Littermate Syndrome

When canine siblings of two or more (Littermates) are reared in the same environment for longer than the typical 8 to 10 weeks, when puppies are often placed in homes, a variety of behavioural difficulties called “Littermate Syndrome” (also known as Sibling Aggression or “Littermate Aggression”) tend to manifest.

Signs of littermate syndrome

When siblings from the same litter are separated from one another, dogs with littermate syndrome may exhibit excessive whimpering, whining, and destructive behaviour. They may also show little interest in playing with or associating with other family members or pets. Here are a few warning symptoms of littermate syndrome in canines and puppies:

  • High anxiety when separated from the other pup.
  • Fear of unfamiliar people, things, places or noises.
  • Unwillingness to engage with people with toys when alone.
  • Refusal to eat alone.
    Difficulty with basic training.

Consider the difficulties that can arise if you decide to adopt two puppies at once so that you can spend the necessary time and resources on positive reinforcement training.

How to help littermate syndrome

It can be challenging to effectively raise puppies with siblings, but it is doable. According to Collier, the goal is to treat each dog uniquely. There are a few things you can do to prevent littermate syndrome or discourage dogs from displaying early indications of attachment:

  • Allow enough puppy time together so they get along, but not so much that they become codependent.
  • Gradually separate your dogs.
  • Socialise each of them with other dogs.

If you do not have the space or time to train and bond your puppies separately, consider reaching out to a certified dog trainer like us!

How to prevent littermate syndrome
The simplest method to avoid littermate syndrome in puppies is to avoid adopting two puppies at once. Collier asserts that treating siblings as separate dogs as soon as they enter your household can also help prevent littermate syndrome. Make sure your dogs are getting enough exercise and socialisation with you, your family, and other people – not simply time spent by themselves.

“Your dog is not being a problem, your dog is having a problem. ” — Chad Mackin

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