What Is The Best Age Gap Between Dogs?

two Labrador friends

If you are enjoying raising your Labrador, it’s only natural to be thinking about getting a brother or sister for them.

You may be worried that your dog will be lonely, or that they need a playmate. So today, I’m going to talk about the right age gap between two dogs in the same family.

Close together?

Last week I received an email from the owner of a four month old puppy. The lady in question was thrilled with her beautiful dog and considering getting a new puppy as a friend.

She had heard that a close age gap can cause ‘top dog’ issues. And wanted to hear my thoughts on the subject.

Her question was not unusual, it’s a topic I get asked about quite a lot. Though more often people want to know if it’s OK to buy two puppies of the same age, at the same time.

Every family is different

Before we go any further, I think we need to acknowledge that every family is unique.  The dynamics are different and the dogs are different, from those in any other family.

So I cannot tell you for certain that you’ll have an easy ride, or that the new additions to your family will be a disaster.

I can only tell you about probabilities.  And I need to point out that there are certain problems that commonly arise when two puppies are the same age, or quite close in age.

Two puppies from the same litter

Some people think it is a great idea to get two puppies at once. And I can see why. After all, the two dogs will be company for one another.

If you are a very experienced dog owner, or very lucky.  This may work out just fine.  But, and it is a big but, the probability is, you will struggle.

Not especially at the beginning, when two puppies are company for one another, but later, as they need training and guidance.

You can read all about this, in this article: one puppy or two? 

What about staggered puppies?

The lady who wrote to me recently was proposing a slightly different approach. Her current puppy has settled in and is progressing nicely.  These two puppies would be staggered in age. So one puppy will be half grown, whilst the other is very small.

In this situation,  there are a number of areas for concern,  and the dynamics of this two dog family are potentially even more challenging than with litter brothers.

And here is why.

Size and strength

Two same age puppies of the same breed, are similar size and weight.  They have similar reserves of energy, and like to play in a similar way.

A five month or six month old puppy plays in different ways from a two month old puppy.  And at six month’s old, his reserves of energy and his strength will be far greater.

Size difference alone can be an issue when puppies of the same age but different breeds, play together. But when there is an age gap too,  the problems are exacerbated.

Emotional maturity and rough play

Adult dogs unless poorly socialised are usually very tolerant of puppies.  There is an unwritten rule amongst them, that puppies under four months old can do pretty much what they please.

The older dog will often show an awareness of the puppy’s vulnerability and adjust his own behavior accordingly. He will allow the puppy to bite him and swing on his ears without retaliating.

A five or six month old puppy does not usually have the maturity to do this.  He plays rough, and you can like it or leave it. 

In short, many pups, are bullies. They are often still very playful, but this is big boy play and a small puppy is likely to be repeatedly ‘bowled over’  and may find the older puppy extremely intimidating.

This can affect the smaller puppy’s personality,  and it means that the puppies may need to be separated for a lot of the time.

Of course, there are exceptions. Some of my older pups have been quite gentle. But most play rough and need to be supervised around little ones.  Of course an experienced owner will cope. Largely by supervising and separating to ensure that the smaller pup makes it through the next couple of months without too many bruises or too much damage to his confidence.

But coping is not really the aim.  This should be a time of pleasure and enjoyment. 

Bonding with two puppies

If the two dogs are the same breed, the size difference will become less of an issue as the weeks go past, and the younger puppy grows. Unfortunately, there are other problems that now arise.

In many cases a small puppy will bond fiercely to his bigger, rougher, older brother.  So fiercely that he may have little time for his human friend.  This is always a risk in a two dog household, but is more so when the older dog is still a pup and so willing to engage the younger dog in long bouts of play.

In my experience, the only way to combat this, is to ensure that the new puppy spends more time interacting with you, than he does with the other puppy.  But this is not generally what people have in mind when they bring a second puppy home.


If you get a new puppy before your older puppy is six months old, there is a chance that he will regress in his house training.

Small puppies have accidents, and dogs like to pee where older dogs have peed and pooped.  Your older puppy’s cleanliness in the house has not been very long established,  so problems in this respect are a possibility.

It isn’t the end of the world, and you’ll get past it.  But I think it is something to consider, especially if you have just begun to allow your older puppy onto your carpets

Two crates

Most Labradors have not grown out of the chewing stage until they are well over a year old. This means that your older puppy will probably need crating at night, and when you leave the house.  If you put the new puppy in the older puppy’s large crate, he will probably pee in it.

New puppies need small crates.  This means you will need two crates in your home.  Unless you have plenty of floor space, this could be a problem for you

Obedience training two puppies

Early training has to be done in a one-to-one situation until the youngest puppy is able to begin coping with distractions.

You cannot train a six month old puppy with a two month old hanging onto his ears and biting his tail. You cannot train important behaviors like walking nicely on a lead, with two dogs at once.

If you have a great deal of spare time and are happy to spend much of it on separate dog training sessions, then this may not be an issue for you.

