Features January 2010 Issue

Problems Associated With Adopting Two Puppies at the Same Time

Why experts warn against adopting two puppies at the same time - and what you can do for your dogs if you did not heed the warning.

There’s no denying it: a new puppy is one of the world’s most wonderful things. It’s a cold, hard heart that doesn’t get all mushy over puppy breath, soft pink puppy pads, and the fun of helping a baby dog discover his new world. So, if one puppy is wonderful, two puppies must be twice as wonderful, right? Well, not usually.

Most training professionals strongly recommend against adopting two pups at the same time. The biggest challenge of adopting puppy pairs is their tendency to bond very closely with each other, often to the exclusion of a meaningful relationship with their humans. They can become inseparable. Also, owners often underestimate the time commitment required to properly care for and train two puppies; as a result the pups often end up untrained and undersocialized.

Unbearably cute? Yes. A good idea? No. Just because you have two kids and they both want their own puppy doesn’t mean you should get two pups. You stand the best chance of raising well-trained and -socialized puppies one at a time.

Don’t do it
I’m the last person on earth to argue against getting a second dog, or even a third; my husband and I have five. However, there are very good reasons to think long and hard about not getting two puppies at once, whether they are siblings or not.

While the majority of new puppy owners seem to recognize that one puppy is enough of a responsibility for them, a certain number fall prey to one of a few common arguments about why two puppies might be better than one. I can rebut every one of them!

Let’s take a look at the most common reasons that people say they want to adopt two puppies at the same time - and why they shouldn’t be considered.

Two-pup rationale #1: “I want to get two puppies so they will have someone to play with while I’m gone all day at work.”

It’s a good thing to recognize that your pup could use companionship during the day. However, if you think one puppy can get into trouble when you’re not there, just think what kinds of mischief two pups can cook up when left to their own devices. Better solutions might include:

• Adopt your new pup at a time when someone in your family can take a week (or several) off work to stay home and help the puppy adjust gradually to being left alone. A couple of weeks vacation time? Kids home for the summer? Just be sure to use the time wisely, so your pup can learn to happily accept being alone when it’s time to go back to work or school.

• Find a friend, neighbor, or relative who is home much of the time and who is willing to provide daycare for your pup - and experience the joys of having a puppy to play with during the day, without the long-term responsibilities and costs of having a dog for 15-plus years.

• Ask your vet if she has another client with a similar-age puppy, and see if the two of you can mingle your pups at one of your puppy-proofed homes for puppy daycare, and send the second baby dog back home after work. Note the emphasis on “puppy-proofed.” Two pups can still get into a heap of trouble, even if one of them isn’t yours.

Two-pup rationale #2: I have two children and they each want their own puppy.

What a sweet idea. Just say no. Since when do the kids get to make the rules? Seriously, most families I know have enough trouble getting their kids to fulfill their promise to feed, walk, and clean up after one family dog. Mom ends up doing most of it anyway. So now Mom gets to do double-puppy-duty? If there’s a compelling reason for them each to have a dog, consider adopting one puppy now, and an adult dog from a shelter or rescue group. Even then, I’d adopt one first and give her at least a month to settle in, if not longer, before adopting the second.

If you must adopt two puppies at the same time for the kids, see the second half of this article.

Two-pup rationale #3: We want to have two dogs eventually anyway, so we might as well get them at the same time so they can grow up together as best friends.

Well, that’s what you might well get! When you raise two puppies together they usually do grow up to be inseparable best friends, often to the detriment of the dog-human relationship. Inevitably they spend far more time together than they do individually with you, with a likely result that they become very tightly bonded to each other and you are only secondary in their lives. Many owners of adopted-at-the-same-time puppies ultimately find themselves disappointed in their relationships with their dogs, even when they are committed to keeping them for life.

This super-bonding also causes tremendous stress (and stress-related behavior problems) on those occasions when the dogs do have to be separated - and sooner or later, something will come up that requires them to be separated: one goes to training class and the other doesn’t, you want to walk one but not both, or a health-related problem requires one to be hospitalized or otherwise kept separate.

Of course you want your dogs to get along. But you probably don’t want them to get along so well with each other that they hardly take notice of the human members of the family – a common result of raising canine siblings together.

Two-pup rationale #4: A second puppy will play with the first and keep her occupied when I’m too busy to spend time with her.

Nice thought, but here’s a heads-up. If you’re too busy to give one puppy the time she needs, you’re definitely too busy for two puppies!

There are great interactive dog toys on the market that can help occupy your pup when you can’t play with her - and don’t think that either another puppy or a pen full of toys can substitute for social time with you. Puppies do take time, and it’s important you give that some serious thought before adding a baby dog to the family. It’s fine to give her playmate-time via arranged play dates with a friend’s healthy and compatible puppy, but don’t think adopting a second pup is an acceptable substitute for your own interaction with your puppy.

