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Let’s open by saying that raising sibling puppies successfully is not easy and not generally advisable. But if you do find yourself doing it, there are things you can do to ensure a greater level of success and happiness within your household.
So, you head down to the breeder or the shelter to choose a new puppy to adopt into your family. But when you get there, you see two adorable sibling puppies together.
They shouldn’t be separated, you tell yourself, and you should take them both home, right?
Plus, they will be able to play with one another, which will make everything easier.
No joke this happened to me before I got my first puppy, Linus. When I went to the shelter there were two cute little Australian Shepherd Lab mix puppies.
I was very tempted to bring home both pups because I didn’t want to separate the two. Smarter heads prevailed and I came home with one puppy and couldn’t have been happier.
That is just not the case! When you bring home two puppies from the same litter, you aren’t saving yourself time or effort, but rather adopting double the trouble (we have twin daughters – the human kind – and I concur with the double the trouble sentiment).
There are a lot of things inherent in the way that sibling puppies respond to one another that makes it harder to integrate two of them together into the same home at the same time.
This is why many breeders and shelters simply won’t let you take home two puppies from the same litter.
But, for whatever reason, if you do find yourself getting sibling puppies, there are a few things you can do to raise them successfully.
Read on as we explain why sibling puppies are such a challenge, share our top tips on how to raise sibling pups together, and walk you through how to side-step some of the problems inherent to raising two puppies from the same litter.
Double The Trouble: The Challenge of Sibling Puppies
Why are sibling puppies double the trouble?
Shouldn’t it be easier to raise them together, as they will have companionship and can learn from one another?
The main problem with adopting sibling puppies is that they are going to bond with one another over you.
They have already been bonding for months together with their mother, and they are going to spend lots of time together, especially when you aren’t home.
This is a problem because the bond they have with one another can diminish the bond they have with you. This can make them much more difficult to train.
They also feed off one another’s energy, which makes it much more likely for them to get in trouble together.
Add to this that they are pack animals, and in addition to bonding you can expect them to fight, as it is common to fight for dominance within the pack.
And certainly don’t consider introducing a third dog into the equation. The two siblings will very often gang up on the third dog, and it is not unknown for them to seriously injure, or even kill, a third dog introduced into the home.
For these reasons, most respectable breeders and shelters won’t let you take home sibling puppies, especially if you aren’t an experienced dog owner.
This is not only for the health and happiness of both you and the dog, but many sibling dogs soon find themselves back in a shelter because of the difficulties associated with raising them.
When I went to obedience class with Linus there were sibling Husky mix dogs in the class. They literally could not be 20 feet apart. They would whine and yelp until they were back together.
Before You Get Sibling Puppies Ask Yourself…
So you should seriously consider whether you are prepared to raise sibling puppies before agreeing to take them home. Ask yourself:
- Are you going to be able to look after them financially? Twice the food, twice the toys, twice the vet trips?
- Do you have time to give both dogs the individual attention they require?
- Are they a sociable breed that is more likely to get along with other dogs, or are they a problematic breed? You can learn more about picking the right dog breed for you here.
- What will you do if they don’t get along? Do you have a family member who can take on responsibility for one of the pups?
Also, consider the gender of the puppies you are adopting. Puppies of the same gender are much more likely to fight as a result of their pack instincts.
If you get a male and a female puppy, you have the risk of them breeding unless you choose to have them spayed and neutered.
Suffice it to say, there is a lot to consider before taking on this kind of responsibility.
7 Tips For Raising Sibling Puppies Successfully
If you do decide to take on the challenge and responsibility of raising sibling puppies, there are a number of strategic things you can do in order to make the process of raising, socializing, and integrating them into your family as easy as possible.
Here are the things we think are the most important:
1. Invest In Crate Training
Crate training is one of the most effective training tools. While some people consider it cruel to confine a pup in this way, this is looking at it from a human rather than a dog perspective.
Not only does the crate contain them, but it also gives them a secure place to call their own, where they can retreat when things get stressful.
They are also less likely to get stressed out by you overreacting to any accidents or mishaps. So, in this way, the crate can make you both feel better.
It also means the puppies can be near you, inside their crates, when they also have to be restricted. It is much less traumatic for them than locking them away in another room “out of sight.”
When it comes to sibling puppies, there will be many times that you will need to keep them apart. Crates (one each) are the most effective and human way to keep the puppies apart without causing them serious anxiety.
If you are looking for the perfect dog crate we recommend the MidWest LifeStages Wire Dog Crate. We purchased this crate for our first puppy, Linus, over 15 years ago and still use the exact same crate today.
2. Let Them Sleep Separately
You’ve seen litter puppies: they love sleeping together in a big pile. It is adorable! But when you bring your litter puppy siblings home, that needs to come to an end.
Sleeping together forms a deep and unbreakable bond, which is lovely but will make them impossible to control when they are together, and undermine their ability to bond with you and the other members of your household.
Sibling puppies should sleep separately.
You might not want to do this from day one. Being introduced to a new home can already be a challenging and scary experience, so ripping them away from their sleep buddy at the same time just seems cruel.
But you should have them sleeping separately within two weeks of bringing them home.
If they are sleeping in crates, as we recommend, you can start with the crates next to each other and then slowly move them further apart.
While it’s an option to wait before giving them their own sleeping quarters. In my opinion, I’d separate them from day one. Rip off the band-aid. Some puppies will bark in the crate on their first night while others do just fine from day one.
We got our most recent puppy, Elsa, from a breeder and she started the process of separating her pups in crates at 5 weeks old, several weeks before puppies went to their new homes.
3. Spend Time With Each Puppy Alone
Don’t do everything with your puppies together. This will only reinforce their strong and exclusive bond with one another, and make it more difficult for them to bond with you and other human family members.
