Let our authors & experts know what you think. 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. Over lunch, veterinarian and dog behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar and I discussed raising sibling dogs. All Rights Reserved 2021. Breeds and Behavior: How Closely Are They Linked? We bought two, 8 week old, Shih Tzu. In her downtime, she enjoys meditating, weightlifting, and playing soccer. The condition develops when two young dogs end up bonding too tightly with each other. The key is to treat them as individuals, says Collier. Copyright © 1997-2020 The Bark, Inc. Dog Is My Co-Pilot® is a registered trademark of The Bark, Inc. Littermate syndrome has potential downsides. Here are a few signs of littermate syndrome in puppies and dogs to look out for: Fear of unfamiliar people, things, places, or noises. Littermate syndrome can be difficult for pet parents to deal with, due to the numerous behavioral issues that are involved. Bullying and aggression between siblings seems to happen more often than between unrelated dogs, and it can get nasty. One thing that we should note is that you will want to be careful when your pups start fighting. 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. 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. 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. During my appointment with the family, we determined that the best course was to rehome one of the 12-week-old siblings. LITTERMATE SYNDROME As mentioned in our “ Picking a Puppy ” article, littermate syndrome is a serious behavioral condition. Littermate syndrome can take toll on a family, especially with kids. Most commonly, puppies develop separation anxiety due to hyper-attachment. It is difficult to train and properly socialize two puppies at the same time. 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. Wilde notes that planned separations must begin immediately. As we mentioned previously, related pups tend to fight MORE than unrelated ones and these little tussles can get quite heated. AND a $500 SHOPPING SPREE at Muttropolis! While raising sibling puppies successfully can be a tall order, it is possible. As previously mentioned, littermate syndrome sometimes causes puppies to focus on the other puppy rather than the humans in the home. Sometimes this connection causes troubling behavioral issues known as littermate syndrome. 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. Even getting the puppies to sleep in separate crates right next to each other is traumatic for them.”. There are a lot of reasons why reputable breeders and reputable rescues will not sell or adopt two puppies to the same household. I also know many people have and are raising littermates that are happy, healthy, well-socialized dogs. Raising a puppy takes a lot of time and energy, regardless of how you go about it. The term ‘littermate syndrome’ refers to behavioral issues that arise when two or more sibling puppies are raised together. When she's not working or caring for animals, she can be found enjoying the outdoors or reading a good book. 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. 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. Is Littermate Syndrome Real? 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. When you’re considering bringing a puppy home, the desire to adopt two at once is understandable. An owner should know that preventing littermate syndrome doesn’t just double their workload, but rather triples it. Most people have never heard of littermate syndrome, finding out about it while researching their dogs’ problematic behaviors. In fact, many veterinarians recommend adopting kittens in pairs. At first, puppies with littermate syndrome may seem like they’re acting out or in need of obedience training. Over time, though, a dog only retains the ability to recognize a sibling if they live together. 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. Diana, if you read the article, it recommends against this practice as it can cause a different and more severe type of anxiety 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. 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. ... 02 Littermate Syndrome. She now approaches people out of curiosity. After two years of living apart, siblings adopted by different pet parents are no longer able to recognize each other (1). Why? 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. Over time, this can result in fear and aggression when they’re exposed to other dogs. 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. 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. But I'd say more often than not it … 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. 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. 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. The signs of littermate syndrome vary from one case to another with some cases being more or less severe. They’ll have to train with each dog individually, and then together. Like humans, littermates form a bond with each other from the start, which can strengthen or weaken over time. Let me first say that there is officially no such official thing as ‘Littermate Syndrome’. 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”. Gradually separate your dogs. “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. Aggression between housemates is more common between littermates adopted together than unrelated dogs adopted at different times, says Graddy. Period. “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. Raising two puppies at once takes much, much more work. © 2021 Great Pet Media. 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. 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 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. “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. Her primary medical interests are preventive medicine and client education. 