I’ve never, not once, observed a household in which two puppies introduced simultaneously resulted in a positive outcome. Every time I hear of two puppies being sold to complete novices I become enraged by the greed of the seller and the unfounded optimism of the buyer. I can’t think of any buyer outside of the realm of professional dog handlers of any kind that can properly raise two puppies at one time to be well-socialized, well-adjusted and obedient canine citizens. It’s hard enough to manage two or more dogs at one time that were raised separately. Two puppies in the same household under the direction of non-professionals, in my observation, has always been a disaster.
What would possess someone to make the choice to bring home two puppies at one time? Well, in my experience, it’s a decision made for two reasons. The first is the misconception that two won’t be that much more difficult than one. If you stop to think about it, this idea doesn’t apply to raising human children. Why would it apply to raising puppies? The second reason is emotional. The buyer may feel that the puppy shouldn’t be separated from its sibling. Or, for purchases made shortly after bringing home one puppy, they believe their puppy needs a friend.
Housebreaking: It’s much harder than you think (or perhaps remember). You have to be on that puppy like white on rice during every waking moment. In the early stages they need to be carried to the grass. With one pup under each arm, who’s going to open the door? Are you going to drop one? Are you going to fall? And while you’re watching one, trying to make sure it goes to the bathroom and doesn’t eat its poop, who’s watching the other one that has walked off around to the other side of the house? Or what will you do to discourage them from playing together and, instead, take care of business.
TRAINING: The length of your training sessions just doubled. Knowing how to train two dogs at one time and do it well is an art. Don’t think you’re just going to get a hand full of treats and teach them both to sit and call it a “job well done”. You have to separate them in the beginning and if you don’t know now you’ll learn that puppies being raised together DO NOT like to be separated.
SEPARATION: Keeping two puppies separated is essential if you’re going to raise them properly. The problem is, people give up almost immediately. For the same reason they found themselves with two puppies under the same roof, they feel bad for the puppies being separated when they want to be together. So, what’s the harm in letting them sleep in the same crate? What’s the harm in letting them play in the same ex-pen? Puppies that are left to be together all the time will develop social problems and will struggle to develop a respectful, working relationship with their owner. Puppies that have one another to turn inward toward do not develop the skills necessary to navigate the world that exists outside of their bubble. Their codependence can manifest itself in a multitude of ways. You’ll struggle to separate them for any reason such as a solo trip to the vet or a training session for leash walking outdoors as the one left behind experiences great distress and expresses it through wailing and escape attempts. You’ll adapt to this by doing your best to never allow it to happen. You might want to take them out in public for socialization but you won’t because you can’t handle two of them at once so you’ll choose to forgo the effort altogether. This conundrum will result in dogs that don’t become socialized with the outside world and on the occasions they get out together in public one of them (there’s always one) is likely to be a nervous wreck because, instead of strengthening its social muscles, it spent all of its time staying in its comfort zone, interacting with its sibling.
AGGRESSION: On the other end of the spectrum two puppies, regardless of gender, and more often observed in siblings, will become aggressive toward one another. It doesn’t typically happen when they are young but rather at the time of maturity (regardless of sterilization). Much like human siblings who can no longer share space, possessions or the attention of others, puppies that have been allowed to build their world around each other can one day wake up enemies. Separate from aggression toward each other, puppies that have built their world around each other often don’t take kindly to strangers. Each, lacking in socialization and feeling emboldened by the other’s presence, run the risk of treating other dogs that come into their sphere of existence with hostility.
So what’s the lesson here? Don’t do it. You’re not up for it. What’s that? You’ve already done it? Then I suggest you use this article up until this point as a “how NOT to” for raising two puppies at once. From here on out I’ll tell you what TO do.
DO keep them in separate crates for sleeping and while you’re absent. The crates can and should be next to each other but they need to be separate crates.
DO train them separately but in view of each other while one is crated in the beginning. Teach them everything separately before bringing them together to practice. As they each become familiar with the word “stay”, stop chewing on their leash and become tolerant to being restrained you can train one while the other is tethered to a fixed object outside of their crate. Thereby, actively training one while passively training the other.
DO, eventually (around 4 months), begin to train them out of each other’s sight because, logistically, you’ll need to, if for nothing else, leash walking until they’re advanced enough to bring together to train.
DO take one to the vet by itself or for an outing of exercise or training separate from the other after 4 months to help the other adjust to being without it’s housemate if only for a short amount of time. I like to train or socialize my dogs separately at least once per month.
DO feed them separately. Don’t just put out a bowl of food or even two bowls of food and walk away. Feed puppies under the same roof in their crates. It helps to establish a routine, support positive feelings about the crate and keep aggression at bay. When they’re trained and have established a working relationship with you, you can consider feeding them somewhere else besides their crate.
DO prepare to take them out separately if they won’t stop playing with each other long enough to use the restroom. You may need to return one indoors after it’s taken care of business so that you can concentrate on the one that hasn’t taken care of business instead of worrying about the destruction the early finisher might be causing to your sprinkler system.
DO transport them in crates in your vehicle. One puppy loose in a car is risky enough. I don’t recommend it. But nothing good could possibly come from two puppies being loose in your vehicle.
The truth is, puppies are lonely for someone that appreciates the way they play with their teeth and their lunging but the negatives far outweigh the positives. You only have to make it to the fourth month of life before they can start going to day care of participating in play dates. And the value a mature, housebroken dog can bring to the next puppy is immeasurable. If you haven’t done it already, do yourself, the dogs and the world around you a favor by resisting the temptation of bringing home two at once.