Understanding and Preventing Littermate Syndrome

by Alondra Cabrera

Thinking about getting two puppies at the same time? Think they need a buddy to accompany them? Think again. While adopting multiple puppies may seem like a dream come true—promising double the fun and companionship—it often leads to significant behavioral and developmental issues known as Littermate Syndrome. 

What is Littermate Syndrome?

Littermate Syndrome is a critical behavioral condition that can occur when two or more puppies from the same litter are raised together. They develop a range of behavioral issues, including severe bonding, separation anxiety, excessive fearfulness of unfamiliar people and dogs, aggression towards each other, jealousy, and more. For example, puppies with Littermate Syndrome may become very jealous of each other. If one receives more attention, the other may start barking and fighting to get their owners attention, viewing everything as competition and often refusing to share toys and food.

Do All Puppies Raised Together Get This?

No, not all puppies raised together will develop Littermate Syndrome, but it is very common. The primary reason for this lies in the puppies’ natural tendency to form strong bonds with their littermates. While this bonding is vital in their early weeks of life, it can become problematic if it continues into adolescence and adulthood. Since puppies primarily interact with each other, they fail to develop essential social skills. This can result in inappropriate behaviors such as excessive play-biting, difficulty reading other dogs’ signals, and problematic interactions. Puppies affected by littermate syndrome may be more focused on each other rather than on their owners. This can result in them ignoring commands or cues given by humans.Therefore training littermates can be significantly more challenging as they may struggle to focus due to distractions from each other.

Puppy

Additionally, their reliance on each other can make it difficult for them to be alone. When separated, changes in their behavior such as sadness or distress are common. Ideally, puppies should be separated gradually from their littermates and taught to bond with their human caregivers and other dogs.

What to Do if Your Puppies Have Littermate Syndrome

If your puppies already exhibit signs of Littermate Syndrome, don’t worry. It’s possible to address it, but it requires patience and consistent training. Gradually separate them for periods each day and provide individual attention to encourage independence. This helps them develop their own identity and reduces competition for your attention. Additionally, try socializing each puppy with different people, dogs, and environments to get them comfortable with new experiences. Consulting with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist experienced with this condition can also help.

How to Prevent Littermate Syndrome

To prevent Littermate Syndrome, several proactive steps are necessary. Owners should ensure that the puppies spend time apart daily. This separation helps them learn independence and reduces their over-reliance on each other. It is important to train each puppy separately to minimize distractions and develop focus and responsiveness to commands. Each puppy should be exposed independently to various people, environments, and other dogs to build confidence and enhance social skills. Additionally, each puppy should receive individual attention and bonding time with human family members to establish a strong connection. It’s recommended to adopt puppies at least six months apart to avoid Littermate Syndrome. 

The laziest fight you've ever seen

Raising littermates can be enticing, but it carries the risk of Littermate Syndrome. Understanding these risks and taking proactive steps can help ensure both puppies grow into independent and sociable dogs. Prioritizing individual development, socialization, and training reduces the behavioral challenges associated with Littermate Syndrome. By implementing these strategies, pet owners can enjoy the benefits of multiple pets without the complications of raising littermates.

About the Author/s

Alondra Cabrera is the Editorial Assistant at New Jersey Digest. She recently graduated from Montclair State University with a degree in Communication and Media Studies. During her time at school, she discovered her passion for journalism and content creation. In her free time, she loves to create and edit videos for her corgis, Rafi and Toffe, and indulge in culinary adventures with her friends. Alondra also enjoys traveling, cooking, and working out. She is excited to embark on her professional journey in media and looks forward to contributing her skill and creativity to her role here at New Jersey Digest.

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