When you see a litter of puppies it can be very difficult to choose just one. How can you pick between all of those adorable puppies? Maybe, you think, just maybe I’ll take two.
Wait! You may want to rethink this because as cute as they are, sibling puppies present their own array of challenges. Sure, circumstances and situations may exist where it makes sense and works out to get sibling puppies. For instance, our two sibling dogs were abandoned as puppies with only each other; we didn’t have the heart to break them up so we adopted both. But when you’re looking at a litter (or even just two), make sure you know the following before choosing two.
Their Bond Will Be The Strongest
These two puppies will be each other’s number one throughout their lives. They will love each other the most. Yes, they will bond with you and your family, but they will bond with each other first and foremost. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you have fantasies of having that dog who is your sole “buddy,” siblings are probably not the way to go.
Sibling puppies – They sure are cute, but are you ready for the challenge? Sibling puppies will have lots of fun together, but you have will have a lot of work to do.
Everything Is Twice The Work
You now have two puppies who need all the same training and work. That means potty training two dogs, socializing two dogs, walking two dogs, and keeping your eye on chewing twice as much. If you have the time to devote to this, it can work. But it is a lot of time and most people with work and other family commitments find this part a frustrating struggle, and it can end up being a disservice to the dogs.
They Need Their Own Adventures
Some of the best advice I got early on was to make sure they each have their own adventures. That can mean take one on a car ride or walk while the other stays home or give each a few minutes of individual play a day. It can be as little as five minutes alone doing their favorite thing, but that can make a big difference.
Taking one at a time on an adventure is all important for everyone.
They Need Their Own Space
As much as they love each other, it is best to crate them separately, and let them have their own beds and “place” when they are older. This will help teach them independence, develop their own selves, and keep away some of the ugly sibling behaviors. They probably won’t like it at first, but as time goes on, it will help them be better behaved and more independent dogs.
They Need Their Own Food Bowls
Feed them separately with separate bowls in different areas. Our dogs eat at opposite ends of the kitchen, and they know whose bowl is whose. It took a lot of work, but now they only eat from their own bowl (well, most of the time). Peach On a Leash trainers reiterate this as an important aspect of sibling training. Just like having their own space, they need their own bowls.
Their Bark Is Worse Than Their Bite
They will make a lot of noise. A lot. They will bark and snarl and growl at each other, but they rarely will go after each other in a dangerous way. You will have to get used to this and not step in, that’s when it can get dangerous. If you feel their behaviour is escalating, stop the madness by tossing a blanket on the dogs, blowing a whistle or spraying them with water.
They Play Hard And Fight Hard
You will be surprised at how hard they play with each other. They’ll make a lot of noise, and it can get a little overwhelming depending on their size. They also will play fight – hackles may go up, teeth may be bared, but if you can learn to recognize their body language, you’ll know they are most always playing. Think about human siblings; they play hard, fight hard and love hard. These puppies are siblings, too.
Siblings can potentially have a great time together and with you, but you will have a lot of work to do.
They Have Their Own Personalities
Remember, these puppies are two individual dogs with unique personalities, favorite things and personal fears. One of our dogs is very anxious, and her whole training process was different than her brother’s who needs more impulse control. Just because one thing works well for one dog, doesn’t mean it will for the other. He has to sit before he greets people, but she doesn’t because of her anxiety. Also, remember their favorite things and indulge them. She loves car rides; he loves belly rubs.
They can be a great addition to a family, but be sure to treat them as individuals.
They Cost More
Everything is double the cost. That goes for food, heartworm and flea/tick preventative, vet visits, boarding, trainers, and all those new puppy essentials. Rember, you’ll need two collars, two leashes, two beds…Be prepared to take this on if you choose to get siblings. Even puppy destruction can be a higher cost with two.
You may think it’s cute to get two of every toy, but it’s almost a guarantee that they will still want the one the other has. You may have to separate them or let them only have their favorite things during their individual time. Resource guarding can be a real thing. Sometimes, as with kids, you just have to let them work it out. They will establish some sort of dominance, though it may be fluid and ever changing.
Boy/Girl Is The Best Combination
If you do choose to get siblings, brother/sister is often the best combination. We were lucky in this regard. Whole Dog Journal explains that it can be hard to tell because, again, all dogs are individuals and two sisters may get along fine even though that’s usually the least recommended combination.
With all that being said, we could not love our two sibling dogs more. It has been a lot of work, a lot of noise, a fight or two, and a lot of potty breaks and treats, but we would not change a thing. There is never a dull moment in our house. Fortunately, my family’s schedules and lifestyle permit the time it takes to do this successfully. Think hard about getting sibling dogs if you’re thinking about it and consider time, money, and who they will bond with. You want to give each dog the best life you can, and if you can’t do it with siblings, don’t take this on. If you do, follow the above tips to help things go a little smoother. Remember, the better owner you can be, the better dogs you can have. And two dogs can actually be a whole lot of fun.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.