But in some families, it can mean that neither dog gets properly trained.  And being dragged along the street by two unruly Labradors is more than twice as miserable and dangerous, as being dragged along by one.

The right age gap

So what is the right age gap between dogs?

Well, I feel that ideally it’s anywhere between two and six years.

By the time your dog is two, you should have him pretty well trained. A two year gap also gives the older dog a chance to reach maturity, and to develop the patience and tolerance for young puppies that so many well-socialised adult dogs have.

At the other end of the scale, if you aim to get your next dog before your older dog is six, provided he is adequately socialized with puppies the older dog may still be willing to play with your new arrival.

Watching an adult dog gently play with and become fond of, a new puppy is a real pleasure.  And one that is worth waiting for.

Bear in mind that elderly dogs can become irritable with young puppies, so it is best not to wait too long.

Enjoy this!

I strongly recommend that you enjoy your only puppy for at least the first twelve months, and don’t be in too much of a rush to bring another dog into the family.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)

People worry that their only dog will be lonely, or find it difficult to make friends later on.  But raising a dog is not like raising kids in this respect.  Dogs have to adapt to living with another species, and to crossing the communication barrier between us.  This is definitely easier to achieve, when a dog is the only dog, at least for the first year of his life.

Try not to worry that he is missing out, or needs a playmate.  What he needs, is your attention, which will be halved if you get another puppy.  He needs to form a deep and unshakeable bond with his human family.  Short periods of play with tolerant friendly older dogs from time to time, will ensure that he grows up knowing how to be a dog.

When he is older, and trained, he will be a much better mentor and friend for you next pup.  And it will be far easier to manage the two of them.

How about you?

Do you have several dogs?  If so, what are the age gaps between them, and how did you cope when they were small?

I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments box below

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website


  1. I have 2… 12 years. I might have waited too much but it just wasn’t my moment before. Fortunately it worked out really well, they don’t play rough and my older one is super patient with the pup (11mo now…) who sometimes is a bit of handful…
    But fortunately is just going well

  2. We have always had two. Age gaps have been 3-4 years. Older English Labs have always been great mentors. Really eliminated “house training” and a lot of “basic training” type skills. 4 Labs over 30+ years. Loss of the older dog has not been a notable issue although the survivor def. picked up on everyones’ saddness.

  3. Seeking feedback:
    We have a 1 year old female chocolate lab.
    We want to get her a half sister (same mom different dad). She would be 1.5 years old when the second arrives. Our first is very social and plays well with many dogs both girls and boys. I have heard both views on girls not getting along while others they are fine.
    I’d prefer another girl but would like feedback!

  4. We got 8 week old litter sisters when our old girl was 10, it was a little crazy at times but some hard work and perseverance had paid off, both litter sisters are now 18 months and on their way to being fully trained gun dogs. We sadly lost our old girl a few days ago (almost 12) and the pups miss her but they have each other for company which is great. I wouldn’t suggest to anyone who doesn’t have a lot of dog experience to get litter sisters, it is a lot of hard work and dedication, even teaching them their names can be hard work as I’m pretty sure for the first 6 months they both thought their names were ‘Lexi, Ruby!’.

  5. Only issue I had getting 2sisters from same litter was when sadly the time has come aged 12 yrs I had the grief of losing one and knowing I will have to go through it again very soon .
    They were a delight for 12yrs and inseparable. They kept each other young

  6. We bit the bullet and got two field lab boys from the same litter. If I would have read this article before I might have thought differently. They have actually been a blessing to each other and to us! They were easy to House train and crate train. They also easily learned basic commands too. I spend as much time with them as I can but they have been wonderful company for each other too. They run and play a lot together so they get plenty of exercise. We take them camping and kayaking (slow/calm water) and lots of other places. Everyone who knows them or meets them for the first time comments how happy they are. They will be 2 this September. Maybe we just got lucky, I don’t know, but I will never regret bringing Buzz & Woody home together!

  7. We made the mistake of getting two from the same litter at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, we love them both so much, but for us, it was terrible to housebreak and train two, not to mention control two. We got a male and female’ so getting spayed and neutered was an issue as far as timing. They will be 2 years old on May 4th. One is very active and wants to play all the time, the other is more laid back, thank goodness. They go to doggie day care while we work. We have all adjusted but I would not recommend getting 2 puppies at once.

  8. I’ve done it both ways. Our first lab was 8 when we introduced an new puppy. It brought new life and companionship that was much needed. When our first lab passed away, it left our second lab at the age of 5/6… I immediately got a new puppy, only to decide that, like our children, we wanted our next set to be close in age. Needless to say, 11 months later we brought home another lab, with our third and fourth only having the age diffence of 11 months and 20 days.
    Having our third and fourth a year apart has been wonderful. Sadly we lost our second lab a couple months ago, and the third and fourth found great solice in each other’s. Closeness in age is not for everyone, but we have some experience 😉