Two-pup rationale #5: If we adopt a second puppy, that’s one fewer that might be euthanized.

I won’t argue with this, except to say that in many shelters around the country today, puppies aren’t the problem. Of course there are exceptions, but I’d say the majority of shelters in the United States now have no problems placing most if not all the puppies they get. It’s the adult dogs who are most likely to die because of homelessness. If you really want to save a life, adopt a grown-up dog instead of a puppy, or at least adopt your puppy now, and come back for an adult dog in a few months.

Two-pup rationale #6: The breeder we are buying our puppy from thinks it’s best if we take two.

If you’re buying from a breeder who encourages you to purchase two puppies at once, run away fast. A truly responsible breeder will, in most cases, refuse to sell two puppies to one home, except on the rare occasion that a prospective buyer can prove she has the skill, knowledge, time, ability, and monetary resources to provide an excellent environment for two pups at once. Someone who tries to push two puppies on a buyer isn’t a very responsible breeder, and isn’t doing her puppies, or the new owner, any favors.

Next: What to do if you adopt two

Comments (18)

I agree with Pat Miller 100%. When I was a 10 year old child (back in the 1970s) my parents adopted two mixed breed puppies from the same litter. They bonded very strongly with each other. My 10 year old me tried hard to train them (my parents offered no support on that front - this was the 1970s when attitudes towards family pets was more laissez-faire) and I always remember with sadness how, when one died, the other died within two months, despite having been at full health up until that end moment. I would never now advocate getting two puppies together, for all the reasons Pat has outlined. Thank you.

Posted by: Karen W | December 1, 2013 1:59 AM    Report this comment

I agree with Pat Miller 100%. When I was a 10 year old child (back in the 1970s) my parents adopted two mixed breed puppies from the same litter. They bonded very strongly with each other. My 10 year old me tried hard to train them (my parents offered no support on that front - this was the 1970s when attitudes towards family pets was more laissez-faire) and I always remember with sadness how, when one died, the other died within two months, despite having been at full health up until that end moment. I would never now advocate getting two puppies together, for all the reasons Pat has outlined. Thank you.

Posted by: Karen W | December 1, 2013 1:59 AM    Report this comment

As a hobby breeder of shelties, I have grown out litter mates from time to time and have not noticed any issues with bonding only to each other but not to me.

I did have one experienced owner who purchased two of my pups and they also have bonded to their human family quite well. As far as their response to being separated, I expect any family member to miss one another on occasion. That is just part of a normal range of emotions common in humans and canines alike.

I had one dog years ago that adored having other dogs to play with. Being an "only child", he would get in these black, depressed moods every time we came home from the park, leaving his buddies behind. Attention and attempts to play with him did nothing to lighten his mood. A second dog solved the problem and he became a happier pup for it. I would have found it hard to insist that he should have suffered in order to "train" him to bond with me (which he did anyway).

Whether one or two, each has it's unique challenges, both which require time and energy. I don't see one as more difficult than the other, just different in focus.

Posted by: Linda M | November 30, 2013 11:43 PM    Report this comment

One thing I didn't see mentioned is the possibility of two litter mates spending their entire adult lives fighting. We see this quite often in Doberman rescue, especially when the puppies are the same sex. Whenever someone calls and tells me "I bought litter mates..." they don't even need to finish. The dogs spend every waking moment trying to kill each other. They want to relinquish one or both dogs. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard this story. And the puppies have always come from a backyard breeder.

I've never understood the "logic" that having two puppies will be easier because they'll entertain each other. Would you tell a pregnant woman "I hope you have twins. They'll raise each other. It'll be so much easier for you."?

Posted by: Unknown | August 26, 2013 2:36 PM    Report this comment

My husband and I have two German Shepherd dogs, 3 years old and litter mates. We did training separately, and our dogs are definitely bonded to us and to each other. We both have had dogs our whole lives, and know that one or two, you must be committed to putting in the work with any pup. House training didn't take that long, no longer then with one dog. They just need routine and consistency. We got two because we have the time to work with them, we take them everywhere with us, and love spending time with them. Anyone who says they want two so they can exercise themselves shouldn't have dogs. Dogs love running and playing, if you don't, don't have pets.

Posted by: Dogs 4 life | July 25, 2013 1:34 PM    Report this comment

minbab, I was so discouraged too this past winter, but take a deeeeep breath, I did it with one lame arm and leg, I'm betting you can do this! It will get better, and be so worth it.

