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.

130 responses to “Littermate Syndrome

  1. I brought home two puppies, same breeder but not litter mates, almost two years ago. One is a first generation Goldendoodle, one parent a golden retriever and the other a poodle. Her name is Rue and is considered a medium sized GD, weighing 42 pounds. The other is a second generation GD, one parent was a GD and the other a poodle, so I consider her to be 3/4 poodle and 1/4 g retriever. Her name is Prim and she is a mini GD, weighing 20 pounds. Bringing them home together made the initial adjustment of them being away from their litter mates a breeze. They were very easily crate trained and spent the first several months sharing a crate. Only when Prim, the little one, started growling at Rue in the night if Rue moved, did I start putting them in separate crates for night time sleep. We also have a 3 1/2 year old pit bull, Cali. All three are fed at the same time, with their bowls being placed in different parts of the kitchen. Cali and Rue eat their food very quickly. Prim likes to guard hers and she will growl equally at Cali or Rue if she feels they are getting too close to her bowl. Most of the time all three are walked together but we do try to take individual walks to work on better leash walking. Prim and Rue attended obedience class together without any issues. I have felt that any growling that Prim does stems more from her being a greater percentage of poodle and her disposition is more poodle-like. Cali and Rue play-wrestle a lot and Rue and Prim play-wrestle. Cali and Prim do not interact as much. The point of my comment is that I do not believe my dogs suffer from littermate syndrome and I would not discourage anyone from getting two puppies at the same time. We thoroughly enjoy all three of our dogs and their individual personalities.


    • Your dogs are the exception not the rule. Maybe you got lucky, or maybe the worst is yet to come. There have been studies done, far more than your one experience, that prove your point invalid. I would never advise anyone to bring two puppies home, and any reputable breeder would never send someone home with two pups at the same time. I’m assuming since your poodle mixes, which is what they are, (“goldendoodle” is not a breed, its not even a word) came from a common backyard breeder, as reputable breeders do not breed mutts or mixes of any kind.

      • It is simply untrue to say no reputable breeder would send siblings home. My best friend is very involved in the whippet community ( AKC, UKC and ASFA) . She herself has a happy, well adjusted sibling pair, both on their way to multiple titles at 18 months old. MANY of her whippet owning friends have sibling pairs and all are well adjusted and good competitors.
        Several of the breeders I know through her encourage it. These are top breeders with many champions in their kennel lines.

        The so called sibling issue is based on a single study and anecdotal reports with a lot of selection bias. I myself own a sibling pair of terriers who are 2 1/2 years old and just amazing dogs. I would get a sibling pair again in a heartbeat. I don’t think the statements made about littermate syndrome are well supported by actual behavioral science.

      • Actually many people breed two different dog breeds to make these dogs it may not be a dog breed recognized by the AKC or in the dictionary. But people breed these dogs all the time so get your facts straight

        I have Not one but TWO american pit bull puppies (Reese and Karma both GIRLS). What i do is they both eat at the same time they have a puppy play pen reese is in the pen for about Two hours then Karma. Then we have them both out at the same time to play. I walk them a different times they go to Obedience class different times and i train them at different times for fifteen minutes EACH EVERYDAY. They are lovely 7 month old baby girls and i have an AMAZING bond with each dog i do admit it is a lot of working have two babies. But it is worth the joy they EACH bring

        P.S they have their own personalities and please don’t say anything like it was luck no i was a good puppy raiser i got my puppies when they were 6 wks old i don’t know if when you get them matters or not

        P.P.S This man inspired me to get two puppies instead of one just skip to 4:35 adn

      • As a rescue owner I have raised many pups from same litters, none of which suffered from littermate syndrome hence invalidating your theories. One has to ask how much experience “professional trainers” have at raising litter mates at home? Most of the trainers I know either have only had one pup at a time or are breeders who sell their pups at 8 weeks of age, again not ever raising litter mates beyond that point. I would like to see the studies to validate this claim of littermate syndrome.

      • Get over it. I see Goldendoodles all the time. They are a great mix! People aren’t going to say “I have a poodle/golden mix dog”
        We also adopted sisters from a rescue and they do fine apart or together,

  2. I recently had a horrible situation arise with a client where a fight lead to the death of one of her dogs – litter mates adopted from rescue at 8wks. They were 8 years old at the time of this particular fight with a history of 5 years of peace in the home (there were mild scuffles up until the age of 3). (I’ll note that my services were for totally uncomplicated barking at the door, the deadly fight was likely triggered by a move in with family)

    I’ve also had littermate dogs in group classes who can’t even be across the room for one another without screaming bloody murder. They basically can’t exist on their own

    The risk – of either unhealthy attachment or severe fights – is absolutely not worth it, and I don’t allow litter mates living together in the same puppy class (they must go to separate classes). I’ll be sure to include this article in my list of resources. Thanks for writing it.

