Dog Advice

Littermate Syndrome: Is Buying Two Puppies at Once a Bad Idea?

February 17, 2016 0

Two are better than one

I often tell people how glad I am that I have two dogs. They are quite simply the best of friends. They play together, snuggle together and seem to have their own special language. Having two dogs, is twice the benefit without really being twice the work.

If I’m going for a walk anyway, it’s nothing to bring an extra dog. The same goes for feeding, grooming and everything else. It can be more work, but if I’m already doing it anyway, it’s not that much more work to do it twice.

So while I absolutely advocate for having two dogs at the same time, there’s a big difference in my situation and in getting two puppies at the same time. Let me explain.



My dogs are three years apart. Dakota, the black Alaskan Malamute/Golden Retriever cross, is seven years old now. Casey, the red Alaskan Malamute/Siberian Husky cross, is four. Dakota was four when I got Casey at a year old from the Grand River All Breed Animal Rescue. Having that age gap made a big difference in how they were trained.

Firstly, the younger one (Casey) learns from the older one. I had a few years to train Dakota into the wonderful dog she is before Casey came along. Neither dog is perfect, but Dakota certainly had some good habits in place before I brought Casey into my home.

Casey and Dakota on bed

Casey (left) & Dakota (right)

The difference when you adopt two littermates is that they don’t get that separation. Many people feel like adopting two puppies at the same time is just like having two older dogs. They believe they’ll play together and have an inseparable bond between one another. The difference is the separation aspect.

When you have two puppies, that bonding with each other can be at the cost of bonding with you. According to Jeff Stallings of betternaturedogtraining.com, this strong bond can create behavioural issues at key development periods in the puppies lives. This deep bond impedes their ability to absorb and grasp nuances of human and canine communication. Since fear is the default reaction to odd or unfamiliar stimuli in dogs, continues Stallings, this can cause impaired coping mechanisms later on.



As I’ve said, having two dogs is one of the best decisions I’ve made. Doing the dog chores I need to do on a daily basis (going for a walk, feeding, grooming, etc.) isn’t that much more of an issue when adding the second dog.

Even if you know you’re going to get a second dog anyway, there are many good reasons for separating the adoption dates of both dogs out a bit. As Pat Miller of whole-dog-journal.com points out, two puppies at once means a lot more work than owners initially expect. The obedience training, house training and clean up is doubled. Even if you have two kids who each want their own puppy, it’s better to wait.

If you’re looking to have a playmate for your puppy, find friends who have other puppies. Doggy daycares, dog parks, or recommendations from your trainer are great ways to find another puppy for your puppy to play with.


I’ve adopted two puppies! What do I do?

If you’re reading this and thinking oh crap! I’ve already adopted two littermates, what the hell am I in for? Relax. Nothing is set in stone and there are lots of ways that you can prevent littermate syndrome from becoming an issue.

The biggest thing you can do is to separate the dogs. Take them on separate walks, do their training separately and give them time apart. They need to bond with you and learn to meet other dogs and people without their sibling close by.

two rottweiler puppies

image from petful.com

I’ve seen littermates become bullies at the dog park. They tag team another dog and ignore their owner and, well you can see where this is going. Take the time to separate your dogs, take them to training classes and be conscious of the warning signs of littermate syndrome.

As with anything, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s much easier to train a puppy than it is to un-train and re-train an older dog. Be proactive in training your dogs, and you’ll have two amazing friends like I do.
Do you or do you know someone who adopted littermates? What was your experience? Do you have any advice to add? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.


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Greg Lehman
Founder @ TuxedoMutt
Greg Lehman is a hippie in a business suit. He's also a positive based dog trainer and freelance writer. When he's not working, you'll find him somewhere in nature with his two dogs Casey and Dakota or taking a nap. Who doesn't love naps?

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