Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

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Swanny1790
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Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by Swanny1790 » Wed Dec 24, 2014 12:30 am

I have a buddy who operates a kennel of working Siberian Husky sled dogs. One of his b*tches gave birth to a single puppy, about four days after our own litter was born. He asked if Trish and I would be willing to let Alladin (aka Laddy) live with our litter for a few weeks of socialization with puppies his own age. We agreed, all of us feeling it will help Laddy develop into a more emotionally stable dog.

This provides an opportunity to compare the behavior of a 'singleton' puppy with those raised with multiple litter mates. I decided I would keep a bit of a record of my observations and then decided that others might be interested as well.

Laddy came today and was introduced to Aufeis, Glacier and Hardpack about 3:30 this afternoon. They seem to be getting along quite famously. Here are my observations from this afternoon and evening. I'll try to update this thread regularly so long as it seems to be useful.

21/23/14, Tuesday:

15:30, introduced to the 3 Hedlund Husky puppies. All four dogs quickly became acquainted and began playing rigorously. The Hedlunds were generally respectful of the new puppy and there was no apparent agonistic behavior. All three of the resident puppies backed away and offered space when Laddy vocalized or showed signs of discomfort or distress.

When going from the larger play area into the confinement pen, Laddy had difficulty negotiating the low barrier across the gate and had to be assisted by a human.

16:30 - Kennel chores (Feeding, watering and scooping).
During feeding, the Hedlund puppies easily displaced Laddy from the communal food dish by growling and making hard eye contact. After several attempts to join in the meal, I finally segregated Laddy to ensure he received his full ration. He appears to be easily driven away which isn't surprising as he's never before needed to compete for his ration.

During watering, Laddy was eager to drink while the Hedlunds, as is usual for them, sought out the bits of feed used to bait the water and then ignored the liquid.

During scooping, the gate to the pen is left open giving the puppies free access to the larger play area. The three Hedlunds easily overcome the low barrier by jumping over. Laddy was again confounded by the barrier, but eventually made his way out by crawling / scrambling over the same way our puppies did when they were much smaller and younger. It seems to me they were leaping over the barrier shortly after weaning, so at about 7 weeks of age or so.

During play it was apparent that Laddy isn't as physically coordinated as his playmates. He stumbles more frequently, is more easily tripped up or tumbled during play. The Hedlund puppies continue to defer to vocalizations or signs of discomfort or distress.
"Once infected with the mushing virus, there is no cure. There is only trail." - Sven Engholm

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Nettle
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Re: Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by Nettle » Wed Dec 24, 2014 5:54 am

This is a great learning opportunity for us, Swanny, so thank you! :D

My neighbour is also raising a singleton - a Staffordshire pup - with two adult Staffords (one of which is her mother) and this one by contrast is very forward and independent, though the breed is anyway.

I am particularly interested in the gang-of-three giving Laddie space when he vocalises. They can read him but it's clear he can't read them - yet.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

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Re: Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by Swanny1790 » Wed Dec 24, 2014 11:13 pm

07:30 - Kennel chores:
Feeding - Laddy was right in the first rush to the pans, but was quickly warned away, primarily by Aufeis and Glacier. He seemed unwilling to assert himself. Placed on top of the house with his ration, he ate very little and attempted to get down off the house. He may be accustomed to a different feeding schedule at his home kennel, so it's difficult to determine if the behavior was due to intimidation or lack of appetite.

During watering Laddy became one of the group, the other puppies giving him plenty of room to gain access to the sardine baited water.

During scooping I left the pen gate open to give the puppies access to the play area. At first Laddy seemed intimidated by the low barrier across the gate, and crawled his way over it. Within a few minutes, however, he was leaping over it alongside his playmates. Learning though observation and mimicking?

While scooping in the main yard, the three resident puppies forced their way through the edge of the temporary fence that separates their play area from the main dog yard, and went run amok among the adult dogs. During that escape escapade, Laddy retreated into the dog house in the primary pen and did not participate at all. Once the three resident puppies were returned to their designated area Laddy joined them in a play session, but seemed rather subdued about it.