    Can you perhaps point me to the research done on litter mates? I wasn’t aware that there was any!

  3. We have two siblings, brother and sister collie/spaniel crosses. When we first approached a puppy behaviour class I received a very rude email reply from the person who ran it which amounted to the fact that she thought we ought be to put down for getting two at once or, at the very least, put one of them down as you ‘can never train two dogs’. Apart from being furious with the woman that made me even convinced that I was going to be successful. We went to three different classes to train us and them, we made sure we treated them equally, we trained them separately and together…nothing was rocket science it just made sense like you would treat human twins. Seven years later we have a fabulous pair of dogs. They love us, we love them, they love each other. Everything which the research article seems to say is not possible. Luckily I have worked in research most of my life so I know that for every piece of canine research which says one thing, you can find another which says the total opposite. I am glad we got our two at once and would not hesitate to do so again.

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  5. We also have 2 Shihtzu brothers who are 10months old,they get on very well and although we don’t separate them very often we will be trying to walk them occasionally on their own so they take more notice of us rather than just play with one another.I have read so many things saying you should never buy siblings but what I don’t understand is what’s the difference of getting a dog 6-12 months later but then letting them do “everything” together and not being separated!

  6. I raise livestock guardian dogs full time and have never had the issues you talk about. In fact, I sell more sibling pairs to people who go on to be great dogs, with minimal issues. I have also published articles on running sibling pairs of guardian dogs on stock in national magazines. If anyone would like to hear the other side of this coin, feel free to contact me. I think you’ll be quite pleasantly surprised to find out that this ‘Syndrome’ probably only happens with very inexperienced dog owners who don’t know what their dogs are trying to tell them……

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  8. You might be interested in the research done in Portland, ME The testing was originally done on puppies for the benefit of human infants. However, the interesting results also benefits puppy owners. The brain waves of the puppy dog undergo a switch, exactly on the 49th day (week 7, day one), and the waves change to adult dog mode, – in other words, that brain wave pattern remains the same from then on. While they will continually learn new things – their personalities and intelligence quotient is measurable and best measured on that first day of the switch. I have had my litters tested on that day and can get an accurate account of the puppy and subsequently guide it towards the corresponding suitable human family type and environment which inturn increases the success of the experience for both the owner(s) and the dog. I encourage people to look into this research and testing.

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  10. I have littermates – I got them separately about 7 months apart. They were close at the shelter and I hated breaking them up, but they were also feral dogs and I could not handle two ferals at the same time – having never dealt with a feral “anything” before. Unfortunately, 7 months after adopting the first one, the shelter had to close and they asked if I would take the other since placing her in a home would be next to impossible. I agreed. So far – 5 years later, no issues. I hope that it continues. They are close, they trade leadership roles in various situations and still play like puppies some times.

  11. I have heard about littermate syndrome and have never experienced any of the warnings that people share. Our dogs bonded to each other and to us. Our dogs don’t fight. Our dogs created their pack hierarchy with our help and we’re at the top.

    Each set of littermates that we have attended training together. For Rodrigo and Sydney, we had a private trainer who visited us at home. Scout and Zoey went to puppy class.

    I have no idea if it’s because we have boy/girl littermates, if it’s their breed (all herding mix) or if we were just lucky 2 times. But I have heard from people who have experienced littermate syndrome and what they seem to have in common is that they weren’t prepared. Because we were warned, we were proactive with their training. But I don’t know if that was the key.

    • I have 2 female Lhasa Apsos half sisters . They are getting close to 2 years old. Daisy was 12 weeks and Minnie was 8 1/2 weeks when we got them. We took them both to puppy preschool TOGETHER and trained them TOGETHER. I kept up on training everyday for 6 months 2 times a day. We walked them separately took them potty together half of the time. We also crated them separately as well. We got them both spayed around 6 -7 months too. They played and played together and would and still always wear each other out . By training you become the pack leader. There is very little aggression towards each other maybe a little bark or mild whining growl if a toy is taken away or wanted. But they share welll. and NO AGRESSION TOWARDS US! Our dogs are the best. They can leave each other without freaking out. And they are bonded to our family very closely more than they are to each other. Yes getting 2 is expensive and double the work but we have a ball with them. Would have done it all over again. Littermate syndrome wont happen if dogs are trained .

