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Littermate Syndrome And Hidden Challenges Of Raising Sibling Puppies

Littermate Syndrome And Hidden Challenges Of Raising Sibling Puppies

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about a certain enigmatic phenomenon in the world of canine behavior, called Littermate Syndrome. 

You might think that getting two dogs from the same litter at the same time is such a great idea, but many are unaware of this syndrome and the unique challenges that arise with raising sibling puppies. 

Understanding Littermate Syndrome In Dogs

two puppies relaxing

According to the K9 Behavioral Services website, Littermate Syndrome (also known as Littermate Aggression or Siblings Aggression) is “a non-scientific term that refers to a whole host of behavioral issues that tend to present when canine siblings are raised in the same household.”

This syndrome can actually occur in other animals as well. 

Basically, when two puppies (either siblings from the same litter, or puppies of the same age) are raised together, they can develop such a strong bond that it can eventually lead to many behavioral issues. 

It is generally great when puppies are bonded, but according to some dog trainers and behavioral specialists, as well as some dog owners, a bond so intense can actually interfere with the individual development and socialization of each puppy. 

According to a professional dog trainer with over 20 years of experience, Garret Wing, from American Standard Dog Training, dogs with Littermate Syndrome will form a stronger bond with each other than with you, their human. [1]

This can lead to many issues, such as learning disabilities, separation anxiety, and training difficulties. 

When dogs are bonded like this, they will learn to communicate with each other, but you will not be a part of their pack, which means that they will not look to you for direction or guidance.

They can also form severe separation anxiety; however, not with you, but between each other. This means that they will not know how to function or basically live without each other at any time. 

Lastly, dogs that have developed Littermate Syndrome become more feral, harder to control and train, and sometimes even aggressive. 

Although this will not happen in every case of raising sibling puppies, it is recommended to new dog owners to become familiar with this, just in case. 

As an old saying goes, it is always better to prevent than to cure. 

Effective Strategies For Treating And Managing Littermate Syndrome 

two dogs are eating food from bowl indoors

Many professional trainers actually advise against bringing home two dogs from the same litter or that are around the same age because of a high chance of developing this kind of syndrome. 

However, if you have already adopted two pups like this, there are some things that you can do in order to prevent or manage Littermate Syndrome. 

First and foremost, it’s essential that you are aware of the potential risks and do extensive research on this topic. 

Professional dog trainers and behaviorists may help you understand all the causes, effects, and managing styles better, so if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend speaking with one. 

If your dogs have already developed this syndrome, a dog trainer will be necessary in managing and developing a tailored plan for treating your puppies. 

So, how exactly can you prevent Littermate Syndrome from developing? 

Well, it could be difficult and a lot of work, but two puppies should be separated as much as possible. 

Each puppy should get its own crate, individual attention, and training sessions. Try to have as much one-on-one time with each puppy as possible. This should include separate walking sessions, separate feeding time, separate playtime, and even separate socialization sessions. 

This allows each puppy to develop its own social skills, independence, and personality. They will be less dependent on each other, and hopefully, much more manageable in the long run. 

As with any kind of training, preventing and treating Littermate Syndrome requires patience and consistency, so don’t give up. 

Final Thoughts 

While there is limited scientific research that is specifically focused on this syndrome, it is definitely not something that should be ignored altogether. 

A lot of times, it takes time for scientific research to catch up with new experiences and real-life observations, but there are many professional opinions and experiences that shed light on this rather unknown phenomenon. 

Nonetheless, scientific studies will be necessary in the future to fully comprehend the potential dangers of raising sibling puppies together. 

Have you ever encountered something like this before, or do you own two littermates? We would love to hear your experiences. 


[1] American Standard Dog Training. (2023, Mar 23). Charlie Brown and Littermate Syndrome in Puppies [Video]. YouTube.