Education Center

ONE PUPPY AT A TIME PLEASE! why raising multiple puppies at once is not recommended

Help your new puppy be his best!

• He’ll be easier to train and housebreak

• He won’t miss his siblings—he’ll have you!

• Add another dog later if you like

Congratulations on wanting to adopt a puppy! It is surely an exciting time for you and your family to be thinking about this big decision. When you look at the pups playing with their brothers and sisters, you may be tempted to bring home more than one. While it certainly seems like it would be a good idea, there are many factors that actually make it less than ideal, both for you and the puppies.

Let’s take a look at some of the common myths about raising puppies together. While it is possible to do it and not experience problems, this is the exception, not the rule.

MYTH: They’ll already be sad having “lost” their mother; therefore, separating pups from each other is cruel and it’s what causes them to cry the first few nights in the home.

Dogs don’t have the same emotional bond with their families that humans do. A dog can be perfectly happy raised away from his littermates. The concept “I don’t want to separate them!” is derived from inaccurate assumptions about a dog’s family attachments and can lead to a very difficult situation.

Puppies are at a crucial socialization period at 7-9 weeks of age, and this is when they need to learn how to be members of a human household. They need to bond with the human (and resident pet) members of your home, and they need to be away from their siblings to do so. Puppies who go to a new home together, or continue to remain with siblings or mom beyond this time, will bond so strongly with one another that they will have little use for humans. This does not make for a happy pet experience, or a happy pet, and can actually cause severe problems later, as they mature. Therefore, it is actually somewhat cruel NOT to separate them as young, impressionable pups, and give each the best chance for a good life.
When the pup cries the first few nights in your home, his siblings have been forgotten, and this is the way it should be–nature at work. He cries because he is separated from his new “pack”: you! This will get easier for him in a few days, and is not an excuse to bring him in bed with you. Ignore the crying so he doesn’t learn that “crying works.” Crate training is recommended for puppies.

MYTH: Since I’m planning on having two dogs eventually, it’s better to get them both at the same time so they “grow up together.” Otherwise, they may fight later.

Actually, the opposite is true. Sibling aggression is quite common in domestic dogs, especially 2 of the same sex (although opposite-sex sibling aggression certainly does occur). This type of aggression is far more common than aggression in a multi-dog household where no one is related. And since aggression doesn’t usually manifest itself until maturity (approx. 2 years of age), new puppy owners think it won’t happen to them. “They love each other! They don’t want to be away from one another. They would never fight.” But dogs’ genetic wiring to live in a social group makes them prone to bonding issues when raised together. And by the time it starts to get bad (or worse, deadly), the humans are attached to both dogs and will have a hard time rehoming one. If the aggression is pronounced, rehoming is often not even an ethical option. It’s far better to prevent problems than have to fix them later.

If the pups don’t actually fight, there is often still a tense dynamic between them, often over resources (food, toys, furniture, human affection) or space. One will almost always “dominate” or “bully” the other most of the time, which is no picnic for the “victim.” Or, one will become intensely possessive of the other, and be unable to be separated from him/her. This makes vet visits or other necessary separations very difficult. It is not healthy for sentient beings to become overly dependent on one another. What happens if one dies?

It is far, far easier to acquire the one pup, train it well, and let it get settled into the home and become well-behaved and relaxed, then add an unrelated companion later (preferably several months, at least). Dogs are mostly very congenial, and when socialized and trained, can accept most other dogs without a problem, especially if a few simple directions are followed. (For more information about this topic, see our handout Bringing Home Another Pet.)

MYTH: Oh, what the heck–raising 2 at once can’t be that much more work than raising one. Plus, I have a fenced yard, so I won’t have to actually “walk” them.

Contrary to what seems normal, unlike raising two kittens at once (which is actually preferable to raising one in most circumstances), raising 2 puppies at once is somehow more than twice the work and difficulty. Having two pups to care for is definitely more expensive, but in the context of time, it seems to quadruple the workload, rather than just double it. Plus, a fenced yard cannot train, housebreak, or socialize puppies—that’s the human owners’ job! Dogs need regular walks, even if they have access to a fenced yard.

The pups must be crated separately–no exceptions–and crating does not end when housebreaking is finished. They must be walked to potty separately until they are housetrained, and walked on leash–not just “let out” to do their business. They must be played with separately, and often must eat separately (to make sure each gets enough food). Each must be socialized separately, trained separately, and spend time with family members separately. In order for them to not become too dependent upon each other, or too closely bonded to one another at your expense, they need to spend more time apart than together. This requires much more work than the standard family has time for…especially a family with children. And, it completely goes against why most people get two at once.

MYTH: Since I’m not home much, having each other will mean they’ll get plenty of exercise and companionship.

While it is true that puppies playing will burn up energy, their time together should be kept to a minimum, and this will not be enough to meet all their exercise needs. You must be involved in exercising them, and guess what? Some of this must be done separately. Also, two left unsupervised for even a few minutes can get into twice the trouble as one can, make twice the number of spots on the carpet (and who was the culprit?), and frustrate you twice as much as one can. Puppies don’t raise puppies, people do. You cannot cut corners during this crucial period in a pup’s life.
Raising a puppy correctly takes time, money and energy. Most people find out the hard way that they don’t have enough of these resources for just one puppy, let alone two. If you aren’t home much, then you don’t have enough time for ANYpuppies. Choose a cat, or small mammal, or a fish.

The hassle of owning two may not faze you now–you are in love! Plus, mistakes made now are not necessarily visible until adolescence or adulthood. Many people shrug off the warnings that two together will quadruple their workload, but once reality sets in, what will happen to one (or both) of the pups? Even if time or money is not an issue, the propensity for later aggression or dominance issues is a real threat and should not be taken lightly. Raising two pups together is so much work and trouble that most professional dog trainers won’t even do it!

It’s not impossible to do, but it is definitely difficult. Set yourself and your new family member up to be the best you both can be. Stack the deck in your favor by choosing the one puppy that is best for your family and raising it right. Add more dogs later if you so choose. Owning a pet is a privilege, but it should also be an enjoyable experience. Your pup’s brothers and sisters will all go to new homes where they, too can have the best start.

For more information about this topic or other pet behavior topics, please contact the AHS Behavior Department at404.974.2899, or email us at education@atlantahumane.org.