    • Sorry i hit reply to the wrong one

  12. I’ve never heard of this before. I adopted two puppies from a rescue organization 5 years ago. Most likely they was about 2 months difference between the two. It was the best decision I ever made. The dogs are bonded, but not overly so, they bonded with the 3rd dog we eventually adopted and they are all very close to the humans of the family. Getting the two together helped the shy one gain confidence, as she watched her brother and learned from him. I trained them separately and together, walk them separately and together, and the three dogs are a wonderful group. I would love to see further research and circumstance. I don’t believe in absolutes and “always.”

    Susan C. Willett from Life with Dogs and Cats

  13. Hello, I am somewhat relieved to read some positive experiences with raising litter mates.
    I have a brother, Finn & sister, Penny (Lab / border collie mix). We searched for years for this combo locally, and were thrilled to bring home two. They are now 12 weeks old, and training has been difficult. We have been crating them together until today.
    I started price shopping online for another crate today, when I ran across an article about Litter mate syndrome. I was devastated and heartbroken. How could I choose a pup to give away or sell. I can’t.
    Article after article, the news was not good; until this forum.
    I think there is hope. I do intend on crating, training, feeding, playing separate as much as possible for awhile, but any advise from successful litter mate owners would be welcome and appreciated.

    • Hi Beth
      We crated both of our littermates together and let them tell us when they were ready to be on their own, which was about 4 months old. We don’t crate any of our dogs today, so it wasn’t necessary to separate them.

      We have 2 4-year olds and 2 7-month old littermates.

      Training was a challenge for us too, because everything took a little longer and each dog has their own personality. It’s so easy for a bad habit to spread through the pack (like barking in the house), but we’ve found that remaining calm, confident and firm helps a lot. We don’t have any issues with any of our dogs.

      One thing that surprised us was that the puppies learned from our adult dogs, which made training them easier. We haven’t experienced resource guarding (besides the random toy being stolen) and all of the dogs play well together.

      We used to play separately and go on separate walks with our adult dogs; when we do it now, it’s not planned, it just because it’s easier to walk with two dogs instead of 4 at times. We’re lucky, because we have a large property so there’s plenty of room for the dogs to play, run and explore together or on their own (under supervision).

      Best of luck with your dogs. I love the breed mix. We have a BC/Blue Heeler – Rodrigo. Crazy smart and sooo affectionate.

    • I have 2 female Lhasa Apsos half sisters . They are getting close to 2 years old. Daisy was 12 weeks and Minnie was 8 1/2 weeks when we got them. We took them both to puppy preschool TOGETHER and trained them TOGETHER. I kept up on training everyday for 6 months 2 times a day. We walked them separately took them potty together half of the time. We also crated them separately as well. We got them both spayed around 6 -7 months too. They played and played together and would and still always wear each other out . By training you become the pack leader. There is very little aggression towards each other maybe a little bark or mild whining growl if a toy is taken away or wanted. But they share welll. and NO AGRESSION TOWARDS US! Our dogs are the best. They can leave each other without freaking out. And they are bonded to our family very closely more than they are to each other. Yes getting 2 is expensive and double the work but we have a ball with them. Would have done it all over again. Littermate syndrome wont happen if dogs are trained .

  14. I really appreciate the feedback regarding this post. I work with foster youth and believe strongly siblings should be together, but I have heard of nothing but negative things about this with regard to dogs. Like a lot of dog philosophies, this one I also don’t dig.

    I took in two foster pups at 7-months-old who had been surviving and living on the streets of Mexico together. I went to foster one and found them a total package deal. The last thing I needed was two, but when they started off with such a difficult life, who am I to make it worse by splitting them up.

    I love how bonded they are. It makes my life easier. The idea that they won’t bond to humans and the family is just not my experience. They love me, clearly. They love each other, too. It’s like they know the difference between the dog-dog and dog-human relationship. Sure there is sign of separation anxiety between the two at times, but it improves as they get comfortable here. I also like that they look out for each other. They were a pack before I took them in, but they gladly welcomed me. I let them out of their crate, feed them, walk them. talk them to the park and give them treats. They don’t do that for each other!

    I think if you are a dedicated, consistent, loving pet-parent, this can totally be done and frankly I think it’s a special thing for the dogs to stay together. Call me crazy, but it just makes sense! Read about wild dogs and you will see that they stay together for a lot longer than our rescue or breed dogs do. Maybe I’m biased, who knows.