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 separate-but-equal arrangement is timeconsuming, exhausting and seems to defeat the original intent of acquiring siblings. Shelley Smith, adoption center manager at Pets Unlimited in San Francisco, said her shelter stopped placing siblings together after a particularly disturbing case. In the worst-case scenario, littermates may attack each other. It is not a useful, appropriate or accurate label to place on pairs of puppies who are afflicted with behaviour problems. In some cases, the two dogs will fight incessantly. “Everything else is a loss.”. 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. “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. Sign up for our newsletter and stay in the know. One of the most common signs of littermate syndrome is fearfulness around people or dogs. Puppies with littermate syndrome only interact with each other and become highly dependent on one another for a sense of safety and normalcy. This happens because littermates bond so intensely to each other that they fail to develop connections with their human family. “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. In fact, most trainers, myself included, do not recommend it for most dog owners. I have successfully raised two sets of littermates and have not witnessed or experienced littermate syndrome. It is not an official, recognized dog issue. Littermate syndrome is when two puppies adopted from the same litter give more attention to each other than their adopted family. Learning basic coping mechanisms and picking up on important human–canine communication signals is difficult or impossible for them. 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. Littermate syndrome isn't limited to puppies from the same litter, says Aga. Because dogs with littermate syndrome are so focused on each other, they may also bond less with their pet parents. In turn, they could fail to learn and develop appropriate social interactions with humans, too. Try a joint game of fetch or alternating tug-of-war games with you, she suggests. 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. Dogs experiencing littermate syndrome may only want to eat if their sibling is present. It may sound ideal when dogs are such … As your puppies adjust to their new normal, use treats and praise as rewards for staying calm when they’re apart, says Collier. If socialization with other dogs is important to you, you may also want to take them out for separate play sessions with other pups. This bond and the personality traits and training challenges associated, is littermate syndrome 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. 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. Great Pet Media does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Littermate syndrome can be difficult, due to the numerous behavioral issues that are involved. “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. Littermate syndrome can be managed, but it is a lot of work. This can make it harder for them to reach their full potential when it comes to good behavior, says Graddy. Remember that littermate syndrome is not a dog … And, if you’re a cat person, know this—littermate syndrome doesn’t seem to afflict kittens. They can be much easier to raise with a playmate and two is not much more work than one, says Graddy. This fearfulness can occur when the puppies are together or separated from each other. A recent post in a Facebook group prompted me to write this. 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. 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 (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. 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. Our content and products are for informational purposes only. 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 makes training two puppies from the same litter especially difficult, says Graddy. Littermate Syndrome is something I have reserached a lot, as it is something I have come across multiple times. Don’t Take Two Puppies: Littermate Syndrome in Dogs | The Bark 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. “Dora has blossomed in the last three months into a delightful household companion, and she continues to improve. This early bond to one another can cause dog on dog aggression in the future and prevent the puppies from bonding to you. 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. Access our library of professional veterinarian resources. Puppies who are only willing to play in pairs may be exhibiting signs. 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. Potential issues include separation anxiety, neophobia (fear of the unfamiliar), and aggression. Sign up for our newsletter to stay in-the-know. 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. Training two puppies from the same litter may take longer than expected because puppies are so distracted by one another. Two puppies being raised together were fighting. “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. “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.”. Littermate syndrome often … Allow puppy time together. Tension develops in training and compliance as they squeeze the owner out of the relationship. Myriad factors affect dog behavior, including genetics, early life experiences and owner engagement. Dr. Cathy Barnette is a small animal veterinarian with 13 years of clinical experience. To help avoid littermate syndrome or put a stop to dogs showing early signs of attachment, there are a few things you can do. Unwillingness to engage with people or toys when alone. “Littermate syndrome” can often develop because the pups tend to prefer each other’s company over that of any human. Interceptor is a trademark of Elanco or its affiliates. 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. Littermate syndrome is when two puppies from the same litter are raised in the same home and develop a bond with each other. Littermate syndrome affects dogs over 8-10 weeks of age, which is typically when young puppies join their forever homes. The two combine to produce levels of energy that we can barely measure. After we brought the girls home at nine weeks, their behavior became increasingly out of control. Currently, in behavioral science, the advice is not to have two pups period, let alone littermates due to the possibility of “LitterMate Syndrome”. 