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Littermate Syndrome In Dogs

The thought of bringing home two or three puppies instead of just one is very attractive, and more and more people are opting to adopt littermate puppies rather than just one.

However, this is not always the best idea – but why? 

Littermate Syndrome In Dogs

Here, we will discuss littermate syndrome, including what it is and how to properly raise puppies born in the same litter. 

What Is Littermate Syndrome?

First, let’s take a look at what littermate syndrome actually is. 

Littermate syndrome is the term used to refer to a bunch of issues that come with raising puppies who are siblings.

Most puppies are separated after 8 to 10 weeks as they each find new homes (see also “Fun And Helpful Things To Do At Home With Your Puppy“) but if you adopt two or more puppies that were all born in the same litter, and thus have stayed together beyond the average 8 to 10 week period, they can develop littermate syndrome. 

The key issues seen in puppies with littermate syndrome are: 

  • Hyperattachment – Puppies can develop separation anxiety due to littermate syndrome as they have always been together. This can cause puppies to grow into panicky and aggressive dogs when left alone (see also “How To Introduce Your Dog To A New Puppy“). 
  • Aggression – Puppies used to socializing with only one other dog from birth can struggle to socialize with other dogs. This can make them turn aggressive to strange dogs very easily. 
  • Training Difficulty – Splitting your time between multiple puppies instead of giving it all to just one can mean certain areas of training, socializing, and even care can be overlooked.

It’s worth noting that littermate syndrome can also be seen in some puppies born from separate litters raised together from that 8 to 10 week period.

So, even if you get two puppies born from separate litters, they can still develop littermate syndrome unless you take steps to actively discourage this issue. 

How To Stop Littermate Syndrome

If you have already bought two littermate puppies, then just follow these steps to help discourage littermate syndrome from forming:

  • Make the puppies sleep in separate crates (at first, side by side and later you can move the crates around) and give them their own food bowls and water bowls. Treat them as individuals, not as a pair. 
  • Separate them for a few hours each and every single day as they grow.  To do this, take them on separate walks, play with them in separate rooms, and train them individually. 
  • Socialize them with other puppies between 8 and 16 weeks. The more interaction they have with other puppies, the less fearful they will be of other dogs as they grow older (see also “Fear Periods In Dogs“). 

Basically, you need to give each puppy plenty of time alone to develop as an individual. 

Final Thoughts

Littermate syndrome is common when two dogs are raised together from an early age. Follow the steps above to avoid your dogs from developing these issues! Good luck!

Sharon Isaacs