    • kimberlygauthier

      That is such a beautiful story and similar to our experience. Neither of our littermates came from hard conditions (one set we got at 8 weeks, the other at 6 weeks) and they did have separation anxiety at first, so much that we wouldn’t put them in separate kennels. Now all of our dogs act as a unit and act individually at times too. It’s obvious that they’d prefer to be together – play together, walk together – but there are times when they split up too do their own things and come back later.

      I love that they have each other, and us, and we have them. We have a happy life and I couldn’t imagine bringing home just one pup again since we’ve done littermates successfully 2x.

      I get emails from people around the world, because of my blog and my experience. I believe that it’s important to educate people about what could happen when they’re not prepared, but also what they should do to be prepared. For us, it was all about training.

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  19. We just adopted two dachshund sister puppies. One of them is shyer than the other, which was described in the article, but frankly, I can’t imagine the shyer one being without her sister. I don’t know exactly how they were treated before we adopted them, but the more dominant dog does take care of her sister. Interestingly, the shyer one is the more obedient one. I believe she’ll help teach her more confident sister.

    Anyway…My husband and I plan to do obedience training with the dogs, each taking one, but these girls compliment each other so well, I can’t imagine having them separated. Thanks to everyone who left positive feedback on having siblings. I’m looking forward to many years with these two sweeties.

    • Bethany – we have 2 sets of littermates. With both sets, the girl is more shy and reserved than her brother. But they do compliment each other. We no longer go to the dog park, but when we did, Rodrigo would protect Sydney, because she liked to have space if she didn’t know a dog.

      When Scout and Zoey used to go to puppy play dates, Scout would play and Zoey would stay with me, but he’d often come over and check in with her. It was sweet to see.

      We did separate our dogs – my boyfriend would play at home while I took one for a walk. Now that we have 4 dogs, separating the puppies is easy, because there is at least 1 other dog to keep him or her company.

      Dog training was paramount for us; we’ve worked with several positive based trainers; at first to train us and to train the dogs and then for fun brush up lessons. Helps to build confidence in the dogs and the humans.

      Best of luck!

  20. As a poodle breeder for 20 years, this has not been my experience. We test the personalities of each litter. Sometimes that helps to match littermates, but mostly it is used to match any new puppy with older dogs in their new household. It is also done to determine which have the focus to do work, such as therapy or hunting.
    Dogs live by a hierarchy of rank, so each has to find their position in the hierarchy of the family pack. In their different positions, they would have different jobs and personalities. In a traditional pack, as the genetic offspring of their original wolf ancestor, they might be a leader, harmonizer, clown, second-in-command, or loner. I find this research is too simplistic. If it were true, wolf packs would not have developed as they did.
    A family pack of dogs, like their wolf ancestors, is complex and diverse. It should be able to have littermates as part of the pack, just as a wolf pack does. Each dog will do some testing of the boundaries to find their place, until positions and roles are defined. As owners, we need to be easy with that testing and adjusting. It is part of their growth.
    I believe that what is true for the unique role of training guide dogs is not necessarily true for a diverse family arrangement. Even we humans need to find our different roles and positions within our family. It is simply natural.

    • Melissa. smith

      I recently got two rott. Puppies. At 8weeks old. i had only planed on getting the. One her name is Shady.But when i took. My daughter. To get hers one. Female was left she was. Taking her to the. Pound.she wad different. Didn’t. Come off porch to greet us. THERE WAS SOMETHING. ABOUT. HER SO NOW I HAVE. TWO WONDERFUL. PUPS SHADY@LADY YEAP A LOT. OF WORK BUT TOTALLY. WORTH IT .MY TWO BIG BABBIES.WISH ME LUCK!!-

    • Garth Greatheart

      Thanks so much for a clear and more wholistic look at this issue. Most of us are not raising guide dogs 🐕. We are simple families who want companionship with our dogs. The fact is we do become part of their new litter and I for one feel pretty honoured to be a part of it.


  21. My god! Don’t you assholes know that you shouldn’t be producing and selling puppies?! Don’t you think there are enough of them in shelters? Don’t you care about anything but your selfish profit? Don’t shop adopt! Why buy, when shelter animals die?? And for god sakes soya and neuter.. Stop breeding… Fucking hicks! Smh

    • Sorry. I don’t want a used dog.

    • kimberlygauthier

      Not everyone in this discussion purchased a dog. And without reputable breeders, what do you think will happen to dogs? Shelter dogs are spayed and neutered so they won’t be reproducing. The fight should be against people who are running puppy mills, not people who are looking for a specific breed from a specific line. There are many reputable breeders who are not contributing to the shelter population. If you find pure bred dogs in the shelter, they’re coming from an irresponsible breeder. A reputable breeder has a contract that if you won’t keep the dog, you return it and this contract is actionable.

