Littermate Syndrome

Getting two dogs at the same time seems like a great idea. Dogs are social animals, and a dog who will be alone all day can easily turn to destructive behavior or become anxious. Two puppies can entertain each other and keep each other company. So, what’s the problem with bringing home two puppies at once?

Professional trainers like myself recommend against getting bringing home two puppies. While this sounds like a good plan in theory, in practice it often causes quite a bit of heartache and trouble.

In addition to the problems one might expect with bringing home siblings such as double food and vet costs and double the potty training work, we need to focus on how the puppies will develop. Puppies’ brains continue developing until they hit sexual maturity (and even a bit beyond that), and there’s some convincing research out there that bringing two puppies home at the same time prevents one of the puppies from reaching his or her full potential.

Luckily for us, this topic has been researched extensively by someone who knows all about creating behaviorally sound puppies: guide dog organizations. One of the biggest problems that guide dog organizations run into is that puppy raisers are hard to come by. Puppy raisers are families who agree to raise future guide dog puppies, socializing them and teaching them basic obedience. This isn’t an easy job, and the emotional impact of giving up their puppies after a year of bonding and hard work means that many families are reluctant to repeat the experience.

In order to maximize the use of their volunteer puppy raisers, one guide dog organization decided to try an experiment. Willing homes were given not one, but two puppies to raise, thereby doubling the number of puppies the guide dog organization could work with. Puppies born to these organizations are tested before being placed and are tracked throughout their growth and development. What the organization found was startling. Placing two puppies in the same household always caused one puppy to become temperamentally unsuitable for work, even when both puppies started off as perfect candidates.

When two puppies are placed together, they learn to rely on each other. One of the puppies always becomes shy, even when both puppies started off as bold and outgoing. This is a huge problem, since it means that the shy puppy never reaches his or her potential. In fact, this was such a major issue that the guide dog experiment was quickly halted, and to this day guide dog organizations only place one puppy at a time in puppy raisers’ homes, even when the homes are highly experienced.

In addition to one puppy becoming shy, there are other behavioral implications for two puppies who are adopted at the same time. Oftentimes even the “bold” puppy turns out to be quite nervous and uncertain when separated from his or her littermate. Furthermore, the puppies frequently become incredibly co-dependent, exhibiting heartbreaking anxiety when separated from one another. They often fail to bond to their human family as strongly as they otherwise would, or sometimes at all. At social maturity, these puppies may begin fighting with one another, sometimes quite severely.

Even puppies who are not related can exhibit littermate syndrome when placed together. Professional trainers recommend against getting two puppies within six months of one another, because the risks are just too high. This doesn’t even take into consideration the other practical considerations, such as the increased costs of vet care, food, supplies, and training; the extra work of training and caring for two dogs; or the time requirements of two active puppies.

Can littermate syndrome be prevented? Theoretically, yes, however it’s so difficult as to be nearly impossible in practice. Remember, even experienced guide dog puppy raisers aren’t expected to be able to prevent this issue from developing. At a bare minimum, the two puppies would need to be crated and cared for separately, including separate walks, training classes, and playtime with their owners. The puppies need to have more one-on-one time with their new owners than they have with each other, effectively doubling the work and negating any of the possible benefits (i.e. companionship) that they were adopted together for in the first place.

The bottom line is that puppies do best when brought home separately. If you want multiple dogs, consider purchasing or adopting adult dogs who are already done developing instead.

87 responses to “Littermate Syndrome

  1. Great article – can you provide a link or citation to the guide dog study? I’d love to read it.

    • Thanks for your feedback!

      I haven’t been able to find the actual study online, although that’s not to say it’s not available. I first learned about it in Clarence Pfaffenberger’s 1963 book, The New Knowledge of Dog Behavior. If you do find a link, please let us know by posting it here!

      • We got two litter mates from a sanctuary 8 years ago & occasionally they have terrible fights, they are two female cairn terrier crosses, we separate them for a spell of time every day as we have another rescue & this helps, is there anything else you would recommend?

