Category Archives: dog packs

The Challenges of Raising Litter Mate Puppies


By Linda Cole

It’s hard picking out just one puppy. They’re all so cute and adorable. People with room in their home and heart for two pups may not think twice about buying or adopting sibling puppies, but there could be potential harm to one or both of the pups. Raising litter mate puppies is more complicated than it sounds, and it can be a challenge.

A new puppy needs to have a chance to bond with the human who will become his pack leader. In fact, it’s essential that bonding take place. Pups are ready to leave the nest when they are 8 weeks old, and their development will continue in their new home. Litter mate puppies are comfortable with each other, and can keep each other company while you are gone. The situation can change, however, once they grow up. Just because they get along as pups doesn’t guarantee they will get along as adults, especially if they are both male, or both female. As full grown dogs, siblings will fight and jockey for dominance in their pack just like any other dogs would do. Female pups will also fight for their place in the pack, especially if there’s a male dog in the home. Aggression and rivalries could turn into double trouble for their human parents.

When you raise pups from the same litter, you risk creating insecure dogs with behavior problems that can be with them their entire lives. There’s a good chance they can be so dependent on each other that separation anxiety could become a severe problem anytime they are not together. You want them to play with each other, but they need time apart in order to learn about life away from their sibling.

Raising litter mate puppies can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible as long as you are aware of what you’re getting into, and you learn how to teach each pup according to their personality and individual needs. You will need to keep litter mates separated as much as possible for the first year. Treat each puppy as an individual dog and not as an extension of its sibling.

Keep them apart from each other during housebreaking and training activities, at feeding time, and when you are giving each one attention and playing with them. This gives each pup a chance to develop their own personality, find their own identity and understand their social order in the pack. It also gives them both a chance to bond with you equally, which will help them learn how to maintain a balanced and stable relationship where they both feel secure within the home. If you crate them while you are gone, they need to be in different rooms. Take only one at a time for walks or to the vet for checkups and vaccinations. Even though they live in the same home, each one should be treated as if you have just one dog.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to raising litter mate puppies. Some breeders won’t sell siblings because they are afraid they could turn out to be more than the owner bargained for and one or both pups could suffer the consequences if the new owner can’t handle two pups. Other breeders feel it’s up to the buyer to decide. Responsible breeders will work with you and are happy to help out any way they can. A breeder’s concern is for the pups, and they want to make sure the puppies are going to a good home.

A prospective owner who understands what they are getting into and has the time and energy to properly socialize and train both pups should do fine. If you really want two dogs, a better solution might be to take one, then go back in about 6 months to pick another puppy from a different litter. If you want to take litter mates home, it will work out better to take a male and a female. Make sure to have them neutered and spayed as soon as they are old enough to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Two puppies will require double work and expense when it comes to housebreaking, veterinarian bills, food and time for bonding, development and training. But if you do your homework and invest in the hard work and commitment needed to raise litter mate puppies, you will also be rewarded with double the love and fun of two well-adjusted individual pets.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Why Do Dogs Howl?


By Linda Cole

It’s hard to miss the neighborhood dog choir howling their mournful tune as a fire truck or ambulance whizzes by. Dogs raise their heads in a howl to signal when we leave the house and when we return. One begins to howl and is soon followed by other voices in the area, but why do dogs howl? Are they really that sad when we leave and that ecstatic when we return?

Researchers understand why wolves howl. Their howls, in various tones, help the sound travel farther than a simple bark would go. We know wolves howl as a signal to the pack, “Come see what I found” or to let other members of the pack know where they are so they can meet in a single location. Wolves recognize each pack member’s howl and if an unfamiliar voice joins in, the pack leader knows an intruder may be in his territory. So a howl is also a warning to outsiders to stay away or else. It’s also a way to account for each member of the pack when they are separated by the hunt or for any other reason. Each wolf joins in signaling they are present and accounted for, and everything is OK.

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Do Dogs Understand Words?


By Linda Cole

Most of us who own dogs or cats swear they understand every word we say to them. Dogs tilt their head and listen with eager eyes, and cats respond with an acknowledging meow or tail flick which I’m sure means, “Of course I understand exactly everything you are saying.” In reality, they probably understand only a fraction of what I say, but I know cats and dogs understand words.

Research has shown that dogs are more intelligent than what was once believed. It’s possible your dog’s intelligence equals that of a three year old child. Dogs are just as capable of understanding what we say as parrots or apes, two species considered to be the “Einsteins” of the animal kingdom. Some breeds are considered more intelligent than others, but most dogs are not purebreds. Does a mixed breed have an advantage over purebreds when it comes to intelligence? Do these dogs understand words just as well as their purebred counterparts?

Dogs have an advantage over their owners. Not only do they understand the laws of the pack, they also understand our tone of voice and body language. Body language and tone may contribute more to how dogs interpret our words than what we realize, but dogs understand words and can learn signals from whistles and hand signs. Herding dogs work with their handlers through a series of specific whistles and voice commands. Police dogs and rescue dogs are taught the language of search and rescue, and therapy dogs understand how to assist humans in everyday activities from learned signals and words.

