Littermate Syndrome: The risky downside to raising sibling puppies

By Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA

Upon reading Patricia Leslie’s email, I knew I’d be replying with disappointing news. “We were planning to adopt one puppy, but the breeder said that raising two sisters would be easier.” Leslie had contacted me after reading my blog post about littermate syndrome, in which profoundly bonded siblings have difficulty relating to humans and other dogs.

“After we brought the mixed-breed girls home at nine weeks, their behavior grew completely out of control. My husband and I could not get their attention for more than a second or two, as if we weren’t even in the same room. And then they started displaying alarming fearfulness of people and other dogs.” I made an appointment to meet Patricia, her husband Karl and the puppies the next day at their Richmond, California home.

Many dog behaviorists, trainers, breeders and shelters discourage adopting siblings. Anecdotal evidence suggests that behavioral issues may arise during key development periods because the two puppies’ deep bond impedes their ability to absorb and grasp the nuances of human and canine communication. Since fear is the default reaction to odd or unfamiliar stimuli in dogs, this muddled understanding of the world around them can lead to impaired coping mechanisms later on. Many factors influence behavior and not all siblings raised together will exhibit signs: Littermate syndrome is a risk, not a foregone conclusion.

Littermate Syndrome

Common Signs
Signs include fearfulness of unfamiliar people, dogs and other novel stimuli (neophobia); intense anxiety when separated even briefly; and difficulty learning basic obedience skills. In some cases the two dogs fight incessantly. Over lunch recently, veterinarian and dog behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar and I discussed raising sibling dogs. “It’s a disaster waiting to happen for the littermates because they don’t get socialized to other dogs or people, let alone to their owners,” he said. Many owners assume their interacting with each other is adequate, “but when the puppies are five or six months old and meet an unfamiliar dog in a novel setting, they absolutely freak out.”

Dunbar points out that raising littermates necessitates training two puppies—particularly challenging when they essentially wear blinders to all but each other. “It’s more than twice the work; it’s exponential. The two combine to produce levels of energy that we can barely measure. Tension develops in training and compliance as they squeeze the owner out of the relationship. They’re always living with an enormous distraction—each other.”

The Tie That Binds
Cohabitating siblings may become so emotionally dependent on each other that even short separations provoke extreme distress. Behavior specialist and author Nicole Wilde recalls a case in which two nine-year-old sibling Huskies attended her group class. “They were so bonded to each other that I literally could not take one and walk a few feet away to practice loose leash skills because the other would scream.”

Wilde believes the problems are rooted in hyper-attachment, leading to hindered social development and communication issues. “People assume that having two same-age pups that play together and interact constantly covers their dog-dog socialization needs, but they in fact don’t learn how other breeds play and have no idea about social skills with other puppies, adolescents or adult dogs. Perhaps one puppy is a bit of a bully, which his littermate puts up with, but his rude behavior might not be tolerated by a new dog in a new setting.”

During my appointment with Leslie, we determined that the best course was to re-home one of her twelve-week-old siblings. Dunbar agrees that it’s often best to separate littermates, especially if symptoms appear early, so that each has a chance to develop normally as an individual. This is obviously a burdensome decision for the overwhelmed owner to make, a sort of canine Sophie’s Choice, so he recommends that the new owner meet both puppies and determine which to take home.

Together Forever
Owners committed to raising a pair should ensure the puppies spend significant portions of every day apart so that each learns how to be alone—a key lesson in any well thought-out puppy program. This means feeding, walking and training separately, with individual crates in different parts of the home. Even trips to puppy socials and the vet should be separate so that both learn to incorporate these episodes into their psyches without being overly dependent on their littermate.

This separate-but-equal arrangement is time-consuming, exhausting and seems to defeat the original intent of acquiring siblings. Wilde notes that planned separations must begin immediately. “I’ve been called into homes where four-month-old siblings have been sleeping in the same crate for eight weeks and not purposefully separated by the owners, who had the best intentions but were unaware of littermate issues. Even getting the puppies to sleep in separate crates right next to each other is traumatic for them.”

Dunbar, too, is adamant that a key lesson for a puppy to master is how to be content with being alone, all but impossible with two siblings. “Once we’ve done that, yes, he can live with other dogs and have free run of the house. But if you don’t teach puppies early on how to be alone, and especially with siblings who have always been together, it will be catastrophic when one dies.” Dunbar encourages multiple dog households—“I always like having three dogs”—but the timing, temperament and age that each enters the home is paramount.

