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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Labrador Bonding

Two Black Lab Pups
I just brought home an eight week old lab pup. She is wonderful, but I have been hearing that I should limit the amount of time she spends with my older lab so that her primary bond will be to me and not our older dog. Whille others have said as long as I have time alone with the puppy she will bond with me. How much time do you recommend your pup spends with your older dog?

First, congrats on the new puppy! How exciting it must be to have an older Lab and a Lab puppy!

The bond between dogs is strongest within the same litter and tends to funnel out from there. So, if you were to bring home two siblings from the same litter, it would not be wise to let them spend a great deal of time alone together because they will then set an alpha role between them and it would be more difficult for the human to gain that role. However, you have two Labs that are not from the same litter, were not raised around each other, and have a good difference in age. Therefore, there is no reason to limit the amount of time she spends with your older Lab.

In order to help you maintain your alpha role and allow for the new pup to properly bond with you, here is what worked for us and what I highly recommend:

1. Each Lab should have its own bed, crate, food, and water bowls. This way they are not sharing and are able to be individual dogs in their own defined space.

2. If they are being crate trained, make sure each dog has its own crate. It is fine to have them next to each other but they need their own "den".

3. Treat and pet in succession of the hierarchy in your "pack". Although you may think the older dog should be the alpha out of the two, remember that you are alpha and they will let you know which one of the two ranks higher then the other in the coming months.

4. Do things separate with the dogs as well as together. Bringing home a new pup can make the older dog get confused about its place in the pack. Allow the older dog (as well as the pup) one-on-one time. If you have another person in your house, this is a great time for one of you to take one dog for a walk while the other one stays home and plays - then change up the roles from time to time.

5. If you are going to bring either of your dogs to training, make sure they are in separate classes. Otherwise, the dogs will concentrate on each other and not on the training. (Trust me on this. This was a mistake we made and it wasted our money and time having them both in the same class.)

The bond between your pups can be one of the most wonderful things to witness if done properly. Both of the Lab Brats are so loving to each other that if one even cries in her sleep, the other one will wake up out of a sound sleep, go over to the other, and nuzzle her to wake her up and make sure she is ok. Then she will walk away and go back to where she was. They also clean each other's ears, play lovingly, and so on. However, it was difficult to separate them in the beginning because we didn't do enough alone time. I am happy to report that it is different today. Although one will look for the other when she is gone from the house or from site, there are no tantrums or problems.

Today they do almost everything together... it is just getting through the beginning stages to ensure that they know the alpha role lay with you and not the other dog.

Hang in there and enjoy the puppy age while you can! They grow up so fast and before you know it, you have an 84lbs baby that loves to use you as a napkin after she is done drinking her water! *laugh*

Lab smiles,

PS - I would read this article on Labrador Retriever Sibling Rivalry should you every need it in the future.

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