13:30 - Ramp training and yard romp.
The three resident puppies enthusiastically dashed out of the pen, the play yard and the garage to clamber up the ramp into the truck. Poor Laddy stopped at the door of the garage, too shy to run past Trish. Trish spent time playing with him, convincing him to take treats from her hand and so forth. Though he was unwilling to go play in the "big, wide world" he got some nice one-on-one time with a kind human.

When the gang of three returned, Laddy joined them in play and is now jumping over the puppy gate barrier quite nicely. Now that Laddy has found his "hop", we need to remove the barrier. It no longer serves it's purpose and requires the gate be opened outward rather than inward. That makes it difficult to prevent the 4 puppies from rushing the gate while we are trying to contain them.

17:15 - Kennel chores:
Laddy jumped into the communal pan during the first wave with no issues. Once he came up for air and then tried to return the Gang of 3, particularly Aufeis, growled him away. I served him the rest of his ration in a separate pan a few feet away from the others and there were no further issues.

Watering - Tonight's water was baited with raw freezer-burned moose burger, and all four puppies stuck their noses into it and didn't come up until the pan was licked clean. There was no fussing about at all.

Scooping - All of the puppies came to me for pets and affection, including Laddy. Previously he has been shying away from pets and pats, so this is a milestone for the little guy. They all enjoyed a good play session in the outer yard while I removed the barrier. Laddy was the first to respond to the "kennel up" cue to run into the pen and receive a biscuit.

He knows his name better than do the Gang of 3. When I call his name he makes immediate eye contact to acknowledge it. None of my 3 truly know their names yet, so he is steps ahead in that regard.
"Once infected with the mushing virus, there is no cure. There is only trail." - Sven Engholm

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Re: Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by MPbandmom » Thu Dec 25, 2014 9:00 pm

Very interesting Swanny. Thank you for sharing.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

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Re: Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by Swanny1790 » Thu Dec 25, 2014 11:19 pm

12/25/14, Thursday:
0800 - kennel chores.
Laddy jumped right into the communal pan with the Gang of 3, and today he stood his ground even when the others tried to growl him off. All of the puppies consumed their water this morning, which is unusual. Perhaps Laddy is setting an example for the residents?

Laddy seems more willing to approach me and sticks around for petting, as do the others.

1500 - special treat
All of the dogs got a hardboiled egg today, a sort of Christmas gift. The resident puppies have had hardboiled eggs before, so dug right in. Laddy needed his cracked before he could smell it and determine it was food. Once he did he consumed it in short order.

18:00 - kennel chores.

Laddy's behavior during feeding was the same as last night. He dug into the grub with the first wave, but when he came up for air the other puppies snarled and drove him away from the pan and I ended up giving him the remainder of his ration in a separate pan.

During watering he was right in the pan with the rest of the gang, and no issues were observed.

During scooping and play time in the attached yard Laddy was playing with the other pups, displaying appropriate body language and responding to the signals of the other puppies.
"Once infected with the mushing virus, there is no cure. There is only trail." - Sven Engholm

Swanny1790
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Re: Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by Swanny1790 » Thu Dec 25, 2014 11:20 pm

MPbandmom wrote:Very interesting Swanny. Thank you for sharing.
It's my pleasure. I'm finding it very interesting as well. I think my buddy made a good decision and will pleased with the results.
"Once infected with the mushing virus, there is no cure. There is only trail." - Sven Engholm

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Re: Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by jacksdad » Fri Dec 26, 2014 4:16 pm

thanks for sharing this. there is very little data on singletons in terms of myth vs reality. I know very little on this topic and look forward your notes and observations.

I believe it was Patricia McConnell who said there is no reason singletons have to be an automatic issue/problem.

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Re: Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by Swanny1790 » Sat Dec 27, 2014 9:10 am

12/25/14, Thursday:
0800 - kennel chores.
Laddy jumped right into the communal pan with the Gang of 3, and today he stood his ground even when the others tried to growl him off. All of the puppies consumed their water this morning, which is unusual. Perhaps Laddy is setting an example for the residents?

Laddy seems more willing to approach me and sticks around for petting, as do the others.