Most people contacting me through my blog never heard of littermate syndrome before finding the post while researching symptoms observed in their dogs. Increasingly, trainers and behavior professionals recognize that the cons of adopting siblings far outweigh the pros. “The only advantage I can think of is a short-term gain of the puppies being less lonely in the first month of life”, says Dunbar. “Everything else is a loss.”

Exceptions and Hope
While the majority of comments to my blog corroborate struggles in raising siblings—including the ongoing aggression and fighting often seen between same-gendered littermates—others write of well-adjusted cohabitating pairs. A common thread seems to be that littermates are more likely to thrive when introduced into a household with an older dog, who perhaps acts as an arbiter and stabilizing influence.

Myriad factors affect dog behavior, including genetics, early life experiences and owner engagement. As University of California/Davis veterinary behaviorist Dr. Melissa Bain points out, “two fearful littermates very well may be genetically predisposed to fear.” Bain is less inclined to apply the term syndrome to the set of symptoms: “It makes you think all littermates have problems, which is not the case.” She also emphasizes that the level of owner involvement is key, saying “the symptoms escalate when the owners treat them as one dog with eight legs.” When conflict ensues within the pair, Bain believes it’s due to the dogs being too similar in size, age and gender. “This uniformity makes it difficult for the siblings to delineate a hierarchy,” she said.

After Leslie’s second sibling had been re-homed, her remaining puppy began to thrive under a remedial socialization program. “Dora has blossomed in the last three months into a delightful household companion and she continues to improve. She now approaches people out of curiosity. We know she would still be fearful had we not separated the two before it got any worse. Dora has become more confident with all kinds of dogs and successfully completed a group obedience class.”

Increased Awareness
Recognition of the risks appears to be spreading, with many breeders and shelters declining to place siblings together. Shelley Smith, adoption center manager at Pets Unlimited in San Francisco, said her shelter stopped placing siblings together after a particularly disturbing case. “A dachshund mix named Thelma was returned to the shelter because her sibling repeatedly attacked her and she had multiple injuries by the time the heartbroken family returned her to us. Thankfully we were able to re-home Thelma, but it’s almost certain the fighting and anxiety could have been avoided had the two littermates not been placed together. We now separate siblings and inform adopters about the rationale for our policy.”

While siblings blessed with extraordinary genes and socialization-forward owners may deflect littermate syndrome, the consensus among canine professionals is that it’s not worth the risk. Most would encourage new owners to adopt a single puppy that suits their lifestyle and to focus on the training and socialization that strengthens the interspecies bond unique to humans and dogs. Once your puppy is a dog, by all means, get a second since the two will be at completely different stages, and the older one may very well emerge as a great life teacher to the younger.

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About Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA

Having owned well-trained dogs all my life, I started Better Nature Dog Training to exploit decades of experience teaching across a number of fields. I am nationally-certified through the highly-respected Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and am a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. I teach people how to effectively train their dogs by clearly demonstrating that every interaction counts when training a dog to come when called, for example, or instructing a puppy how to best get along in life. I take a scientific and holistic approach to dog training. The scientific aspect comes from understanding dog psychology from an evolutionary perspective, knowing how dogs are both similar to and distinct from their ancestors, including the grey wolf. The holistic component derives from taking into account all facets of any particular dog’s situation, including upbringing, prior training, traumatic events and—most importantly—the characteristics of his home and family life. Training a puppy or dog can be a most rewarding life experience; it can also be stressful and perplexing. One of the best services I provide is taking the guesswork out while lending a sure, guiding hand in successful dog behavior development and modification.
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196 Responses to Littermate Syndrome: The risky downside to raising sibling puppies

  1. Sue says:

    That was a brilliant article…..and of course whilst reading it, it all made sense.
    Never too old to learn something new!……thanks!.

    • Judy Titus says:

      We had just the opposite happen with the two 10 month old Golden Retriever pups we adopted. They loved one another, kept one another company when we were out – played with us together when we were home – no rivalry – no sign of his syndrome you talk about. They were well adapted to people and dogs. Never had those problems. I had not heard of this happening until right now. Guess we were fortunate – they are both deceased now and miss them beyond words.

