Some people have asked me if I think it is better to get two puppies at once, or one. To them I tell the story of Empanada and Nacho.
Empanada and Nacho were litter mates from Puerto Rico who I agreed to foster. I knew it would be a lot, but we needed two fosters, and I figured how bad could it be? I had been fostering for 10 years, and I am a professional. Forget that I had not had a puppy in 20 years, and the times I had fostered puppies, it was for a day or two. But it was okay, I had a plan in place and I was ready.
I prepped an ex-pen with crates and toys and a puppy friendly cover that would be easy to clean and give them good grip. It was beautiful! My husband called it the Thunderdome, oh, how he cursed it.
Transport got tricky and it turned out that Empanada arrived first. We had a good night, she spent the night with me near her crate so she was not alone, and in the morning I prepared for work, got her fed, pottied, and tired out. I put her in the ex-pen and left, and from there my carefully constructed plans crumbled. Well, crashed. Within a half-hour of being placed inside Empanada had escaped. I was kind of impressed, but my husband who was home with a loose puppy who proved to be part mountain goat was less amused.
I switched strictly to crates and baby gates. After just a few days we were on a great schedule and Empanada was well on her way to being house trained. I thought this would be easy! I could not wait for Nacho to arrive. I was so innocent.
They did keep each other company. They would play together and having them crated near each other (in separate crates) made it easier for them to adjust to that. Also, Nacho was a shyer fellow, and Empanada gave him a good boost of confidence – she was always off discovering new things.
But oh, the house training – Empanada had been well on her way but with the arrival of Nacho things got tricky. It seemed like while I was watching one and getting them out, the other was inevitably going. Or, if one would be chewing something and needed to be redirected, the other was pottying in the living room. It was a whirlwind of activity and someone was always peeing, pooping, chewing, wrestling with the cat or walking on the back of the couch. Nacho was not as reliable to his sister, and took longer to house train. I am not sure if that was just a part of who he was, or because where I had been able to give Empanada my full attention, with him I could only give partial.
Socialization also got tricky. Empanada had never met a stranger but Nacho would hang back and need extra support. Managing the needs of two different puppies was hard. I would be trying to hold Empanada back and teach her some manners, while also reminding Nacho that people were okay. I would have to take them out one on one with me, which required extra time. I would bring them both to the pet store in a crate, and walk around with one, go back and put them in the car, and bring the other out. I was lucky the weather allowed me to do that though, a few months later that would not have been possible.
I also had to make sure they had time to play with other dogs without the other there, and had one on one time with me and other people. I was fostering so I knew this was short term, but I still needed to give them the best start I could. I needed them to learn how to interact with people and dogs without back-up from their sibling.
I was exhausted, at one point I remember sitting on the floor surrounded by pee with one puppy trying to jump into my lap while the other was running around with a roll of paper towels in their mouth, ready to cry. When Empanada went to her forever home life became much easier.
The bottom line is raising a puppy is work, raising two is more work. It can be done, but to be done well it takes dedication, and time. So when I am asked, I say get one puppy and give them your best. I am glad I tried it though, because without having volunteered, I never would have met Jasper . . .