Raising Two Puppies Together
It often seems ideal to get two puppies together so they can be company for each other, and enjoy growing up and playing together. In reality, puppies raised together are rarely as successful from the owner's point of view as a puppy raised alone. Puppies raised together are usually less sociable with people, less well behaved, less playful with people, and more likely to have behaviour problems.
Is it a good idea?
In short, no, unless you have a lot of time and energy. Breeders will often push owners to take two puppies from the litter, but it is not a sensible option. A common tactic is to say that there is just one puppy left that no one wants and you can have it at a discount!
What can go wrong?
Common behaviour problems in puppies raised together:
- not coming back when called
- running off on walks
- chasing problems, especially livestock
- bad manners such as too boisterous, barging, stealing
- aggression to strangers, often seen in the more insecure sibling
- aggression to other dogs
- severe separation issues when one of the pair dies
The reasons for this impressive list of problems is that they usually have a stronger bond with each other than with thier humans, they have no need to learn human ways as they have each other, they never learn to play properly with humans as the other puppy is more fun to play with, they are reluctant to learn from humans as the other puppy is more fun, and they are often less well socialised with dogs outside the family as the owners keep them at home to play with each other.
Some turn out okay
Some pairs of puppies grow into adulthood and seem, from an outsider’s perspective, to be okay. If you want two dogs to live at home that amuse themselves, and don’t need to be too responsive to you, especially when outside, this could be the route for you to take. People who are successful with pairs of dogs are often those who do not want too strong a bond with them and prefer them to be independent. However, most owners want much more from their dogs than this and if you want a good social connection with each dog and good behaviour, it is better to raise two puppies completely separately.
Better to wait
If you haven’t already got two puppies, it is better to take on just one puppy and raise it well. Then, when it has reached social maturity at about 18 months of age and is well behaved, get another one. If you raise the second puppy to be independent (as described below), it is likely you will end up with two great pet dogs.
It is possible to raise two pups together well, but it can be almost a full time job. This is because, to do it properly, you need to spend as much time and energy on each puppy as you would if you were raising one alone. No short cuts. Every puppy needs to be played with, socialised, trained and taught good manners throughout the day during puppyhood if it is to become a lovable, well-adjusted member of the family and, if you are doing this with two pups, it is a lot of work.
One of the most important things to do if raising two puppies together is to make sure they are kept separate for most of the time. The reason for this is so that you can develop a relationship with each of them that is stronger than the relationship they have with each other. It is important that they:
- sleep separately
- play separately
- eat separately
- go for walks separately
- are trained and educated separately
Don’t underestimate how difficult it is for a young puppy to learn to live with humans. We don’t speak their language, we look and smell very different, and we have very different ways of behaving. It takes time to learn our ways. Puppies have to want to be with us to learn about us and, if there is another puppy available for play and social contact instead, guess who they will choose?! Ask yourself, if I went to a foreign country with a friend where I couldn’t speak the language and where the inhabitants were slightly intimidating, who would I spend my time with?
Separating the puppies using stair gates and puppy play pens and, sometimes, closed doors, for most of the day for the first year of their lives will provide an opportunity for you to make friends with each pup and teach them human ways. It is really important to do this but it is often something that owners are reluctant to do, mostly because they enjoy watching them play together. It is not until behaviour problems start to appear during adolescence that owners wonder what has gone wrong.
When you first separate the puppies, you may find they seem a little confused about why they cannot get to each other, but they will soon get used to it and learn to thrive on the attention you give them instead.
Play with other puppies is powerfully rewarding to a puppy. It is a dog’s natural way to play, and this is why it is so much fun. In comparison, our attempts to get them to play with toys is, at first, less successful. If you allow two puppies to play together non-stop throughout the day, they will not be interested in learning how to play with humans. Since play with others creates strong bonds and builds relationships, the absence of play with people can have dire consequences.
Since our attempts to play with toys is initially less rewarding, we need to play for longer to give the puppy chance to learn how enjoyable it can be. For this reason, make sure you play with each puppy for 3 times longer than it plays with members of its own species. So for each 2 minutes they are allowed to play together, you need to spend another 6 minutes playing with each. You can see how the time you spend playing can easily mount up if you leave them alone together for too long (30 mins playing together will mean you need to play puppy games for 3 hours!). This is why you need to keep the puppies separated for most of the time during their first year and only bring them together when they are tired and want to rest.
If you have kept your puppies separate during the day, and then put them together at night, they will take the opportunity to play and no one will get any sleep. So you will also need to find a way to separate them at night, either with stair gates or by keeping them in separate rooms
As well as separate play-times, you will need to take each puppy out by itself daily. This will allow each puppy to develop independence and learn to cope by itself without relying on the other. This is especially important for the puppy that is the more insecure of the two, who would naturally hide behind the other and rely on the other puppy for support. Instead, they will learn to be supported by you and your relationship will be enhanced. Each puppy can then also learn to socialise independently with other people and also other dogs so they grow up to be well-adjusted in their own right.
Twice the training
Training two puppies is not difficult but finding time for two lots of training sessions can be. Since you cannot train young pups for longer than about 3 minutes, you can train one while the other rests, then swap them and train the other. To achieve this, use stair gates if training in the house, or, if training in the garden, use a stair gate at the back door, or have a tie-down point where you can leave the one not being trained (never leave a puppy tied up out of sight, and use a harness to connect the lead to rather than a collar).
In addition, you will need time for two lots of good manners training in the house, and you will also need to consider the practicalities of house-training two pups that are kept separated for most of the time.
If you are considering taking your puppies to classes, it is really best to take each puppy to a separate class so that both gets the full experience and you can give your full concentration to each. If you have to attend one class with both pups, make sure that two family members attend and move to separate ends of the hall so that both puppies can concentrate away from each other. If they have spent most of their time with you and separate from each other at home, this will be easy. If not, they may bark and pull towards each other constantly. If this happens, it is best to let them be together to avoid disturbing the lesson, but make sure they are separated more during the following week so that the next lesson is more peaceful.
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