Littermates for life

So last Summer I decided to get a young companion dog for my senior pup, Ruben. Sadly, and one of the reasons I haven't focused much on my blog, my old faithful companion and great love, my doberman cross Ruben, passed away in June 2021 right before Buddy came to live with us. Although I don't want this blog to be sad, I couldn't start a dog blog without mentioning Ruben. He had a long life and knew only one home so I am very grateful to have spent 13 amazing years with him and for everything I learnt through sharing a life with him.

Flashback to June 2021 and there I was dealing with a very fresh grief and shock of losing my canine love and at the same time having a new puppy arriving. It was a delicate time as you can imagine and my whole reason for having a second dog was because I know very well that dogs are pack animals and are happier with one or more of their own kind around. Ruben had been an apartment dog most of his life, but with all the space I had in my new home and knowing how much he loved company of other dogs I decided now was the right time to have a new puppy. With Ruben crossing the rainbow bridge though I was faced with some things I hadn't anticipated. Mainly I didn't want a new puppy being alone - my life is much more home based than before, but I still need to do a lot of things at least short term that wouldn't allow a puppy around. For example, constructing a cabin and getting building supplies - it simply wasn't feasible to have a puppy in the summer car heat for long drives nor on a building site next to a road. Ultimately I took the decision to get a second puppy and decided to take another Beauceron from the same litter. So we drove back to the lovely guy we got Buddy from and tried to have a look which puppies were still available and who seemed to get along with Buddy. Maybe this was a strange way to do things and I am not a dog expert, but in the moment it felt right and so that's what I did.

Well when we popped Buddy on the floor with his littermates it took only a few seconds for them to recognize each other again and run off playing! One little puppy stood out just because of the sheer delight in expression at seeing Buddy again and how they played together - and that's how Beau came to live with us :)

So what are my thoughts on having littermates so far?

Firstly, I realised pretty quickly how different dog personalities can be! Both pups came from the same parents, same litter, born at the same time and lived in the same circumstances yet they are completely different!

Buddy is a handsome, proud looking babyfaced boy with a willingness to please and highly intelligent. His challenges are that he lacks confidence and is wary of strangers. In all honesty I wish I'd socialised him better from a younger age to correct this, excuses aside it would have been better to devote more time to this early on but I have also reasoned that he is not aggressive or nippy with strangers, rather he prefers to keep a distance and takes his guard dog duty seriously. He prefers staying home and loves 'his' territory. Working on building both his confidence and his confidence in me as a pack leader are my main strategies as he is wonderful in every other way.

Beau lives up to the name! Utterly breathtakingly beautiful as a large dog, highly intelligent and an extremely confident and social being. Beau has the social qualities Buddy lacks and will happily go anywhere to meet anyone with a happy face! Beau does have naughty tendencies though - a strong herding instinct that manifests as chasing cars, cats and generally any wildlife that ventures too close to the house. Added to that there is a strong independence that can mean Beau has a tendency to ignore basic commands and wander off sometimes.

My experience with the two personality types in the same situations has led me to re-evalute my earlier assumptions that nervousness in dogs originated with the human guardians. I now think this is partly true, but personality also plays a strong factor. If Buddy's character was down to my failings as a guardian, then Beau might have ended up lacking confidence too, yet this is simply not the case.

My second observation having littermates is that although they can get caught up in playing with each other, making them difficult to handle at times, generally I don't have issues related to the so called littermate syndrome. Sure, two puppies are a handful, but so is one. Puppies are by definition a lot of work and two puppies means double work, I've accepted that. My strategy was to treat them as individuals from day one and work on giving them equal and individual attention. I haven't succeeded completely on that as we still do walks together, but it's a work in progress. I try to be aware of who is the more dominant dog, as well as be aware of the fact that they are young and at the moment dominance might be a fluid thing. In the beginning Beau was less dominant than Buddy, now many times Beau takes the lead. But Buddy is more dominant in other situations. It's difficult to tell at this stage who will end up as top dog after me, right now it looks more like Beau will be, but I will let them figure that out. I try to separate them occasionally for some one on one quality time with me and mini training sessions working on their specific needs as well as basic obedience. Hopefully as more of my projects get set up here I'll be able to devote more time to that.

The advantage of the littermate situation though is that they have playmates with equal energy and stamina. I can take them on the same walks and tire them both out. They also probably learn from each other - by praising one for performing, there's a chance the other will follow suit. And they keep each other company, which is priceless. Sometimes I have to work on my cabin build in the back garden, and though I check on them multiple times during the day, I simply can't have them with me for safety, yet they keep each other entertained all afternoon!

Let me know in the comments if you have experience with raising littermates and what the positives and negatives are as you see it - I'd love to hear about it!

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