The best age gap between dogs is between two and six years. Buy a pair of puppies is tempting, but early bonding, training and socialization require a lot of individual focus. If you can’t give your new puppy your full attention, they can become more attached to their canine friend than their human family.
Likewise, your adult dog needs to be comfortable with puppies, and not so elderly they have extra care needs.
Should I get two dogs close together in age?
Recently I received a question from the owner of a four month old puppy. The lady in question was thrilled with her dog and considering a new puppy as a friend.
She had heard that a close age gap can cause some top dog issues. And wanted to hear my thoughts on the subject.
The best age gap for you?
Every family is unique. Dynamics and the dogs are all different. I cannot tell you 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 point out that there are certain problems that commonly arise when two puppies are the same age, or quite close in age.
Should I get two puppies from the same litter?
Some people think it is a great idea to get two puppies at once. After all, they will be company for one another. You will struggle with this unless you are an experienced dog trainer, or very lucky.
Not especially at the beginning, when two puppies are company for one another, but later, as they need training and guidance.
What about staggered puppies?
You can stagger puppies, so one arrives a few weeks before another from a different litter. So one puppy will be half grown, whilst the other is very small. Frustratingly, the dynamics of this two dog family are potentially even more challenging than with litter brothers.
Size and strength of puppies
Two same age puppies are similar size and weight. They have similar reserves of energy, and like to play in a similar way.
A five or six month old puppy plays in different way from a two month old puppy. Your six month old puppy’s energy reserves and strength are far greater than your eight week old puppy’s.
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 of puppies
Adult dogs are usually tolerant of puppies. They have an unwritten rule that puppies under four months old can do pretty much what they please.
The older dog will show an awareness of the puppy’s vulnerability and adjust their behavior accordingly. The adult dog will allow the puppy to bite and swing on their ears without retaliating.
A five or six month old puppy does not have the maturity to do this. They are often accidental bullies with no boundaries. The small puppy will be repeatedly bowled over, and find the older puppy intimidating.
This can effect the smaller puppy’s personality, and it means that the puppies need to be separated and supervised a lot of the time.
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.
House-training two puppies
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 wee where older dogs have wee’d and poo’d. Your older puppy’s cleanliness in the house has not been very long established, so problems in this respect are a possibility.
Two puppies will need 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 wee 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 leash, 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.
What is the best age gap between dogs?
The right age gap between dogs is two to six years.
At over two years old your adult dog should be pretty well trained. A two year gap also gives the older dog a chance to reach maturity, and develop patience and tolerance for young puppies.
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.
But elderly dogs can become irritable with young puppies, so it is best not to wait too long. The ideal age gap between dogs strikes a balance.
Enjoying your time with one puppy
Enjoy your first 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. Your dog won’t be lonely or find it hard to make friends later. Dogs adapt to living with humans and cross the communication barrier between us. This is easier to achieve when your dog is an only dog for a while.
Your dog doesn’t need a playmate, he needs your attention and to form a deep and unshakeable bond.
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.
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