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  3. Nice article–very interesting about the guide dogs. I was a little surprised that one of the dogs was always ruined, but then again, they’re holding the dogs to a much higher standard in those programs. Anecdotally, (my dogs are litter mates) we’ve actually had relative success with ours. We don’t have the co-dependency issues described. Both have been trained, were crated and walked separately when younger, and function just fine independent of the other. I took one out with me for 6 weeks to trainer school; the other came with me a year later for a week at another trainer seminar. Regarding socialization, I think having two dogs definitely makes the owner lazier about socializing them outside of their mate, so what I do see with mine is some uncertainty in large groups of strange dogs. They are interested and friendly one-on-one. They have nice enough temperaments that they’re not aggressive or anxious, but definitely not social butterflies. Since many households want to keep multiple dogs, it’s important to stress to not acquire them at the same time to exacerbate the potential for “littermate syndrome;” if you DO do this, take measures to care for each dog individually (it’s MORE than twice the work); and if you do everything “right” and obtain dogs at different times know what signs to look for that one or both of your dogs are developing co-dependency and know what measures to take to reverse it sooner rather than later.

    Interestingly, I think the same can often be observed in HUMAN siblings. Seems like when one is more outgoing and assertive, the other is more laid back or introverted. It’s almost as if a balance is being maintained (this is certainly the case with my sister–we’re very different), and in a typical household (whether it’s humans or dogs) this can often function to make things more peaceable. In fact, owners are commonly counseled to obtain their second dog to be compatible with their first dog and this may amount to a dog of lower energy or one that has a more submissive or tolerant disposition so they don’t “rock the boat.” Whereas if both dogs had outgoing, dominant, or gregarious temperaments, it’s more likely to create friction.

  4. I find it maddening that people often get 2 puppies from a breeder having NO IDEA of what they are getting themselves into. The breeder says nothing and sometimes gives them a “discount” for buying 2 pups!

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  6. I adopted siblings (boy and girl) and was never told that this was a bad idea. I noticed that the girl who was naturally submissive listens better than the boy who is more energetic. I just started crating them separately just recently and they are not listening to me much at all.

    This is new to me so I am having a LOAD of new stuff going on. I am not getting rid of either so if anyone has any other ideas I am all ears.

  7. I’d like more help with this, too! Any suggestions?

  8. Thank you thank you thank you, were we just about ready to go forward with a brother sister combination…. read this and now we will do it quite differently by getting one dog than maybe in a year or two a second…..

  9. I rescued litter mates because I had mistakenly been encouraged to do so by the rescue organization that did not know better. (The two female litter mates were owner surrenders from the same family so the rescue mistakenly assumed they were bonded.) After spending four years and more than $10,000 on professional trainers trying to prevent (and break up) severe fights that sometimes resulted in injuries to me, I worked with the rescue to find a new home for one of the dogs. The two dogs have blossomed away from one another. Even though it was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make, all three of our lives have been immeasurably improved. I was able to adopt a second dog (a male) that is much younger than my female and I now have two dogs who absolutely love one another. I wish more breeders and rescue organizations knew about this. While it CAN work to bring two puppies home at once, it is not worth the risk. AT ALL.

  10. Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed!
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  11. I recently adopted a brother and sister after being encouraged by the rescue group to do so. They told me that it would be preferable for them to be homed together. The puppies are now five months old and I am seeing the negative behavior associated with littermate syndrome (which I obviously knew nothing about). One is becoming more dominant and the submissive puppy is beginning to display some agression in growling when he doesn’t want to be touched. I have three little girls that would be heartbroken to lose one of their pups, so I’m just not sure what to do! We do have an older dog who is very obviously the alpha in our home, but they are starting to challenge her a bit and I’m also concerned about her safety as she is thirteen and her health is failing. I feel very discouraged at this point.

