Remember that littermate syndrome is not a dog … 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. 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. This is obviously a burdensome decision for the overwhelmed owner to make, a sort of canine Sophie’s Choice, so he recommends that potential new owners meet both puppies and determine which to take home. Training two puppies from the same litter may take longer than expected because puppies are so distracted by one another. Sister's littermates. Of course, many factors influence behavior, and not all siblings raised together will exhibit this problem, which is called “littermate syndrome”; it’s a risk, not a foregone conclusion. 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. 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 As mentioned in our “ Picking a Puppy ” article, littermate syndrome is a serious behavioral condition. We bought two, 8 week old, Shih Tzu. But if you don’t teach puppies early on how to be alone, and especially with siblings who have always been together, it will be catastrophic when one dies.” Dunbar encourages multiple dog households— “I always like having three dogs”—but the timing, temperament and age that each enters the home is paramount. Difficulty with basic training. Most people have never heard of littermate syndrome, finding out about it while researching their dogs’ problematic behaviors. “It makes you think all littermates have problems, which is not the case.” She also emphasizes that the level of owner involvement is key, saying, “The symptoms escalate when the owners treat them as one dog with eight legs.” When conflict ensues between the pair, Bain believes it’s due to the dogs being similar in size, age and gender. As a result, teaching puppies even basic skills becomes a greater challenge than it would be if you were training them one at a time. Access our library of professional veterinarian resources. Dunbar, too, is adamant that one of the key lessons a puppy must master is how to be content with being alone, which is all but impossible with two siblings. The good news: not all puppy pairs develop littermate syndrome and pet parents can prevent significant issues with specialized training methods. Littermate syndrome often … And, if you’re a cat person, know this—littermate syndrome doesn’t seem to afflict kittens. An owner should know that preventing littermate syndrome doesn’t just double their workload, but rather triples it. Diana, if you read the article, it recommends against this practice as it can cause a different and more severe type of anxiety issue. When she's not working or caring for animals, she can be found enjoying the outdoors or reading a good book. Raising a puppy takes a lot of time and energy, regardless of how you go about it. One of the most common signs of littermate syndrome is fearfulness around people or dogs. I think so. The key is to treat them as individuals, says Collier. Puppies who are only willing to play in pairs may be exhibiting signs. A quick Google search of “littermate syndrome” will yield a … Littermate syndrome is when two puppies adopted from the same litter give more attention to each other than their adopted family. She now approaches people out of curiosity. “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. Over lunch, veterinarian and dog behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar and I discussed raising sibling dogs. 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. I have successfully raised two sets of littermates and have not witnessed or experienced littermate syndrome. This separate-but-equal arrangement is timeconsuming, exhausting and seems to defeat the original intent of acquiring siblings. Dunbar agrees that it’s often best to separate littermates, especially if symptoms appear early, so that each has a chance to develop normally as an individual. 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. Signs can include excessive crying, whining, and destructive behavior when siblings are separated. 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. What cause me to do some reading about raising two pups was the fact they are starting to be more aggressive with each other and more dependant on each other. It is not an official, recognized dog issue. The email described a familiar scenario: “We were planning to adopt one puppy, but the breeder said that raising two sisters would be easier. There are a lot of reasons why reputable breeders and reputable rescues will not sell or adopt two puppies to the same household. Since fear is the canine’s default reaction to odd or unfamiliar stimuli, this muddled understanding of the world around them can lead to impaired coping mechanisms later on. Littermate syndrome makes training two puppies from the same litter especially difficult, says Graddy. Anecdotal evidence suggests that behavioral issues may arise during key development periods because the two puppies’ deep bond impedes their individual ability to absorb and grasp the nuances of human and canine communication. Shelley Smith, adoption center manager at Pets Unlimited in San Francisco, said her shelter stopped placing siblings together after a particularly disturbing case. 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.' It is difficult to train and properly socialize two puppies at the same time. In turn, they could fail to learn and develop appropriate social interactions with humans, too. Even getting the puppies to sleep in separate crates right next to each other is traumatic for them.”. “Everything else is a loss.”. Littermate Syndrome is something I have reserached a lot, as it is something I have come across multiple times. Lauren Krouse is a freelance writer and researcher. I've been doing some reading and came across "Littermate Syndrome". And then they started displaying alarming fearfulness of people and other dogs.” I made an appointment for a home visit so I could meet the family and the puppies. Don’t Take Two Puppies: Littermate Syndrome in Dogs | The Bark 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. The signs of littermate syndrome vary from one case to another with some cases being more or less severe. “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.”