  2. Pingback: Adopting Littermate Puppies: Don’t Do It | Quantum Meruit

  3. Kirsti says:

    I am currently experiencing this “Littermate Syndrome” with my 15 month old lab/terrier females. We were completely unaware that such a thing existed and the people at the shelter from which we adopted them mentioned nothing of the such. They actually encouraged us to adopt both puppies. The aggression towards one another just started about a week ago and it is awful. I am heart broken at the thought of having to re-home one of them. Is there any way that they will grow out of trying to over-dominate the other and can eventually live in peace with one another again? Or should we absolutely re-home one of them?

    • Kirsti, I am sorry to hear that. What age were they when you adopted them? I am not sure where you live, but I suggest working with a behavior consultant/trainer to help evaluate all your options.

  4. Vicki Shelton says:

    My husband and I made a huge mistake and purchased two male littermates at the same time. They are now six months old and one of them (Boo) is continually fighting with the other(Bear). Bear is now cowering down when he sees Boo coming toward him. We also have a five year old (Max). These are all German Shepherds. Max has been circling Bear every time Boo comes near. Max is very well trained but is now exhibiting tremendous anxiety. A lot of the time he will not even eat and neither will Bear. I have tried to find a home to no avail and have talked to three trainers about this and all said the same thing—not good at all. Bear had been very playful and confident but doesn’t seem that way now and Max is worn out trying to keep them apart. We cannot separate them due to housing and time issues. We are at wits end. I have put a call in to our local State Police because I was told that sometimes they will take a dog to train for their canine unit. I haven’t heard anything yet. We had never heard of Littermate Syndrome until talking to the trainers. This is horrible! Any suggestions?

    • Yours is unfortunately a classic case. Definitely rehome one of these dogs. I would lean towards keeping Bear since Boo might have a bit more confidence to draw on. You are going to have to spend lots of time working to rebuild Bear’s confidence.

  5. Bonnie Joyce says:

    We adopted 5 yr old beagles who are littermates. We also did not know of the littermate syndrome before the adoption. Is this an ethical hot button in the breeding and adopting communities? What can be done to get the message out better?

    • Bonnie, I am researching this topic and have met with veterinarian behaviorists at UC Davis. I will be interviewing Dr. Ian Dunbar in the coming. I am writing an article on the subject with the target of publication in a national magazine, such as The Bark. I would be interested in talking to you about your experiences.

      • Bonnie Joyce says:

        I am not sure I will be able to add a whole lot to the discussion, but I am willing. How can we set up a contact? (I’m using my fb account this time; the other is a shared account.)

  6. Tom says:

    We adopted two chiapoo puppies. They were 9 weeks old. We originally intended on getting just one but the original owner said we could have both as he needed to get rid of them by the weekend(going on vacation). We quickly saw some aggression. One pup more than the other. They were the center of each others world and got aggitated whenever one of us interrupted their play. We thought it best to sell one. But after seeing your blog, We really started to push the sale. The pups are 12 weeks now and really feel like they need to be separated to be good family pets. Thanks for this article.

    • You’re welcome. I am working on an article about this subject for Bark Magazine right now, hopefully to get the word out so fewer people head down this often-disasterous path.

      • ThePayferPack says:

        When your article is published, will you have a way that other trainers can print it to reference it or hand it out? I see people getting litter mates all the time coming into the store that I am a trainer in. I also have people that ask about it and I think having an article/handout ready and waiting to give to people to take home and read would be helpful in spreading the word. The more that people know the better.

        When I was a pet sitter I had litter mate labs (male/female) and right around one year, I had an incident with them where one became over stimulated after I brought her away from a very “playful” snake and she then started biting at me and while trying to calm her the other joined in. Even though I recommended that they take the pups to training when they were younger, they never did (even after the incident they didn’t take them to training).

        Of course I found out later that the female wasn’t allowed out with the boys because she would get over stimulated and go after them and their friends. I ended up firing them as clients.

      • Thanks for your story and perspective. I am waiting for my interviewees to approve the draft, then it will be up to the magazine (submitting it to three) as to when to print. Feel free to print this article out to hand to folks!

