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Littermate Syndrome

Why getting two dogs as puppies is not a good idea

Some of you may have heard of the term littermate syndrome or something similar to it.However, most people may have never heard of it, or may not know exactly what it is.

What is Littermate Syndrome?

Littermate syndrome refers to the behaviors that are the result of two dogs being raised from puppyhood together. This doesn’t necessarily mean it only happens to fraternal littermates!

Littermate syndrome can effect puppies from different litters that go through crucial developmental periods up to their first year of life.

Behaviors associated with Littermate Syndrome

When two puppies grow up and mature together they form an extremely deep and strong bond to each other. This bond can negatively effect how these dogs interact with the rest of the world throughout their lives.

If the dogs are not provided the opportunities to experience the world during critical imprinting periods of their development without the other puppy present, they will not be able to learn about the world independently.

During critical imprinting periods, we need to expose each puppy to the world in a deliberate way to teach each puppy that the world isn’t a scary place and it can actually be fun and exciting.

The presence of the other puppy, when there is the strong bond associated with littermate type relationships, can prevent each puppy from learning independence in new situations.

What does it look like?

In puppies that grew up and matured closely like littermates, often the result is an odd paradigm between the personalities of the dogs.

When the dogs are together, you’ll often find that one dog is the more dominant of the two and the other is very submissive.

However, when you separate the dogs, the one who was previously dominant now is likely to be anxious and display symptoms similar to separation anxiety.

Both dogs will demonstrate a stubbornness and unwillingness to listen to their human owners when they are in the presence of their littermate and training new behaviors will require separating the pair.

When the dogs’ bond is so strong, they will prioritize each other over the owners and will struggle to adapt to new situations without their canine partner.

These dogs are more likely to “resource guard” each other from other people and other dogs, which will increase the likelihood of dogs and human aggression.

How to address Littermate Syndrome

There are two methods to address littermate syndrome that have been proven to be effective at managing the undesirable behaviors that result from dogs being raised so closely together.

Separate the dogs as much as possible. By preventing the dogs from interacting with each other, playing with each other, and bonding further, each will find that interacting with their humans is actually quite enjoyable! The key here is to also create as many positive experience between each dog and their person to create a bond that may eventually be stronger than the bond the dogs had with each other.

The other method is to have strict discipline for all dogs in the home. Dogs that have a strong bond with each other have a propensity to disregard commands from their humans and are more stubborn about meeting expectations in the daily routine. Having strict discipline in the home means that if you tell your dog to go to their kennel, that they must do as they are told.

This can be achieved through regular training and using appropriate training tools to enforce commands and behaviors, but also with creating lots of reward history with performing the desired behaviors. Regardless of how the discipline is upheld, the effectiveness of the training will be directly the result of the consistency of the owner!

You can learn more about developing a training plan specific for your dogs and your routine at!

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