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If you plan to adopt littermates, please add the cost of a professional dog trainer to your budget. This blog post cannot be used in place of 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 advise you to hire a professional, positive-based dog trainer to help you with your littermate puppies.
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.
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.
Should Littermate Puppies Sleep Together?
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. Each set of our littermate puppies became more independent (sleeping on their own) at different ages. Rodrigo and Sydney were about 4 months old; Scout and Zoey were about 8 weeks old.
We Fed Our Littermate Puppies By Hand (or Spoon) for Bonding
We fed them by hand a few days a week to bond with them. We did this off and on, not with every meal; we were feeding kibble at this time. This step didn't work as well when we adopted Scout and Zoey. Since our dogs were raw fed when Scout and Zoey joined our family, we fed the puppies from a spoon.
We Played with Our Littermate Puppies Separately
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. Sometimes I would have a puppy with me in the living room and J would have a puppy in the family room. This allowed us to have one on one time with the puppies while also helping them get used to being away from their littermate while bonding with each of us.
We Invested In Dog Training for Our Littermate Puppies
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 playtime during training sessions and she spent the hour mostly teaching us how to interact and understand our dogs. When Scout and Zoey joined our family (three years later) we were able to take them to puppy class. We both had to attend so that one human was handling one puppy.
We Took Our Littermates Everywhere for Socialization
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. We would carry them into pet stores, carry them around the block, and invite our neighbors over to play with them in the yard.
I'll be honest here and share that we failed on socializing because when our dogs were puppies, I didn't fully understand what socialization entailed. We should have also been exposing them to sounds and smells both inside the house and outside the house. I recommend getting ideas from your trainer on how best to socialize your littermate puppies and check out puppy culture for more ideas.
Littermate Puppies Might Fight, Learn How to Read Body Language
Rodrigo and Sydney did fight; when they were between three and six months of age, they would get snarky with each other and fight and I quickly learned to read their body language and interrupt and distract them before a fight broke out. What I found was that my dogs only fought out of frustration and it was important that I set expectations and create consistent routines – this helped them calm down and they stopped taking out their frustration on each other.
Scout and Zoey never fought. By the time they joined our family, we had a set routine and were experienced dog owners.
Potty Training Littermate Puppies Takes Patience
Potty training was easier with Rodrigo than it was with Sydney – someone told me girls were easier. Not with our girl. We had the same experience with Scout and Zoey, although they were a lot easier. It was like the girls weren't convinced that it was necessary that they went outside. But they got there eventually thanks to patience and consistency (again with the consistency).
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
Raising Littermate Puppies is Expensive
I made the mistake of thinking “double the puppies, double the cost.” Yeah, no. That's not how it works. Two puppies can do a lot of damage – they destroyed glasses, books, dog collars, and a pair of my favorite shoes. Not to mention several dog beds were destroyed by a bored Rodrigo.
And then there were the costs that were doubled: spay and neuter surgery, vaccinations, dog training, toys, pet supplies, food, and so on. And don't forget the costs that we can't foresee – Rodrigo had digestive issues, allergies, and food sensitivities that wracked up a significant amount of veterinarian bills during his first three years.
Get pet insurance as soon as your puppies are eligible. It'll save you a ton of money and stress.
Littermate Syndrome is Real
You may have come across this blog post after learning about littermate syndrome. While we have been successful with our littermates, that doesn't mean that we were perfect. There are many things about my adult littermates that may be attributed to littermate syndrome.
Or it could be that I didn't properly socialize my dogs because I used to believe that socialization was about dog parks and pack walks. If you agree, please speak with your dog's trainer about effective socialization ideas in your city.