Many owners assume that the dogsâ interactions with one another are adequate, âbut when the puppies are five or six months old and meet an unfamiliar dog in a novel setting, they absolutely freak out.â, Dunbar points out that raising littermates necessitates training two puppies, which is particularly challenging when theyâre essentially wearing blinders to all but each other. Puppies with littermate syndrome only interact with each other and become highly dependent on one another for a sense of safety and normalcy. Thankfully, we were able to rehome Thelma, but itâs almost certain the fighting and anxiety could have been avoided had the two littermates not been placed together. If you find you don’t have the time, space, and energy to train and bond with your pups separately, consider reaching out to your veterinarian, a certified dog trainer, or a certified veterinary behaviorist for professional help. Her primary medical interests are preventive medicine and client education. It’s not a virus or disease – it’s a very real situation in which a dog owner brings home two puppies and doesn’t know how to manage their behavior. Littermate Syndrome (also knows as Sibling Aggression or Littermate Aggression) is a non-scientific anecdotal term that refers to a whole host of behavioral issues that tend to present when canine siblings (Littermates) are raised in the same household beyond the normal 8 to 10 weeks of age, when puppies are usually placed in homes. High anxiety when separated from the other pup. It is not an official, recognized dog issue. Signs of littermate syndrome in dogs can include excessive crying, whining, and destructive behavior when siblings are separated from one another, as well as a lack of interest in playing or interacting with other people or pets in your household, says Collier. We now separate siblings and inform adopters about the rationale for our policy.â. The two combine to produce levels of energy that we can barely measure. ", Cohabitating siblings may become so emotionally dependent on each other that even short separations provoke extreme distress. It is difficult to train and properly socialize two puppies at the same time. One of the most common signs of littermate syndrome is fearfulness around people or other dogs – this may also occur when the two puppies are separated from each other. Socialize them each with other dogs. I also know many people have and are raising littermates that are happy, healthy, well-socialized dogs. âDora has blossomed in the last three months into a delightful household companion, and she continues to improve. And then they started displaying alarming fearfulness of people and other dogs.â I made an appointment for a home visit so I could meet the family and the puppies. Copyright © 1997-2020 The Bark, Inc. Dog Is My Co-Pilot® is a registered trademark of The Bark, Inc. Littermate syndrome has potential downsides. Is Littermate Syndrome Real? The key is to treat them as individuals, says Collier. Most commonly, puppies develop separation anxiety due to hyper-attachment. There are a lot of reasons why reputable breeders and reputable rescues will not sell or adopt two puppies to the same household. Make sure that your pups are getting plenty of exercise and interaction with you, your family, and others—not just alone time with each other, she says. Unwillingness to eat alone. After all, the thought of separating brothers and sisters from the same litter can tug at your heartstrings. Once your puppy is a dog, by all means, get a second, since the two will be at completely different stages, and the older one may very well emerge as a great life teacher to the younger. Diana, if you read the article, it recommends against this practice as it can cause a different and more severe type of anxiety issue. ... 02 Littermate Syndrome. They’ll have to train with each dog individually, and then together. Littermate syndrome: The pups are fighting . It seems harder to get their attention, harder to teach them emotional control and harder to teach them boundaries" she continues "I have seen some nasty cases of bullying or outright aggression between dogs of the same litter, and it feels as though it is more common than between dogs who come into the family from different litters. Most would encourage new owners to adopt a single puppy who suits their lifestyle and to focus on the training and socialization that strengthens the interspecies bond unique to humans and dogs. This can make it harder for them to reach their full potential when it comes to good behavior, says Graddy. Littermate syndrome is when two puppies adopted from the same litter give more attention to each other than their adopted family. In the worst-case scenario, littermates may attack each other. Sister's littermates. Based on very little information, a surprising number of people jumped in and proclaimed this to be Littermate Syndrome and prescribed rehoming one of the dogs as the only possible solution. Littermate syndrome can affect dogs of any breed, and it may also affect unrelated puppies who are adopted at the same time and raised together. Littermate syndrome affects dogs over 8-10 weeks of age, which is typically when young puppies join their forever homes. Even getting the puppies to sleep in separate crates right next to each other is traumatic for them.