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Placing Littermates in the Same Home

The following are some thoughts which will hopefully be of some use to two different groups of people: breeders wishing to place their puppies in the best possible homes, and also for helping puppy buyers when selecting their new pet.

In general, it is never advisable to home two puppies from the same litter into the same home. This for several reasons:

  • Dogs communicate mainly through body language – they certainly don’t have an advanced vocal language like humans do. Place two pups in the same home and they will “talk” to each other and zone out the humans. Imagine having twins who go through school together – in the same class, then home to the same house every day. I’ve known twins who have developed their own language and use it to communicate with each other, rather than taking the trouble to learn English so as to be able to speak to their colleagues. Rather anti-social behaviour, and not good for the development of either.
  • Puppies need a lot of attention and socialisation. The most important time for this is before the age of 14 weeks. If you have two litter mates living together, it is very difficult for the owner to spend enough quality time with each puppy individually.
  • Two pups from the same litter will very soon sort out who’s the leader and who’s the follower. This results in what is termed a “shadow dog”. This means that one dog emerges as a leader, and the other always follows in its’ shadow. This is not good for either puppy, as the situation in unnatural and both will feel insecure if the other is not present.
  • If one puppy learns a bad habit (pulling washing from the line, digging holes, barking, etc.) the other will soon join in. Double trouble is not easy to curtail.
  • House training is also much more difficult. How do you know which puppy had the mishap? And the more upset or irritated you get, the more anxious the pups will get and the greater the possibility that accidents will occur. (remember, the puppy will pick up on your emotion – but it is very unlikely that it will understand why you are upset. This is extremely stressful for the animal).
  • Siblings that are kept together whilst growing up form a pack. This can be very unpleasant for others in the family. And it can be a problem if you have a friends’ dog around to play. The sibling puppies will often pack up on it and bully it mercilessly.
  • It is much harder to develop a relationship with a puppy if it is left with its’ litter mate for hours on end. So if you want to compete with your puppy, either select only one, or separate them from the moment you get them home. Spend a lot of one-on-one time with each of them.
  • Teaching your puppy its’ name also becomes a problem. One tends to call them together. E.g. “Freda and Fido, come”. They probably each think that their name is “FredaandFido”. Not easy for the pup. Making them once again realise that it is easier to stick to communicating with each other rather than letting a human in.
  • In is much easier to feed both puppies at the same time, in the same place. This can make it much more difficult for the owner to know if one of the puppies is off colour. (one of the first signs of illness being lack of appetite).
  • People who ask to take two puppies from the same litter are often lazy. They want two puppies so that they don’t have to take the trouble of keeping the puppy stimulated and entertained. They rely on the other puppy to do this, often with huge toxic side effects.
  • Two puppies means twice the cost – of inoculations, feeding, sterilizing, etc. Can the owner afford this?
  • It is not uncommon for a male puppy to cover its sister when she first comes in to season. You can just imagine the repercussions of this!!

Same sex puppies

Even worse than getting two puppies from the same litter, is getting two puppies of the same sex from the same litter.

Puppies of either sex will generally gain sexual maturity before they are a year old. When the hormones kick in, the pups have no choice but to sort out dominance issues. So even if they have got along like a house on fire initially, when they become sexually active, they could well start fighting.

Male dogs fight for dominance, and although you will probably need to take the combatants to the vet for medical attention, it is unlikely that there will be any dreadful injuries. On the other hand, bitches have been known to fight to the death. The belief is that bitches do not want any other bitch to bear puppies, so they maim or kill adversaries to stop this happening.

Bites to the head, neck and shoulders can be severe, but are rarely an indication of true intent to kill. On the other hand, if a dog tries to bite the front legs of their opponent, you have a big problem. Breeds bred to fight other dogs tend to do this – they break their adversary’s front legs so that they cannot fight back, and then kill them at leisure.


If you want to get two puppies:

Should you want to get two puppies, then it is best to space them out a bit. i.e. wait until you have the first puppy fully integrated into your household and well trained and socialised. Wait until the hormones have been sorted. This either by waiting until after the dog is fully sexually mature, or by sterilization. (see “Sterilization of Dogs: Should one spay/neuter?” under “Articles” on this web site.) This usually takes about a year. Only then should you consider getting your second puppy.

By doing this you will alleviate (and hopefully eliminate) a lot of potential heartache and problems along the way.

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Maxine Quinton
Tel: +083 333 6172
Email: maxine@clickersa.co.za

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