  7. Nan Wells says:

    Excellent article!! It is very true that breeders and rescue shelter groups are encouraging people to adopt two puppies in a litter because they are apparently unaware of this. I had a client that called me that had two foster puppies from the same litter. They experienced severe aggression between the two at less than three months of age. I advise them to take the other puppy back to the rescue group and keep just the one. He’s turned into a wonderful puppy through their socialization and obedience class work.

    Nan Wells
    DogWoods Retreat

    • Thanks for the comments, Nan. I am expanding this article, hopefully for print in Bark Magazine. The word needs to get out!

    • Leeanne Cagnacci says:

      Not all breeders encourage people to buy/adopt two puppies from a litter! I am a breeder and will not let buyers have more than one puppy for the very reasons stated in the article. Reputable breeders won’t let two puppies go to the same home and I certainly will not encourage it to “get rid” (I hate that term, it sounds like the puppies are rubbish that needs discarding) of puppies for any reason.

      • I would think that most breeders would know about this, but many do not. Thanks for your perspective.

      • Julie says:

        Leanne, I take issue with your comment that “reputable breeders won’t let two puppies go to the same home”. I AM a very reputable, responsible breeder and I have in 2 instances over the years, allowed the same family to adopt sibling puppies. Just because you don’t do it, doesn’t mean that others aren’t qualified enough to interview and know well enough that the family they are allowing to adopt is capable of properly socializing multiple puppies at once. I don;t allow it on a regular basis, but in both instances these were large families with 4 or more older children that were both committed to making sure the puppies were socialized separately so they didn’t become too dependent upon each other. In both cases, they ended up being incredible, well behaved family companions. The world is not black and white, so don’t make such close minded, offensive statements.

      • Carol says:

        I agree with Leanne, I am a breeder and do not place two puppies in the same home at the same time. I never “get rid” of puppies, I feel that I am responsible for the puppies I breed, and if they don’t get placed, they stay with me. I also volunteer with a rescue group, we very, very rarely place two dogs at one time unless they come to us as a bonded pair. Get one dog socialized to your home and lifestyle and then add another if you wish.

  8. Kristin says:

    I rescued 2 female Jack Russell mix litter mates 10 years ago. I really wish someone had told me then not to adopt both of them. I love both of my girls dearly but having them has definitely been a trial through the years. I’ll be honest and say I don’t think I have many of the syndromes problems, but I do have my fair share. They are both food aggressive especially with each other & that is what usually causes their fights. And good lord when they fight!!! There is ALWAYS wounds after their fights. Some have been bad enough that I’ve had to take them to the vet for stitches and deep cleaning of puncture wounds. My girls aren’t big (both about 30 lbs), but when they’re fighting it can take me up to 15 mins to break them apart. They are both very strong & focus so much on fighting that they don’t even realize I’m there. I’ve been bit a couple times while trying to break up the fights but thankfully nothing a good cleaning and a bandage couldn’t fix.

    I volunteer with a rescue organization now and often tell people NOT to get litter mates. Then I go into some of the stories I have about what I’ve gone through. I will absolutely never make that mistake again but at this point in their lives I won’t rehome either one. I couldn’t do that to them…or myself. I know that I’m fortunate that for the most part they tend to get along and play well together. But I will never never never have litter mates EVER again. I do want to thank you for this article as it finally validates what I’ve been saying for years…NO LITTER MATES EVER!!

    • Hello Kristin, thanks for your contribution to the subject and for helping to confirm that this condition is real, common and, ultimately, avoidable. I would never suggest that you separate them after this many years together. Lots of management, as you well know.

      This blog post has become a de facto source of information, apparently. Hits to this particular post have increased exponentially each month it’s been up. To that end, and to get the word out, I am working on an expanded article, hopefully destined for print in a national magazine so that more people are aware.

      By the way, your symptoms are classic, in particular, the fighting. That is not normal and such in-home brutality is rare…except among littermates, and especially same-gendered ones.

  9. johanna says:

    About 14 years ago I brought home a lab mix puppy and then a week later I brought home her litter mate. Both females, lab and german shepard mix from an ‘oops’ mating. They had a great relationship, bonded well with their humans and were great pets. As puppies they were boredom chewers but that was about all. One passed away two years ago of cancer and the other is riding out her final years. They never exhibited aggression or any poor behaviors. At the time I had siblings that were 2 and 4 and they were also great with the kids. I now have two smaller high energy rescue dogs and the old lady is great with them as well. I guess we were SUPER lucky!!

