I would like to get each of my daughters a puppy. One of my neighbors said she heard it was a bad idea to adopt littermates. Is that true? Should I get the dogs from different litters? ~ Wendy
Wendy: Don’t get littermates. In fact, don’t even get two dogs.
I think having a dog is a great experience for a child, but ideally the dog should be part of the family, not a personal pet. As the parent, you are the one taking ultimate responsibility for each dog in your household.
Each puppy in a litter will have its own personality, which means that one of your daughters will have a dog that is (pick a characteristic) smarter, more obedient, more social, less jumpy, less prone to chewing, more easily housetrained, and on and on. This could cause friction between your daughters if one perceives that the other has the “better” puppy.
Just as the puppies will be different, your daughters are too. One is likely calmer, more patient, more consistent, more clear, or gentler than the other. Many times family dogs will prefer one child over another. You really don’t want to have to explain to one of your girls why her dog actually seems to like her sister better. That’s a tightrope conversation because it can be hard to explain without sounding like you are judging your daughter’s behavior as being less worthy of a dog’s affection.
All of this is before we even address your daughters’ levels of responsibility. Will they be equally reliable? Would they prefer to do half as many dog chores by sharing responsibility?
In addition, your odds of dog-to-dog aggression issues increase when you have two dogs of the same size, age, and gender. It’s quite common for littermates to not enjoy each other’s company as adults and to sometimes behave aggressively toward one another.
All of these factors make me strongly in favor of families adding one dog at a time and giving that dog all the attention and training it needs before adding another.
Note: The writer didn’t tell me how old her daughters are, so I assigned this letter to the 7-10 age category as a guesstimate.