Generally dog trainers / behaviourists will all agree that this isn’t a great idea. Personally we have done this many times before, but we certainly understand the risks and the amount of work that’s required to avoid the associated pitfalls.
Unfortunately, I see this a lot with clients who get two puppies or adopt two dogs at the same time, and normally they call me in because they just can’t cope. And the main reason for the dogs’ craziness is that they have developed a stronger bond with each other than they have with their owners. That means when they are together they just don’t listen to any of the humans in the house. This also has the added problem of screaming and howling when they are separated from each other.
What are some of the reasons why people get two dogs at once?
1) They want to get their children a puppy each so they can take responsibility for an animal.
What a fantastic idea this is in principle, but this seldom works. In my opinion kids shouldn’t be in charge of puppies and certainly shouldn’t be responsible for their welfare and training. What normally happens is that at the beginning it’s all great and then slowly the novelty wears off. What this means is the parents are left to do the training if they have the time which then becomes a bind. The problem is that the most important time for training has probably been missed.
2) Getting two puppies will give them someone to play with when I’m not at work or leave the house.
Your puppy or dog certainly needs to have companionship during the day, but this doesn’t have to be another dog. Just think for a second about how much trouble one dog can get into when you are not around, then multiply that by 10, not 2 and you start to become aware of the craziness that could unfold.
Most people shove the puppies or dogs outside into the garden when they leave for work and the puppies get to rehearse all those naughty behaviours without anyone to act as a role model. A recipe for disaster if you ask me.
3) We always planned on getting more than one dog, so we may as well get it over and done with in one hit.
Your dogs are likely to become best pals, which is great, but it might be to the detriment of the relationship that they build or don’t with you. Remember they’ll be spending more time with each other than with you so they are obviously going to bond more with each other. As a result, they’ll learn more from each other than they do from the people in the family.
Also it’s been shown many times that one of the puppies becomes super confident while the other tends to become less confident in certain situations. This could lead to unwanted reactivity issues as they grow older.
4) Adopting two puppies / dogs at the same time will save two lives.
This is obviously true, but puppies are rarely difficult for rescue centres to re-home. There are normally more people than puppies, so don’t stress. Instead think about the possible future you might be giving your puppy if you can’t handle them. You may well be sending your puppy down the very pathway you were trying to avoid.
5) The breeder said it’s a great idea to get two at once.
When we asked Star and Twinkle’s breeder from Penteronda Border Collies if we could have two puppies. Rhea automatically said NO. Strangly, that filled me with confidence. I then spend the next few weeks convincing her why I should be worthy of two of her puppies at the same time. And it was only because of my chosen career as a behaviourist and the fact that I had requested to see Mum and Dad before we agreed to buy a puppy, that she agreed.
If your breeder encourages you to get two puppies, run for the hills, they are likely only in it for the money. A truly responsible breeder will challenge you to see if you have the time, dedication and knowledge to know what you are taking on. They’ll also care about their puppies’ well being and future happiness over their sale.
So what do you do if you decide to get two or already have two puppies / dogs?
- Get the help of a good dog trainer in your area. Build a relationship with them as you are going to need to get quality advice that you can trust. Check out the Association of Professional Dog Trainer website www.apdtnz.org.nz for a list of force free trainers in your area.
- Crate train both dogs from the beginning and allow them to sleep separately. We normally do this within the first 2 weeks of getting them. The first week we let them sleep together as there has been a lot of changes in their world already with leaving mum. The crates are always together so they can still see each other, but they can’t interact. That way they get a good night’s sleep, this is so important for them and you. Crating is also a great way to toilet train your pups.
- Make sure you allocate time to train them separately. The crate will come in handy here as well. You need to build your puppy’s individual confidence to be able to deal with the world around them, without the need to have their sibling present. You are much more likely to get quality training when you only have one dog to concentrate on than if you have two. They’ll be more interested in playing with each other than learning.
- Play with them separately so you can develop that bond. Playing tuggy with your pups will help you to develop a really powerful reward system and build your dog’s focus for you. When you play fetch with both dogs they’ll always be one dog that brings it back while the other less confident dog runs around looking for a job to do.
- Take them for walks separately as well as together. This is so important, you have no chance of both dogs walking together nicely if you can’t get a good loose lead heel walk with them individually. You’ll also be working against the natural competition of the dogs to get ahead of each other, if you haven’t built up a positive association for being at your side.
- Make sure you attend a puppy socialisation class or other such training class, but make sure that you take your puppies separately. Yes, that means you need to go to two different classes. If you don’t, your puppies will just play with each other and the class could be a waste of time, unless it is well managed.
- Take out insurance. Most responsible breeders will sell you puppies with 30-45 days of free insurance with one of the NZ pet insurance companies. Medical bills can be large for puppies at the best of times, but when you have two it can get silly. If one pup gets ill you can guarantee the other will follow.
In summary, please only take on two puppies or dogs at the same time if you really understand what it takes to make it work. Speak to people on facebook forums to find out the real deal, not the romantic dream that your may be holding on to. It’s certainly not for the faint hearted so please do your research first.