Large litters vs small litters. Which is best for puppies development, temperament,

  • I think its pretty common knowledge that there are large litters and small litters. What I do not think is commonly known is how the size of the littler might affect a puppies development, temperament, and socialization.

    Will a puppy coming from a larger litter be aggressive from having to establish itself in the pecking order?

    Will a puppy coming from a larger litter, be more aggressive because of competition from more puppies for the food source available when born?

    Will a puppy coming from a larger litter resource guard more?

    Will a puppy coming from a larger litter be more independent and harder to train?

    Will a puppy coming from a larger litter be more or less accepting of other dogs that are not from their initial pack?

    Will a puppy coming from a larger litter be more fearful than a puppy from a smaller litter?

    I have seen lots of discussion of what people think is the appropriate age for a puppy to be separated, or go to a new home from its mother and litter mates. There are varying opinions on this subject. I am sure each opinion is based on some personal experience and can also be agenda related.

    What I think is overlooked, and should be discussed, is how the size of the litter impacts the life of the puppy. I believe this combined with the age the puppy is separated from its litter mates and mother has a lot to do with personality and habits of a dog.

  • Personally I don't think litter size has much of a bearing on the personality/habits of my b-kidz.

    I have one basenji (Ozzy) that is from a litter of 9. To answer your questions…the only question that applies to him is is he more (or less) accepting of dogs not from his pack - that I would answer as more accepting. He is extremely easy going, friendly, pretty much chill. Wouldn't dream of resource guarding, not aggressive to people or other dogs, not fearful, pretty easy to train and not super independent...I've taken him to pet walks with 200+ dogs and he loved every person and every dog (I've have had a number of people say if they could guarantee they'd get a basenji with his temperament, they would have one in a minute). He left his litter mates at 12 weeks and came to my house at week 15 of his life. Extremely self confident.

    I have another basenji from a litter of 8 (Brando). None of these questions apply to him...I'd say he is middle of the road regarding accepting of other dogs...neither more nor less. I think he left his litter mates (in Finland) at 9 weeks. Extremely self confident. Wonderful temperament - extremely playful and very much as wise-a$$ personality.

    I have a 3rd basenji from a litter of 5 (Aaliyah)...she is EXTREMELY independent and hard to train. The world revolves around Aaliyah (at least in her mind) - EXTREMELY self confident - which I think comes from her being her dam's favorite pup in the litter. She is very food motivated, but if she doesn't want to do something, you could offer her filet mignon and she still won't do it - in fact, she won't even look at it. She was highly accepting of other dogs before she and Ruby had her blow out - now she pretty much hates all red & white basenjis and I would never trust her around one unsupervised - even male. She likes other dogs, just not r&w basenjis. She left her litter mates at 11 weeks. All this said, she has a great temperament.

    My 4th basenji (Ruby) is from a litter of 4. She is the least confident of all my basenjis. Not super confident with people or dogs...just the make-up of her personality I think. She does not like to be approached by strangers - people or dogs - and must make the initial overtures in order for her to be comfortable. She will tolerate strangers who come up to her, but you can tell she isn't comfortable with it. Her litter mates left at 10 weeks - she was the breeder's pick from the litter. She has an extremely sweet temperament with those she trusts.

    All 4 of my basenjis are extremely well socialized - been around lots of people and lots of dogs from early ages.

    So why do you think all these things about large litters - aggressive, resource guarders, fearful, etc...?

  • @renaultf1:

    So why do you think all these things about large litters - aggressive, resource guarders, fearful, etc…?

    I do not have enough information to draw any kind of conclusion. That is why I posted this topic and these questions. I am hoping there are long time Basenji people who have experience from both a breeder and owner's point of view. Maybe they will share their thoughts and personal experiences just as you have.

  • What's large and what's small? The average litter size is probably somewhere between 3-6. I would worry much more about what the breeder is doing to socialize the puppies than the litter size. That has a much more established impact on behavior. If there were any hard correlations between large litter size and behavior, I'm betting it would be out there somewhere. I have a puppy now from a litter of 7 and he is the sweetest, most confident puppy I've ever had. He also interacted with 2-3 adult basenjis. My other one is from a litter size of 5, but she had 3-4 adult basenjis to interact with as well. I personally would view a nice size litter as a positive thing as it provides more interactions for them to have. He does tend to eat his food rather fast, so maybe that is a result of having to eat from the same bowl as 6 other puppies, but he doesn't show any signs of resource guarding at all as a result of that.

