Ask The Dog Trainer: Training Tips For Littermate Puppies
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We really like your book, Training The Best dog Ever, but we’ve got a problem. We probably should never have done it, but we adopted siblings. We love our pups, who are now almost four months old. How do we deal with training when there are two? As you can imagine, it makes a mess of everything.
Any helpful links or suggestions? Thank you! ~ Peter in Gainesville Florida
It sounds like you have your hands full with two young pups! It’s true: Most professionals do not recommend adopting littermates, because they can become too bonded and dependent on one another, and fail to develop into their own individual selves. The fact is, all dogs will have to be separated at some point (when one goes to the vet, for example) and this seemingly normal event can cause extreme anxiety in the other dog.
I do have some good news! Your puppies are still young enough to prevent these issues altogether. In order to avoid co-dependence in your dogs, it’s imperative you make sure each dog is getting the socialization, training, and attention they need without the other dog interfering.
(Read the tips below)
Here are tips to keep in mind as you raise your littermate pups
Separation is key
Make sure your dogs get plenty of time separated from each other, especially during the first year. This means they are crated, trained, fed, walked, played with and taken to the vet entirely separately. This way, your pups have the opportunity to develop their own skills, personalities and ability to cope with stressful situations. They’ll also be able to form strong bonds with people, not just each other. Ideally, you’ll take entirely separate training classes with each dog, but if you do opt for one, make sure you have two handlers and try to work on opposite sides of the room.
Remember, the separation isn’t forever! In time (I recommend about a year), you can start working with both dogs together, when the dogs are solidly trained on their own.
Make the separation a good thing
Make alone time something to look forward to! When you’re training, walking or playing with one dog, give the other dog something interesting and self-rewarding to do. You can provide a food puzzle to work on, a frozen Kong, a bone, a favorite toy, etc. If the dogs get a special treat only when they’re alone, they will start to associate the other dog’s absence with something awesome, and they will start to feel comfortable and positive about being apart.
Remember to stay patient
Two puppies certainly are twice the work and twice the commitment, but it will be worth it. I promise your hard work will pay off in the form of two well-adjusted, happy, healthy family members!
For more help, find a reputable trainer who uses positive reinforcement and force-free methods to coach you through your training. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for help finding a certified dog trainer in your area.
Lynda Lobo, CPDT-KA and Education Director at FetchFind