    • There are definitely exceptions! The siblings from different litters would not fall into this category, by the way, since they were/are at different developmental stages.

      • Jan Tucker says:

        There are most definitely exceptions. I took on two brothers who at 3 months were dumped on a motorway (I live in Cyprus so this is not uncommon unfortunately). They have always had quite different personalities, but I think the reason we never had any problems is because I am so terribly bossy. I was aware we could have a problem but we decided to give it a try and they are quite perfect. Do lots of tricks and their recall is amazing (I taught them to return to a whistle). One always seemed quite happy to be the underdog, but the difference was not obviously to anyone but myself and my husband. They are as well “submissive” types so probably this has helped. They are extremely close, friends call them bookends but we have even parted them for a couple of hours when I took one to the vets. My husband stayed with the other one, and they were both fine. So perhaps we have been very lucky.

    • Thank you for posting your response. Johanna. I, too, somehow lucked out with my two 12 year old Husky/Dalmatian sisters (also an oops, I am assuming, as they were found in a dumpster at 8 wks, when I promptly adopted them). They rarely fight, and when they do, it is over as quickly as it begins. With what I’ve seen out there among litter mates, Mr. Stalling’s article is on the money. Johanna, you and I can count our blessings!

      The reason I want to thank you for your response is that I have the biggest fear that when one passes, the other will not be able to cope. The fact that you lost one two years ago (my sincerest condolences) yet the sister has thrived for since is soothing to me. I really needed to read that; thank you for giving me hope.

  10. Sue says:

    Hi
    Sorry that your going through this with your pets. I was not aware of any of this. Hhowever i have to say that my neice adopted brother sister litter mates. They have had no problems except with mischief. Sister can be , but not always protective of her brother. They even go to dog parks and do very well. As far as bonding to their humans. With these two they love everyone. So happy story here but it sounds like its an exception to the rule.

  11. Deborah Bean says:

    Hi!
    We have been raising litter mates together for forty years. We have never experienced any of these problems. Seems these are problems of dog owners failing to maintain control of their dogs through training and less of raising litter mates together.

    Deborah

    • There are definitely genetic and training issue that can lead to this problem. It sounds like you are on top of both, so that’s great. But this is a real set of symptoms in many littermates. Read some of the other responses below. I delve into this more and interview behavior experts in an upcoming print expansion of this article. Thanks for your perspective, it is appreciated.

    • Steve says:

      Definitely agree, Deb. We have sibling standard poodles that were 3 in Jan and have had no issues. It is wise to spend quality time separately with each, but why wouldn’t you. Once one understands that “puppy class” is for owners, most of the rest is common sense.

    • Debbie Smith says:

      As with having any dog, you get what you put into them. If you take the time to train and work with them you get wonderful dogs. I have bred dogs for years and right now have 2 sets of dogs from 2 separate litters. I walk them separately, train them separately and put in time with each one. As with ALL dogs you need to spend time with them and work with them. If you just leave them alone and do not spend time with them, yes you will have problems. But that will occur in any dog that is not socialized and trained. Siblings are not the problem the owners are. My dogs have been Obedience dogs, Therapy dogs, conformation dogs. Do not keep 2 dogs if you are not going to have the time to spend with them.

  12. Chris says:

    I guess we got extremely lucky. We have two shep x littermates, both very very bonded, love each other, love us more and are the most social and affectionate dogs you’ll ever meet. They are sweet to everybody. They’ve never had a fight, are great with food and toys, love to chase but don’t get aggressive. They do compete for attention for sure, but never in an aggressive or harsh way. And we have a challenge with jumping on guests because they’re excited, but that’s as bad as it gets. They will be two in April, and have never had a fight or even exchanged harsh “words”. I’m knocking on wood as I type this….but so far, its the best decision we’ve ever made. I also have friends who adopted littermates a few years back, and they get along well too.

    • This is not universal among all co-homed siblings. However, it occurs frequently enough. I mostly want people to be aware of it, to avoid adopting siblings if possible (there are other reasons to just have one puppy at a time), and to know what to look for. It sounds like you have an awesome set of lucky dogs!