    • Kristy, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. What a frustrating situation! I’m so glad to hear that you’re seriously considering the safety and happiness of your senior dog as you try to make the best decision for everyone.

      If you’re not already working with a trainer in your area, I would highly recommend that you find someone to help you. You can find a list of qualified trainers at http://www.ccpdt.org. In the meantime, keeping the two pups separate as much as possible and working one-on-one with each of them on handling and socialization is very important.

      You’ve got a tough situation, and I know you’re doing the best you can. Good luck!

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  15. Hello Kristy,
    I am so sorry to hear this!
    We adopted 2 Kelpie X Puppies last year in August. They are siblings, boy and girl. After I read all these horrifying stories about two pups, or two siblings at the same time. I was very close to give one of them away. But I had great support of my husband. We started to separate them for only probably 30 to 60 min once a week and trained them separate as well. But not this often. I have to say we have a very big block ( over 4000 sqm). And they play a lot. They sleep together outside at night, sometimes on the same cushion. I even feed them at the same time. They have no separation anxiety. Even when the puppies were sterilised and were separated all day.
    I started with one of the puppies an agility class, but we are doing the obedience class with both of the puppies at the same time. But I have to agree, that it’s probably better to do it only with one at a time.
    I am glad that we kept both of them, as they make me happy every day, we have so much fun. They are listening when we go for a walk without a leash and are never aggressive at each other. They are very focused on us, specially on me and follow me everywhere.
    Probably it depends on the breed, that some sort of dogs are easier to raise together. Or it’s better when they have lots of space and don’t have to stay in a small backyard.
    I hope I gave you back some positive feelings about raising two pups.
    Wish you the best
    Conny

    • Hi Connie,
      I was encouraged by your comment. I have a brother/ sister Border collie / lab mix pups. They are 12 weeks old. Showing some signs of the litter mate syndrome, but hopeful that these problems can be corrected.

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  18. When we adopted a pair of sisters several years ago, there was no mention of litter mate syndrome, but we’ve also not experienced any of the more alarming outcomes suggested above.

    Thelma and Louise (miniature Schnauzer mutts) have been and are with at least one of us all day. The “big” sister of the two is the quieter of the pair but also the one that leads the “hunt” when they’re running around the yard and pastures of our farm. The do commonly run side-by-side on some chases and get along extremely well – they are both well-bonded to my wife and I and seem adjusted enough – they don’t always sleep on the same bed nor worry about where the other is in the house.

    Perhaps we’re just extremely lucky – I’m SURE it’s not because we took any extra precautions or that we’re “dog whisperers.” It may be that they adjusted a little better owing to other resident dogs (we’ve had between 4-6 at any one time over the years). As we’re also starting to creep toward retirement, I doubt we’ll try another pair at once – especially after reading the above article and comments. Thanks to all participated.

  19. I just adopted a year and a half old female from a shelter where I chose to leave her sister behind. I actually surrendered the pair to the shelter last year after finding them as puppies that someone had dropped off at the local landfill. I couldn’t keep dogs at the time because I was doing alot of traveling, but they were in bad shape so I nursed them back to health for a few months and took them to the shelter where I knew they would at least be fed and have a roof over their head. When I had both sisters one was deffinatly dominating over the other and was jealous of any attention she would get pushing her way in front or pushing the other to the ground. Also when I would take them to the beach she would attack the other one rough housing way too hard so she would never get any peace. But they were very close and have never been seperated till now. The worker at the shelter made me feel extremely guilty for not taking both. Telling me they are inseparable and they sleep together every night. She also told me they werent displaying any of the signs I discribed there. So here I sit feeling horrible and unsure if I should go back for the other. I’ve only had the one home for a day, but she never wants to leave my side and follows me everywhere. Any advice would be appreciated. thank you

    • Hi April,

      First of all, thank you for adopting a needy dog, and for caring for the puppies when they needed it most. The world needs more wonderful people like you!

