A Dog's Eye View: Puppy sibling rivalry

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Laura Tyler

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.

So a family went off to see puppies and fell in love with the last two pups in the litter. They could not bear the thought of leaving one behind, so a spur-of-the-moment decision was made to bring both pups home. “And then the fight started!”

Raising sibling puppies is not for the faint of heart. By the time you bring them home and realize what you’ve done, how can you choose which one to keep?

It is an enormous amount of work raising siblings to be behaviorally healthy, independent dogs. When a client calls and asks about adopting littermates, I strongly advise against it. It’s only wonderful for a couple of weeks, and then the pups are bonded with each other more than their new human family. It gets more difficult the older the pups get, especially if their puppy training has been neglected or put off.

If you decide you want a pair of sibling pups in your household, then educate yourself and face the reality of a multiple-dog household.

You’ll need to:

■ Crate the pups separately.

■ Train and play with them separately every day.

■ Socialize them separately with other puppies and new humans every day.

■ Consider the increased costs of medical attention, food, waste disposal, equipment and training classes.

Is your whole family on board with this decision? Which family member has the time for individual attention and supervision for each puppy?

It’s a nice idea to think about how they can keep each other company while you’re busy at work, but without individual socialization and training, it’s easy to let one puppy take on the role of lead dog. Then you come home to find the couch dismantled, the lawn furniture chewed, the garbage scattered across the house and the cat missing.

If you want to have a multiple-dog household, add a second puppy when the first one has gone through training and bonding with your family. This well-trained family member might become a great mentor for your new puppy. I recommend waiting at least six months before adding a second puppy — by then, you might have decided that one is enough.

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25 years of experience and has earned an associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado. www.totalteamworktraining.com.

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