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Should You Get Two Puppies at the Same Time?

It sounds like fun to have two puppies. Is it a good idea?

By
Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
December 6, 2010
Episode #086

Puppy faces, puppy bellies, little pink pads on puppy feet. My name is Jolanta, and I am powerless over the puppy cute. Let’s just get that out of the way.

The puppy cute being what it is, you might be thinking you could double the fun by getting two. Ah, but then what?


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Should You Get Two Puppies at the Same Time?

Before you start picking out the typeface for that adoption announcement, consider what you’re in for. Raising a single puppy is the kind of project that has people muttering “Never again” under their breaths. Also, they are muttering it at two a.m. The reason they are muttering it at two a.m. is that the puppy woke up at 1:55 a.m. needing a toilet break. Now, if you have two puppies, the first one has woken the second, so you have to take them both out. One under each arm. Down your back porch steps. In the rain.  Isn’t this sounding cuddly and fun?

While we’re on the subject, housetraining two puppies is just like housetraining one: you supply plenty of opportunities to eliminate in the right place. You supervise and confine your puppy to prevent her from eliminating in the wrong place. Only, the odds are high that while you have your eagle eye on  Dogalini, little Zippy will sniff the ground, circle, and lay some poop.

Each Puppy Needs Individual Attention

So far this might sound more or less eye-rolling but not like the end of the world. However, when you’re raising two puppies, you have to do everything separately for each. And you have to do it every day. Good reasons exist for this--I’ll get to them in a moment, but for now just think about the to-do list.
 

You’ll need to walk Zippy and Dogalini separately. You should take them out individually for socialization, every day. At home, you should spend time with each puppy on her or his own, playing with her and training her. Every day. The puppies should attend manners classes on different nights, or at least with individual handlers. And the puppies should be crated separately.

Two Puppies May Bond More with Each Other Than with You

The puppies’ emotional development may suffer without individual attention and training.

Why make all this effort to separate the puppies when the whole point of getting two was to have them entertain each other?  It’s for the sake of successful training, and for the pups’ behavioral health as well. You’ll have caught that bit about the puppies entertaining each other. They do entertain each other; they may occupy each other’s attention to the exclusion of everything else. Your kindergarten Dogalini is just not going to be able to focus on learning how to lie down on cue if her brother Zippy keeps pouncing on her head.

If you want to teach Zip to walk nicely on leash, you need to attend to him, so you can encourage and reward the behavior you like. If you’re trying to walk Dogalini at the same time, she will pull and dart and tangle her leash among your legs. And whatever you’re managing to teach Zippy in this chaos, Dogalini is learning to do exactly what she’s doing: pulling, darting, tangling her leash. Success with either puppy will be far, far, far, far away. Last but not least, when they keep so busy with each other, they may bond less strongly with you.

The Puppies Need to Accept Being Separated from Each Other

The puppies’ emotional development and behavior may also suffer in other ways if they don’t spend time apart every day. For instance, if they are together for most socialization outings, each one’s picture of a safe and normal world may include the other. But normal life will separate Dogalini and Ziggy from each other sometimes. One may get sick and need to be hospitalized while the other stays home. You and your spouse might be traveling with the dogs and need to stay in a hotel that allows just one pet per room. You may have taught each pup to walk politely on leash so you can take them out together, but what if you break your wrist and can walk only one at a time until the cast comes off? And, of course, someday one dog will die before the other.

Why Getting Two Puppies at the Same Time May Not Be a Great Idea

And there’s more. Many trainers report seeing that when two puppies are raised together, neither one seems to fully develop as a personality; the dogs give people the impression that they’re parts of a whole, not individuals. Or one puppy, with a stronger personality, may completely swamp the other. Or, maybe worst of all, as the puppies grow into adolescent dogs and then into adults, they may stop getting along. Their relationship may even deteriorate into all-out war. This potentially tragic outcome seems to be most common with siblings of the same age and sex, but we hear of it happening with unrelated puppies as well.

It’s Better to Adopt Puppies Several Months Apart

I would be a fool to tell you that no one has ever raised two puppies at the same time and wound up with healthy, well-adjusted, sociable grown dogs. Of course they have. But you and your dogs will almost certainly be better off if you adopt the second only after you’ve gotten the first one well socialized and reasonably well trained.

One last point. A responsible shelter or rescue group, or a competent and responsible breeder, will interrogate you long and hard before they let you take home two puppies at once. Of course, at the pet store you can make your own call; the one thing they care about is whether your credit card works. But all puppies and kittens sold in pet stores come from puppy and kitten mills. So no matter how badly you want two tiny new friends, suck up the frustration. Don’t shop there.

You can follow The Dog Trainer on Twitter, where I’m Dogalini, as well as on Facebook, and write to me at dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com. I welcome your comments and suggestions, and I may use them as the basis for future articles. Thank you for reading!

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