      Having worked with lots of pair-bonded dogs in shelter and rescue settings, I can say that you probably did the right thing. Generally we found that it was a big adjustment at first when we would separate two dogs, but in the long run it was better for both of them. I’m so sorry that the rescue worker made you feel guilty – that must have been really tough! Enjoy your new little girl, and thanks for all you did to help her and her sister have a good life.

      – Sara

  20. Interesting article. I never thought about the working dog aspect of littermate syndrome. I learned about this when we decided to adopt siblings from the same litter. I got a lot of negative judgment, but no support for why people felt this way. Today, we have three dogs, but two are the littermates we adopted 3 years ago and they’re happy, healthy, and well socialized. The reason for this is because of the backlash we received, I made a point of educating myself on dog behavior and training. We worked with a private trainer and she taught us some amazing ways to work with our dogs. We also take all of our dogs to training 1x a year for a fun outing.
    Our dogs didn’t bond solely to each other. We did things like take them on separate walks, have separate play sessions, and I even fed them from my hand (still do sometimes). What did happen was that our dogs bonded more to me than my boyfriend; something we expected.
    Despite our success with our dogs (who are not working or service dogs), I would never recommend adopting littermates to anyone, simply because the amount of work that went into getting through that first year was astounding. I don’t think many people have it in them and I’ve heard horror stories of dogs ending up in a shelter, because someone over committed.
    Thanks for sharing this POV
    Kimberly, Keep the Tail Wagging

  21. We first heard these warnings several weeks after bringing home two eight week old Boxers. Too late.

    We did place them in separate puppy classes mid-way through the first class. They have usually walked separately from the very beginning, and when together usually have two adults. There have been exceptions, as when we were traveling and I had the pups while my wife was in a meeting. Some training has been impossible when they are together–much of what we practiced in puppy classes. Some things are easier when they are together, however. They are crated separately, and have been since their second week with us. In their nine months with us, they have slept outside their crates four nights–two at our cabin in the woods, and two when they had slight illness requiring ferquent trips outside.

    I worry that one is not mature (they are eleven months now). But, I’m not sure which one. We thought that we were crazy when we got two, but it forced us to not be lazy in training. As I, unlike my wife, had never raised a puppy before, there was a lot to learn. Last fall, puppies were my focus day and night. They remain so today, although some balance is returning to my life.

    The pet stores might post these warnings. But, I must say that having made our decision, we are abiding by it. We will do the best that we can with these puppies. I am proud of how they interact with other dogs at the dog park, and at the puppy sitter.

  22. This is a good article, and I have no reason to dispute any of its findings or recommendations – but am happy to be able to report that I too adopted a pair of pups years ago – they weren’t sisters, but their moms were mother and daughter, and they were born in the same house 12 days apart. I had no problems whatsoever: they came home together, their housetraining was no harder than with one – I just took both outside at the same time, and they learned quite easily. Although they were good buddies, they were not overly dependent on each other, and they never had a ‘dominance’ confrontation – we all got along just fine. They had quite different personalities, but neither was stunted or handicapped by the presence of the other. In fact, it was a whole lot of fun, and I certainly didn’t know to take any special steps or precautions in my dealings with them or in how they were raised.

    Although I quite get that there may well be problems, and in fact the problems may be quite common, they are by no means inevitable, so those who are now wondering whether they did the right thing shouldn’t be too pessimistic.

  23. I have a 30 year old niece that was happy to have her own home and thrilled since she could now have a dog.
    As a dog trainer, I sent her info re: how to look for a trainer, etc.
    At some point, her mother convinced her that “dogs are pack animals and you HAVE to get two”. This from someone that had not had a puppy in more than 15 years – and hadn’t spent time in the dog training world. I tried explaining the disadvantages to this – all stated in the article to no avail. Sadly, the rescue organization adopted two dogs out to a single owner at the same time. GRR!

  24. Hmmm….I’d like to comment that a study from over 40 years ago read about second hand in someone else’s book hardly qualifies as a scientific basis for an opinion…I’d love to see some cited research on the subject.

