When it comes to both dog adoption and ownership, an important thing to consider is that any two dogs on the face of the planet, regardless of of age, size, gender, or breed can be deemed a bonded pair, as long as they have spent significant time together. Though the common underlying issue is rooted in that at least one of the two dogs is generally co-dependent, there is actually quite a variation of bonded pair types that can exist in nature.
While the norm, and what most people have come to expect of a bonded pair, is typically two dogs of the same or similar breeds, you may come across a chihuahua bonded to a Great Dane in your quest for a new pet, or two. Stranger things have happened, after all!
So whether you are in search of a bonded pair of pooches to adopt, or you are worried that you may accidentally create a bonded pair with the dogs living under your roof, the first step is to identify the bond type.
Types of bonds
The most common bonded pair is often a result of genetics. A bond between siblings for example, is created from inside the womb, even before they can understand what is happening. If litter mates are weaned and raised together until they are adopted with little time apart, their bond will remain strong. However, if two litter mates are adopted together, they will often become extremely co-dependent and will throw tantrums when apart. The topic of adopting or owning litter mates has been up for discussion for decades as many people feel as though they will never be capable of living their own life, constantly relying on the other for assurance, entertainment, or protection. Siblings can develop socialization issues such as ignoring or fighting with other dogs whom they are not related to.
Many are aware that taking a puppy from its mother too early in life can cause some major issues. Additionally, puppies who are adopted later than nine weeks and continue to nurse from their mother will find it traumatizing once they are separated. A bond such as nursing has its effects on the mother as well, especially if all of her other puppies have left the nest. She can too become very protective of her only child, and will keep treating it like a puppy for as long as she can. This means her child will not learn valuable skills such as cleaning or feeding itself, or sleeping alone.
There are two ways that grief or mourning can birth an unexpected bonded pair amongst two unsuspecting canine companions. The first, would be in a scenario wherein there are multiple dogs in a home that get along to some degree, though none would be considered bonded. Let’s say there are three dogs, and one of the dog passes away. What many people will find in this situation is that the loss of their pal will often bring the two remaining dogs together, even if they hated each other in the past! Dogs seem to have an incredible intuition to help others in emotional distress such as getting over the loss of a mutual friend, even if it means putting their baggage aside.
The second scenario that might create a bonded pair is when adopting a brand new dog in order to help their existing dog mourn the loss of his companion. If their dog seems to be taking the grieving process a little hard and appears depressed, many people will turn to this option in order to lift their pup’s spirits. And while completely well intentioned, one thing to know is that dogs, like their human counterparts are more vulnerable during times of need. Finding comfort in his new friend can sometimes result in an unrequited dependency on the newer dog for the original dog’s happiness.
As of the most noble jobs a dog can have is to be a Service Dogs for humans, there are a number of incredible ways that a dog can act as a guide for another canine with a disability as well. Much like a service dog would for his person, many dogs can actually help other dogs see, by acting as their eyes. Because dogs have such impressive hearing, they can rely on sound and minimal prompting by their guide dog to help them get around, through there is sometimes a learning curve. During the initial stages, some owners of blind dogs will opt to tether the two together as they learn to follow each other. As you can imagine, these dogs are not only bonded because they spend so much time together, but they would truly suffer apart and this decision is often supported by their vets.
Dogs who have been trained to work in other areas of assistance such as wild stock herding or shepherd dogs tend to bond together due to their every day nearness. Have you ever worked as part of a team? It tends to bring people closer together and the same goes for dogs. When canines are familiar with each others habits and learn to depend and rely on each other to accomplish a task, they can often feel alone, incompetent, or incomplete if the other dog is missing. While on a farm, these dogs tend to work in packs, if a dynamic duo clicks, they will feel like they are bonded for life.
Trauma Induced Bond
Though these situations can be sad at times, dogs who have experienced an accident or otherwise traumatic experience together will often seek each other out for comfort. Sometimes, these dogs don’t even have any prior background or knowledge of each other, such as dogs who have been saved from a flash flood, from a wild fire, or even from a puppy mill. However, sharing these experiences will more often than not bring them together in a strong bond that would not have been created otherwise. Think about passengers who have survived a plane crash for example, they don’t necessarily know each other but they share a collective harrowing experience that unites them, and their coping skills bring them comfort. Dogs in this situation will look to each other for assuagement when faced with another trauma.
Dogs who have sat in shelters together over time, especially those who share a kennel very often become bonded pairs almost out of survival. Imagine yourself leaving your family and everything you know behind, only to end up in a small, concrete box. Very similar to a trauma induced bond, these dogs often find comfort in each others company, but they also overcome issues together. Despite not having shared any past history, they have no choice but to get to understand the other, to pick up on their habits, and to trust them. In a situation where these dogs have been slighted by humans in the past, they may feel incapable of trusting the shelter staff. Their kennel mate however, is in it for the long haul, and curling up next to them in the dark, every night for what must feel like ages is sure to create a bond that is out of this world.
Animals such as the gibbon or the swan are monogamous and mate for life and though the same however, cannot be said for canines, dogs who have been rescued from a mill together will often remain a couple. Though this particular bond is very specific, it combines many aspects of trauma and kennel life together, as puppy mill dogs are most often kept in deplorable conditions, forced to breed in tiny wire cages and can go an entire lifetime without knowing another dog outside of their breeding partner.
Probably the most rare of the bonded pairs, are those between species. With the invention of the internet, we have recently begun taking note of how much love an interspecies home can share! Though there does seem to be a surge in absolutely adorable YouTube content, when you think about how many cats and dogs actually live together in this day and age, the number of true, bona fide bonded pairs is extremely low. However, in situations wherein a feline and her canine companion have lived together in a home for 12 years for example, and their elderly owner passes away, rescue organizations tend to take much pity. A reputable rescue will do everything in their power to keep the pair a unit, as they embark on their new adventure, together.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Bonds
Though in many situations, bonded dogs are kept together to ensure that they can live healthy, happy lives, there can also be too much of a good thing, so to speak. So what is the difference between a healthy relationship, versus an unhealthy one?
A healthy bond between two dogs, is one wherein the dogs provide each other with strengths that the other lacks. When together, these dogs thrive in social situations due to the confidence that their partner gives them, which they may otherwise not have. Though they may seem vulnerable when away from their partner, the absolute best is brought out in both when they are together. They truly make each other a better dog, in the way that a human hopes their spouse makes them a better person. Healthy bonded pairs take care of each other, encourage one another, and truly allow the other dog to be happy or fulfilled.
Much like the human world, there are relationships in the animal kingdom that are harmful to those involved in the long run. For example, if a bonded pair of dogs consists of one alpha and one submissive dog, there is a fine line that can be crossed wherein the alpha dog controls much of the submissive dog’s daily life. A dog who lacks confidence may allow a more self-assured dog to make decisions for him, such as when and how much he eats to whom he interacts with. It is important to acknowledge when one dog bullies another, and to identify that your submissive dog may be better off without his companion in order to succeed in life.