1500 - special treat
All of the dogs got a hardboiled egg today, a sort of Christmas gift. The resident puppies have had hardboiled eggs before, so dug right in. Laddy needed his cracked before he could smell it and determine it was food. Once he did he consumed it in short order.

18:00 - kennel chores.

Laddy's behavior during feeding was the same as last night. He dug into the grub with the first wave, but when he came up for air the other puppies snarled and drove him away from the pan and I ended up giving him the remainder of his ration in a separate pan.

During watering he was right in the pan with the rest of the gang, and no issues were observed.

During scooping and play time in the attached yard Laddy was playing with the other pups, displaying appropriate body language and responding to the signals of the other puppies.

12-26-14

During both feedings Laddy got the first half of his meal from the communal pans with the others, but was driven off when he 'gave up' his spot in the pans later. He received parts of his meal separately to ensure he gets anough.

In all other respects he seems to be well integrated into the litter and his behavior is similar to that of the ot
"Once infected with the mushing virus, there is no cure. There is only trail." - Sven Engholm

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Re: Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by Swanny1790 » Sun Dec 28, 2014 12:16 am

12-27-14, Saturday

0800 - morning kennel chores.

Laddy dove into the communal pans with his pen mates, and today was not driven away. He ate his entire ration, ignoring Aufeis and Glacier when they growled his direction - from time to time growling back at them.

1830 - evening kennel chores

Laddy ate just as well tonight, with the other puppies, as he did this morning. It looks like that will become an ongoing thing (I hope). There were several sticks shaken off a snow laden tree in the larger play area, and Laddy ended up with THE coveted stick, and did a delightful job of keeping it away from his companions. His physical coordination has improved remarkably and his interactions with the other puppies seem to be appropriate in all of the circumstances I've observed.
"Once infected with the mushing virus, there is no cure. There is only trail." - Sven Engholm

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Re: Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by MPbandmom » Sun Dec 28, 2014 12:47 pm

It is nice to hear that he is settling in and learning to stand up for himself.

Do you think the coordination improvement is from age since he is a little younger than your crew or would you attribute it to having other puppies to keep up with and play with. So I guess I am saying would you attribute it to age, increased physical activity, or having slightly older pups to copycat.

I haven't read of Laddy trying the truck loading exercise yet. Has that been a little on hold with all of the puppies, or is Laddy still hesitant to join the others in the larger area?
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

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Re: Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by Glen123 » Fri Jan 02, 2015 4:46 am

When two or more breeders gather together their conversation often centres on the number of pups born and what might have gone wrong. For years breeders have speculated on why some litters are larger than others. Since most breeders are not trained in biology or in veterinary medicine a review of these questions was addressed.


Nature has always allowed animals to adapt to their living conditions. For example, horses and cattle live in herds as herbivores and cover considerable distances each day. They tend to have a long period of gestation and produce a single offspring. Their young are born among the herd as it moves slowly, because only in the middle of the great herd can they be protected. The problem is quite different for canines. They live in small communities and their young are born in a safe hideout; because they hunt they cannot afford a long period of gestation. The reason that carnivores usually do not have single offspring litters stems from the nature of their existence. They must be constantly hunting to struggle for existence and the casualties among their young are high. Severzov calculated that the mortality among young wolves was 45% at the end of the first year and a further 32% by the end of their second year with a total loss of about 77% for all young wolves. If their litters consisted of only a few pups, the likelihood would diminish that the survivors could contribute to maintaining the survival of the species.


There are several ways to approach the study of litter size in dogs.One perspective is to look at what can influence the size of a litter; another is to study one-puppy litters. Goldbecker and Hart reported experiences with both. For the one-puppy litters they suggested the use of foster mothers and to treat the singleton as an orphan, because they have similar problems. They believed that these pups needed siblings or other dogs to interact with in order to learn the rules of the dog world. To that end it is generally accepted that at least for canines, littermates provide valuable and necessary practice sessions. Interactions provide opportunities for using their teeth, developing eye contact and a wide range of other canine behaviours that become useful as adults.


