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Why are dog trainers so against adopting littermates?
I used to think that dog trainers were against littermates, because they are controlling know-it-alls who need to stick their nose into everything that isn’t their business. Harsh, right? Well that comes from a singular experience with a dog trainer (and her sidekick) who were not happy with our choice to adopt Rodrigo and Sydney.
After a few years of pet blogging, I’ve gained a new perspective. Many dog trainers are against new dog owners or irresponsible dog owners adopting littermates. Many people I know take the time to research breeds and gain a better understanding of what it takes to raise healthy, happy and well behaved dogs. But there are the few who ruin it for the rest of us – they come home with puppies on a whim aren’t prepared; this is a life (of the dogs) commitment that needs to be taken seriously.
If I encountered that second group day in and day out, I’d be up in people’s business too. How many dogs end up in shelters, because someone isn’t prepared to fulfill their end of that commitment?
3 reasons why your littermates need a dog trainer?
The dog trainer is not only going to train the puppies, but he or she will train YOU how to communicate with your puppies. Rodrigo and Sydney’s trainer introduced us to clicker training and one thing I struggled with was marking good behavior. There were certain behaviors that I had a split second to mark and I was always on a 3 second delay, marking the wrong behavior. Our trainer got me squared away in no time.
The dog trainer will be able to identify potential behavioral issues with your puppies and point out things you may be unwittingly doing that is causing harm to your puppies. When Scout and Zoey were in puppy class, Zoey would spend a good deal of time growling and nipping at Hanna, a German Shepherd puppy who wanted to play. It turns out that Zoey would only do this when I was standing near her; she was resource guarding me. She does this today when we go to the dog park and thanks to our trainer, I know to step back and allow Zoey some space, so that she can go from guarding to playing.
Puppyhood is really easy. I’ve been through it several times, twice with littermates, and I’m a pro now. What isn’t easy is adolescents, when your sweet puppies decide that they don’t want to listen and they can’t hear you. This is also the time when some dog owners may experience the littermate fighting (we were lucky, we bypassed that period). Scheduling a brush up session with our dog trainer was a life saver. Not only did we do drills that the dogs enjoyed, but she was able to watch my engagement with our dogs and point out a few things I could work on that improved my relationship with our dogs.
All of a sudden they could hear me again.
Fernando Camacho is a dog trainer whom I follow on Facebook and whom has had experience training littermates. I recently noticed an increase in the anti-littermate posts online and asked for Fernando’s assistance sharing an alternate point of view.
Should littermates be trained at the same time?
Rodrigo and Sydney were trained together; as were Scout and Zoey. However, when Rodrigo and Sydney had their training sessions when they reached adolescents, they were trained separately. Fernando shared that the choice to train littermate puppies together or separately depends on what the dog owners want to work on with their dogs. With Rodrigo and Sydney, I was working on reactivity with Rodrigo and walking close by with Sydney, hence separate training sessions.
Fernando also shared that teaching littermates a new behavior (sit, down, stay) can be a challenge, because (1) the littermates distract each other and (2) one will pick the behavior quickly and get bored while the other is still learning. J and I were able to work around this by working with one puppy each (I had Zoey, he had Scout) and then switching 30 minutes into our training session. We would train 5-10 feet apart so that the puppies remained focused on us and not each other.
Should littermates be kept apart?
Fernando reminded me that dogs are social animals and they live in a family group. This is a great argument for not separating littermates. Both sets of our littermates were allowed to sleep together and spend as much time together as they wanted – one reason we chose littermates was so that they would have a playmate so we didn’t want to separate them.
However, everyone needs space; even dogs.
Fernando shared that the choice to separate littermates (and for how often) depends on the personalities of the dogs. They deserve to have one on one time with their humans. And, to be honest, giving littermates one on one time is challenging – there are only so many hours in the day and we found that most times it was easier to walk them together than go on 2 separate walks.
3 tips that I took from my chat with Fernando…
1. Each dog is unique. Don’t expect the littermates to behave the same; they are individuals and what works for one may not work for the other
2. Raising littermates requires more patience.
3. Dogs are social animals and it’s natural for them to live in a family group; it’s not necessary to separate littermates beyond giving them space when they need it.
You can follow Fernando on Facebook at A Better Life with Your Dog Fernando Camacho.