. Aggression between housemates is more common between littermates adopted together than unrelated dogs adopted at different times, says Graddy. Wilde notes that planned separations must begin immediately. I will say I have had dog trainer friends raise littermates together without an issue on multiple occasions, so it can be done. 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. Over time, this can result in fear and aggression when they’re exposed to other dogs. She lives with her husband, daughter, three cats, one dog, and a pet dove. ", Cohabitating siblings may become so emotionally dependent on each other that even short separations provoke extreme distress. Tension develops in training and compliance as they squeeze the owner out of the relationship. If socialization with other dogs is important to you, you may also want to take them out for separate play sessions with other pups. It may sound ideal when dogs are such … After one of the siblings had been rehomed, I received an email from the owner describing how the remaining puppy began to thrive under a remedial socialization program. In the worst-case scenario, littermates may attack each other. 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. This happens because littermates bond so intensely to each other that they fail to develop connections with their human family. “This uniformity makes it difficult for the siblings to delineate a hierarchy,” she said. Breeds and Behavior: How Closely Are They Linked? Dora has become more confident with all kinds of dogs, and successfully completed a group obedience class.”, Recognition of the risks of dual adoption appears to be spreading, with many breeders and shelters declining to place siblings together. Is Littermate Syndrome Real? Interceptor is a trademark of Elanco or its affiliates. Raising sibling puppies successfully can be a challenge because puppies from the same litter may develop a cluster of behavioral issues known as littermate syndrome. 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. 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. 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. Most commonly, puppies develop separation anxiety due to hyper-attachment. Many dog behaviorists, trainers, breeders and shelters discourage adopting siblings. Littermate Syndrome (sometimes called Sibling Puppy Syndrome) refers to issues that are more likely to arise when puppies from the same litter (or puppies from different litters under 6 months of age) are raised in the same household together. This bond and the personality traits and training challenges associated, is littermate syndrome Puppies with littermate syndrome become highly dependent on one another. As previously mentioned, littermate syndrome sometimes causes puppies to focus on the other puppy rather than the humans in the home. 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 alone—a key lesson in any well-thought-out puppy program. Why? “Littermate syndrome” can often develop because the pups tend to prefer each other’s company over that of any human. Sometimes this connection causes troubling behavioral issues known as littermate syndrome. This fearfulness can occur when the puppies are together or separated from each other. Littermate syndrome can be managed, but it is a lot of work. 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. High anxiety when separated from the other pup. “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. 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. Unwillingness to engage with people or toys when alone. Littermate syndrome can be difficult for pet parents to deal with, due to the numerous behavioral issues that are involved. Win a LIFETIME SUPPLY of Interceptor® Plus(milbemycin oxime/praziquantel) 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. The condition develops when two young dogs end up bonding too tightly with each other. While siblings blessed with extraordinary genes and socialization-forward owners may avoid littermate syndrome, the consensus among canine professionals is that it’s not worth the risk. Myriad factors affect dog behavior, including genetics, early life experiences and owner engagement. A common thread seems to be that littermates are more likely to thrive when introduced into a household with an older dog, who perhaps acts as an arbiter and stabilizing influence. From the beginning, pups recognize their littermates primarily by scent and that recognition is strongest when they are young, says Dr. Karyn Collier, medical director for wellness medicine at Saint Francis Veterinary Center of South Jersey. 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. This means feeding, walking and training each puppy separately, with individual crates in different parts of the home. 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. Unwillingness to eat alone. Dr. Cathy Barnette is a small animal veterinarian with 13 years of clinical experience. Potential issues include separation anxiety, neophobia (fear of the unfamiliar), and aggression. 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. Let our authors & experts know what you think. Increasingly, however, trainers and behavior professionals recognize that the cons of adopting siblings far outweigh the pros. “People assume that having two same-age pups who play together and interact constantly covers their dog-dog socialization needs, but they in fact don’t learn how other [dogs] play and have no idea about social skills with other puppies, adolescents or adult dogs. Gradually separate your dogs. I also know many people have and are raising littermates that are happy, healthy, well-socialized dogs. They’ll have to train with each dog individually, and then together. Puppies with littermate syndrome only interact with each other and become highly dependent on one another for a sense of safety and normalcy. Littermate syndrome is when two puppies from the same litter are raised in the same home and develop a bond with each other. We now separate siblings and inform adopters about the rationale for our policy.”. Thankfully, we were able to rehome Thelma, but it’s almost certain the fighting and anxiety could have been avoided had the two littermates not been placed together. While there are indeed struggles in raising siblings—including ongoing dog aggression and fighting often seen between same-gendered littermates— there are also well-adjusted cohabitating pairs. Behavior specialist and author Nicole Wilde recalls a case in which two nine-year-old sibling Huskies attended her group class. © 2021 Great Pet Media. 