It’s believed an average dog can understand up to 165 words and count up to 5. Some dogs may be able to understand even more words. My mom had a mixed breed named Ben. He was so mixed even our vet couldn’t figure out the possible breeds, but he was smart as a whip. Ben loved toys and my mother loved buying them for him. A green frog was his favorite and he understood each toy had a name. Each night, mom had Ben pick up his toys. It became a game Ben loved to play. Mom called out the name of a toy and Ben picked up each one correctly every time and put it away in his toy box. I learned from him that dogs understand words and can associate those words with an object or toy.

I have two mixed Jack Russell terrier sisters who know the names of the other members in our dog pack. Just as Lassie knew who Timmy was by name, they know and understand the names we use to call the other dogs. They look at the dog just as we would do in a group of people when someone’s name is called out.

Of course our dogs learn to associate words by commands we give them. Down, go outside, stay, go for a walk, fetch or any other word or phrase dogs learn through repetition. However, understanding words and actually knowing what they mean are two different things.

Researchers question whether our pets have the mental capacity to understand love, for instance. Can they really be capable of understanding something as complex and abstract as love or hate? I know dogs are just like us in that they seem to like or dislike certain people. This could be due to body language, protective posturing by the dog or other factors such as unpleasant odors like perfume or other smells on a person. I also know when I cuddle with my dogs and look them in the eyes when I tell them I love them or give them praise, there’s subtle ear flicks and a different look in their eyes like they did understand what I said and what it meant. Of course, that too could be simple association with my body language, tone of voice or actions because I’m also scratching their ears or back or giving them a kiss and hug.

Maybe one day research will be able to determine if our pets can learn abstract concepts, but at the end of the day, does it really matter how much they may or may not understand what we say? Talking to our pets is good for them as well as for us. I think most pets actually treasure our conversations as only they can. Positive attention is always good. They may not understand why your boyfriend/girlfriend is such a loser or why you don’t have time to play ball right now, but dogs understand words more than what was once thought. So enjoy your next conversation with your dog, but remember, they may understand what you are saying more than you realize.

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Understanding Dog Pack Hierarchy, and Why it Matters


By Linda Cole

Dogs are social animals with a well defined pack hierarchy. Like the wolf pack, each individual in the pack has its own place in that social order. Without a leader and parameters, a dog pack is confused, unstable and in constant conflict. Whether you are a pack of one dog or multiple canines, it’s important to understand the structure of the pack in order to maintain your role as leader.

As pack leader, it’s up to you to set rules and limitations for your dog. They are looking to their human alpha leader for consistent guidance and behavior you deem appropriate. A stable relationship is created when your dog understands what you expect from them.

A wolf pack hierarchy is made up of one alpha male and an alpha female. Next in line is the beta, and the omega is the lowest member of the pack. The other pack members fall in between the alpha and omega. The alpha male is the only one who leads and makes all the decisions that the entire pack follows, such as when and where to hunt, and when the rest of the pack can eat. He takes the best sleeping spots and is the only one allowed to mate with the alpha female. Any individual member who fails to obey the rules will be dealt with in a swift and appropriate manner. Those who refuse to follow pack laws are sometimes driven out in order to maintain stability.

Our dogs operate under the same hierarchy. They are born with an instinctive sense of pack mentality. Observe any litter of pups as they grow and mature. Dominant and submissive personalities begin to show as they play and interact with their litter mates. Mom keeps them in line with little nudges and nips around their neck and ears. These gentle reminders and punishments learned as pups will remain with them throughout their lives.

To establish yourself as top dog in the pack hierarchy, you have to first know which animal in your pack is the alpha. A female can be recognized by the pack as their alpha leader. Observe your dogs to see which one shows dominate behavior over the other dogs or yourself. Dominant behavior will include bumping, blocking, moving in between you and other dogs, standing alert with their tail held high (a sign of confidence), low growling whenever another dog comes near or making eye contact and holding it. Control the alpha, and you control the rest of the pack.

Never yell, hit, kick or spank any dog. It is not something they understand and will only create a more aggressive or fearful dog in the long run. You will certainly not gain any respect or trust. Respect can’t be forced; you have to earn it by controlling your pack on their terms. You become the alpha by making all the decisions for the pack. You eat first, go through a doorway first, determine which dog gets attention and when it’s given, win the tug of war game, sit and sleep in the prime spots, “move” a pack member out of your way instead of walking around or stepping over them. In other words, you establish yourself in the pack hierarchy as the alpha by controlling their basic needs and desires.

Dogs want to please us and be our protectors and companions. We create and allow unwanted behavior each time a member of our pack is allowed to misbehave with no consequences from the boss. A true alpha leader in the social order of the pack hierarchy would never allow misdeeds to go unpunished. This causes confusion and a breakdown in their social order which in turn creates an unstable pack.

The best way to show our pets just how much they mean to us is to treat them as rightful members in the pack hierarchy. Each one knows their place in the pack and you, as their alpha leader, have set the parameters and rules they will abide by. Stay calm, cool and assertive when you need to remind a rule breaker who the top dog is by administering appropriate and fair discipline. By learning how to lead, you are creating stable dogs who know their place and obey the wishes of the one who controls the pack.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.