      You don’t change people’s minds and raise awareness through attacks. People just see that as the rants of a crazy person. Instead, work on raising awareness of adoption by helping local rescue groups. Not attacking strangers in comment streams on Christmas Eve.

  22. Wow! I get the over population, but you going off like that only makes you look bad.
    All of my dogs have been adopted. And there is a place for responsible breeders.

  23. Has anyone had experience with adopting Havanese littermates? I’m looking into adopting 16 week old brother and sister. I’m interested in hearing others’ personal experiences with this particular breed.

  24. I just recently heard about this issue and I am wishing that we had adopted different sex rather than same sex littermates. We already had older dogs as well as fosters but the 2 baby girls are both special needs and at 2yrs old started fighting over things. A trainer was brought in due to one being overly fearful of humans and they are both insecure with new people and some dogs but the study hit on every point that my girls are facing from the fear to the one being a bully and the insecure one (that was normal when she was a baby) leaving the space when the bully jumps up or walks by her. I am feeling bad and like I ruined both of their lives by not separating them when trouble started but I thought it was from not having many people around for socializing and just different personalities and insecurities. They are 3yrs old now and still very vital but they love me and my close friends and play well with each other under supervision but that’s all they do together now. I am not sure at this point which way to go and I love them both so much I can’t imagine rehoming one but I do wonder if they would thrive and have better lives if apart..

    • Ja, I am sorry to hear that you are having some behavior issues and I do think opposite sex litter mates tend to get along better. The 2 litter mates I gave to my best friend in Texas was a male and female and never once has she had jealousy or fighting. Now, I kept the other 4 which are all boys and yes there are some dominance issues now and then and some bully type behavior, but it’s been 6.5 years and it seems they do work things out. They are all neutered except one and believe it or not, it is the intact male that tends to remain consistently low on the pecking order. I do believe each one knows where they rank in the pack and I too at times have felt like you and thought am I doing the right thing. My answer is absolutely. You are the ultimate pack leader and although they have one another, it is you that all of them hold as the alpha. I wouldn’t say this however, if there were life and death battles going on, but it sounds as though you have things under control, but it’s that you feel your one dog isn’t thriving. I will tell you that it is you that she holds her loyalty and love and I believe it would hurt her more for her to leave the life she has known and gotten used to. I have read that dogs know where they are in the pack and they act accordingly and are ok with it. Sometimes it may seem brutal, but we are placing our human emotion and compassion on the situation. Just remember it is stressful being top dog (among the dogs) and the lower dog is ok with less responsibility and she would most likely be this way in any given family. I know that I could never give any of my dogs away because I know they do rely on each other even though at times it seems they would kill each other if I were to turn my back for second. And of course I love them and know they need me as well.

  25. Hello, just came across this discussion and could do with help as everything seems so conflicting. In our innocence we though it was a great idea to get 2 male dogs (patterdale terriers) and have the 2 pups together. We have had several issues regarding fighting between them and it really does turn nasty with them fighting (ripping chunks out of each other). Once they get in the zone it takes us a while to split them, which is also dangerous to us as a family. We love both dogs dearly and ideally we would not want to separate them (we are having a big problem even trying to think that we would have to choose). Any help would be greatly received. Thanks.

    • Hello dear Vicky! I’m so sorry to hear things have been so stressful for you and your family as of lately with your two dogs. You sound like a very caring person, and I’m sure you’re doing the best you can with this situation right now. Because you asked for feedback, I thought I would reach out.

      I highly recommend you invest in finding a professional dog trainer, someone who has extensive experience with dogs and positive reinforcement. Do not use anything but positive reinforcement training. Harsh methods are guaranteed to cause you (and your dogs) more grief in the long run. Find someone with a proven track record that has many excellent reviews. Someone you feel you can communicate honestly with, and in turn, they will meet you with compassion, returned honesty, and non-judgment.

      I hear many dog owners in your situation. They are conflicted in so many ways, consciously and unconsciously. You are not alone. Out of Love to you and dogs, just to be perfectly clear, your situation is a 10 on a scale of 1-10 in regards to urgency and danger. This situation needs to be professionally addressed immediately, which it seems your heart already knows since you are reaching out on this forum. Your two dogs “ripping chunks out of each other” is a ticking time bomb. It is the equivalent of two humans taking knives to one another. Please know first and foremost, both your dogs are under an immense overload of stress to have been finally pushed to this point. Unfortunately, they can’t speak English and just tell us… but their behavior says all we need to know. They might accidentally kill one another during a fight, maul out an eyeball, or bite off the finger of a well-meaning hand trying to intervene.

