Getting a puppy is always an exciting time! Meeting a group of roly poly little furballs can be intoxicating and trying to pick just one, almost impossible. But when you’re selecting your new family member, avoid the temptation to bring home two sibling puppies from the same litter, at the same time. Many people who opt to get two puppies from the same litter, mistakenly think their new pups will have a built-in best friend. Sometimes that’s the case, but more often than not, what we see as trainers, are problems cropping up between six and nine months of age. The most common issue is called “Littermate Syndrome.” Here are some of the common traits of littermate syndrome.
- OVER ATTACHMENT TO ONE ANOTHER – This involves the two puppies bonding so closely, that they develop an unhealthy co-dependence on each other. Life events do sometimes occur that require the dogs to do things separately, including seeing the vet, having a surgery, going to the groomer, etc. Many times, due to a lack of normal independence, these pups cannot be separated without major stress and anxiety to both the dogs and their families.
- FAILING TO BOND TO THE FAMILY – Because of their deep attachment to one another, the puppies fail to form a significant attachment to any person in the family. This can lead to lack of interest in playing with and interacting with the family, ignoring commands, running off together.
- ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR – Because of their reliance on each other, the puppies fail to explore the world, seek out interactions with other puppies, socialize and develop normal social skills with other dogs. This can lead to fear of dogs outside their inner circle, leash reactivity and sometimes aggression.
- AGGRESSSION TOWARDS EACH OTHER – Some theorize that because pups are genetically designed to go out on their own as they reach adulthood, they are more likely than unrelated dogs to develop aggression towards each other. We see this less commonly than extreme separation anxiety but it does occur.
Because of these issues, many shelters, rescues and responsible breeders will not adopt out two puppies from the same litter to the same home. We also strongly discourage getting littermates, but if you do, please follow these guidelines:
- INDEPENDENT ACTIVITIES – Be sure to do things independently with each pup. Separate walks, separate training classes, separate socialization, individual play sessions, separate outings in the car, separate crates, etc. They need time each day away from each other.
- START TRAINING EARLY – Two puppies are three times the work. You will have to take extra effort and time with each pup to avoid littermate syndrome from developing.
- STRUCTURE & LEADERSHIP – Make sure you are providing your pups adequate guidance and direction. If you leave a leadership void, it will be filled by the higher-ranking puppy and you will become less relevant to them both.