Posted by: yorkylover | April 25, 2013 11:43 AM    Report this comment

I just bought 2 yorkies, now a year old, I am disabled , lame leg and 1 arm/hand, and was so desperate after my 16 year old yorkie died last summer, I ignored all the warnings about getting 2. Potty training on pad was so hard, it threatened my sanity, haha, roll eyes......now they are 99% trained, PRAISE THE LORD!!!!! CUZ i COULD NOT HAVE DONE IT MYSELF.....it took almost a year, but I did remain sane....somehow! I am so thankful to Jesus, these pups are so sweet, there is some fighting, but it was helpful to put them in seperate crates. They both have bonded with me, with each other, my 2 cats and I am so greatful! I will do some seperate walks this spring(if it ever comes lol)I do think that makes alot of sense as I do not want them to suffer separation issues. It seems I cannot snuggle with both at once or a fight breaks out, I hope that can be dealt with, any ideas how to do that?

Posted by: yorkylover | April 25, 2013 10:47 AM    Report this comment

I adopted 2 puppies at the age of 8 weeks and they are 8 months now. I am having a very difficult time training them. I just read this article and I guess I am an idiot. I can't afford a dog trainer and I am considering returning them to the foster family. Really discouraged.

Posted by: minnbab57 | January 25, 2013 6:52 PM    Report this comment

WE had a couple of litter-mates, boy and girl Lhasa Apsos and had none of the problems mentioned. Jenny bonded securely with me, and Sam with my husband, though they both loved our whole family (4 kids, 2 cats, 2 rabbits and assorted cage animals) even after going to my mother's house at 6 months Jenny gave me rapturous greetings every time I went over (3-4 x a week). BTW they suffered no separation anxiety either, Jenny lived with my Mom for 4 years,and they adored each other. When my Mom passed on she came "home" and again had no problems settling in after a mourning period. We are very affectionate with our animals, and train them naturally with no "clicks" or treats, and had no problems at all. They have both passed on now, Jenny at 14 and Sam at 16, I miss then terribly, and would happily get litter-mates again.

Posted by: Unknown | May 12, 2012 12:31 AM    Report this comment

I adopted 2 sisters 8 years ago. I agree with much that's said in the article, and it hasn't been easy, but in the end, the benefits have outweighed the risks. I think I'd do it over again--maybe not. A couple of comments: 1. They *must* be trained--starting early. With one dog, if an owner is lazy and doesn't train it, things might work out. But with two, you have no choice. My girls learn better and faster when I train them together. 2. I don't mind that they have their own special bond between them. I have bonded separately with each of them, and we have also bonded as a team. Now that they are mature, we have a *lot* of fun together. If anything happened to me, they have each other. They have each other when I'm busy or I've gone out. I don't feel that they depend on me for stimulation. I don't feel guilty if they don't get their exercise, because they still tear around the house chasing each other. 3. Over the years I've tried separating them when each can have an exciting experience, but they don't seem to like it. I've stopped trying. Curiously, the dominant one misses her lackey more than vice versa. Bottom line: We're a very happy family.

Posted by: muriel33 | May 1, 2012 7:41 PM    Report this comment

I have to disagree with the author! I think it is very wrong to make a blanket statement as has been done. Every breed is different and every person is different. With some dog breeds, it may be true ... but I know that Newfoundlands are very different from any other dog breed and I know many Newfy owners with more than one, some siblings from same litters etc. that have not run into the problems mentioned. I think this article is poorly written without much merit.

Posted by: djgiffordrn | March 25, 2012 5:49 PM    Report this comment

This article speaks the truth, and I know from exsperience. At the time when I was getting my pups I did express my feelings that 2 may be too much. As you can guess I listened to the breeder instead of listening to my own intuition and feelings. Were they adorable... were they best buddies... Yes and yes. Were they work... Yes and yes. Honestly they wern`t twice the work they were four times the work. Training had to be repeated so many times. apart and then together and then with other dogs. If your dogs don`t listen in all situations inside and outside of your home then they arn`t really enjoyable to live with or take places. After all my work and patience they still bonded closer to each other than they did to me. I do believe that getting 2 pups at once can be a wonderful exsperience for someone, even if that wasn`t my exsperience. I also believe that the odds are in the favor that it doesn`t work out as planned much more often than the happy easy exsperience. In closing my opnion is don`t expect twice the work, the reality is quadruple the work.

Posted by: Tater | October 12, 2011 10:50 PM    Report this comment

DITTO Rebeca Deming R post. I am now the proud owner of 2 13week old beagle brothers. I adopted them at 8 weeks. No way I could EVER give them up but the amount of work associated with raising them is just like (or worse) what is stated in the very informative article. I'll head all of the advise given but giving them up is NOT an option. I'll keep on referring to your articles and hopefully there will be more to come. Training starts (separately) next week so wish me luck.

