Frequently, I have people who email to tell me they want two puppies, preferably from the same litter. They usually say something like, “We want to have two dogs eventually anyway, so we might as well get them at the same time so they can grow up together as best friends.”
When I first started breeding 18+ years ago, and I didn’t know any better I would let families adopt two at the same time. However, over time I began to see the problems associated with placing two pups in the same household and I started to research the subject. Fortunately, there is a lot of very good research that has been done to show that this is not a good idea for at least one of the dogs.
They discovered this when they were placing pups with foster families that would be trained later for seeing-eye dogs/drug-sniffing dogs/police or military dogs, etc. As you can imagine, it was difficult to find families that were willing to foster a dog for 9 months and then give the pup back. They started putting two pups with one family and then realized that one puppy would never reach his/her full potential. One dog would be the alpha and the other dog would become temperamentally unsuitable for their intended work even when both pups started off as a perfect candidate. One of the puppies would become shy, even when both puppies started off as bold and outgoing. This became such a major issue, that the Guide Dog experiment was quickly halted. To this day, guide dog organizations only place one puppy at a time in foster homes.
When you raise two puppies together, they usually do grow up to be inseparable best friends, but often to the detriment of the dog-human relationship. Inevitably they spend far more time together than they do individually with you, with a likely result that they become very tightly bonded to each other and you are only secondary in their lives. Many owners of adopted-at-the-same- time puppies ultimately find themselves disappointed in their relationships with their dogs, even when they are committed to keeping them for life. This super-bonding also causes tremendous stress (and stress-related behavior problems) on those occasions when the dogs do have to be separated - and sooner or later, something will come up that requires them to be separated. Furthermore, these dogs are more difficult to train. Because they don't have a strong human bond, they don't have the desire to engage their owners as much as those who are raised alone.
Others will say, “I want to get two puppies so they will have someone to play with while I’m at work.” While it’s a good thing to recognize that your pup could use some companionship during the day, it's difficult enough to raise one pup and give it the socialization that it needs. Two pup homes almost always end up with dogs that only get half of the amount of time they need to be properly socialized. It sounds like a great idea—the dogs can keep each other company (after all, they are pack animals) until the humans come home. But if you think one puppy can get into trouble when you’re not there, just think what kinds of mischief two pups can cook up when left to their own devices. There are great interactive dog toys on the market that can help occupy your pup when you are gone. It’s also important to understand another puppy or a pen full of toys will not substitute for social time with you. Adopting a puppy is making a commitment, and it’s important you give that some serious thought before adding a baby dog to the family. It’s fine to give your pup playmate time via arranged play dates with a friend’s healthy and compatible puppy, but don’t think adopting a second pup is an acceptable substitute for your own interaction with your puppy.
Occasionally, I have people who have two children, and they want each to have their own puppy. Most families I know have enough trouble getting their kids to fulfill their promise to feed, walk, and clean up after one family dog. Mom ends up doing most of it anyway. With two, then Mom gets to do double-puppy-duty.
Another thing to consider is that all dogs have a very strong pack instinct. The more dogs in a pack, the stronger the instinct becomes. Raising two pups means an elevated pack drive, and with the pack, drive issues become RANK ISSUES within the pack. Elevated pack drive means that one or more of the dogs is going to become the alpha dog, which causes dominance problems with the other dogs, family members, and guests. It results in dogs becoming more territorial and more aggressive. Establishing rank can often lead to dog fights when the dogs reach maturity (18 to 30 months of age). At social maturity, these pups may begin fighting with one another, often quite severely. A lady in Colorado that got two pups from me eventually had to re-home one of the pups to the family across the street because of the fighting.
Most training professionals strongly recommend against adopting two pups at the same time, and especially not two from the same litter. This scenario even has a name: Littermate Syndrome. This term describes the behavioral issues that can occur when pups from the same litter (or pups from different litters of similar ages) grow up together. However, even puppies who are not related can exhibit littermate syndrome when placed together. Professional trainers recommend against getting two puppies within six months of one another because the risks are just too high. This doesn’t even take into consideration the other practical considerations, such as the increased costs of vet care, food, supplies, and training; the extra work of training and caring for two dogs; or the time requirements of two active puppies.
So how can a dog owner avoid the complications of Littermate Syndrome? The obvious answer is DO NOT adopt two puppies at the same time. If you know that you want two young dogs, the best plan of action is to obtain your first puppy and enjoy watching it grow, learn, and become part of your family. Get that puppy perfectly trained, and when the puppy has matured, a second pup can be welcomed into the pack. I recommend that you wait at least 6 months (preferably 9 months to a year) before adopting the second pup. Schnauzers are so very smart, that you will find training the second puppy is much easier because the first pup will train the second pup for you.