What Are "Bonded Pair" Dogs?

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The term "bonded pair" refers to a pair of dogs who are strongly attached to each other and need to be adopted into the same home. Rescues and shelters often try to keep bonded pairs together both for the dogs' well-being and because there are many advantages of adopting dogs who have already established a close connection.

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Rescues try to keep bonded dogs together for their wellbeing.

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Bonded dogs aren't always from the same litter, although they can be. Sometimes, they are rescued together as strays who have helped each other survive. Often, their former owners have died. Separating a bonded pair is usually not a good idea because it can lead to anxiety issues in one or both dogs, so rescues try to avoid it.

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Bonded pair connection

At animal rescues and adoption centers, a bonded pair is two dogs or cats that have a very close and healthy relationship. When a strongly connected pair of dogs is allowed to live together, the chances of them adapting to their new home is higher than if they are separated. This means there's a lower likelihood of acting out through destructive chewing, potty accidents, or excessive whimpering and whining.

Dogs familiar with each other do better in unfamiliar environments. However, bonded pairs must have a healthy relationship — no resource guarding or aggression with each other — to do well staying together. The term "bonded pair" usually refers to adult dogs. Puppies in litters sometimes appear to be bonded but aren't always compatible in adulthood.

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Time needed to bond

Closely bonded dogs can grieve if they are split up.
Image Credit: ChrisBoswell/iStock/GettyImages

Any two adult dogs can be part of a bonded pair if they have spent significant amounts of time together, particularly from an early age or if they've relied on each other for survival. Dogs can develop deep bonds after being together anywhere from six months to five years. Usually, it's the conditions in which they find themselves that initiates the bond rather than the length of time. However, time is a factor especially if the pair is surrendered because an owner has died.

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Benefits of bonded littermates

Bonded dogs are sometimes adults from the same litter who never separated at birth. Bonded dogs are sometimes a parent and offspring, especially if a home breeder decided to keep one puppy from a litter. If a puppy isn't adopted or is sold at an early age and he spends a lot of time with his mother, their connection is likely hard to break for either dog.

Although closely knit pairs are sometimes related, any two pets can forge a lasting connection regardless of blood relationship. Household or shelter circumstances are just as likely to be the impetus for bonding. Regardless of whether two pets are biologically related, keeping them together might be the most compassionate option.

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Dogs grieve loss and separation

Keeping bonded pairs together is sometimes challenging. It can take longer to find a home for two dogs, so rescues and shelters must decide if it is beneficial for the dogs to find individual homes sooner or stay together and wait longer. Either decision can be hard on the dogs.

Dogs are no strangers to grief. If two dogs are closely bonded and are suddenly split up, a grieving period is not only normal but expected. A dog might mourn the absence of the other by losing interest in activities, sleeping more often, withdrawing from people, refusing to eat, and staring into space. Always consult a vet when your dog shows signs of sickness or irregular behavior.

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Benefits of adopting bonded dogs

Dogs who are bonded often depend on each other to handle new and uncertain situations. This can be advantageous when moving to a new home by reducing anxiety and destructive behavior. Bonded pairs also rely on each other in frightening circumstances, such as during the drive from the adoption shelter to a new home, a trip to the veterinarian's office, or during a thunderstorm. Each other's presence is comforting when meeting other pets too. What might be most beneficial is that staying together guarantees constant company and a familiar playtime companion.

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