They're so cute together; a pile of puppies. "If we get two, they can play together, and then they won't miss their brothers and sisters so much." After spending four days with two puppies in October, I'm here to tell you that it's a lot of work, and it's even more work to do right.
Suppose you get a pair of littermates--brother and sister. Although you have two puppies, you can’t default to doing things together. All activities must be practiced separately: toileting, socialization, training, playtime, feeding, and sleeping.
When two puppies go home with the same family, they’re at extreme risk for Littermate Syndrome: “the two puppies’ deep bond impedes their individual ability to absorb and grasp the nuance of human and canine communication” (Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA for theBark.com). Their natural inclination is to develop a debilitating co-dependency.
I once encountered two German Shepherd siblings so attached to each other that they couldn’t even be housed in side-by-side kennels at the vets without trying to break out.
Reputable breeders and rescue groups understand the reality of Littermate Syndrome and will not sell or adopt out two puppies to the same family at the same time.
Even if Littermate Syndrome wasn't a factor, puppies are a lot of work. When you have multiples, it doesn't get easier or faster. Just ask any Mom of twins! Double the puppies means at least double the time and effort. I cleared my schedule and had essentially no other responsibilities than the puppies when they visited. Most families don't have this luxury. Kids have to be cared for. Meals have to be fixed. Laundry has to be kept up with. Work has to get done. All I really had to think about was the puppies, and I didn't have time for much anything else.
What happens if you've already adopted two puppies? Seek out a positive reinforcement, rewards-based trainer ASAP. Don't wait to see if problems develop. Chances are high that they will and correcting all those behavioral challenges takes time--maybe even more time than establishing healthy relationships in the first place-- and there are no guarantees that the dogs will ever be “normal”.
If you're in the Austin area, I can help! If not, you can find a trainer near you on the Certification Council of Pet Dog Trainers website.
***A quick note about the puppies I boarded: their family includes two experienced, professional trainers who are raising them to be service dogs. They fully understand Littermate Syndrome and are taking necessary steps to prevent it from happening. It's not for most people.