    I have two terrier mix males going on a year and a half old now. They are littermates left at the shelter together. While potty training was double work it has been an amazing experience . They eat, sleep and play together . They have distinct and robust personalities, are happy together or apart, compete in agility without issue and overall are amazing dogs. They are friendly with people and other dogs, have good recall and are obedient .one is more bonded to me and the other more to my partner( they travel with us for work all day) but both are happy to be with either of us. I would definitely say “my” dog of the two is more bonded to me than his brother and the other more to my partner than his brother. I would never hesitate to get another pair of siblings, in fact I plan on it!

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  27. Shelley Armstrong

    Interesting article and I never knew this was the case, despite having two pavement specials that I literally rescued from the street as tiny pups with their mom. My Mom took the mother but she started fighting with her other dog so we had to have her rehomed but I kept the two puppies, sister and brother and raised them from 6 weeks old. I never really thought that they were double the work at the time at all. I did try to find them homes together or separately but nothing came of it and of course, I grew attached and they stayed! Luckily they do not fight with each other and never had a tendency to do so but in fact are protective of each other. They have never had an issue being separated but have never been separated for extended periods – only a day or so. The female is the dominant one but will run to the male for protection if she is unsure of a situation and the male is more laid back and quieter.But so far, so good! They will be 6 years old the end of this year!

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  29. Thanks to all the suggestions from owners of littermates who are sticking to their decisions. I too was unaware of this syndrome and brought home two female rottie/shar pei/misc siblings. They have started fighting… for blood. Not only do they have the syndrome, but they have fight in their genes. It is hard to pull them apart at 4 months old and will be even harder when they are 80+ pounds. I will take the suggestions of constant separation more seriously and hope it works for us. I’d love to hear anything else that might work that hasn’t already been mentioned in this thread. Everyone has an opinion, but with so many experiences, I don’t need definitive research.

    • You may have a problem on your hands here… I’d suggest you do a little reading up on the phenomenon of ‘inter-female aggression’ in dogs. Whether this type of fighting has its origins in being littermates or not is a moot point – it certainly occurs between unrelated females, even of different breeds. It’s the most dangerous type of aggression, and there is seldom a solution that works… other than separating the two dogs permanently. This is often untenable within the same home. You will probably find that one of the two is the aggressor, and this one may or may not react the same way towards another female.
      Unfortunately I would recommend you consider rehoming one of the two. If you choose to rehome the ‘aggressor’, you will of course warn the new owner of the reason for your decision, and if you decide to keep that one (the other one will be easier to rehome) then you may well have to decide that she will either need to remain an only dog, or have only a male companion. I know that a decision like this is difficult, but in my experience it is by far easier than dealing with an explosive situation where everyone has to walk on eggshells, for years and years. You have big dogs, who can do a lot of damage. Consult an expert – my bet is that their advice will be pretty much the same.
      I speak here from experience. I’ve had German Shepherds – in my opinion, the perfect breed (but I’m prejudiced!) – and one of mine decided she wanted to kill her aunt. After much trial and error, I had to make arrangements to keep them separate – I wasn’t going to rehome my old girl, and was afraid what might happen to the younger (aggressor) one if I let her go – and this resulted in a year and a half of constant stress in case someone left the wrong gate or door open. Luckily I was able to keep the old girl safe until the end… and the younger one by then had a male buddy and gave no further problems.
      Good luck with your two.

  30. THANK YOU so much for such an informative article. I will be getting a Chihuahua in November and WAS mulling over whether it would be better to get two pups so they’ll be company for each other. In 1990 I had two littermate Jack Russell Terriers and whilst we had no problems with chewing the house up, howling if left alone or separation anxiety I can now see that Heidi WAS a lot quieter of the two…yet a lot more bouncy and forward when on her own with me. I’ve been without a dog for five years now so recently quit my fulltime job in order to have time to devote to a dog. I’m now working three mornings a week (4hrs maximum) so will have all the time I need to train and socialise my new pup and help her blossom into a fabulous companion. Again, thank you SO MUCH for helping me come to the best decision.

