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This blog post was originally published in July 2015; it has been updated with new information and republished.
If you're a regular reader, then you know that we're raising 2 sets of littermates – Rodrigo and Sydney and Scout and Zoey. Sydney passed away in 2020 at 10-1/2 years old.
If you're new to Keep the Tail Wagging – WELCOME! You probably just brought home 2 puppies and now you're freaking out because you Googled “raising littermates” and learned about “littermate syndrome” and you think you're about to ruin 2 puppies with your decision.
How You Can Ruin Your Littermate Puppies
The only way you'll ruin your puppies is if (1) you don't invest in dog training and socialization, (2) you have a small budget and have made the mistake of thinking “2 dogs are twice the budget,” – believe me, it's a lot more – and (3) you're not able to manage the veterinarian bill over the first year (vaccinations, spay and neuter surgeries, follow up appointments – all multiplied by two).
Here's the Bad News About Considering Littermate Puppies
Before I lament on how happy our littermates have made us, I want to share something that may not be popular or make people happy. If you cannot afford to hire a dog trainer, then you cannot afford to raise two or more puppies at the same time. In fact, I'd recommend holding off on bringing a dog home until you CAN afford to hire a dog trainer.
Not only is it difficult to keep track of two puppies (they may be small, but they move fast and have sharp teeth and a full bladder), but when they hit adolescence, you'll be in tears. Thank heavens for our mellow, well behaved Sydney, because Rodrigo was a handful.
Here's the Amazing News About Raising Littermate Puppies
After more than ten years of raising littermates, I can easily tell you why I love bringing home puppies in pairs.
- Twice the fun, twice the puppy breath, twice the cuteness.
- They are the best of friends and love each other.
- It's fun watching them grow into their personalities.
- I can't get enough of hearing “who's walking whom??”
- Each dog has a unique bark and I love that I know which dog is barking.
- When trouble comes, I have a pack that surrounds and protects me.
- It's cool watching them interact with each other.
- As long as I'm a confident leader, our dogs never fight.
- I can ask one dog “go find Zoey” and they do.
- They give me endless inspiration for Keep the Tail Wagging.
- It's funny that they can take over the sectional.
- It makes me laugh when I get attacked by 2 or more happy dogs.
- They learn from each other (good habits and bad).
- They make up games to play with each other.
- I love being an expert in each of our dogs.
- It's fun having a pet communicator speak with our dogs; a great test of their authenticity.
- It's cool that all of them understand the same vocabulary.
- It was crazy easy to train our second set of littermates because the first set helped.
- My favorite out of the pack changes every day (every hour).
- It's funny that people think I'm a dog walker.
- They are a conversation piece; everyone wants to know why we have so many dogs.
- My heart grows each day that I have with our dogs.
Should Everyone Adopt (Buy) Two Puppies?
Raising littermates isn't for everyone. Yeah, we struck gold – twice – but our experience may not reflect what everyone will experience.
Not Everyone Approves of Littermates
Some rescue groups and reputable breeders frown on littermates because they understand the work that goes into raising two puppies at once. I sure that we all have big plans to devote time to raising healthy dogs, but the reality is somewhat different. And even we made mistakes with our dogs.
I'll discuss our regrets below.
It Might be Challenging to Find a Supportive Trainer
When we brought Rodrigo and Sydney home, we had a hard time finding a trainer who didn't start out by trying to convince us to return one of the puppies. If you do adopt littermates, speak to the rescue group or breeder about training recommendations to save yourself the frustration we experienced.
Ask Yourself if You Have the Time
And, finally, littermates are a time suck and not everyone has the time to take on one puppy, let alone two. Today, I'm raising four adult dogs and a cat. This along with a full-time job, a small business, and the other responsibilities I've taken on has sucked away a lot of my time. I could definitely take on another dog (hear that, God???) but I know that littermates would be too much for us right now.
The One Mistake I Made Raising Littermates
I mentioned “regrets” above and I want to share a few of the mistakes I made with our littermates. I will never regret bringing two puppies home at once, but there is one thing about their rearing that I do regret: I didn't socialize our puppies appropriately.
When we brought home both sets of our littermates, I was still under the impression that socialization was introducing my puppies to people and other dogs. We invited people over to interact with them, we took them on pack walks, and to the dog park. This is socialization, right?
Wrong! This was only part of the puzzle.
Yes, it was a good idea to invite people over, but I should have invited lots and lots of people over (not at the same time) to expose my dogs to people of different sexes, heights, weights, colors, and more. Scout and Zoey are still nervous around new people because I didn't socialize them correctly.
I wish I would have taken our puppies on walks (even in a stroller) in various spaces to introduce them to more sounds, sights, and smells. Rodrigo is our most anxious dog and I think one reason is that I failed at socializing my pups.
I wish we would have taken them to the vet for a “fun” appointment so that they didn't fear our veterinarian. All of our dogs fear the vet, except Rodrigo who loves everyone.
And I wish I would have taken them to dog-friendly spots from a young age so that the experience wasn't such a novelty when they were older.
My Advice to Anyone Looking to Adopt Littermates
If you are looking at a litter of puppies and can't choose one, bringing home littermates isn't the bad idea people will have you believe. However, please don't adopt littermates without giving it a lot of thought. Raising littermates is a tremendous amount of work and not something everyone is equipped to handle. Before you bring home two puppies, be honest with yourself and ask – “can I afford two puppies?” and “do I have time for two puppies?”
If the answer is yes, then start building a support system and have that in place before you bring the adorable puppies home.
Read More About Raising Littermates
- 22 Reasons Why Raising Littermates Has Rocked
- Are Your Littermates Fighting?
- Should Dog Owners Keep Their Littermates Apart?
- Serendipitous Saturday | A Letter to the Editor About Littermates
- Positive Perspective on Training Littermates with Fernando Camacho
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