Most of the small breeds, notably the toys and terriers usually produce very small litters. This is in part because of their very small size, which limits their capacity to carry large litters. However, in the larger breeds there are wide variations in litter size ranging from 1 to 21 and in some instances they have been larger. Breeders have for years unsuccessfully tired to make improvements in litter size via breeding and selection techniques with little success. While many traits have high heritability, litter size is not one of them. It has a low heritability, around 10 -15 %, which means that one cannot count on the genes to increase the number of pups born. What can be expected will largely be determined by the non-additive factors of dominance. For example, wither height has a heritability estimate of 40-65%, which is reasonably high, therefore, it is relatively easy for the breeders of the German Shepherd Dog to produce offspring with high withers. When it comes to litter size, selecting parents who come from large litters will not improve the number of pups born. However, the physical condition of the dam at the time she is bred has been shown to increase or decrease litter size. For example, obese bitches tend to have smaller litters than those that are fit and trim. Nutrition is still another factor that was suspected to affect litter size. Some thought it would vary between and within breeds.


The fact that there are large variations in litter size attracted the attention of Russ Kelly, a noted nutritionist. He set out to better understand litter size by examining what would happen if nutrition became the variable. What he found was that the diet fed to bitches during their pregnancy did influence the size of their litters. To do this he studied three colonies of bitches that were in whelp. One colony was fed only a dry ration of good quality dog food. The second was fed the same dry ration, but supplemented with cottage cheese. The third was fed the same dry ration with supplements of cottage and meat. The important point here is that two of the three colonies were fed extra protein supplements. The colony that had the largest number of pups born alive came from mothers not fed any supplements. His findings make clear that supplementing a high quality, nearly perfectly formulated dog food with rations of cottage cheese and meat would interfere with the number of pups born alive. In other words, supplements added to a good quality commercial dog food reduces the chances for larger litters. This finding is good news to dog breeders.


Singleton pups

The singleton pup is a one-puppy litter. To better understand these pups, three general questions were used. They focused on the whelping process, behaviour during and after weaning, and the effects of the dam during their development. While many species have single births the canines are not one of them, even though there are many breeds that only produce one or two puppy litters. Small litters can be directly related to the selective breeding practices that breeders have used over the years to fulfil the physical size requirements of their breed standards. The other explanation for variations in litter size has already been demonstrated to be nutrition and conditioning.


Since there was no body of literature on this subject several breeders and veterinarians were contacted that had reported experiences with single puppy litters. Many of the breeders said that a singleton pup could be a little dog aggressive, less sociable and a little more "abnormal" than an average pup born with littermates. Others said that singleton puppies were not problem pups until they started to take notice of their surroundings. All of the breeders interviewed had also produced pups with large litters and thus had some basis for making the comparison. Most of the breeders assumed that a singleton would be larger than normal thus producing delivery problems, which resulted in a “C" section. Veterinarians on the other hand reported a wide range of different experiences that did not necessarily agree with those indicated by the breeders. Most veterinarians said that a singleton was not a larger, stronger or smarter pup then others of the same breed when larger litters were produced. They also noted that the singleton did not necessarily make a better companion. Only a few reported that they noticed behaviour problems even though many lacked interaction with other littermates.


Based on the experiences of these two groups, the recommendations that can be offered suggest a number of approaches. Apart from having no littermates to interact with, the lack of companionship could be compensated for if the dam is encouraged to provide daily stimulation and attention. Puppies learn to be a dog by being part of their "pack" in the nest. Keeping the singleton occupied was found to be important and most recommended handling by different individuals to keep them from becoming bored. While most dams naturally encourage their pups to play, they also teach them good manners. As soon as these pups are old enough they should either go to their new home (8 weeks is early enough) or have them introduced to other dogs.


Three breeders that had a singleton pup produced by frozen semen were also contacted. All reported that the pups were of normal size for their breed (Afghan Hound, Whippets, and German Shepherd). The dams of these singleton puppies had produced average litters before and after the singleton. The cause for the singleton litter, according to these breeders, was the use of frozen semen. All of the sires had previously produced average size litters. The breeders of these frozen semen litters indicated that it was just bad luck that only one pup occurred. All of these singletons were born naturally except the one produced from 16-year-old semen. Most of the dams had had a previous litter naturally. The classic reason for singletons being born by Caesarian section does not seem to be related to the use of frozen semen.


