This post may contain affiliate links.
If you plan to adopt littermates, also plan to hire a dog trainer. I am not a dog trainer, I'm a blogger. I am unable to give you advice on raising your puppies. I can only share my experience and advice you to hire a professional, positive-based dog trainer to help you with your littermates.
Raising littermate puppies is a lot easier than most people will have you believe – if you do your homework and commit to putting in some hard work. The other day, a reader emailed me about the German Shepherd littermate puppies she and her fiance just adopted. So much fun!!! I'm so jealous.
Kristy emailed to ask for tips on raising littermate puppies and, of course, I wanted to hop on the phone to gush PUPPIES. There's a huge time difference, so I sent an email and decided to share our experience here too…
If you start talking about adopting littermate puppies, people will tell you that you're nuts, that you are going to have a terrible time, that you might ruin the dogs. DON'T DO IT! It's more money, more time, and definitely more poop. But then you get a look at those puppy eyes, a whiff of double the puppy breath, and no one can dissuade you from bringing those dogs home. If I could have brought home the entire litter, I would have.
7 Things We Experienced Raising Littermates
I've updated this post with details about Scout and Zoey, our 2nd set of littermates who joined our family in December 2013.
1. We let our puppies sleep together; people told us not to, but it helped them transition to their new family. We also added the shirts we'd been wearing that day – sleeping with our scent may have made a difference because they bonded to us very quickly.
2. We fed them by hand a few days a week to bond with them. We did this off and on, not with every meal. Scout and Zoey were raw fed from the start, so I fed them raw dog food from a spoon.
3. We played with them as a family, but we also played with them separately – I'd take Sydney for a walk while J played with Rodrigo in the yard.
4. We hired a private trainer because puppy classes insisted we split them apart; Rodrigo would flip out in that situation – Our private trainer allowed for play time and mostly trained us.
Update: with Scout and Zoey, we were able to take them to puppy class together. The trainer only required that there be one human per puppy.
5. We took them everywhere with us because they were so damn cute. This was a great way to socialize them without exposing them to things like canine parvovirus.
Update: with Scout and Zoey, we invited friends over to hang out with the puppies. There was no short of socialization – everyone loves puppies.
6. They did fight; around 3 months to 6 months they would fight once a week and we got used to watching their body language to break it up quickly – it was their way of finding their place – we found that this went away when we took the leadership role away from them – it was easy to forget that although they were cute puppies, they were dogs that needed leadership.
We also found that they fought when frustrated. I had a bad habit of leashing them up for a walk and then getting distracted while chatting with J. All the excited energy for the impending walk that never happened turned into a fight as they redirected the energy towards each other. Lesson: if you say you're going for a walk, go for a walk!
Update: Scout and Zoey have never fought. I believe that it's because the hierarchy has been set in our home.
7. Potty training was easier with Rodrigo than Sydney – someone told me girls were easier. Not with our girl. We had the same experience with Scout and Zoey.
Scout and Zoey have been easier to raise than Rodrigo and Sydney (who were pretty easy). They don't fight, they're easy to train, and they blended into our pack quickly. I believe the difference is that we're much more confident today as dog owners.
A great book to read on dog training is Think Like a Dog and Enjoy the Rewards. It made all the difference to us. Get it today!
Other books I'd recommend include:
- How to be Leader of the Pack and Have Your Dog Love You For It, Patricia McConnell
- Training the Best Dog Ever: A 5-Week Program Using the Power of Positive Reinforcement, Larry Kay