  • IMO litter size is not relevant. It's how you socialize the litter and the genetics of the dam and sire. I have one line who could not care less about you. They are very independant and are entirely focused on what they are doing. Saying that though, the one Dog (Johnny-Litter of 4-all males)I kept from that litter is very attached to me, but, if he gets something in his mind, you still fall last. As to other dogs he can be, not aggressive, but definitely not accepting of other males or females near his favorite girl. For people, he doesn't really care if they are there or not. I had someone else he's never met show him at one show, (because he's decided to be an a** on the stand) and while he was a HUGE a**, he was not aggressive at all.
    My little girl (Rose-litter of 6, 3 males, 3 females)I kept back from another litter, is very attached to me and looks to me for everything. She's great with people, doesn't care about other dogs, and is generally okay with me doing anything with her. The adults that I have are standoffish with other people and the adult female in the house (Sugar-I think a litter of 4? Robyn would know for sure) doesn not like other dogs-male or female. (in fact, I think she delights in teasing other dogs that are in their crates when we see them) The old boy I have, (Shadow-litter of 3? Again Robyn would know for sure) is neutered and couldn't care less about other dogs. While he's good with people, he doesn't seem to care who touches him and who doesn't, he doesn't seek attention from people other than the family. So, personally, I don't know how much size of litter compares to genetics and socialization. My opinion only.

  • I have not raised any litters that I would really consider large but in the litters I have raised I have seen plenty of individual variation within the litter. Genetics and socialization play key roles in how the puppies grow up. It may be more of a challenge with a large litter for a breeder to get each puppy the socialization it needs to become a well adjusted adult but that can also happen in small litters if poorly socialized. My mom has a dog that is a resource guarder and has some fear issues, he was poorly socialized prior to her getting him due to the breeder being unable to properly socialize him due to a health issue that arose shortly after the litter was born.

  • There are some documented problems that occur with singleton puppies. They tend to not learn bite inhibition or frustration tolerance from their litter mates, so the breeder has to work extra hard to teach these things.

  • Isn't it the Momma dog and litter mates that are relied on to teach the socialization? Isn't this the same as what would be happening out in the wild? So what exactly does a breeder do to socialize a new born litter other than letting them interact with one another?

  • The puppies also need to be exposed to different environments and people (children, adults, men, women), different animals (say if you want one that is ok with cats). Dog-dog interaction is just a piece of it. The questions you asked do not rely on just dog-dog interactions.

    Sent from my PC36100 using Tapatalk 2

  • If you have a commercial breeder or BYB whose dogs do not live in the house and the pups are removed from their mother at too young of age then the size of the litter does not matter. My first B was an older puppy and he was around larger dogs at the breeders home in addition to other Bs. He loved larger dogs and at lure coursing events was extremely friendly towards them and even tried to play with a Borzoi. He came from a normal size litter. The older B pups I have rescued and who have been with other Bs are much more social. Most of these were unsold pups, not ones that went to pet stores and returned.


  • @TwinDogsDifferentMothers:

    Isn't it the Momma dog and litter mates that are relied on to teach the socialization? Isn't this the same as what would be happening out in the wild? So what exactly does a breeder do to socialize a new born litter other than letting them interact with one another?

    IMO that's socialization within their own pack. While they learn certain functions within their pack, if they aren't exposed to other dogs, people, places, things, they can have a behaviour that is unacceptable when they are outside their comfort zone. If they are taken by the breeder to see new placed, things, people, dogs, they (the puppies) become much more acceptable of strange situations, people, dogs than if kept within their own pack.

    For example, if your dog is never exposed to, say, buses going by, then when that happens, the dog may exhibit behaviour which you consider unacceptable because of their fear of the unknown. However, if they hear the buses, going by and see them, smell them, then they become much calmer when the bus rolls by and disregard the bus. Same goes with thunderstorms. If your dog has never been exposed to loud noises, then a thunderstorm becomes a terror for the dog who will hide under the bed, possible defacate/urinate, etc. However, for dogs that are exposed to loud noises, the thunderstorm may become just another noise.

    Again, this is MO.

  • Socialization is far more than being with their littermates and dam. Socialization being exposed to a wide variety of situations so that the puppy learns that variety is normal. Though there is no way to expose a puppy to everything they may encounter as an adult, the more you do expose them to the better they are at handling new things when the grow up. It is a very time consuming thing to properly socialize young pups.

  • And to add to what Lisa said, socialization doesn't end with the breeder. It is very important to keep exposing the pup to new things once they go to their new homes.

    Sent from my PC36100 using Tapatalk 2

  • Exactly right Clay. Continued socialization is really critical in having a puppy grow up to be a well adjusted adult dog.

  • This is a very good topic. Thank you for starting it TwinDogsDifferentMothers.

    My litters have ranged in size from 1-6 per litter and I do not believe that the size of the litter has any connection to individual temperament or behavior quirks. I agree with those who have said that genetics and socialization play the largest role. Experiences and exposure during the pup's early socialization (3-14 weeks) can affect behavior. For instance, if a pup has not been gently and appropriately exposed to loud noises during this period then it may grow up to be afraid of thunder or fireworks. This has nothing to do with litter size.


    And to add to what Lisa said, socialization doesn't end with the breeder. It is very important to keep exposing the pup to new things once they go to their new homes.

    This is correct. No matter how well the breeder has started a puppy, if the owner does not continue socialization, behavior and temperament issues can be formed.