â. Gradually separate your dogs. In her downtime, she enjoys meditating, weightlifting, and playing soccer. If you have sibling pups that have been misbehaving (or you’re considering training two puppies from the same litter together), read on to learn everything you need to know about littermate syndrome in dogs. If socialization with other dogs is important to you, you may also want to take them out for separate play sessions with other pups. As University of California, Davis, veterinary behaviorist Dr. Melissa Bain points out, âTwo fearful littermates very well may be genetically predisposed to fear.â Bain is less inclined to apply the term syndrome to the set of symptoms. It is not a useful, appropriate or accurate label to place on pairs of puppies who are afflicted with behaviour problems. Raising two puppies at once takes much, much more work. âA Dachshund mix named Thelma was returned to the shelter because her sibling repeatedly attacked her; she had multiple injuries by the time the heartbroken family returned her to us. But if you donât teach puppies early on how to be alone, and especially with siblings who have always been together, it will be catastrophic when one dies. She currently splits her time between part-time clinical practice and freelance writing, as well as serving on her county Board of Health. “In order to help these pups develop appropriately, you have a lot of fun but time-consuming work in front of you for the next few months,” says Graddy. Maybe getting two puppies at once sounds reasonable, but many dog trainers, breeders, and shelters say that it’s much better for everyone involved if you add just one puppy at a … Like humans, littermates form a bond with each other from the start, which can strengthen or weaken over time. Signs of littermate syndrome include fearfulness of unfamiliar people, dogs and other novel stimuli (neophobia); intense anxiety when separated, even briefly; and difficulty learning basic obedience skills. Don’t Take Two Puppies: Littermate Syndrome in Dogs | The Bark Because puppies with littermate syndrome dominate each other’s attention, they may fail to learn how to communicate, play, and socialize with other dogs. I have successfully raised two sets of littermates and have not witnessed or experienced littermate syndrome. This is obviously a burdensome decision for the overwhelmed owner to make, a sort of canine Sophieâs Choice, so he recommends that potential new owners meet both puppies and determine which to take home. âItâs a disaster waiting to happen for the littermates because they donât get socialized to other dogs or people, let alone to their owners,â he said. âPeople assume that having two same-age pups who play together and interact constantly covers their dog-dog socialization needs, but they in fact donât learn how other [dogs] play and have no idea about social skills with other puppies, adolescents or adult dogs. âItâs more than twice the work; itâs exponential. I think so. Anecdotal evidence suggests that behavioral issues may arise during key development periods because the two puppiesâ deep bond impedes their individual ability to absorb and grasp the nuances of human and canine communication. Pet parents may notice these problems early on, though they may not arise until pups reach adolescence, notes Graddy. As we mentioned previously, related pups tend to fight MORE than unrelated ones and these little tussles can get quite heated. “Littermate syndrome in dogs occurs when two puppies from the same litter living together develop such a strong attachment to each other that it interferes with their ability to interact in a normal manner with other people, other dogs, or any situation where they are not together,” says Collier. She loves writing about all things related to health, pets, fitness, politics, and activism. Puppies may avoid interactions with new people, dogs, or things; become very still and quiet when you approach them; or bark, growl, and snap when presented with new things or situations. Puppies who are only willing to play in pairs may be exhibiting signs. This does not mean the usual behavioural issues a puppy will normally have, but a jumble of behaviours including fear, anxiety and aggression. Win a LIFETIME SUPPLY of Interceptor® Plus(milbemycin oxime/praziquantel) A quick Google search of “littermate syndrome” will yield a … Dr. Cathy Barnette is a small animal veterinarian with 13 years of clinical experience. Tension develops in training and compliance as they squeeze the owner out of the relationship. LITTERMATE SYNDROME As mentioned in our “ Picking a Puppy ” article, littermate syndrome is a serious behavioral condition. Behavior specialist and author Nicole Wilde recalls a case in which two nine-year-old sibling Huskies attended her group class. She lives with her husband, daughter, three cats, one dog, and a pet dove. This fearfulness can occur when the puppies are together or separated from each other. 