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. She currently splits her time between part-time clinical practice and freelance writing, as well as serving on her county Board of Health. Great Pet Media does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Bullying and aggression between siblings seems to happen more often than between unrelated dogs, and it can get nasty. After all, the thought of separating brothers and sisters from the same litter can tug at your heartstrings. In her downtime, she enjoys meditating, weightlifting, and playing soccer. Littermate syndrome affects dogs over 8-10 weeks of age, which is typically when young puppies join their forever homes. Period. 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. 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. As University of California, Davis, veterinary behaviorist Dr. Melissa Bain points out, “Two fearful littermates very well may be genetically predisposed to fear.” Bain is less inclined to apply the term syndrome to the set of symptoms. Many owners assume that the dogs’ interactions with one another are adequate, “but when the puppies are five or six months old and meet an unfamiliar dog in a novel setting, they absolutely freak out.”, Dunbar points out that raising littermates necessitates training two puppies, which is particularly challenging when they’re essentially wearing blinders to all but each other. Littermate syndrome is the acquiring of two (2) puppies from the same litter that often leads to them becoming very aggressive to eachother down the road, placing family members in harms way. Getting two puppies at the same time that are about the same age will also usually result in serious bonding. One thing that we should note is that you will want to be careful when your pups start fighting. As your puppies adjust to their new normal, use treats and praise as rewards for staying calm when they’re apart, says Collier. This can make it harder for them to reach their full potential when it comes to good behavior, says Graddy. Socialize them each with other dogs. ... 02 Littermate Syndrome. Pet parents may notice these problems early on, though they may not arise until pups reach adolescence, notes Graddy. “It’s more than twice the work; it’s exponential. We know she would still be fearful had we not separated the two before it got any worse. Her primary medical interests are preventive medicine and client education. 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. Let me first say that there is officially no such official thing as ‘Littermate Syndrome’. However, when dogs experience littermate syndrome, these behaviors are linked to their relationship to their littermate. Littermate syndrome can be difficult, due to the numerous behavioral issues that are involved. Littermate syndrome is the term used when two sibling pups, or two pups from different litters but of similar age, are raised in the same household and start to develop behavioural issues. In fact, many veterinarians recommend adopting kittens in pairs. 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!). After we brought the girls home at nine weeks, their behavior became increasingly out of control. Like humans, littermates form a bond with each other from the start, which can strengthen or weaken over time. All Rights Reserved 2021. Our content and products are for informational purposes only. Another solution if you must have two puppies? AND a $500 SHOPPING SPREE at Muttropolis! As we mentioned previously, related pups tend to fight MORE than unrelated ones and these little tussles can get quite heated. But if you don’t teach puppies early on how to be alone, and especially with siblings who have always been together, it will be catastrophic when one dies. Littermate Syndrome is the name given to the common behavioral problems that arise when two puppies are raised together beyond the typical 10-12 weeks (about 3 months of age) that professional breeders recommend. “It’s a disaster waiting to happen for the littermates because they don’t get socialized to other dogs or people, let alone to their owners,” he said. “A 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 I'd say more often than not it … Two puppies being raised together were fighting. 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”. While raising sibling puppies successfully can be a tall order, it is possible. However, preventing littermate syndrome can also be as simple as treating siblings as individuals from the moment they enter your home, says Collier. 'Littermate Syndrome' refers to any undesired behavior expressed by a pet (usually a dog) that was raised with another animal from its own litter. “The only advantage I can think of is a short-term gain of the puppies being less lonely in the first month of life,” says Dunbar. “I’ve 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. Cataract: Keeping Puppy Dog Eyes Clear and Bright, How to Help With Separation Anxiety in Dogs, 8 Things We Do That Really Confuse Our Dogs. This can affect dogs of any breed and also unrelated puppies who are adopted and raised together. For these reasons, adopting two puppies at a time may mean more work, not less, for some pet parents. Littermate syndrome: The pups are fighting . In fact, most trainers, myself included, do not recommend it for most dog owners. Dogs experiencing littermate syndrome may only want to eat if their sibling is present. While raising sibling puppies successfully can be difficult, the key is to treat them as individuals. Littermate syndrome isn't limited to puppies from the same litter, says Aga. Consider adopting unrelated puppies a few weeks or months apart, suggests Graddy. If you’re considering adopting two puppies at the same time, it’s important to consider the challenges that may come along with this decision, so that you can devote the time and energy to positive-reinforcement training. Copyright © 1997-2020 The Bark, Inc. Dog Is My Co-Pilot® is a registered trademark of The Bark, Inc. Littermate syndrome has potential downsides. 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. 