can work with the second pup in another facility at the same time. Eventually you can work with them concurrently in the same place, and, perhaps, in the future, one well-trained person can have fun working both of them concomitantly.
It is common and expected in puppy pairs for one pup to be more assertive than the other, and take the lead in activities. It is acceptable to play with them together some of the time – it is also important to play with them separately which helps ensure that the more dominant puppy does not always get to make the rules for the more submissive individual.
If you always play “fetch” with the two pups together you are likely to experience the one pup repeatedly taking control of the retrievable toy and returning it to its owner while the other runs along behind enjoying the ride, adventure and stimulation but fully aware that there are instinctive hierarchy limitations with regard to access to “trophies”. If one observes closely you may be fortunate enough to witness the more assertive pup convey a subtle body language warning, in the form of a hard stare or stiffened body, if the other hints at trying to access the toy. The submissive pup defers to its sibling by letting go of the toy and looking away. While this may be a normal puppy interaction it can suppress the “softer” pup’s retrieving ability and behaviour. Unless you make the extra effort to give her positive reinforcement for fetching items when you play with it alone, you might find it difficult to get her to retrieve at a later stage in training.
Walking and socializing them separately is another step in the direction of self-sufficiency. Going for a walk with one and leaving the other behind with attractive treats and toys increases confidence in both pups. Walking them together with different handlers does not work. The less confident individual will come to rely upon the presence of the more confident one to be brave in the real world then, when the dominant pup is not around, the shyer pup is more likely to be fearful and hopeless. All the activities you would normally do with one pup, you need to do with each pup individually.
When signing up for puppy training they should be taken to separate classes if they disturb each other’s progress or they must be trained by two different people.
Animal behaviourists and reputable, knowledgeable dog trainers prefer to campaign for a separate but equal programme for puppy pairs. For overly-bonded puppies, separation becomes a world-class crisis, fraught with life-threatening behaviours such as refusal to eat in other’s absence, separation anxiety which involves obsessive barking, inappropriate destructiveness, relentless pacing and panting and other stresses including aggression. One has to take into serious consideration for inevitabilities of life. If an inter-canine over-dependent relationship has been allowed to develop and continue, when the one dog is faced with a health or injury crisis and dies it may be so devastating to the dog left behind that euthanasia may be the kind and necessary solution.
There are other factors that canine obedience instructors, animal behaviourists and veterinary ethologists advise to people with two pups.
The cost of setting up one pup with food, accessories and veterinary bills doubles up. If one pup contracts a deadly illness such as parvovirus you will be on your way to an emergency clinic with two puppies, not one.
The cleaning up obviously increases and if two pups are in a safe confined area of the property the creation of toilet sites become more limited and the chance of them standing, rolling and playing in “pooh” increases. What a pleasant surprise after a hard day’s work?!
Once you are tied to two pups housetraining becomes more of a vigilance exercise. If one gets diarrhoea how will you know unless you happen to see it or they may have to be separated until the next time they have to eliminate? When you discover a puddle or a “landmine” on the carpet you will not know who the guilty party is.
A further very, very important matter is the choice of gender. Whatever advice is given you should ensure that they are opposite sexes to prevent the intense, dangerous status fighting of bitches or the territorial conflict of males.
Is the extra fun of having two puppies at one time worth all the extra time, effort, cost and headaches? The experts advise not to do it! The recommendation is adopt the second pup six months to a year later when the first one has developed a meaningful bond with you and completed the basics in good manners and training.
Many people do it, anyway, irrespective of the sound advice and experience. One should be realistic and not emotional. One should consider the well-being of the pups and not attribute human mannerisms or emotions to the concept.
“Shame, the one will be lonely” ends up with “My dogs don’t listen to me, they don’t even know their names and they cannot be apart from each other otherwise it reads seven on the Richter scale”.
There are a small percentage of prospective puppy owners who have decided, well in advance, of acquiring two pups concurrently because the family have, already, instilled in their own minds intended names for the young dogs. This can be nauseatingly predictable and corny e.g. Hansel and Gretel, two Dachshunds, Whiskey and Soda, two Maltese, Bonnie and Clyde, two Labradors, Paris and Hilton, two Chihuahuas, Rooney and Giggs, usually two Staffordhsire Bull Terriers, Jack and Jill, two Jack Russell Terriers, Jock and McDougal, two Scottish terrier males, Ying and Yang, two Tibetan terriers. The list is endless.
It so often gives me the impression that the names have been decided, usually by the majority of modern-day children who dominate their parents in decision making – now let us get some dogs! Is this a good enough reason? Is there any further depth to the decision or commitment? Usually not!