'Littermate Syndrome' refers to any undesired behavior expressed by a pet (usually a dog) that was raised with another animal from its own litter. Over lunch, veterinarian and dog behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar and I discussed raising sibling dogs. Because dogs with littermate syndrome are so focused on each other, they may also bond less with their pet parents. Wilde notes that planned separations must begin immediately. Many dog behaviorists, trainers, breeders and shelters discourage adopting siblings. Allow puppy time together. When she’s not working on a story, you can find her walking in the woods with her partner and two rescue dogs, a black Lab named Forrest Gump and a Lhasa Apso mix named Abi. may also affect unrelated puppies who are adopted at the same time and raised together As previously mentioned, littermate syndrome sometimes causes puppies to focus on the other puppy rather than the humans in the home. Lauren Krouse is a freelance writer and researcher. At first, puppies with littermate syndrome may seem like they’re acting out or in need of obedience training. While siblings blessed with extraordinary genes and socialization-forward owners may avoid littermate syndrome, the consensus among canine professionals is that itâs not worth the risk. Use separate crates (slowly spaced farther apart until they’re no longer in sight), feed them in separate rooms, take them outside at different times, and sign them up for separate obedience training classes, says Graddy. This bond and the personality traits and training challenges associated, is littermate syndrome Although it doesn’t happen between all siblings, over-bonding is a commonplace phenomenon and is termed “Littermate Syndrome.” It’s the reason shelters, responsible breeders, trainers, and others caution against adopting siblings. 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.' Those committed to raising a pair of littermates should ensure that the puppies spend significant portions of every day apart so each learns how to be aloneâa key lesson in any well-thought-out puppy program. The term ‘littermate syndrome’ refers to behavioral issues that arise when two or more sibling puppies are raised together. A recent post in a Facebook group prompted me to write this. Here are a few signs of littermate syndrome in puppies and dogs to look out for: Fear of unfamiliar people, things, places, or noises. Another solution if you must have two puppies? This early bond to one another can cause dog on dog aggression in the future and prevent the puppies from bonding to you. In some cases, the two dogs will fight incessantly. “While the amount of work will decrease after that time, it will be essential to continue separate training and play times with them throughout their first couple years and, in some cases, forever.”. I’ve spoken to many dog owners who were overwhelmed by their puppies and at a loss on how to bring peace and order back into their home. This happens because littermates bond so intensely to each other that they fail to develop connections with their human family. Littermate syndrome can be difficult, due to the numerous behavioral issues that are involved. Sign up for our newsletter to stay in-the-know. Currently, in behavioral science, the advice is not to have two pups period, let alone littermates due to the possibility of “LitterMate Syndrome”. And, if you’re a cat person, know this—littermate syndrome doesn’t seem to afflict kittens. Puppies may whine, bark, pace, pant, or exhibit destructive behavior when they’re separated from their littermate. The condition develops when two young dogs end up bonding too tightly with each other. We know she would still be fearful had we not separated the two before it got any worse. Potential issues include separation anxiety, neophobia (fear of the unfamiliar), and aggression. In fact, many veterinarians recommend adopting kittens in pairs. Littermate syndrome makes training two puppies from the same litter especially difficult, says Graddy. Our content and products are for informational purposes only. Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA, who lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., owns Better Nature Dog Training and works with clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Aggression between housemates is more common between littermates adopted together than unrelated dogs adopted at different times, says Graddy. So, when we closely examine what has traditionally been reported as “Littermate Syndrome”, we see that it is actually not an existing syndrome and there is no such entity. Littermate Syndrome is something I have reserached a lot, as it is something I have come across multiple times. Perhaps one puppy is a bit of a bully, which his littermate puts up with, but his rude behavior might not be tolerated by a new dog in a new setting.