      Rehoming one of the dogs is definitely a healthy, viable, and compassionate option. It is easier to do this now, than postpone till later. No one really likes to give up a beloved dog, but sometimes it is for the best. Only time can tell. Another option might be a TON of training, hard work, and hardcore daily management and supervision that can last months, years, or literally a lifetime. You need to ask yourself and your family if that is the commitment you are ready/wanting to make and then follow through in such a way that it keeps everyone (furred and non furred) safe if you decide to keep both dogs. It is our job to keep them and ourselves safe.

      Sometimes dogs just don’t like each other and that doesn’t change. I am not at all saying that is the case with your dogs, since I have no specific details in regards to your unique situation. I only bring it up because it’s something people don’t realize about animals sometimes. Just like you can’t force two people to love one another, you can’t force two dogs to get along.

      A trainer can help you better understand and see the stresses and triggers that are causing your dogs to fight one another. Dogs do not want to fight. They have a series of social and behavioral mechanisms in place to prevent conflict. If your dogs have already had even one physical altercation, it needs to be taken seriously and addressed.

      Again, I urge you to get some experienced, objective, loving feedback. There is no shame in whatever choice you make. You are simply doing the best you can. All the best to you and your family, and your beloved dogs… from one dog lover to the next.

  26. I wish I would of know about this before I made the decision to keep both of my baby girls after they were born. They were both fixed at 5 months old and always treated with the same love and attention. But as they grew, the oldest of the two became unsure of lots of things and the other became bolder.The oldest wanted to hide all the time, the other wanted to guard. Then the fights started, and yes they were separated. but as 4 year olds the younger female chewed through a heavy wire door and damaged her older sister to the point of emergency care where she died the next day. This was the most heartbreaking experience I have ever had, I loved them both so much, now the oldest sleeps on my fireplace mantel. Very sad. If this saves any puppy I will be glad I shared my horrible experience.

  27. i have seen litter mates do well – did it involve extra work on the part of the owners – YES – was it worth it to those homes – YES – they crated separately, trained separately and had separate activities – – there are no absolutes – so much depends on the puppies and the famlies they go into

  28. Pingback: Raising Littermates - Dog Training and Dog Behavior

  29. My wife and I have just bought home our two 8 week old rotties brother and sister. They hate to be apart always play fighting and the female hates sleeping without him on her crate. Sometimes she is happy with her crate next to but she seems to settle down and fell more at ease when she sleeps with her brother.

    I’m glad my wife found this post as with the other comments all I have found on raining siblings was all bad news.
    Does any one on here have experience in having 2 rottie siblings at the same time

    • Congrats on the new babies, having opposite sex siblings should be easier I would think. Definitely train them separately and give them each their own time with you.

      • Thanks.

        This is our first week with them.

        Should we crate them separately at night as the girl hates it. Or leave them
        Together for now until she wants her own space?

    • Hi Nathan, I have just come across this thread and wondered how you have got on, a year after this posting? I have two rottie sisters which we had at 7 weeks, one ours and the other my daughters They are now two and a half and we haven’t had any major problems with them. One is naturally the dominant one and they have chosen different loyalties, one to my partner and the other to me and my daughter, clearly a ladies dog . I have never attended classes with them but have trained them both myself, together, not separately. I must admit that they have been a handful at times, overly excitable and very rough, noisy playing but both have excellent recall, walk to heel and do exactly what they are told although I do need to speak very firmly. They initially were crate trained but progressed to sleeping separately, the dominant one in our room and the other in my daughter’s room. They feed at the same time and sit next to their bowls until they are given permission to eat. We had one female cat when we had them and now have a six month male cat too, both of which have asserted themselves in the hierarchy as it were!

      We are now at a crossroads as my daughter has moved into her own property and will be taking her girl this week. I am worried about the effect that this will have on her. I feel that she will benefit from being the sole pet attention wise but I also worry that she may suffer from separation anxiety. I read many horror stories about litter mates and was petrified that we had done the wrong thing but look hard enough and there are many more success stories too. I was told to expect them to be fighting to the death from about eight months old and yet we have not experienced a single incident. I feel that rotties are one of the easiest breeds to train as they are so eager to please and make excellent, loyal family members.