  13. Sandi says:

    I heard of this syndrome only after I adopted two female border collies at approximately 6/7 months of age (they are now about 11 months). They were found together and were assumed to be of the same age and litter. I adopted them separately but within about 6 weeks of each other. We brought them into a home with an 11 y/o male border collie we have had since he was 1 and a half years old. After a little bit of adjustment and my male bc assuring one of the girls that he was Alpha, the issues have subsided. They all play fairly well together or one-on-one but occasionally it gets a little out of hand and there is growling and mouthing but so far no blood. A squirt of water and separating usually does the trick. My question is, if we are fortunate enough to not have a problem by the time they are out of the puppy stage and are sufficiently socialized, what is the likely-hood that we are in the clear? We love these pups and I dread the thought that I would have to rehome one of them.

    • It sounds like your male may be a stabilizing force, so I wouldn’t think you have to worry about having to re-home one. You didn’t have them during the socialization period (up to about 16 weeks) so it’s impossible to know what sort of exposure they had to people and dogs. I would suggest that our spend time with each of the siblings one-on-one, focusing on separate training sessions with each.

  14. Bonnie B says:

    I believe it has more to do with trying to raise two puppies at one time. The same as any two children at oane tiem. it is far more difficult.It isnt impossible ant there are positive as wellas negative effects. But Two puppies at once can never getas much attention as one at a time

    • You got the “far more difficult” part right. Notice I said in the article that it can be done, but to do it right requires separate crates in separate rooms, separate training, feeding, walks, socialization, trips to the vet, etc. I was talking to renown dog trainer/veterinarian Dr. Ian Dunbar about this recently and he agreed strongly that there are no good reasons to do this. Yes, they may both turn out to be confident, well-adjusted dogs. But they may also be emotionally damaged for life. My point is, it’s not worth the risk.

  15. JT says:

    Interesting article and as a breeder I would not allow 2 to go to the same home, however I am keeping 2 from my current litter so will certainly watch out for these signs. However I would not take by babies out socialising until they are fully vaccinated at 12 weeks old

    • Waiting until after the 3rd set of shots is not in the interest of your puppies! Indoor puppy socials with non-littermates is the most important thing you can do, starting after the first set of shots plus 7 days. Breeders and new owners are doing a great disservice to these animals by waiting until AFTER the primary socialization period to introduce their puppies to the world. The chances of raising a dog with severe behavior problems far outweighs the chances of contracting Canine Parvovirus. They absolutely should be kept away from porous surfaces, including dog parks and beaches. But indoor puppy socials and meeting 100 people before 12 weeks old is imperative.

      The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) concurs with this practice. Their official statement on the subject reads:

      The primarily and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing over-stimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior. For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.

      • Sharon says:

        Have you been through parvo treatment and the heartbreak of losing puppies? I have, not fun. A good breeder does puppy socialization with many different people, offers various stimuli, etc. To risk the health of a puppy with only one parvo shot just to socialize with other dogs is not a risk I would take or recommend. Been there, done that.

      • I have seen parvo. You’re right: it’s horrible. I also work in shelters with dogs with extreme fear because they weren’t properly exposed to other puppies and to people before 12/16 weeks of age. Many are needlessly extremely emotionally damaged. You can socialize your puppy very little risk of parvo if you’re smart about it. I attended a symposium on the subject at the University of California/Davis last weekend, a room full of veterinarians and veterinarian behaviorists. Conclusion: The risk of a dog being euthanized due to behavior issues resulting from a lack of early socialization is orders of magnitude higher than contracting parvo. This is not MY view; it is the official view of the most knowledgeable scientist in the field. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) official statement on the subject:

        “The primarily and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing over-stimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior. For this reason, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believes that it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.”

      • Pam says:

        Yay!! That old-school ‘wait until all vaccines to socialize’ myth is WAAY off mark! JT, get ‘em out NOW (but separated!)

  16. This looks like a really good argument in favor of the very early socialization protocol – handling puppies and exposing them to minute amounts of stress starting a few days after birth. There are breeders out there doing this, and describe the differences in confidence and adjustment to the human environment as nothing short of amazing. I’m very excited to read your expanded post!