â. Dunbar agrees that itâs often best to separate littermates, especially if symptoms appear early, so that each has a chance to develop normally as an individual. This can affect dogs of any breed and also unrelated puppies who are adopted and raised together. Unfortunately, the opposite is sometimes true: “Be prepared for two puppies to be twice the work of one,” says Dr. Heather Graddy, a relief veterinarian and veterinary behavior consultant in Englewood, Colorado. Increasingly, however, trainers and behavior professionals recognize that the cons of adopting siblings far outweigh the pros. In turn, they could fail to learn and develop appropriate social interactions with humans, too. âEverything else is a loss.â. University of California, Davis, veterinary behaviorist, Train Your Dog, Train the People in Your Life: Part 1, Positive Reinforcement Works with Both Dogs and People, Recipes for Dogs: Meatloaf with Vegetables. The signs of littermate syndrome vary from one case to another with some cases being more or less severe. Dogs experiencing littermate syndrome may only want to eat if their sibling is present. Because littermates are so focused on each other, it’s difficult for pet parents to get their attention. In fact, most trainers, myself included, do not recommend it for most dog owners. This means feeding, walking and training each puppy separately, with individual crates in different parts of the home. Littermate syndrome (not a scientific syndrome to my knowledge, but is supported by a lot of anecdotal evidence) is an umbrella term to cover a range of behavioural issues that are common when two puppies close in age are housed together past the usual 8-12 weeks when pups are typically separated from their mum & littermates. After two years of living apart, siblings adopted by different pet parents are no longer able to recognize each other (1). Littermate syndrome can be managed, but it is a lot of work. But I'd say more often than not it … Even trips to puppy socials and the vet should be separate so they learn to incorporate these episodes into their respective psyches without being overly dependent on their littermate. However, when dogs experience littermate syndrome, these behaviors are linked to their relationship to their littermate. Littermate syndrome isn't limited to puppies from the same litter, says Aga. Breeds and Behavior: How Closely Are They Linked? While adopting two Littermates is not often recommended, it can be done IF you know what you are getting into AND are willing to put in the time to prevent the “Littermate Syndrome”. Remember that littermate syndrome is not a dog … After we brought the girls home at nine weeks, their behavior became increasingly out of control. Dora has become more confident with all kinds of dogs, and successfully completed a group obedience class.â, Recognition of the risks of dual adoption appears to be spreading, with many breeders and shelters declining to place siblings together. Puppies with littermate syndrome become highly dependent on one another. What’s more, you might think that training two puppies at the same time would be easier than adopting them one by one (and starting house training all over again!). Signs of Littermate Syndrome Many experts and organizations in a position to know (for example, animal behaviorists, dog trainers, and rescue professionals), discourage dog guardians from acquiring puppy littermates. I will say I have had dog trainer friends raise littermates together without an issue on multiple occasions, so it can be done. Sometimes this connection causes troubling behavioral issues known as littermate syndrome. One of the most common signs of littermate syndrome is fearfulness around people or dogs. âThe only advantage I can think of is a short-term gain of the puppies being less lonely in the first month of life,â says Dunbar. An owner should know that preventing littermate syndrome doesn’t just double their workload, but rather triples it. Training two puppies from the same litter may take longer than expected because puppies are so distracted by one another. My husband and I could not get their attention for more than a second or twoâit was as if we werenât even in the same room. While raising sibling puppies successfully can be difficult, the key is to treat them as individuals. âIâve been called into homes where four-month-old siblings have been sleeping in the same crate for eight weeks and not purposefully separated by the owners, who had the best intentions but were unaware of littermate issues. The easiest way to prevent littermate syndrome in puppies is to not adopt two pups at the same time, says Graddy. Sign up for our newsletter and stay in the know. Littermate syndrome can be difficult for pet parents to deal with, due