Littermate Syndrome: Why You Should Never Get Two Puppies

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 do this mistakenly think their new pups will have a built-in best friend. Sometimes that’s the case. However, in our experience as dog trainers, we often see problems cropping up between six and nine months of age. The most common issue is called “Littermate Syndrome.” 

If you welcomed two puppies from the same litter into your home and notice any of the traits below, early correction is the best solution. Our Puppy Head Start training program will give the newest members of your family the skills they need to grow into the perfect companions.

Common Traits of Littermate Syndrome

  1. 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 occur that require the dogs to do things separately, including vet visits, surgery, going to the groomer, etc. Many times, a lack of normal independence brings major stress and anxiety when you separate the pups.
  2. FAILING TO BOND TO THE FAMILY – Because of their deep attachment to one another, the puppies often fail to bond to any person in the family. Littermate Syndrome This can lead to lack of interest in playing with and interacting with the family, ignoring commands, running off together.
  3. ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR – Because of their reliance on each other, the puppies fail to explore the world. They won’t seek out interactions with other puppies, socialize, or develop normal social skills with other dogs. This can lead to fear of dogs outside their inner circle, leash reactivity and sometimes aggression.
  4. AGGRESSION TOWARDS EACH OTHER – Pups are genetically designed to go out on their own as they reach adulthood. Because of this, some theorize that 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

Avoiding Littermate Syndrome

Puppy being trained to avoid littermate syndrome

Because of these issues, many shelters, rescues, and responsible breeders will not adopt out two littermates to the same home. 

We also strongly discourage getting littermates, but if you do, please follow these guidelines:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Structure & Leadership – Make sure you provide 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.