      • Please do not give up. I strongly recommend reading ALL of Turid Rugaas’ books on Barking, the Sound of a Language, and Calming Signals. I cannot emphasize to you enough, that the better you learn to communicate with your dogs on a level that they will understand, the more success you will have. It takes patience, time and the WILLINGNESS to understand. There is no ‘instant fix’ with dogs and there is no push button solution. Unfortunately in our society now everyone wants it NOW. Yes there will be separation anxiety for your siblings. But maybe you can also see that they get to see each other now and then as well. Remember dogs are pack animals. They existed eons before as pack families and this is what they crave and are most comfortable in.

      • Update: my daughter has now moved and our rotties have been separated although they do have a daily walk together. It’s been three weeks and I think, behaviour wise, it is the best for them. They are both attentive and very well behaved at home whilst each benefitting from sole attention. Plus it’s an awful lot quieter!

  30. My husband and I raised 2 nearly perfect Labradors. We got them both on the same day but they were from different litters (both female). Sadly at 12 years old we lost one of our girls to a massive haemorrhage.
    We had such joy for 12 years we decided to get 2 puppies, to keep our doggie family going forward.
    So 10 days we got 2 female X French bulldog / English staffie’s! They are now 9 weeks old. My concern is that they are starting to fight, not just puppy rolling around but full on fighting. We trained our labs from the start and intend to do the same with our new pups. We were warned against getting the two pups but the reasons we were given did not mention fighting. ( their reasons were that they would bond with each other and not our lab ).
    Is there any hope? I don’t mind the work but this fighting is continual and vicious. Your advice would be gratefully received.

    • Don’t worry too much! All these articles were freaking me out as well after we got two kelpie x siblings!! They are 3 years old, the girl is the boss. We never ever had any serious fights. But I have to say we have a big property were they can run around all day, we go for walks, to the beach, doggy training.. Maybe boredom is the cause of some dogs fighting!! I wish you all the best!!

  31. Pingback: Training is essential! | Delightful Doggies

  32. Just found this article and discussion on “littermate syndrome”. We are having this problem right now. We bought brother and sister Siberian Huskies, now 17 weeks old. They are very tightly bonded and it has been a tolerable situation until recently. They have always done a lot of “puppy wrestling” and as all Siberian pups do .. what we call “face fighting”. It has always been harmless exercise and loving playfulness. However, it has changed since they are older and more adult in size and temperament. It has become increasingly aggressive and violent. So far neither dog has gotten hurt (my wife did accidentally get bitten lightly, breaking up a squabble). They did not intend to bite her. The arguments begin over a standoff about toys, food, treats or any possession that one has and the other seems to want. Horrible, howling, growling, gnashing of teeth and snapping and grabbing each other. It scares us and we try to break it up (that’s when we can get hurt). My wife is not as attached to the pups as I am and she wants both of them gone .. to a shelter, if necessary. I love them and don’t want to lose either of them. Is there a solution to this problem?

  33. Honestly, experience trumps book learned speculation every time. and Siblings are the only way to go. Respect the pack dynamic.

  34. The internet is a great place to find information to suit whatever side if an argument you wish to take. Whilst I am sure there are arguments one way and the other, from my own experience I can say that getting two pups at the same time has been a real challenge. I am sure this perhaps more true of re homed pups or particular breeds, but why take the risk? Our lovely dogs now aged 8 have behavioural issues and recent aggression towards one another. I am certain this has been exacerbated by a recent house move but it is worth remembering that you will have figs for a long time and who knows what life changes you will gave to experience with them by you side. I genuinely feel that we failed our two by taking both from the pound as pups but “they were so cute”. No matter what good news stories you read here I am sure there are many similar disasters…again why take the risk? I love both my boys and we will carry on managing the issues as they arise but if you are thinking if getting two pups together….please think twice. It’s not worth the risk.

    • Some people are not cut out to own, let alone understand dogs. But instead of facing that reality, they con themselves into thinking they can do something they are really incapable of. I am so happy I have so many satisfied customers running sibling pairs and trios successfully from me. They have leaned on me for guidance and it’s been wonderful, win/win all around. For those intelligent and compassionate and patient people willing to discover what a wonderful experience it can be, I still sing the praises of sibling pups and have the experience to back that up. Not books, not science – real experience. Some of you should probably stick to owning a parakeet or two…..

  35. We have two amazing cocker spaniels, brothers, from the same litter.

    They are very well trained and incredibly obedient and loving. No separation anxiety or issues at all.

    They are now 11 years old. I also have two children aged 9 and 7 and we all get on just fine.