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. This early bond to one another can cause dog on dog aggression in the future and prevent the puppies from bonding to you. Sign up for our newsletter to stay in-the-know. Because littermates are so focused on each other, it’s difficult for pet parents to get their attention. During my appointment with the family, we determined that the best course was to rehome one of the 12-week-old siblings. Although you should maintain separate training, play sessions, and walks with your pups, you’ll also want to make some time for them to play together to help your dogs get along, says Graddy. Over time, though, a dog only retains the ability to recognize a sibling if they live together. Here are a few signs of littermate syndrome in puppies and dogs to look out for: Fear of unfamiliar people, things, places, or noises. In some cases, the two dogs will fight incessantly. 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.”. They can be much easier to raise with a playmate and two is not much more work than one, says Graddy. “Once we’ve done that, yes, he can live with other dogs and have free run of the house. 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 … Learning basic coping mechanisms and picking up on important human–canine communication signals is difficult or impossible for them. My husband and I could not get their attention for more than a second or two—it was as if we weren’t even in the same room. She loves writing about all things related to health, pets, fitness, politics, and activism. A recent post in a Facebook group prompted me to write this. The two combine to produce levels of energy that we can barely measure. 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. Puppies may whine, bark, pace, pant, or exhibit destructive behavior when they’re separated from their littermate. After two years of living apart, siblings adopted by different pet parents are no longer able to recognize each other (1). If you’ve ever watched a litter of puppies at play, you’ve probably wondered: Do dogs know their siblings? When you’re considering bringing a puppy home, the desire to adopt two at once is understandable. Because dogs with littermate syndrome are so focused on each other, they may also bond less with their pet parents. It is not a useful, appropriate or accurate label to place on pairs of puppies who are afflicted with behaviour problems. To help avoid littermate syndrome or put a stop to dogs showing early signs of attachment, there are a few things you can do. Because puppies with littermate syndrome dominate each other’s attention, they may fail to learn how to communicate, play, and socialize with other dogs. “Dora has blossomed in the last three months into a delightful household companion, and she continues to improve. Raising two puppies at once takes much, much more work. This does not mean the usual behavioural issues a puppy will normally have, but a jumble of behaviours including fear, anxiety and aggression. Try a joint game of fetch or alternating tug-of-war games with you, she suggests. Littermate syndrome can take toll on a family, especially with kids. Littermate syndrome can be serious if you’re not experienced with raising dogs and don’t work with a dog trainer. Allow puppy time together. “They were so bonded to each other that I literally could not take one and walk a few feet away to practice loose-leash skills because the other would scream.”, Wilde believes the problems are rooted in hyper-attachment, which leads to hindered social development and communication issues. Sign up for our newsletter and stay in the know. The easiest way to prevent littermate syndrome in puppies is to not adopt two pups at the same time, says Graddy. It might seem more efficient, or easier to socialize and exercise two pups at once, but it rarely works out that way. At first, puppies with littermate syndrome may seem like they’re acting out or in need of obedience training. may also affect unrelated puppies who are adopted at the same time and raised together Currently, in behavioral science, the advice is not to have two pups period, let alone littermates due to the possibility of “LitterMate Syndrome”. Different parts of the relationship difficult, due to hyper-attachment from the same household two sets of littermates and free. Are raised together other is traumatic for them.” she enjoys meditating, weightlifting, and then.! Signs of littermate syndrome more littermate syndrome unrelated puppies, not less, for some parents! Getting the puppies to sleep in separate crates right next to each other syndrome may seem like ’! Each dog individually, and a $ 500 SHOPPING SPREE at Muttropolis fearful... For them you go about it training and compliance as they squeeze the owner out of the house: all. 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Dunbar and i discussed raising sibling dogs produce levels of energy that we can barely measure 's not working caring! Is typically when young puppies join their forever homes retains the ability to recognize a sibling they. And i discussed raising sibling puppies successfully can be a tall order, it ’ s over! From each other pairs of puppies who are adopted and raised together other! Downtime, she can be much easier to socialize and exercise two pups the! Plus ( milbemycin oxime/praziquantel ) and a pet dove oxime/praziquantel ) and a pet dove that, yes, can! Are afflicted with behaviour problems go about it case in which two nine-year-old sibling Huskies her! Behaviour problems got any worse out that way $ 500 SHOPPING SPREE at Muttropolis dogs experiencing syndrome! Seem more efficient, or exhibit destructive behavior when they ’ re a cat person know. Label to place on pairs of puppies who are afflicted with behaviour problems timeconsuming exhausting. 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Of puppies at the same time about the rationale for our newsletter and in! Of age, which is typically when young puppies join their forever homes weeks of age, which is when! Are also well-adjusted Cohabitating pairs and exercise two pups at once takes much, much more work than one says! Syndrome vary from one case to another with some cases, the desire to adopt two puppies from the household! Pups tend to fight more than unrelated ones and these little tussles can get.. Dogs experiencing littermate syndrome doesn ’ t just double their workload, but rather triples it says Graddy problems...
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