11 March 2009

Doggie do-over

What a day we had yesterday. By yesterday morning, we realized that we had made a huge mistake in taking home two puppies. We began to see some ominous signs that it would be very difficult to train and bond with either puppy, and that they were very stressed, particularly Kit. The girls were fighting viciously (as vicious as 8 week old pups can be, but I was worried that someone was going to end up needing stitches in an ear). Kit was showing a disturbing lack of responsiveness to us. She followed Paige everywhere, but barely acknowledged our presence unless alone with us. Kit also demonstrated some territoriality around M which was surprisingly intense for such a little puppy.

A google search soon turned up the almost unanimous opinion that adopting littermates is a very bad idea. Littermate syndrome is a condition where 2 dogs develop an unhealthy dependence on each other but live with such stress that they are unable to properly socialize with people or other dogs. They often fight with each other.

There are two solutions. The second best solution is to feed, house, walk, train and play with each dog separately for the first 12 to 14 months so they develop as complete individuals. This would require an almost impossible commitment in the case of border collies who require a couple of hours a day of vigourous exercise in addition to the usual housebreaking and other puppy issues. The best solution is to rehome one of the pups. The breeder had already told us that if a dog didn't work out, she wanted it to return to her so she could be assured that it would find a good home. So we decided that it would be for the best if one of the dogs went back.

But which one? Several emotional hours ensued while the matter of which puppy to keep and which to return was discussed and dissected from every possible angle. The breeder was consulted, puppies were hugged and played with, and tears shed all around. In the end, it was decided that Paige would stay and Kit would go. So we brought Kit back to the farm. For a couple of reasons we have also decided that Paige should get a new name, and is now called Meg.

Kit has resumed her old life on the farm and has a couple of potential new owners already. Meg is less stressed, we're less overwhelmed, and life with one puppy is suiting the entire family well. We now know that we can raise one great dog, but that we stood a less than even chance of having two good-enough dogs. I wish we had figured this out before taking them both home, but I'm glad we sorted it out before any lasting damage was done.


  1. This happened to my family too when I was younger, and we also had to take one of the litter mates back. The dog that remained with us was a great little dude, and was a wonderful companion until the day he died some years ago. I wish your family and Meg the same joyful companionship, and send well wishes to Kit as well for good life in her new 'pack.' Good for you for doing the right thing, even though it was very hard. :)

  2. Thanks for that. We all know we did the right thing, but it still stings a bit. Plus we feel foolish for getting ourselves into the situation in the first place. Sigh, live and learn.



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