  • I guess I am at risk of repeating my some of my questions. Please be patient with me if you can.

    So what is it that the breeder is doing that actually socializes the puppies beyond them being with their pack?

    I am just trying to get an idea of what the breeder would actually be doing with the puppies to facilitate this.

    I do agree that continuing socialization is very important and the responsibility of the final home that the puppy becomes part of.

    I think I do need to go back and re-ask about your views in regard to large vs small litters and competition for food.

    Since someone in the thread asked for clarification of what a small litter is and what a large litter is, for discussion purposes lets say a large litter consists of 8 puppies, and a small litter consists of 4 puppies.

    After weening, do breeders typically feed each puppy separately in separate bowls, or are they all fed together in separate bowls at same time or are they fed together from a few larger bowls?

    Since I/we do not know what the typical practice is for breeders we were wondering.

    Lets say a few larger bowls are used after the puppies are weened and staring to eat regular puppy food. Wouldn't this type of feeding possibly cause food aggression? Wouldn't a larger litter produce a more food aggressive dog based on the competition for the food resource available? Even though there might be more of the resource, there is certainly more competition for it.

    Now lets take each puppy and feed them individually. Will they still compete for food if fed separately? Are they as likely to develop a food resource aggressive behavior?

  • I know that all 4 of mine were fed from communal bowls while they were pups while being weened and after they were weened. Eventually they were transitioned into eating by themselves in their crates (can't remember what age that was). Again, none of mine are food aggressive (as adults or were food aggressive as pups) and they run the gamut of coming from litter sizes of 4 - 9 pups. So for my 2 that are from large litters - they don't compete for food if fed separately. Mine are all fed in their crates because I want to know how much they are eating - not because they have any sorts of issues around sharing food. Brando does have an issue about guarding his crate with the other dogs (not the humans) - but take the crate out of the equation and he shares toys, food, everything just fine. In fact, I used to feel bad for Brando when puppy Aaliyah came into the pack, because she would take all of his toys, and he would never stop her - he just let her take them - you would look over and she would have all the toys and the other 2 b-kidz would have none.

    For socialization, my kids breeders have strangers in (men, women, hats, no hats, etc), are exposed to loud noises like vacuums, cars, etc. Then when I took mine home and they had their 2nd set of vaccines, I took them into the city weekly for puppy play group so they were exposed to different dogs, walked around cars, walked on busy city streets (so exposed to sirens, car horns, traffic, people, etc), walked into the buildings of dog shows…lots and lots of socialization. Now as adults, they view the vacuum as a toy to chase (tails wagging - sometimes even yodels), and they don't even acknowledge loud noises (cars, sirens, thunder).

  • As I said, puppy socialization is hard work. Many breeders start with Early Neurological Stimulation,

    Once the puppies eyes are open and they are getting their feet under them, breeders will start enriching their environment. This means providing different surfaces, toys, noises, so they get used to variety. I have cat tunnels, wobble boards, a variety of toys that add to their environment for them to explore. Once their eyes are open, I have people over to my house so they get exposed to all sorts of different people including kids. I have a friend who also takes my puppies for a day so they are exposed to being in different households and see different breeds of dogs, this usually happens around 8-9 weeks old though L'Ox stayed with her at 5 weeks old when I had to attend a funeral and The Men In Black were there at 7 weeks while I attended my brother's wedding. We make sure they are around normal household activities like vacuuming, the dishwasher, the hose, the broom, etc. and also things like loud movies with lots of bass, party poppers, and other loud noises. We take careful note of how the puppies react to new experiences and work with them on any problem spots we find.

    As for your litter size question, I think it has been answered. It makes no real difference if they are from a large litter or small litter, except singletons who do have some added challenges but even they can grow up to be apparently "normal". Most breeders do communal feeding when puppies are weaning, the competition often helps to encourage eating. They are often transitioned to feeding by themselves at 8 weeks or so though they may still have some meals communally fed and some individually fed.

    Are you having a resource guarding issue with your puppy? Why are you so persistent in trying to make resource guarding an issue of litter size or raising?

  • TwinDogs…and btw, I see you've never done any sort of member intro, what are your basenjis names...always good to welcome someone new, and new b-pups to the forum...

  • @TwinDogsDifferentMothers:

    After weening, do breeders typically feed each puppy separately in separate bowls, or are they all fed together in separate bowls at same time or are they fed together from a few larger bowls?

    I see no point in putting multiple bowls of food down with puppies running loose together. All they do is to run from bowl to bowl because, as any good Basenji knows, "whatever your sibling is eating is much better than what you have yourself". This holds true whether you have a litter of 2 puppies or 6+. My litters are fed together from a single, large bowl until I start crate-training them. From that point on I feed each pup it's meals alone in it's crate. All of my dogs, of all ages, are fed individually in their own crates.

    Based on your questions, I'm curious if you are the same person who commented on my youtube video a while back where my pups are shown eating together?

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