Firstly, we wouldn’t recommend having two puppies (especially siblings/litter mates) in the same household. You can read all our reasons why not in our blog here. But if you’re reading this you probably already have two puppies (whether litter mates or not) and want to know the best way to raise them avoiding, or limiting, those issues.
So whether you have two of the same breed, genetic litter mates, of the same sex or one of each we want each dog to mature into a happy solo dog who just happens to live with their sibling. For this to happen each dog must be given:
We recommend 1-2-1 time with each dog daily. This sounds like a lot; and it is! But you need to put in a lot of work to raise siblings successfully! This can be regular short (5-10mins) training sessions as well as individual walks. The time spent with one is also great time for the other to learn about being alone in a healthy, happy way.
This individual time is vital for forming bonds with both dogs. Dogs are naturally better at communicating together and one risk with litter mates, even more so than bringing a pup into a household with an adult dog, is that they bond strongly together and not so much with the humans in the family. Play with another young dog can be incredibly fun, and many people feel the dogs are getting enough play with each other so don’t bother to play with the pups themselves. This means you don’t bank those important relationship building fun activities that are so important down the line! So make sure you play with each pup individually, rather than them just playing together.
Each dog needs to be socialised to people and dogs (and other animals) and habituated to different environments on their own. (One reason individual walks are best.) If done together one is likely to rely on the other to do all the hard work, plus they learn by social referencing and tend to pick up any anxiety the other has. And you’ll be distracted and less able to react appropriately to either of the dogs struggling. If you notice one is less confident than the other, which is very normal, this one needs extra help to grow in confidence. You may need to enlist the help of a local force-free trainer.
As with any mutlidog household resources should be closely monitored and any food should be given with at least a shut gate between them. Play should be managed so that both dogs are enjoying it and it is not too much and their relationship protected. Lots of time spent separately to ensure they are getting appropriate levels of rest (with a friend around to play all the time they are much less likely to sleep than a solo dog).
It is hard work having a dog, more than double the work of having two and double that again for litter mates! But it can be done successfully, we’d just always recommend making everyone’s lives easier and getting just one!