Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Why We Don't Rehome Siblings Together

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A lot of people have recently asked why we don't rehome siblings, or two similar aged puppies, together. Hopefully I'll be able to answer that and also help others make an informed decision about whether or not they should really be adopting or purchasing two littermates or puppies at the same time.

The first thing I should point out, because it is the root of a lot of problems in dogs, is something called Littermate Syndrome (sometimes called Sibling Rivalry). From our Human point of view, we would see nothing wrong with having two puppies together, growing up side by side, keeping each other company when we're not able to be there. In theory, it would be the best thing for them.

Not so much.

At a young age, about 7-9 weeks, puppies are ready to spread their wings. They will no longer rely on Mum and they no longer need their siblings. In fact, they will thrive without them. This isn't to say pups shouldn't be socialised, because they definitely need it and should be socialised with lots of different dogs, but to keep them with their siblings constantly means they will never develop their individual personalities. They would become so reliant on their brother or sister that neither will be an individual - they will be two halves of a whole, instead of a whole individual.

The problem with this is, the dog isn't balanced. Without his sibling, he will suffer greatly. If one needs to go the Vet overnight, or longer, you will be left with a very depressed and distraught dog. These two dogs, that you have kept together, will have formed an immense bond with each other - when they should have made that bond with you.

This is, believe it or not, one of the better scenarios. Because another scenario that results from Littermate Syndrome is aggression towards one another - and a lot of it. As they grow they could begin to try to assert themselves and fight for status. With two unbalanced, insecure dogs, who have been mentally handicapped due to never developing their own identities, this could lead to a lot of trouble. A lot of pain. And a lot of heartache.

There are ways to raise siblings, and similarly aged puppies together, without these issues arising. But it requires a lot of work on your part. The dogs would need to be separate from each other for about 90% of the time, for the first 6-12 months. This means:

  • Sleeping separately.
  • Walking them separately.
  • Playing with them separately.
  • Training them separately.
  • Socialising them separately.
They can play with each other throughout the day but it would need to be kept at a minimum. They have to be able to develop independently of each other, to bond with their owner, to learn to be alone, etc.

Taking on two littermates or two pups of the same age isn't just doubling your time and energy, it's actually tripling it. Not only will you need to do all these things separately with them, you will also need to spend short amounts of time working with them together - teaching them patience and instructions, giving them the skills they need to listen to you, and only you.

I should point out that not all siblings will develop Littermate Syndrome. Likewise, some may have it but not exhibit any signs yet, until they are forced to be away from the other. But it is a very real and very dangerous thing.

So if someone is willing to go to all these lengths, why do we still not adopt out littermates together? Because we are a Rescue Group. Our main priority is the individual dog, his mental and physical well being, and how well he will do in his potential new home. We also have a duty to the adopter, to do what we feel is best for them and their happiness with their dog.

To rehome siblings, or young puppies of similar ages, is taking a gamble. We would be inviting risk to the stability in their forever home and essentially setting them up to fail.