My goal with this blog is for you to enjoy your time here. Most of the posts talk about my experiences raising my two yellow Labrador Retrievers, some are just for fun, and others share the best dog related information and products I have found.

Use the tabs above for quick navigation. I have imbedded links for as much as possible so that you can find the resources easily from this blog. The links in the side bar are for websites that have been helpful to me. I hope that you find them useful for you and your canine "family member"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

From the mail bag...

A question I hope will help others...

Hi Sunshine,

I have been combing your website among other resources since this past friday (8/15) when my husband and I adopted two adorable lab puppies. We have two 8 week old male yellow labs that are absolutely adorable! We had planned on adopting two so that they would have a playmate for life -- and company during the day while we are at work. I have to say -- I hadn't done any research into raising littermates before we adopted... I had looked into various dog breeds to match what suits our personality and lifestyle best -- and labs are such wonderful family dogs that we thought they should be ideal!

We have started our two boys in separate crate training already -- from day two with us... they cried all night the first night -- but last night went in and slept soundly all night -- from 12:00 to 5:45 am! I was amazed! And we have them crated during the day -- but have a dog walker scheduled for an 11:00am and 2:00pm walk -- for each separately daily... and I have met a trainer that will be coming to us for a consult this weekend and getting them started in puppy training classes in a couple of weeks -- separately of course.

I guess I am just looking for a little reassurance that if we follow the guidance that these will grow to be good mates for each other... I have seen a lot of information about male and female mates raised together -- but I am wondering if you have any insight on raising two males...

I don't want to do wrong by them -- or wrong by us as we have no children at present -- but will be starting a family sometime in the coming year, so I want to have happy dogs with our family in the future. We haven't been to the vet yet, so I am hoping to receive solid guidance from them regarding whether we need to "un-do" our decision to adopt two male labs at once... I would be heartbroken to do it -- but if it were best for the dogs I think it is still soon enough to find another home for one of our puppies...

I would really appreciate any insight you can offer... I have been on a rollar-coaster of anxiety since saturday morning...

Thanks, M

Here are my thoughts...

Dear "M",

There are good reasons why trainers and veterinarians will often discourage owners from having two dogs.  I'll be the first to admit that ignorant owners have run into some serious problems by raising two puppies not to mention litter mates together.  And it is their trainers and veterinarians that are most active in discouraging it.  There are emotional/behavioral not to mention health risks to maladapted sibling dogs, and this does not take into consideration the financial havoc they can have on ones personal finances.

But that does not mean that it is impossible or the worst possible thing to do.  Breeders do it all the time.  The greatest advantages they have over the average person  is knowledge and the commitment of time, not to mention space if you are raising big dogs. Both these hurdles can be overcome by dedicated caring dog owners willing to aquire the necessary knowledge and skills that raising two dogs requires.

If you are out there looking for information, wanting to do it right you are on the right track already.  The next step is to have a trainer you trust to work with.  I have written about the trainers we worked with both good and bad in this blog.  Just search the blog using the search feature in the right hand column with the word "trainer" to find those posts quickly.  Also realize that if you do not find a trainer you like or the cost of professionally training two is a challenge, then consider the training book by Pat Miller as a good starting point for your basic obedience skills.  Also arm yourself with good books on dog behavior in general.  Hopefully some of the books I have highlighted on this blog are helpful for you. For me they have been invaluable.

Trust yourself!!  You are right, this is good practice for starting a family.  You will have to set boundaries, have fair expectations from day one, and remember constantly that every moment with your dogs is a learning moment.  There are no "Oops, I didn't really mean that" do overs, or "I want today off, please".  Especially in the first two years, every interaction with them teaches them how you expect them to behave.  

But most of all have fun!!  That's why you added two beautiful dogs to your family, so enjoy them and this first fun year completely.

Best wishes,


P.S. If any of my other readers want to chime in with advice for "M" please feel free in the comments section.  I love my readers and they have taught me a lot as well!!


AuthorMomWithDogs said...

Hey Sunshine, you've offered lots of good advice!

Sounds to me like "M" is having some doubts about going forward with this. Two puppies is a lot for anyone to bite off, especially without a lot of dog experience. As you've thoughtfully pointed out, that can be learned. But it can also be a steep learning curve.

I'd be concerned about M wanting to start a family within a year and manage two dogs who will just be entering their "teenage" years. Talk about having your hands full...

And I'm puzzled why someone would get two puppies when they will be crated much of the day, and then all night.

I don't mean to sound harsh (and lord knows I've made my share of mistakes when it comes to dogs) but I'd ask M to look deeply and ask some tough questions about the reality of the situation. And then perhaps reconsider the wisdom of taking on 2 active puppies right now. For M's sake. And for the puppies' sake.

"Sunshine" said...

Thanks for your perspective Karen!

I would agree that extended crate time is not ideal. Looking back on how much energy my two had to burn in their first year, that's important to consider with even one dog.

There is, however, nothing better than another puppy to burn that energy with.

Booker the Treeing Walker said...

We have lots of friends at the dog park that are two- or three- dog families. Littermates are more of a challenge because you will constantly need to encourage them to bond and focus on the humans and not each other. It can be done, though. We would just say -- neuter your pups! This will help with aggression and dominance issues. And if they are crated all night and all day during the work week, you will have to make superhuman efforts to include the dogs in everything you do during the evening and on weekends so that they socialize properly. Sounds like fun! Enjoy your pups!

"M" said...


