A Tale of Two Siblings: Littermate Syndrome in Dogs

littermate-syndrome

The idea of adopting littermate puppies can seem like an adorable, fun idea. They’ll play with each other, keep each other company, and they’re guaranteed to get along. Right? Unfortunately, not so much.

Let’s talk about littermate syndrome and why bringing home littermates can be a recipe for disaster.

But for those of you who already have sibling pups at home, we’ll also talk about proactive ways you can survive the growth and development of sibling puppies without sacrificing your sanity and the pups’ well-being.

What is littermate syndrome, and why should I think twice about adopting littermate puppies?

  • Littermate syndrome is an anecdotal term that refers to a host of issues that tend to present when siblings are raised in the same household beyond the normal 8-10 weeks.
  • Littermate Syndrome Issue 1: Lack of Training and Socializing
    • Training, socializing, housetraining, and caring for two young puppies can be more difficult than you’d imagine. Often certain components of puppy rearing are lost or done halfheartedly when there’s more than one pup, as so much time is dedicated to “surviving the madness.”
  • Littermate Syndrome Issue 2: Hyperattachment
    • Littermate puppies can quickly become hyperattached, unable to cope without the presence of the other. Often one pup suffers with this more than the other. If this happens, you’ll generally see frantic, panicked, fearful, or even aggressive behavior when the pups are separated.
  • Littermate Syndrome Issue 3: Inter-Dog Aggression 
    • Especially among same-sex siblings, fighting can become severe, even dangerous, as they reach maturity. Siblings often play hard, and fight harder.
    • Because many sibling pups are only socialized with each other, they may develop aggression or fear towards other dogs.

What if I’ve already brought home littermate puppies?

Don’t panic! In many cases, littermates can grow up to lead normal, healthy lives in the same household.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Give the puppies periodic time apart every single day. That means they should be regularly walked separately, played with separately, and trained separately.
  • Do not allow the pups to share a crate.
  • Feed meals separately, and out of two separate bowls.
  • Remember that both dogs as individuals. They will have unique personalities, may be motivated differently, and may have different energy levels and quirks.
  • Bond with the puppies individually, so that they are able to focus on you and not with each other.
  • Socialize the puppies heavily between 8-16 weeks of age. They must meet people and other animals without their sibling present, and should be taken to novel locations separately.

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