Pros and Cons of Living with Siblings
Joan B. Guertin, Mabank, Texas

When John Q. Public and family go shopping for a puppy, often they wear their hearts on their sleeves. The average shopper is looking for the perfect companion for themselves or their family. It is an emotional endeavor. After all, they are choosing a four-legged friend who will live a long and healthy life as friend, protector, playmate, confidant who never tells tales and loves us humans unconditionally, warts and all.

Regardless of the reasons for the puppy search, it is not an endeavor to take lightly. Adding a puppy (or older dog) to the family is a serious responsibility and should not be taken lightly. However, beware of the temptation of bringing home siblings! Sometimes it is difficult to look at an adorable litter and not be tempted to "take two!" We can rationalize to the heavens to justify our reasoning. After all, if you work all day the pup will get lonesome all alone. Or, there are two of you or kids, too, and no one can agree on which ONE to choose. Or, each child wants their "own" puppy.

Cardi pups
Photo: Ursula Känel

For a backyard or commercial breeder if you take two off their hands, it is one less mouth to feed and more money in the bank. For you, it is double trouble! Two mouths to feed. Twice the amount of poop and puddles to clean up. There is the issue of "dealing with twins." After all, what one doesn't think up, the other will. And then of course before training and maturity, the damage that a pair can do can be astronomical.

However, what an opportunistic breeder won't share with you, either due to greed or just not being well versed in animal behavior, is that a pair of siblings may bond so closely with each other that they won't form as strong a bond with the family members as a single puppy will. With siblings or puppies of approximately same age from different litters, the bond will be puppy to puppy. They will prefer the company of each other. They will be or become dependent upon each other. Often the bond is so strong that they will grieve, or maybe throw temper tantrums when separated.

Taking a pair of siblings for a walk is seldom fun as they will be straining to get together. In a class situation, I could place one sibling at one end of a line well away from its sibling and before the end of class the two would have worked their way to where they were together. At that point all they wanted to do was play with each other. The person on the end of the leash deserved no loyalty and got none according to the pups.

As a longtime breeder of Pembroke Welsh Corgis, my reason for breeding was to produce a top show puppy. However, anyone in the dog world will admit that regardless of bloodlines there is never a certainty of getting what you are breeding for. You may get really lucky and get a stand out and those that the breeder will determine to be "pet stock." It is those pet puppies that will most likely go into forever homes.

Prospective buyers would sometimes request that I let them have a pair. It was NEVER an option. I would also discourage their buying a puppy from another source until the original puppy was older and well out of the puppy stage and knew the rules of the household and had strong loyalties to the family.

Also, I never sold a puppy to anyone who could not be comfortable with including the dog as a member of the household which meant living closely with the family and not left in the backyard 24/7. Also, the older or first pup would have formed a solid bond with the human pack. And, since it was the sole puppy, would have lots of individual attention which would result in developing a large vocabulary.

So, a word to the wise. Resist the urge to cater to whims of the seller. One puppy is plenty for the average pet owning family. However, it isn't unusual for people to want to add to their doggy family. The wise thing is always to bring a new puppy in when the original dog already knows the rules of the household. Then the puppy has a role model to learn from which simplifies the entire training process.

What to Do if You Choose Two
As a breeder I have kept siblings on several occasions. It can be done. However, to keep from creating a nightmare of too close a bond between siblings, each MUST have quality time outside the relationship which siblings are likely to form.

Also, the human in charge in this type of living situation, MUST, BEYOND A DOUBT, be the pack leader.

Pem pups
Photo: F. Polasek

I always make sure that each puppy goes out for solo walks so that they are not "joined at the hip." I will take individuals to the vet alone, not in tandem. I am responsible for teaching each pup to be independent and confident rather than always being able to lean on brother or sister.

We do training classes separately. We take solo walks so that they can focus on me while out in public or in the neighborhood. Same goes for car rides.

We will do group playtimes and individual playtimes. I want independence in each individual. Each puppy should feel confident alone with me or whomever is assisting me.

In the kennel I will rotate my dogs so that they aren't always with the same buddy. I generally have a good balance so I can put a male and female together, but I rotate so they aren't becoming dependent on a particular kennel mate.

If I go to a dog show, I never have to worry about the dogs who are not showing suffering any adverse effects from being left at home.

I am a strong pack leader! My dogs understand who is in charge. I am not loud or harsh with my dogs, but I insist on a structured environment. So, my pack works.

It just takes a common sense approach to managing any doggy family.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the author.