Fielding all the incoming calls and emails about training, as I do, I get to chat to many of the people enquiring about puppy classes. Many of the calls I get are from people who want to bring more than one puppy to class. Whenever I hear this, I sigh inwardly. Without wanting to sound like the profit of gloom and doom, I ask them why they have decided on two pups. More often than not, the reason they give is that they feel guilty that they work and the puppy would be alone all day. Many have been convinced by a rescue organisation that two puppies would be better than one.
I try not to think of all the dogs we help re-home who are the “other” pup which didn’t work out. Unfortunately many of the 2 puppy families choose the same breed, the same sex and worst of all…..two pups from the same litter. More than I like to mention also add to the mix the fact that the brothers or sisters are terriers! “Why not two?” they ask, “Won’t the pups be happier with a playmate and surely they won’t fight if they are family?” The truth of the matter is that with two pups, the following is likely:
- Neither pup ever reaches it’s full potential
- One of the pups will turn out shy
- The pups will bond with each other to the exclusion of you
- The pups are likely to fight with each other at a later point
- The pups will be more destructive and boisterous
- The pups will mature later
- The pups will be traumatised when ever they need to be separated
A better alternative to getting two pups would be to get one puppy at a time. Raise the pup, socialise, house train, play, train and bond with it. Once the pup is a minimum of 5 to 6 months old, you can start to think about whether you would like to get a second dog and start the process all over again. The only good reason for getting dog number two should be that you want to own two dogs, not that you want to solve or prevent any problems. If you are sure this is what you want, choose your second puppy carefully to ensure the dogs will be compatible. It would be best to choose a puppy of the opposite sex, a suitable breed (similar energy levels) with the right temperament. Puppy number two needs exactly what puppy number one had with you: daily socialising (without the help of big brother or sister), house training, play sessions and training sessions. When the time comes for pup number two to go for walks, the walks should be separate at first until the puppy is well bonded with you and can cope without the older dog. All of the above spells major commitment from you, the owner.
Where does this leave you if you are sure you want (or are already committed to) two pups? To prevent your pups becoming over reliant on each other the pups need to spend a portion of every day away from each other. Play sessions, training and walks should be separate. It also helps if each pup has it’s own handler to work with. Extra care needs to be made with house training as it is difficult to watch both pups all the time. Use a puppy pen or keep the pups on the lead while working on house training. To prevent fighting, a natural hierarchy needs to be allowed to develop between the pups which means that unless blood is shed, you must not intervene in squabbles. Once you see a pattern of one pup seeming more assertive, help the pups by making more of a fuss over the pushy pup in front of the other. Make sure both pups defer to you, the owner by for example sitting for petting or treats to ensure that your pushy pup doesn’t start pushing you around too!
If you are lucky enough to have avoided the trap of two pups, do think carefully before getting a second puppy as two are definitely double the effort, expense and commitment as one. If it is too late – hang in there – pups do grow up quickly and with the right input and effort you can help to prevent some of the problems and make sure your pups turn into great dogs.
Note from Roselyn, who got two pups from the same litter and attended our classes:
Two puppies is definitely FOUR TIMES the effort and commitment as one, not double. And, even if people are really prepared to put in a huge amount of time and effort, they should be still be prepared to have dogs that do not cope without their sibling and do not listen to their owner as the sibling bond is too strong. With no pecking order, hectic fighting is also to be expected. It really is advisable that even if two puppies have been taken on, it is never too late to re-home. Harsh but true.