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. A quick Google search of “littermate syndrome” will yield a … “This uniformity makes it difficult for the siblings to delineate a hierarchy,” she said. ", Cohabitating siblings may become so emotionally dependent on each other that even short separations provoke extreme distress. Another solution if you must have two puppies? Littermate syndrome can be serious if you’re not experienced with raising dogs and don’t work with a dog trainer. 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. While raising sibling puppies successfully can be difficult, the key is to treat them as individuals. 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. Puppies may whine, bark, pace, pant, or exhibit destructive behavior when they’re separated from their littermate. 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. She loves writing about all things related to health, pets, fitness, politics, and activism. Signs can include excessive crying, whining, and destructive behavior when siblings are separated. However, when dogs experience littermate syndrome, these behaviors are linked to their relationship to their littermate. Because littermates are so focused on each other, it’s difficult for pet parents to get their attention. Littermate syndrome: The pups are fighting . 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. '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 good news: not all puppy pairs develop littermate syndrome and pet parents can prevent significant issues with specialized training methods. Consider adopting unrelated puppies a few weeks or months apart, suggests Graddy. 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. 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. The email described a familiar scenario: “We were planning to adopt one puppy, but the breeder said that raising two sisters would be easier. Many dog behaviorists, trainers, breeders and shelters discourage adopting siblings. High anxiety when separated from the other pup. After all, the thought of separating brothers and sisters from the same litter can tug at your heartstrings. She lives with her husband, daughter, three cats, one dog, and a pet dove. 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. I think so. 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.' 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 eat alone. For these reasons, adopting two puppies at a time may mean more work, not less, for some pet parents. 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 … 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. We now separate siblings and inform adopters about the rationale for our policy.”. 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. Socialize them each with other dogs. Win a LIFETIME SUPPLY of Interceptor® Plus(milbemycin oxime/praziquantel) “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. Sister's littermates. “Once we’ve done that, yes, he can live with other dogs and have free run of the house. This can affect dogs of any breed and also unrelated puppies who are adopted and raised together. “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. 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.”. Getting two puppies at the same time that are about the same age will also usually result in serious bonding. Pet parents may notice these problems early on, though they may not arise until pups reach adolescence, notes Graddy. Because puppies with littermate syndrome dominate each other’s attention, they may fail to learn how to communicate, play, and socialize with other dogs. 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. However, preventing littermate syndrome can also be as simple as treating siblings as individuals from the moment they enter your home, says Collier. We know she would still be fearful had we not separated the two before it got any worse. 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. The easiest way to prevent littermate syndrome in puppies is to not adopt two pups at the same time, says Graddy. This means feeding, walking and training each puppy separately, with individual crates in different parts of the home. 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. may also affect unrelated puppies who are adopted at the same time and raised together Difficulty with basic training. 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 does not mean the usual behavioural issues a puppy will normally have, but a jumble of behaviours including fear, anxiety and aggression. 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. Increasingly, however, trainers and behavior professionals recognize that the cons of adopting siblings far outweigh the pros. 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. 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!). 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. Behavior specialist and author Nicole Wilde recalls a case in which two nine-year-old sibling Huskies attended her group class. Puppies with littermate syndrome become highly dependent on one another. 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. The condition develops when two or more sibling puppies successfully can be serious you! And a $ 500 SHOPPING SPREE at Muttropolis prevent significant issues with specialized training methods same time and! Of obedience training on multiple occasions, so it can get quite heated of.... And playing soccer this means feeding, walking and training each puppy separately with. Causes puppies to the numerous behavioral issues that are involved and client education tightly with each other that even separations! They can be difficult, says Graddy about it they may not arise until pups adolescence! 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