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Normally when pet-parents think about getting 2 puppies at the same time, they picture the two growing up to be the best of friends, spending all their time frolicking and playing together happily, coming home to two tails wagging excitedly and getting double the cuddles. 

Now I’m not saying this doesn’t happen – I’ve met owners with two pups that were acquired at the same age, if not the same breeder and they don’t have problems.

I have to add, though, that I haven’t met MANY owners in that situation.  

I have, however, met a lot of owners in my 20 years of being a Behaviourist who have littermates or two dogs close in age who were battling and at their wits end about how to cope with the situation. 

Here’s the thing.  

When you adopt two pups of the same age, or from the same litter, it’s very sweet in the first 10 weeks or so. Possibly even the first four months. But then, the wheels tend to come off.  

Terrible Teens on a New Level

Dogs start experiencing adolescence at about four months of age. 

Adolescence means they become teenagers, and that’s never fun, no matter how many legs you apply it to. Human teenagers and dog teenagers have more in common than you’d think.  

During adolescence, the mammalian brain is experiencing tremendous development. Now, one would think that’s a good thing. 

The problem is, while this development is happening, certain parts of the brain (specifically the prefrontal cortex) periodically becomes, for a lack of a better term “unavailable due to construction”.  

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that controls thought, inhibition, logic and reasoning. Needless to say, when these very important functions are temporarily suspended, bad things can happen. 

Teenagers are known for their short tempers, unpredictable behaviour, emotional outbursts and behaviours adults can usually only observe in sheer horror. They tend to do things on the spur of the moment, without any planning and often without any thought of the consequences. 

This isn’t exclusive to humans. 

Image source: http://offtheleashdogcartoons.com 

Dog teenagers can be equally irrational, impulsive, short tempered and tend to also do things that can’t be classified as anything other than life-threateningly silly. 

This usually means that one teenage dog is a handful. Can you imagine the chaos of having two?  

If you really want two dogs and you specifically want to get them when they’re still young, I would suggest waiting a few months between puppies – about 4 to 8 months

During adolescence, I often see dogs:

  • increase in competition for resources
  • starting to push the boundaries, both with humans and other dogs
  • trying different behaviours to determine if they are successful or not 
  • temporarily forget whatever they’ve learnt during puppyhood – including almost everything they learnt at puppy class
  • forget all the obedience training they had in puppyhood
  • forget that they are social, toilet trained, how to respond to recall and how to behave appropriately with other dogs
  • becoming super excitable and start to jump, pull, dig, chew, bark, run away/to/from everything and anyone and most puzzling for their owners, appear to have turned into the hound of the Baskerville  

When you have two puppies of the same age, they go through their developmental stages at the same time. 

That means you have two teenagers at the same time. 

You have to deal with twice the amount of destruction, devastation and training, ALL at the same time. 

You have to revisit housetraining and deal with two dogs whose instinctive behaviour is to compete for access to food, water, toys, beds and of course, you.  

Adolescents have very short fuses. They get angry quickly and the smallest thing can upset them. If you have littermates, they will start competing and the competition may get ugly.  

You may end up with two dogs that are hell-bent on hurting each other, who fight continuously and can’t be left alone together.  

Bonding & Over Attachment

Another downside to getting two puppies at once is that they tend to bond with each other in the beginning, and not their human owners.

I often see cases where the two dogs are absolutely inseparable while young, and where they fall apart emotionally when separated from each other (for instance when goes to the vet for treatment).  

That over attachment can lead to problems much later on.

If that bond survives adolescence, and they continue to be best friends, it could be horrendously traumatic if one dog should pass away before the other.

There’s nothing as heart-breaking as an adult or senior dog who’s just lost his best friend in the world, and who has never learnt to cope with being on his own.  

Double the Cost & Double the Work

On a very practical note, it’s also important to weigh up the financial and practical implications of adopting two puppies at the same time. 

You’ll have to pay for double vaccinations, sterilization, regular parasite control and of course, the usual vet visits, barring any illness or injury. You’ll need twice as much food, equipment, fees for puppy and adolescent training classes (and usually behaviourist help later), beds, toys and most importantly, twice as many hands!  

It’ll mean twice as much work when it comes to house training, teaching where to sleep or how to behave when guests arrive, how to listen to obedience cues. And, unless you’re dealing with small dogs, it makes it very difficult to walk the two dogs together. 

I have to add here that I’m not advising against ever having more than one dog. Most dogs do love having a doggie friend, provided the circumstances allow for it.

Some dogs prefer being only dogs, because then they don’t have to share their owners’ attention, their beds, food, toys or anything else they value. 

Have 2 Dogs and be Happy

If you really want two dogs and you specifically want to get them while they’re still young, I would suggest waiting a few months between puppies – about 4 to 8 months, ideally.  

This way, you’re giving yourself time to train and educate one puppy completely before introducing the new one. Here, the benefit is huge: the older dog can usually help in teaching the younger one how to behave and where to go to the toilet.

The older dog won’t do all the training though, you’ll still have to do the usual amount. But having a well-trained older dog can be a wonderful example and helper when it comes to teaching a puppy how to fit into your household.

It’s definitely worth waiting for a few months when it means happier, healthier dogs (and you) living in harmony! 

Karin Pienaar
Animal behaviour guru, Karin Pienaar, has been working in the field of animal behaviour and behaviour therapy in South Africa since 1997. She completed her Diploma in Animal Behaviour in the UK, through the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology (COAPE) and is a qualified Practitioner member of the COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists & Trainers (CAPBT) in the UK and South Africa.
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