    Gill, UK

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  32. You hit a lot of good points, although I’d like to see where the information comes from that littermates “bond to each other” and are harder to train. I know this is one of those bits of conventional wisdom that has been passed down over time, but I have yet to see that be the problem – it is certainly far less common than interdog aggression.

  33. One of the things I’ve seen in the GSD in these cases is often at least one of the dog’s ears don’t go erect. And I’ve seen this syndrome repeatedly borne out in my practice.

  34. Thank you for the article, I too would like to see the references you have quoted from. I have met lots of canine siblings living in the same house and they don’t all have the problems you have listed.

  35. From my experience I firmly believe that getting two pups of the same age (litter mates or unrelated) can be a recipe for disaster so when I worked in rescue I always advised against it. It can also be unwise to keep two or more bitches together if they are all of similar dominant personality… over the years I have witnessed a number of tragedies .. one instance was a friend of mine who had two poodles and a yorkie who lived together in harmony for many years until the yorkie was old … and one night the poodles attacked her (they had never been unpleasant towards each other before) and the yorkie died of her injuries. Another instance was my own sisters dogs … again, they all (five of them, mixed breeds) lived in harmony for many years until the eldest, one night, was attacked by the others and killed. I myself had three bitches many years ago who all lived and played and ate together … until one day, whilst in boarding kennels, two attacked the third and savaged her. It is important to remember that as pack animals these dogs clearly took matters into their own hands when the ”pack leader” ie the owner of the dogs was absent. I have seen very many fights in the rescue kennels where I worked for 15 yrs but I have to say that in my experience, bitches will fight to the death, where male dogs will usually fight until one dog submits. In the wild state, a pack of wolves will kill the leader of a pack if he or she becomes weak or old … and then they will fight to establish a new pack leader. We all need to be aware of what our family dogs are capable of …. they sometimes follow instincts that they inherited from their ancestors. Although many dogs live long and happy lives together without a problem, it is wise to think carefully about the things that CAN go wrong and so avoid a great deal of heartache.

    • Your description is very accurate and mirrors my own experiences… but I’m not convinced that this inter-female aggression thing is any more (or less) prevalent among littermates. I think it is dependent largely on the dogs’ personalities/level of dominance (as you said), and to some extent on the quality of its raising and of its living conditions. For inexperienced dog-owners (or those who can’t or won’t take the trouble to train their dogs), it’s obviously going to be harder to raise two or more dogs simultaneously, but again that isn’t a littermate-problem as such. I do understand that rescue organisations cannot know in detail the exact quality of the upbringing that prospective adopters are going to provide, and for that reason it’s probably not a bad thing to insist on only one dog at a time.
      I totally agree that bitches fighting is a whole different matter to males fighting. I’d rather deal with inter-male fights than inter-female, any time! Once inter-female fighting starts, it’s almost inevitably going to recur – I don’t believe there is a guaranteed ‘cure’, and so either the dogs have to be permanently separated, or one needs to be rehomed. Harsh and sad, but regrettably true.

  36. Great article and discussion. We had no idea about this when we brought two Havanese brothers home. They are now 1.5 years old and adore each other and their human family (me, husband, daughter) BUT they are getting increasingly aggressive and hostile to other dogs (lunging and barking at them when on leash for walks) and to guests who come over (barking and following them incessantly). I called the Humane Society trainer who told me about sibling syndrome for the first time and said we needed to separate them as much as possible for at least a year! We started yesterday and it’s heartbreaking to see them whine in loneliness for each other (one stays in my husband’s detached home office with him and one stays in the house with me, and we switch off). Has anyone tried to fix this issue after the dogs are as old as mine and what has been your protocol, results and length of time it took?

