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The Litter-mate Debate: Should you get two puppies at once?

Often a family will go to pick out one puppy, get overwhelmed with cuteness, and, long story short, come home with two. But that is a spur-of-the-moment decision they then have to live with for the next 15 or so years.

While there is no “right” answer to this question, there is a right answer for your family and it definitely should not be an impulse decision.

The Pros

Are there good things to having litter-mates? Kimberly Gauthier of KeepTheTailWagging.com, sure thinks so. She has two sets of litter-mates AND she told us she would do it a third time in a heartbeat!

Although neither sets were planned (in both cases she meant to bring home only one) Gauthier has enjoyed watching the dog’s grow into their own “persons.”

“it’s kind of cool watching them grow into their own personalities,” She says. “Rodrigo and Sydney look nothing alike and act nothing alike.  Scout and Zoey look very similar, but they are like night and day.”

Having 2 means they always have someone to play with, which is a good thing
Having 2 means they always have someone to play with, which is a good thing @ruthinea via Flickr

For the dogs, she says it’s nice because they always have a friend. In fact, that is how she got the first set. She thought it would be nice for Rodrigo to have his sister Sydney on his first night away from his litter.

Having multiple dogs myself, I can agree that it is nice to have another dog to tire out your puppy. If find myself worn out long before them!

But, you don’t have to have a litter-mate to have company. We started out with our first sheltie when she was 4 years old and she was fine with being alone. We got our second sheltie when the first was 7. That was harder. The 5 month old wanted to play with the 7 year old, and she was okay with it, but not thrilled. By the time she hit 9, she really did not want to play. So, we brought home a puppy last year to keep the then 2 year-old-occupied. It worked like a charm. My 1 and 3 year olds are best friends and they leave the older dog alone.

The Cons

However, it hasn’t all been rosy for Gauthier. When you get litter-mates, they bond very quickly and strongly to each other, and not necessarily to you. This makes getting them to listen to you, and training, a bigger challenge than with a single dog.

“Rodrigo and Sydney were SO hard, because they were our first dogs, they didn’t listen, they were always into something, something was always in their mouth, they destroyed everything,” Gauthier says. “Whenever anyone wants to adopt litter-mates, I stress to them ‘Hire a Dog Trainer!’”

Gauthier said her main issue was that every puppy class she went to tried to separate her puppies to keep them from bonding too much. She didn’t want this, so she found a private trainer who would work with both dogs together.

However, she may have had an easier time if she had let the group class separate her litter-mates. This makes training a lot easier and helps form a bond with you, and not just each other. I would recommend this route, over the private trainer. In addition, it will make your life easier if you ever have to separate them. For example, if one needs  surgery, you may have to deal with separation anxiety from the dog left behind. A little distance is good.

Another challenge she had was potty training. You think one puppy is hard? Try two!

“Potty training was difficult too. With 2 puppies going in different directions, it’s hard to know what they’re up to and all of our dogs alert differently when they need to go to the bathroom,” Gauthier explains. “We had to (1) train them to go outside and (2) train ourselves on their alerts.​”

And of course, two puppies is twice as expensive.

What You MUST Do Before You Get Two

Read this article. Then read it again. Then, sit down with your family and decide if you really want twice the work, twice the clean-up, twice the training, and twice the money spent.

AND, even if you do, you may want to consider adopting two shelter dogs, or getting two puppies not from the same litter, to alleviate some of the bonding issues that come with litter-mates.

About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of, A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.

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Written by Kristina Lotz
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