  36. PREACH. My cousin adopted two pitbull puppies, brother and sister, thinking he had scored a great deal from his breeder friend. The puppies were gorgeous and at first had the best temperaments. But as the months went by (and of course Dwayne and his wife are the “awww, leave them together in the crate and let them sleep-type”), their play-fighting was nonstop and they began biting the family. The male pup was bigger so he would really lace in and bite even though he thought he was playing. Dogs had no idea they were ripping people up. My cousin is more a cat and goldfish guy so neither he nor his wife asserted dominance while raising the pups either! I think the male pup in particular having never been properly socialized outside of the sister and a pet parakeet assumed the alpha role in the house. 2 dog trainers later and my cousin decided to rehouse both of them cause of the baby on the way. The female went to a regular home with no kids but the male had to go to a vet who specializes in training pitbulls because he was so aggressive and they thought it would be too dangerous to have a regular family try and rehabilitate him if they don’t know what they’re doing.

    • Sounds like a couple who should have never ever gotten those dogs to begin with. Keeping them crated: recipe for disaster. And then ditching them because a baby came along? Classic irresponsible owners.

  37. Can you provide the citation for the guide dog research? I would love to read it.

  38. I have been doing rescue for 15 years. Many littermates have come through. Many said to be bonded pairs. I can only think of one pair where each was better off separated and flourished in their own homes. As for the rest, bought at the vary same time and raised together, all were very well adjusted. Equals and without behavior issues. One wasn’t making the other shy. Every dog, like people, has their own personality. I don’t feel that changes much by being raised with a littermate. I think it works well if the right personalities are chosen to live together. I haven’t seen the insecurity while working one on one with dogs that are bonded. In cases where there is one dominating the other, its obvious and not a good situation. But to say this is always the outcome and fact is just misguided information. Its not true. And will never be true for ALL dogs. What is true is outcome will be determined by the personalities chosen to go together. Don’t pick the most shy and most dominant dogs to raise together. Pretty simple. I think it would have been much more affective to state how to behavior and personality test puppies before picking two to take home. Saying it never works is just not true. I have seen it work many many times.

  39. I first read this article six years ago after we brought home two puppies at the same time. We have a female Goldendoodle and a male Bull Terrier. I will admit that we didn’t do any research about getting two puppies at once. They were emotional purchases after losing our previous dogs that we had for 15 and 16 years within six months of each other. After reading this article and doing some other research I really worried about our decision. I’m happy to say that our experience has been great. It was a ton of work getting them probably trained but very much worth the effort. The dogs get along great, they still play like puppies, and are very attached to everyone in the family. We did make sure that everyone in the family participated in the training of each dog. Some of their training we did individually and some of it we did together. We still make a point to sometimes take one dog without the other. I’m not sure that I would recommend getting two puppies at once to everyone ,but it can work. Maybe it’s because mine are different breeds and different sexes with completely different personalities or maybe we just got lucky. I’m very happy that we stuck it out and didn’t decide to find another home for one of the puppies.

  40. I am dog lover and maltipoo puppy is my favorite one.

  41. The French Bulldog is a breed of domestic dog, bred to be companion dogs. The breed is the result of a cross between Toy Bulldogs imported from England and local ratters in Paris, France, in the 1800s.They are stocky, compact dogs with a friendly, mild-mannered temperament.french bulldog puppies for sale .
    The breed is popular as a pet: in 2019, they were the second-most popular registered dog in the United Kingdom,and the fourth-most popular AKC-registered dog breed in the United States.They were rated the third-most popular dog in Australia in 2017.In 2019 in the United Kingdom, the French Bulldog had 375 export pedigrees and a total of 33,661 registered dogs.

  42. Hi! I’m taking a college course on dog training and hope to do it professionally in the future. How do you get these dogs to train for guide dog training? I would love to help train a dog for future help to someone. I was just wondering how it’s done.

  43. Is this a fixable situation? I have 2 Great Pyrenees/Great Dane mix brothers about 2yrs old. One just wants to go about his day, the other wants to kill the other for being in the same room. What started out as a couple scuffles when another dog was in heat has become blood on the wall fights this week. If I can’t fix this I’m going to have to re-home one of them.

  44. Anonymous Person who wants to learn about dogs

    Hi, I am wondering if it’s possible for MORE than 2 littermates to be kept together. As in keeping an entire litter. I have seen sanctuaries and zoos house several littermates together, specifically wolves, and I was wondering if wolf pack dynamics are applicable to dogs, especially the more primitive breeds. Granted, the wolf littermates are housed separately in opposite-sex pairs and allowed to interact with each other in a play pen, mimicking the dispersal desires of wolves. But I have seen videos of older wolf pups, all together, who have no issues being with each other. I think this is a great solution, then again, I’m not sure if there is a clear difference.

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