    • Frankly, unless there is a lot more to the story than you have space to tell us in your post, I feel that the advice you have been given is dubious at best and a load of garbage at worst. It sounds to me that the relationship between the brothers is not the problem and separating them like this is going to upset the balance they appear to have worked out between them. What they need is socialisation classes – they need to become thoroughly accustomed to having other dogs and humans around them. They need to experience this both separately and together. If you can find a decent doggie-school, preferably one that runs ‘puppy-classes’ (not that they’re puppies any more, but the principles of puppy-socialisation should be applied), then consider taking them along there once a week or so. You will enjoy it and so will they – they will learn to ignore other dogs and focus on you, and in the process will also become accustomed to the presence of other humans at the same time. You will need to extend the lessons to your home – get dog-friendly people to come over once the basics are established, and ‘work’ the dogs (on leads, at first) around them, obviously praising them abundantly when they behave the way you want.
      You don’t say whether your dogs are neutered. They are at exactly the age where they will ‘test’ their strength and your reactions – this is quite common to all dogs, particularly males – and will settle down again in 6-8 months, once they become fully mature. Provided of course that they aren’t permitted to behave ‘badly’ and thus get the idea that they’ve won this round!
      I’m frankly getting annoyed at the alacrity with which normal developmental behaviour is labelled as ‘littermate syndrome’ the moment you mention that dogs are related. Do a Google on ‘adolescent behaviour in dogs’. Here’s one example: http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/it%E2%80%99s-all-about-adolescence . Children take years to raise – well, dogs aren’t ‘done’ in 18 months either – the process of raising them has to continue. Please let them enjoy each other’s company, it would be a shame to deny them that.

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  39. Thanks for the article. We recently adopted two puppies from separate breeders. Both breeders knew we were planning on getting the other puppy and neither one discouraged us. However, one did say they would not recommend getting two females. We decided to get a male and a female. I never realized that getting two puppies might be a bad idea. We previously had two dogs that were six months apart. We never had any issues. They lived to be 15 and 15.5. We are committed to making this work. For now we will start with separate crates, playtime and puppy classes.

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  43. I adopted 2 puppies , a male and female, 4 weeks ago belonging to the same litter. I began seeing concerning behavior in both of the after several days. Then I found your website and discovered litter mate syndrome. We attempted to put the suggestions into action to keep both dogs. It became evident this was not going to work. Both puppies began having even worse behavior. We made the tough decision to re-home our male puppy. Now the female howls and looks for her brother constantly and has stopped eating. We are at a loss for what to do now. Can someone please help?

    • So sorry to hear that, Amy. You probably kept the submissive one. Our submissive one does the same thing if we separate them. The alpha one is just fine if left alone. You’ll have to fill the alpha’s role. The submissive one probably looked up to her brother more than she looked up to you. Step up playing with her, work on training multiple times a day, walk her, love on her, and show her you are the boss most of all. Make her sit and wait before feeding her, set the food down, then take it away, making it more enticing. I’m sure there are some youtube videos on working with separation anxiety with dogs that might be helpful. Making her focus on you during training will take her mind off of her brother and hopefully, over time, she’ll understand. Good luck.

  44. At 7 months and 50 pounds each, our two Rottie Shar Pei rescued sisters are doing better after going through a two week board and train boot camp. They ‘play’ fight, which escalates, and the dog/food aggressive one will turn on her sister still over food and strange dogs. If she can’t attack the strange dog, she turns on her sister. Both are large and tough, but sweet and good with our children. Our trainer recommended vibrate/shock collars to ensure they stay in line and focus on us instead of on each other. The siblings will ignore their owners and feed off of each other’s energy when they are asked to do something they don’t want to do. There are many touchy-feely trainers out there, but with sibling and adolescent behavior issues, you have to be the firm leader. You have to be the strongest one and be willing to enforce your will more so than with one dog who only looks to you. Just like one child will throw a fit just because his or her sibling throws a fit, the dogs will misbehave in tandem, deferring to the other and ignoring you. Our trainer believes that we can keep and manage both, even with two small children, but it is EXTRA WORK EVERY DAY. I wanted two dogs, but I probably won’t ever do this again. Siblings or not, two at the same time are more challenging. Good luck to everyone.