While you will certainly do things together, you will also want to do things alone with each of them. You should maintain this until they are at least one year of age, and probably long beyond this.
This means walking them separately, playing with them separately, taking them to the vet separately. This is why sibling puppies are a huge time investment.
They should also have their own possessions. They should never share leashes, bowls, or toys.
You should even feed them separately, in separate parts of the home, or one at a time with the other waiting in the crate.
4. Invest In Professional Training
Training is also something that should be done separately. And, if you aren’t an expert trainer, it is a good idea to invest in the services of a professional, preferably taking your pup to weekly classes where they will have the opportunity to interact with other dogs.
Not only will the professional trainer be able to guide you on a thorough training process, but the act of being in the class with other dogs will be an essential part of the socialization process.
If at all possible, the sibling pups should not be part of the same class. If they are, they should be kept separate and cared for by two different family members, both during the course and when doing homework exercises.
You can read other puppy training tips here.
5. Use Their Names
If you want your dogs to be able to distinguish which one of them you are calling, it is very important that you use their names from day one. Avoid using standard nicknames like “boy,” “girl,” or “pup.”
Establishing their names will help establish their independence and will make it easier for you to control the pups, as you will be able to give them separate commands more easily.
6. Monitor Domineering Behavior
You will need to monitor the bonding that is happening between your pups, as there will be a tendency for one to try to dominate the other.
You will need to step in if one becomes excessively dominant, as it can result in an unhealthy relationship between the two that can very easily result in negative behavior such as fighting, barking, going to the bathroom where they know they shouldn’t, and so forth.
You can limit the likelihood of domineering behavior by ensuring that you treat the puppies equally. Don’t give one more attention than the other, and let them take turns going first.
7. Socialize With Older Dogs
It is not uncommon to hear people say that puppies will socialize and teach one another. But this is a case of the blind leading the blind, and usually reinforced negative behavior. So you just end up with two misbehaving pups.
However, pups do learn good habits and socialization from older dogs. So, do what you can to let them spend time, separately, with older dogs. This might be letting them play with a friend or neighbor’s dog, or getting involved with a local dog group.
Raising two sibling puppies at home can be easier if you already have an older dog, who is likely to take on a parental role and occupy the position of leader.
Can You Keep Sibling Puppies Together?
You can keep sibling puppies together, but it is generally not advisable.
This is because the sibling puppies have a tendency to form a close bond that undermines their bond with the human members of their household. This makes it much more difficult to train and control them.
Also, while having two puppies means they always have a playmate, rather than keeping one another out of trouble, they are more likely to egg one another on and get into even more trouble.
Is It Hard To Raise Two Puppies Together?
It is challenging to raise two puppies together because their natural tendencies as siblings can make it more difficult for them to integrate into a broader household.
While you might think that it is an economy of scale raising two together, this is not the case, as they will need everything to be separate and double: twice the food, twice the gear (including everything from leads to crates), and twice the veterinary bills.
Why Do Sibling Puppies Fight?
Dogs are pack animals, so it is natural for them to bond—and also natural for them to fight for dominance. While sibling puppies will play-fight, they will also fight to be the dominant member of their pack of two.
This is much more common when the two puppies are of the same gender. For this reason, if you are adopting sibling pups, it is advisable to get a male and a female pup, as long as they are neutered and spayed to prevent breeding.
Can Littermates Eat Together?
When you are training new puppies that come from the same litter, they shouldn’t eat together. They should either eat in separate places in the home or at separate times, with the other dog waiting in the crate.
This is essential for teaching the dogs the difference between their food and that of their sibling.
It is probably best to maintain this practice for about the first year. After this, you may be able to place their bowls alongside one another, but you will need to monitor this for the first few weeks.
Do Puppies From The Same Litter Need Individual Attention?
Yes, puppies from the same litter need lots of individual attention. This is about them forming a bond with you.
Basically, if you have two puppies from the same litter, they don’t really need you because they have each other and will form a deep and special bond.
If you want the puppies to bond with you, they are going to need to do this without the distracting attention of their sibling nearby.
So, it is a good idea to take dogs out for walks and play separately for at least the first year, and probably longer.
Is It Better To Have Dogs Of The Opposite Sex?
Yes, it is better to have two dogs of the opposite sex. This is because dogs are pack animals and will naturally vie to be the alpha male or female of the pack. Therefore, two dogs of the same gender are much more likely to fight.
However, if you get two dogs of opposite genders, you need to consider how you will prevent them from breeding unless you are planning on having at least one of them neutered or spayed.
What Is The Best Age Gap Between Dogs?
The ideal age gap between dogs is about two years. This means that the first dog has been fully trained and is settled in the home, but is still active and energetic and so will be able to keep up with the new puppy addition.
My first puppy Linus stayed young and energetic and loved playing with younger puppies right up to his final days.
On the other hand my black Lab, Stetson was a grumpy old man by the time he was 2 1/2 years old. By that age, he was done playing with energetic puppies and would rather rest on his bed.
It is generally not advisable to take home two puppies from the same litter. This is because their special bond represents a challenge that will make it more difficult for them to bond with you.
This makes it harder to train them and gives them a tendency for disobedience.
However, if you do decide to take home sibling puppies, there are things you can do to make a success of it.
The key to this is managing their tendency to become involved with one another to the exclusion of all other things and to foster their bond with you.
And the key to this is giving them individual attention, and keeping them separate at important times such as when eating and sleeping.
While it is certainly challenging, it is rewarding to see two happy pups successfully integrated into your family.
Have you ever raised sibling puppies?
Were you successful or did they form a close bond with each other rather than with the family?
Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.
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