Thank you all for the feedback. We did see our vet this week -- and he seemed to think that there should be no issue in raising the two together. (He says they see lots of 2-puppy and 2-dog families and had no negative feelings about us taking this on...) That was certainly comforting -- but I am still feeling a strong bit of anxiety -- especially when I read the "cautionary" guidance online. (my husband says it is like I'm a first-time mom worried that her baby has every symptom of every illness... :)

I do appreciate the comment on crating -- and I guess I would like to further the discussion on that... I spoke with a trainer that suggested that the pups sleep separately -- in their own crates so that they would not become co-dependant on one another. Their days in the crate are an unfortunate necessity. It would be the same whether we had 1 dog or two... I have been told that a crate is the only safe place for a dog when you are not home... To reduce the time they spend in their "dens" -- each is being taken out for a walk twice daily -- for about 20 minutes each time. I have also learned of a "doggie daycare" nearby that I am going to start taking them to. (though it will be 1 day a week for each pup -- separately. That is a pricey undertaking, but worth it if it gets them socialized with other dogs...)

I am also enrolling us in "puppy kindergarten" -- which is a 6 week long course and we will be taking the boys to different classes on separate nights. There is an "obedience school" class that we'll also be enrolling in when they reach 6 months... I am definitely dedicated to the training classes -- I'm not so much worried about the costs of that.

Oh -- and yes, we will be having them "fixed" at 6 months... we have no plans for breeding, 2 pups is MORE than enough for us! :) And when I say that we plan to start a family in a year or so -- I mean - that we are talking about starting a family - but likely would not have a child before winter 2009/2010 -- at which time the pups would be a year and a half -- maybe almost 2...?

Thanks again, I'll be following your feedback closely! "M"

"Sunshine" said...

Dear M,

You certainly are doing everything you can. Your current plans sound great and appear to fit in your budget which is a good thing. This is a especially good as there will be plenty of things that come up that won't.

The crate time debate it one that will have people on either side. If you are consistent with what you are doing I feel that given your options it is the best and safest choice.

My only suggestion would be to have the dog walker spend some time letting them play together to really burn some energy together. This would be in addition to their seperate walk time.

As mentioned by "Booker" every other min of your day/week most be focused on the puppies getting the exercise and social interaction with you and eachother.

I would love to hear what my favorite Labrador mom thoughts might be. But as she's traveling at the moment it may take a few days.

As I said before, you're on the right track.

Never stop learning,


Jean said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jean said...

Hi, I found your blog via a lab search on Google. This is a lovely place to visit and very creative. The pictures of your dogs are wonderful. The blog background is my favorite - bravo!

We adopted a yellow lab about five years ago. She was a senior citizen like us and we got her from a Rescue Center. She was terrific, enjoyed naps like we do, was fantastic with our grandchildren and a very happy personality. She passed away last year and I miss her terribly. She was the best and smartest companion dog we ever had. I hope someday I can get another but not yet.

Thanks you so much for your blog.

Jean Sullivan
Henderson, NV

"Sunshine" said...

Hi Jean,

Welcome to "For the Love of Labradors".

Thanks for the kind words and sharing a beautiful story about your Labrador.


Kay Bratt said...

I just found this blog and it is so good! I have a lab that we rescued-- her name is Lexi and she is amazing. No....really...she is unbelievable.

She was obviously abused and when we brought her home, it took us three days to get her to walk out the back door to the yard. It took two weeks to get her out the front door and 8 feet to the end of the grass.

Now, a year later, she is adjusted and happy. She is an indoor dog-- never gets on the furniture, or chews anything up. She is my shadow-- and the most gentle creature on earth. She is two years old-- but has an old soul. She is afraid of most things but has brought so much joy to our home.

We were so lucky to find her-- and to think, the shelter lady tried to talk us out of her because of her behavioural issues...which are NONE!


"Sunshine" said...

What a beautiful story, Kay!

Thanks for sharing such a wonderful reminder of why we love our Labs.

Welcome to For the Love of Labradors!!


Brutus & Bartleby's Mommy said...

Andrea & M -

I have two male golden retriever lab mixes (Brutus & Bartleby) who are litter mates. They are going to be 2 in november and have brought so much joy and love to my home...not to mention a ton of loose fur!!!

I am writing to tell M that I too decided to kennel train my pups. Up until they were 7 months I kept them in their kennels all day and I would come home to walk each seperately. My commitment to them started at 5:30 in the morning with an hour walk and then the walks mid day and my husband would come home and give them an hour or so at the park. They never spent more than 5 hours consecutively in their crates except for night time. They love being in their crates. Even if we were home and they were out they would go and sleep in them during the day without being asked.
Now we keep them in the dog run for the day with a walk in the evening and then they sleep in their kennels at night. It is so important to kennel train, do not let anyone tell you differently. They enjoy having their own space within your home. It is like their bedroom.

My two pups love eachother so much that I can not imagine not having two. Just be prepared for the double of everything. Also, invest in some heavy duty nylabones. They will save all of your furniture, door jams and shoes. Maybe not all but at least some! Be consitent and enjoy!

"Sunshine" said...

B & B's Mom,

Thanks so much for sharing your experience!!

Although it was not the path that I had to take I am sure that with the proper commitment "M" will be successful.


ooliver said...

This has been very helpful. My family and I are considering rescuing 2 lab pups and I have read a lot of negative discouraging advice about adopting 2 pups at the same time. At least, this gives me hope that we are going to do the right thing.

I too have done a ton of internet and book research. I feel more prepared for these pups than I did for my first child! I know you cannot prepare for everything, but it helps to make an informed decision.

I look forward to getting our pup(s) and referring to this site again and again! Thank you for your helpful insight.