Littermate syndrome in dogs: everything you should know

two golden puppies together

When you're looking to bring any dog into your life or home, you should spend some time researching the breed and reviewing your lifestyle. Some many questions and factors can influence what type of dog or dogs you can bring home.

One important element for you to consider is when picking a puppy is its siblings in the same litter. The moment a puppy is born, they start to bond with their mother and the siblings in their litter.

As they grow, they start to play with others and recognize them by their scent. The more time they spend with their mother and siblings before going off to a new home, they develop a strong bond.

Sometimes, this bond can weaken, and in others, it can get stronger, causing a lot of stress, often developing into littermate syndrome.

What is littermate syndrome?

Littermate syndrome is where siblings of the same litter create such a powerful bond between each other; they can struggle to function and adapt to other environments without them. Similarly, they may find it difficult to develop a bond with other humans and animals also.

Due to the intense bond they have with their sibling, they can often develop weak connections with you. As a result, you may find it difficult when you're conducting house training, obedience training, or socialization. As often, their affinity for their sibling can prevent them from reaching their full potential.

There's no specific breed that this applies to; in fact, litter syndrome can happen to any dog, even puppies who aren't from the same litter!

What are the signs of littermate syndrome?

beagles eating together

Littermate syndrome is no joke, and to help you further, here are some typical signs dogs can show.

Fear of unfamiliarity places, people, animals, and noises

Yeah, we did highlight this briefly before; however, a dog with sibling puppy syndrome will often limit their interactions with others. If you try to approach them, they can become quiet and fearful. They may also bark, snap or growl at you and also at new objects or situations.

Anxiety stricken behaviors

Littermate syndrome creates a lot of anxiety in dogs, causing self-destructive behaviors, barking, whining, panting, and more when their sibling is not around.

Unwillingness to play

If you have a dog with littermate syndrome, they may show a lack of interest in toys and your playful gestures. When they were in the litter, they were more focused on their littermate, not knowing the basic rules of play.

Difficulty eating on their own

A canine may struggle when they have a bowl of food in front of them. It might require you as an owner to help feed them because they don't want to eat without their sibling present.

How to solve littermate syndrome?

westie and jack russell playing

If you own a dog and you suspect they have littermate syndrome, don't be too disheartened. This is something you can rectify with practice, consistency and patience as they get older. In particular, you can do the following:

Separate crates

If you're a breeder and have two dogs, or you decided to bring the siblings home, it's essential you crate train and use them separately.

Never put the two siblings in the same crate! You will want to start off by putting the two crates together and slowly moving them further apart till they are in different rooms.

This will slowly start to ease separation anxiety and allow them to feel more independent. Plus, when doing this, you will want to take them out at different times for exercise, feeding, and obedience classes.

Let them meet other dogs

It's important that while they are young, they meet other dogs frequently but also separately. This will take some time for them to interact with other dogs, but when they do, make sure to praise them with treats, strokes, and toys.

Take them out on their own

Just like them socializing with other dogs, you will want to take them out on their own for walks. When you're walking them, they will pay more attention to the surroundings, strange noises and while young. It's good to expose them to other people, cars, strollers, and more to prepare them for adulthood.

Give them time to play

You're not isolating these dogs for the rest of their life!

You're doing it just in the interim puppy periods to reduce and remove the littermate syndrome. It is important, however, that you dedicate ample time for them to play together and prevent them from getting aggressive with each other as they mature.

Some great bonding games to play is fetch and tug of war.

Final thoughts

Littermate syndrome can be frustrating and a difficult time for any dog owner. But, you can remove it with practice and consistency.

We do advise not to bring home two dogs of the same litter, as they may make it harder. On the contrary, if you're so insistent about getting them, we suggest adopting two different puppies for a few weeks or months as a trial period.

Any puppy you bring home, you should make sure it gets adequate socializing, have regular exercise, and human interaction.

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