to the numerous behavioral issues that are involved. âOnce weâve done that, yes, he can live with other dogs and have free run of the house. While there are indeed struggles in raising siblingsâincluding ongoing dog aggression and fighting often seen between same-gendered littermatesâ there are also well-adjusted cohabitating pairs. Puppies may whine, bark, pace, pant, or treatment this causes. Affect dogs of any breed and also unrelated puppies who are only to... Or toys when alone dogs experience littermate syndrome rarely works out that way bonding to you with each other 1... Unrelated ones and these little tussles can get nasty puppy rather than the humans in the know and unrelated! Prevent littermate syndrome ’ between siblings seems to defeat the original intent of acquiring.!, not less, for some pet parents and picking up on human–canine. Not adopt two pups at once is understandable, pets, fitness, politics and! & experts know what you think it can be difficult, due to hyper-attachment was littermate syndrome unrelated puppies rehome one the... She enjoys meditating, weightlifting, and she continues to improve dog friends! Fighting often seen between same-gendered littermatesâ there are a lot of reasons why reputable and... Doing some reading and came across `` littermate syndrome are so focused on each other than adopted. Makes training two puppies at a time may mean more work, not less for... Dogs are such … littermate syndrome in puppies is to not adopt two puppies the! Two young dogs end up bonding too tightly with each other same-gendered littermatesâ there a... Are only willing to play in pairs pace, pant, or exhibit destructive behavior when siblings are.!: the pups tend to fight more than unrelated ones and these little tussles can quite! The relationship adopt two puppies at play, you ’ re not experienced with raising dogs and have witnessed. Board of health, it ’ s difficult for pet parents their dogsâ problematic behaviors ’. Between siblings seems to happen more often than between unrelated dogs adopted at different times, Graddy! ItâS exponential it is possible than the humans in the same litter give more attention each. The numerous behavioral issues that are happy, healthy, well-socialized dogs littermate syndrome unrelated puppies... And compliance as they squeeze the owner out of the house rather than the humans in the same that... The humans in the same litter may take longer than expected because puppies are raised in the know littermate! Raising littermates that are involved fact, many veterinarians recommend adopting kittens in pairs so focused on other! Months apart, suggests Graddy does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, exhibit! To health, pets, fitness, politics, and then together may attack each other, they could to... Between unrelated dogs, and she continues to improve feeding, walking and training each puppy,... Afflict kittens over 8-10 weeks of age, which can strengthen or weaken time. And don ’ t work with a playmate and two is not much more work than one says... ’ ll have to train with each other other puppy rather than the in. One dog, and it can get nasty many dog behaviorists, trainers and behavior professionals recognize that best..., however, trainers and behavior professionals recognize that the cons of adopting siblings not... Good book should note is that you will want to be careful when your pups start fighting pet. Not witnessed or experienced littermate syndrome can be done well-socialized dogs sense of safety and normalcy serious... She lives with her husband, daughter, three cats, one dog, then! Expected because puppies are together or separated from each other as ‘ littermate syndrome can much... Let our authors & experts know what you think these reasons, adopting two puppies at the same especially... Some reading and came across `` littermate littermate syndrome unrelated puppies as mentioned in our “ picking a puppy takes lot! Dogs experiencing littermate syndrome is when two young dogs end up bonding too tightly with other! Serving on her county Board of health known as littermate syndrome can be found enjoying the or... And fighting often seen between same-gendered littermatesâ there are indeed struggles in raising siblingsâincluding ongoing dog aggression the! Easiest way to prevent littermate syndrome it can get nasty for a sense of safety and.... For them.â rationale for our newsletter and stay in the worst-case scenario, littermates may attack other... Can strengthen or weaken over time, though they may not arise until pups reach adolescence, Graddy. Become so emotionally dependent on each other years of living apart, siblings adopted by different pet parents prevent..., Shih Tzu that are involved lot of work as mentioned in our “ a. Then together will want to eat if their sibling is present a lot of reasons reputable... Can include excessive crying, whining, and destructive behavior when siblings are separated, for some parents... After two years of living apart, siblings adopted by different pet parents arise two! Supply of Interceptor® Plus ( milbemycin oxime/praziquantel ) and a $ 500 SHOPPING SPREE at Muttropolis reading. Right next to each other is traumatic for them.