Posted by: Yvonne W | October 12, 2011 11:36 AM    Report this comment

Hmmm... I dislike when we make imperical statements regarding issues such as two puppy adoptions. Though much in this article does apply to the typical dog acquirer, there are certainly issues of bonding and emotional well-being that I think sometimes need to be taken into account for the best interests in the placing of a dog.

I have a related family of basset hounds that allow me to live with them~ Ok, so there is never really room on the couch for me, but I think I am ok with that.

Our first boy was a basset named Harry Pawtear who many trainers in Northern California are familiar with. We dutifully went to puppy class and took him to dog parks. He was frightened in the puppy class when they had to bang metal bowls together to separate two sparring puppies, and in the parks, he basically sniffed the perimeter and avoided the other dogs. But when we took him back to the breeder to play with his sister, he glowed with happiness and mutual play. Until that moment, I never thought or considered the value of dog-dog famial relationships and the emotional impact of separating some dogs. When we would leave to go home, it was like he was there, but something was missing. My solution was to go visit the breeder frequently. I now strongly recommend this and we frequently have relations who come and go and get to visit each other.

Over the years, the breeder became older and could no longer take care of her core group. We ended up acquiring Harry's sister, father, half-sister and a few smatterings of other relations along the way. For many years Harry and his sister Mamie enjoyed mutual play, though over the years, their relationship with each other did change. Mamie preferred to play more with the father, Luther, and Harry with his cousin, Arnie. Maybe the answer is to acquire four related dogs? ;D

I will also say that there is a special bond that frequently appears to exist between a mother and a female puppy that should be acknowledged when possible. This always strikes me with shelter dogs and rescues, that we separating them way too soon and often causing great emotional distress to the dam. I would like to see more acknowledgement of bonding at the shelter and rescue level.

We also have developed a human-dog extended family which has made a huge difference to Charlie and TheBeaver, two bonded brothers. They live separately, but get to see each other and play frequently. They are now seven and have a remarkable relationship that also involves field trialing together. So my other recommendation is if there are littermates who are bonded, find a family who has close friends or other family to take the littermate so they get to have this kind of visitation.

Many bassets do extremely well when placed with relatives, or as second dogs. Though they have bonded relationships with those dogs, that never gets in the way of their interactions with humans which are very rich and fulfilling. I agree about separate training, though for me, that just means one is in a long down or in a crate while I work with another. But walking and socializing? I think they do very well out together, and I think that is of benefit to the person walking them, to them because they can "tackle the weird world with a buddy", and the human is just along for the ride anyway~ Scent hounds like bassets also do need walks on a regular basis using a long lead in a hiking area so that they can follow that bunny trail under the brush. With two, you slip on a coupler and they will work together on following the scent and communicate with each other about the scent, which is an amazing experience to get to see in related scent hounds.

Just some thoughts and my experience.

Posted by: saraberry | July 28, 2011 11:33 AM    Report this comment

Having acquired two puppies at once and having none of the problems noted I have to surmise that I am very lucky or the two pups were extra special or whatever it was. What it wasn't ever was a problem. The two brothers were great additions to our home.

Posted by: Bill N | May 4, 2011 10:29 AM    Report this comment

Wow -- why didn't I see this before now? I have two rottie pups, litter mates, who just turned 11 weeks old today and I am already seeing them bonding more with each other than with us, so it's great to have this validation that I'm not imagining things. We're starting with a trainer next week who has already advised us to start separating the pups and doing things individually, but I hadn't thought of that before. It's too late for the woulda-shoulda-couldas, and there's no way I'm letting either one of them go, so thank you for these great suggestions!

Posted by: Rebecca Deming R | March 24, 2011 2:35 PM    Report this comment

Just read this after putting my girl and boy littermate 6 month old goldens to bed. Fortunately between my vet and two trainers I work with, most, but not all of your suggestions we had heard and have taken to heart! So far so good, and with the exception of all the poop, no regrets. But I have put an enormous amount of time into training and grooming them together and separately. Never could have accomplished this if I worked outside of the home. They have clearly bonded with us and can handle their buddy gone to separate training class or the vet. And they wear each other out playing really hard. I learned some more from your article - thank you!

Posted by: Barbara B | March 9, 2011 12:57 AM    Report this comment

I must have missed this when it first come out. I work in rescue and, on occasion, have had people want to adopt 2 pups at once. I have always warned against it citing the very reason you have stated here. I try to go through all the things they will have to do when they have 2 pups at once. I try to stress that the pups HAVE to be separated for training and bonding purposes. I will be adding this article to our, 2 puppy, adoption information. Since most people do not take notes at adoption time it will make for good reference material. Thank you Deborah Pruyn Adirondack Save-A-Stray

Posted by: DEBORAH P | October 6, 2010 10:09 AM    Report this comment

Add your comments ...

New to Whole Dog Journal? Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In