  45. Pingback: Weltweites Wissen - Welpen | Chakanyuka

  46. So, my Akita/Shiba X seems to exhibit a bit of littermate syndrome but I’m incredibly confused: there are no littermates, there aren’t even any dogs within a year of his age. He’s a nervous dog and he gets incredibly anxious when he’s separated from our other dog, a German Shepherd. He’s very friendly with all our family humans but he’s wary of strangers etc. and there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that he has bonded intensely with our other dog, much more than he has bonded with us. He was bonded to our GSD at least a week before he bonded with any of us.

    Here’s why I’m so confused. We got him as a 4 month old puppy. When we got him the other dog was already a fully matured adult dog of 3 years old. There is a 3 year age difference!

    When separated from the Akita the GSD does tend to get depressed, but otherwise shows no symptoms. He is a bold, inquisitive, friendly dog with people and has been since before the Akita mix, so I’m not attributing his boldness to littermate syndrome because he’s always been like that. Note: with other large male dogs the GSD is aggressive but the Akita mix is the exception to this rule. They live quite amicably.

    The Akita/Shiba is now 20 months, the GSD is 5 years and 4 months old. Both are neutered and have been for a long time.

    Is it still littermate syndrome? I don’t see how it can be given their age difference. If it isn’t is intense bonding something else? Is the Akita/Shiba going to get aggressive towards the GSD? Or would he have done it by now, since he’s 20 months already?

  47. Pingback: Advice! We bought two new puppies!

  48. I guess you could say I have done my own study on raising littermates together. I bred my Norwegian Elkhound with a German Shepherd and thus had 6 pups. One pup was a female and the rest males. My Elkhound was such a wonderful mom and at the time I also had an older Mixed breed who had been my first dog. My elkhound was very patient and loving and even nursed the puppies up to 16 weeks. Not full time of course, but she never rejected them if they approached. She also taught them not to nip by gently holding her mouth over theirs when they did. And both my adult dogs housetrained the pups simply by allowing them to follow. It sounds made up, but it is all true. I gave 2 of my pups to my best friend in Texas (male/female) and she feels very bonded to her dogs and vise versa. I still have all the males and they are going on their 6th birthday together. The mother very recently passed at 12 y/o and it has been quite an adjustment for me, but it has been uneventful for her babies.
    I guess my point is that dogs can be raised together and become bonded to their human, but it does take work. I don’t think I could recommend this for anyone who has a family or a demanding job. I think it takes lots of work and time with each dog. Each one of my dogs has things they enjoy while being with me and I have figured it out and try to give them that special attention. They were handled and loved from the day they were born and not just by me, but my friends and family. And yes, they have had a few fights that weren’t too pretty, but no one has ever been seriously injured and now they rarely ever fight. They all eat in the same room in different spots and no one has to be pinned up. I don’t even own crates. These dogs live inside my home, but have doggie doors to come and go as they please. What is your theory as to why this has worked in my home and for so many others it doesn’t?

  49. oh wow. I never knew about this. We adopted 2 Pomeranians from the local shelter about 6 months ago. They are about 5 years old. One female and one male. They weren’t potty trained or trained at all. We’ve gotten them housebroken and they have attended obedience school. They have their flaws but we work with them by taking them out separately on walks. Also, when we are home, we let them play but sometimes they separate and go into different parts of the house and sleep. They are super affectionate towards us and we’ve developed a strong bond with them. They look for mommy and daddy. They don’t like other dogs but we take them to the dog parks separately.

  50. Fascinating. A textbook example can be found here, http://tipperdog.com/borders/index.html See how many times you can count “Shy Cisco”

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