The conclusion that one can draw from this material is that breeders of a singleton should take extra care to be sure that they are occupied and do not become bored. Since most dams can only provide a limited amount of playtime, these pups should be given more opportunities to play with others (Malcolm Willis). Playgroups were suggested as excellent ways for singletons to learn the social rules of the canine species. All agreed that supervision by humans should not be ignored, because the singleton can be injured during unintentional rough play.


The group was asked about the singleton when it had become an adult. While this study was limited to several breeders and veterinarians, they all agreed that the bitches involved were considered to be good mothers and had plentiful supplies of milk. Most seemed to adore their one and only pup and none were overprotective or lacking in interest. Some were raised in the house as opposed to the kennel. Most of these pups received more supervision and more early human socialization than normally would have been provided while in the nest with a litter. In order to fill the gap involving the lack of stimulation some were placed with other litters. All grew to be normal and healthy. Most, but not all, were considered well-adjusted adults.


It is not hard to see why swimmers and runts have several things in common with the singleton. During the first few weeks after birth they all tend to be hand raised. They are given so much attention they can be categorized as being treated as a singleton. The differences between them are that most swimmers and runts do no grow up to look like their littermates and few ever become good show or working dogs. They are given so much attention and handling, so the human bond generally is very good and most make wonderful pets.


Based on a review of this complex subject and the answers gathered, it seems fair to use a conclusion reached by Scott and Fuller in the 1950's. While they did not study singletons and litter size per se, they did study differences between breeds and individuals within a breed. One of their conclusions was that there are measurable differences between breeds that are both physical and behavioural. They found that although there is a great deal of overlap between breeds, the individual capacities they will have are likely to be highly variable. They also found that most pups that become great performers, able to perform extraordinary tasks, seem to have different capacities. In short, they "probably have special combinations of certain capacities which are largely the result of accidental selection".

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Re: Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by JudyN » Fri Jan 02, 2015 5:59 am

The above post is pure plagiarism, as a quick google for some of the content will reveal :?
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Swanny1790
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Re: Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by Swanny1790 » Fri Jan 02, 2015 7:48 am

MPbandmom wrote:It is nice to hear that he is settling in and learning to stand up for himself.

Do you think the coordination improvement is from age since he is a little younger than your crew or would you attribute it to having other puppies to keep up with and play with. So I guess I am saying would you attribute it to age, increased physical activity, or having slightly older pups to copycat.

I haven't read of Laddy trying the truck loading exercise yet. Has that been a little on hold with all of the puppies, or is Laddy still hesitant to join the others in the larger area?
The past few days, Laddy's behavior is essentially identical to that of his companions - so there really isn't anything to compare. One who didn't know the background of the litter might glance at his classic Siberian mask and notice the difference, but few would realize that he wasn't whelped with the others. As nearly as I can tell, he's fully integrated with the slightly older puppies.

Since Laddy is only a few days younger than our pups, I think the coordination improvement is a result of the stimulation and increased activity of interacting with the others.

Truck loading has been put on hold for a bit, because 'life happens'. We finally got enough snow to safely work the sled dogs and their training has had to take priority. Now I'm back at work, and Trish is juggling the needs of the dogs against the needs of her employer and doesn't have much time to continue to truck training, but she is able to focus more on training some manners around humans.
"Once infected with the mushing virus, there is no cure. There is only trail." - Sven Engholm

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Re: Behavioral comparison of singleton puppy vs litter

Post by lorimonder3028 » Fri Dec 25, 2015 9:50 am

I just came across this message string, which is now a few years old. Could you tell me how Laddy is now doing and if his full-grown adult size is any different from what his expected size (had he been birthed from a full litter of puppies) would have been? I am seeing conflicting information on the web regarding the adult size of singletons. I understand why the pup would be considerably larger as it is not competing for food and resources, but is there any reason to believe the pup would grow to be larger than the parents? Thank you.

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