Can we bring more than one litter to our events?
One of the questions we get asked a lot at our puppy therapy events is ‘Are they all siblings?’. The majority of the time, we will answer yes. Due to the age of the puppies, they may not have had all their vaccinations and therefore mixing with other litters can increase the risk of spreading potential diseases.
However, on very rare occasions we can mix and socialise 2 different litters at a puppy therapy event. This can only occur if the puppies have grown up within the same household and have been socialising together at home with similar socialisation needs. If it’s in their best interest we would consider working with multiple litters.
Before working with any Breeder Partner, our Puppy Welfare team will conduct a variety of welfare checks including a home visit to ensure they meet our standards and licensing requirements.
Why might a breeder have multiple litters at once?
Every Breeder Partner we work with is different, some are professional breeders with multiple bitches and some many only ever breed their dog just once. But there are many reasons why Breeders may decide to breed their bitches at the same time.
Some dogs only come into season twice a year, and some bitches cycles in the same household can synchronise. Because of this, the breeder may decide to breed them at the same time.
Breeding dogs is a huge commitment, even if you just have one. Some breeders may also have another job and may have to take a long period off to care for their litter. Work schedules may not allow them to do this multiple times a year, therefore they may decide to breed both bitches at the same time. By doing so they can dedicate their time to them all at once as opposed to spreading it out across the year.
Certain rules come with ethical breeding, including the age that a bitch may be before breeding, the frequency of breeding a litter and how many litters they have in total. To have the litters planned for each breeding bitch, the Breeder Partner may occasionally have litters that overlap.
It’s worth noting that ethical breeders will only breed 2 bitches in season around the same time if they can contribute the time and effort into both seasons, it should never come to the detriment of the other litter.
When do we consider mixing litters?
As always the puppies' welfare remains our number one priority so we’ll only ever consider mixing litters if both parties (Breeder Partner and Puppy Welfare team) believe it’s in their best interest. There are a few reasons why we would consider bringing 2 litters to our puppy therapy events:
If a breeder had 2 litters around the same time and one of the dogs only had a singleton puppy (1 puppy born), the breeder may decide to have this puppy grow up with the other litter as this is usually what is in the best interest of the puppy; as long as the mother accepts the new addition. It may have detrimental consequences if we decided to take the litter to the event but leave the singleton puppy at home. They would miss out on opportunities to learn and bond with others, unable to develop their social skills and won’t begin to learn boundaries. It’s therefore most beneficial to take the singleton puppy to our events.
Mum rejects litter
While uncommon, there are instances where the bitch may reject her puppies, exhibiting a lack of maternal bonding or motherly behaviour. This can occur due to various factors, one being a C-section birth. During a natural birth, the hormone oxytocin is typically released, helping to form a bond between the mother and her puppies. This hormone may not be released during a C-section resulting in the bitch not recognising the puppies as her own. This can result in a lack of maternal instances and in some extreme cases, aggression towards them.
To avoid stress on the bitch, the puppies are usually separated from her and consequently, she is unable to care for and look after them. If another litter is present and a bitch that is still lactating, this dog may act as the mother for the litter, and thus 2 separate litters can then bond together with one mum.
Just like humans, dogs can experience a low milk supply, which can result in them not being able to adequately feed their puppies. Several factors can contribute to low milk supply in mother dogs including health conditions, stress, birthing a large litter or simply being a first-time mum. Just like they would in the wild, the puppies may be able to feed off another bitch if the circumstances are right. This results in the 2 litters socialising together from a young age, and being comfortable with each other. By taking both litters to our events, it gives both bitches the opportunity to rest and recover.
In some cases, one litter could have grown in confidence more than the other litter in the household. Our socialisation programme is the ideal opportunity to give the less confident puppies a chance to develop alongside the other litter. This will always be at the breeder's recommendation.
When deciding whether or not to bring more than one litter to an event, both the Breeder Partner and Puppy Welfare team will assess whether or not it’s the right decision and both litters gain the most benefit from the programme.
As a general rule, our Breeder Partners will dictate what they are comfortable with for their litter, whether that is relating to the pups' health, wellbeing, socialisation and so on.
There are a few things to consider:
The litters must have been socialising at home together prior to event days. When they are ready to join us at our events, they must be entirely familiar with each other. The breeder must have already determined that the litters get along and are suitable to attend together.
The age of the puppies is considered. If the puppies differ vastly in age, they may not be suitable to socialise together as you could over-expose the younger pups with stimuli or hold back the older ones with their socialisation.
When planning what socialisation activities take place at our events we must consider what is suitable for both litters, taking into consideration their ages, breed and capabilities. For example:
Different breeds have varying temperaments, and understanding these traits helps tailor socialisation methods to suit each breed. If 2 breeds have completely different temperaments, we risk flooding the shy ones or not providing enough stimulation for the outgoing puppies.
Some breeds are more sensitive or prone to anxiety and thus adjusting socialisation approaches can help mitigate stress for sensitive breeds. Similarly to temperament, we would be risking either overloading the anxious puppies whilst holding back the confident puppies by presenting the same socialisation sessions.
This is similar to how they are exposed to stimuli, some breeds may require more gradual exposure to various stimuli such as sounds textures and environments due to their sensitivity.
Breeds have differing energy levels, and this is something that we should consider when mixing litters at events. High-energy breeds may require more rigorous and varied socialisation activities, whereas the low-energy might prefer calmer interactions. This is similar to differing play styles.
Different breeds may also exhibit specific behaviours, such as herding, retrieving or guarding. Ensuring exposure to appropriate environments and stimuli can support breed-specific development, however, attempting similar exposure to breeds who do not have these instincts would provide no benefit.
Get in touch
Have you got a litter(s) that you would like to socialise with Paws in Work? Get in touch with our puppy welfare team to find out more!