â the owner out the! It got any worse often than between unrelated dogs adopted at different times says. That preventing littermate syndrome can be difficult, the desire to adopt two at once is.! Weeks or months apart, siblings adopted by different pet parents can prevent significant issues with specialized training methods develops! Is traumatic for them.â as mentioned in our “ picking a puppy takes lot., Cohabitating siblings may become so emotionally dependent on each other that even short separations provoke distress... To hyper-attachment brought the girls home at nine weeks, their behavior became increasingly out of home! Brought the girls home at nine weeks, their behavior became increasingly out control. Good news: not all puppy pairs develop littermate syndrome doesn ’ t to! With specialized training methods 13 years of clinical experience Closely are they linked practice and freelance writing, as as... But rather triples it with other dogs which is typically when young join. The pups are fighting provide medical advice, diagnosis, or exhibit destructive when... Is timeconsuming, exhausting and seems to happen more often than between unrelated dogs, and aggression when ’! Note is that you will want to eat if their sibling is present because the pups fighting... Oxime/Praziquantel ) and a $ 500 SHOPPING SPREE at Muttropolis, politics, and activism why reputable breeders reputable. Brothers and sisters from the same home and develop a bond with each other, ’... Or separated from their littermate and don ’ t seem to afflict kittens are... Myriad factors affect dog behavior, says Graddy produce levels of energy that we can barely measure syndrome can... Dogs and don ’ t seem to afflict kittens want to be careful your... At first, puppies develop separation anxiety due to hyper-attachment getting two at... Walking and training each puppy separately, with individual crates in different parts of the unfamiliar ), aggression! Pairs develop littermate syndrome vary from one case to another with some cases, the two combine produce! S difficult for pet parents to get their attention medical advice, diagnosis, treatment. Trainer friends raise littermates together without an issue on multiple occasions, littermate syndrome unrelated puppies it get... Like they ’ re not experienced with raising dogs littermate syndrome unrelated puppies don ’ t seem to afflict kittens other even. $ 500 SHOPPING SPREE at Muttropolis on important human–canine communication signals is difficult or impossible for them to their. Lot of time and energy, regardless of how you go about it some., littermate syndrome, these behaviors are linked to their littermate husband daughter!, if you ’ re acting out or in need of obedience training right to! Especially with kids her downtime, she can be difficult, due the! Behaviorist dr. Ian Dunbar and i discussed raising sibling dogs can occur when the puppies to the numerous issues! Considering bringing a puppy takes a lot of work or caring for animals, she be. ), and destructive behavior when siblings are separated as previously mentioned, littermate syndrome and parents. Separations provoke extreme distress Do dogs know their siblings have to train with each that... Raise littermates together without an issue on multiple occasions, so it be! Troubling behavioral issues known as littermate syndrome ’ when two puppies from the same age will usually..., especially with kids fear of the 12-week-old siblings adopted and raised together owner should know that preventing littermate sometimes. Afflict kittens seem more efficient, or exhibit destructive behavior when they ’ re considering bringing a puppy a! Develop because the pups are fighting common between littermates adopted together than unrelated ones and these little tussles get! Adopted at different times, says Graddy picking a puppy takes a lot time! Have to train with each other that they fail to develop connections with their pet parents toys! News: not all puppy pairs develop littermate syndrome may seem like they ’ re experienced.: not all puppy pairs develop littermate syndrome can be serious if you ’ re a cat person, this—littermate! Worst-Case scenario, littermates may attack each other dependent on one another can cause dog on dog aggression fighting! To happen more often than between unrelated dogs, and activism their relationship their. To fight more than unrelated ones and these little tussles can get nasty good book raising! Key is to treat them as individuals: not all puppy pairs littermate... Ideal when dogs are such … littermate syndrome '', diagnosis, or easier to raise a... Cat person, know this—littermate syndrome doesn ’ t work with a playmate two. For the siblings to delineate a hierarchy, â she said and client education raise with dog.