  17. Sheila Babcock says:

    I will attest to what you are saying. I adopted out 2 boxer mix puppies, male and female. They came back to me at a year of age because they were so aggressive to people. Those 2 dogs attacked any animal in their paths. I kept them in fear of them hurting any other animal in someone else’ care. About a year ago, I had to give up my rescue and was terrified about these dogs. An amazing rescue took them and after being together for 8 years, they separated them. Those 2 dogs live amazing lives…..with other animals!! The two together were NOT a good idea, even though they were so bonded. It about caused them to lose their lives too soon. I also had a father son combo. The son was terrified of people. The puppy at over a year old got tick paralysis, and I had to take the puppy from the dad…..best thing that ever happened to that dog! He came out of his shell and is the most amazing dog! Thank you for your article.

  18. Marlene Johnson says:

    I raised 4 littermates, I had them since birth because I am their breeder, I did all the things you said, take them separately to the vet, to training classes, walks etc. They do not have littermate syndrome, they are 6 years old now, I still take them for separate walks etc. It really wasn’t all that difficult to raise them that way, but then I was aware of it from the start and did things accordingly.

    • Exactly. You allowed them to develop individual identities with the separate walks, training, etc. Littermate syndrome is not a foregone conclusion, but if you have siblings, you have to be diligent as you were to avoid it. Kudos!

  19. ThePayferPack says:

    Reblogged this on Payfer Pack and commented:
    Here is a great post, with an expanded article to come, by Jeff Stallings, CPDT-KA about why raising litter-mates is not in anyone’s best interest. While it can be done, if done properly, it is a lot more work and two puppies will not receive as much attention as one puppy would and to do it right, you need a lot of extra time and money. Thank you Jeff for writing such a great article! I will do my best to help spread it around.

  20. Mary says:

    As a breeder I completely agree with your comments on homing siblings or puppies of a similar age together. I think a gap of about 12 – 18 months or later is acceptable. Having said that, I recently kept two pups (both bitches) from the same litter. I made a tremendous effort up to about 4 / 5 months to separate them during the day. My usual routine was to send one of the pups to day-care and have one with me (I work from home). The one pup was a little more timid but having said that both have blossomed. They both are shown. They can be shown in the same class and focus on their handler, they can also go to a show alone without a problem. My only concern is that they play very very rough! I have never seen anything that would make me think that this could escalate to a fight but realise this is not impossible. They are now 18 months old. They also differ quite a bit in temperament. The one is a very outgoing girl and will go and play with everyone on the beach; the other is also playful but does not wonder off to play with other people on the beach but prefers to stay with us. The one is quite vocal, the other hardly ever barks, the one is destructive (will destroy toys or shoes if she gets a chance) the other doesn’t and the one will jump our fences the other won’t. BTW these are Golden Retrievers. Also I have a few adult dogs to which they are exposed to all the time. I think this also helps with what is acceptable behaviour and what not. Would love your comments about whether you think there might problems with them in future or do you think that we are on the right track?

    • You did all the right things as far as allowing each to spend time without the other. That is key. If you can do that, you’ll probably raise confident dogs okay on their own. It’s impossible to say whether problems will develop as they reach social maturity (about 3 years). Just keep focusing on having them be together sometimes and apart others.

  21. Jolene says:

    We have 2 brothers that are beagles and both of them have done well with other dogs and humans. They are best friends with each other.

  22. Paul says:

    We have kept 3 sets of siblings over the years, with no issues whatsoever. Temperament of the dogs and common sense of the owners plays a big part in how the dogs mature into adults. We have also also had several adults with the puppies which teaches them how to be acceptable members of the pack.

  23. Jules says:

    We used the “very early socialization protocol” on our litter of 6 pups 4 years ago. We did not let puppies go to their new homes until fully socialized at 12 weeks. We kept one pup. We have recently gotten one of the pups back due to a family problem and noticed that although the dog received no formal training, he is well mannered, sociable, gets along well with his littermate who is here, re-integrated with no fuss or bother and has no fears or phobias (i.e., fireworks, vacuums, etc). The owners of the rest of the pups attest to their stable temperaments.

    • Nina Stively says:

      Do you have a link or document on what protocol you used? Would love to share it with puppy foster parents- the more well-socialized dogs we have out there, the better! Thanks

  24. Liz Hogg says:

    We rescued two female shep X’s and were told from the very start to watch out for the hyper bonding. They are now almost 4 years old and I can I can honestly say we really have not had any issues. We have had the occasional, though very rare fight, they play well together and love other dogs. They are very affectionate with us (one is almost too loving!) the biggest problem we had was teaching them their names (though once we got some advice we solved that in one afternoon with a whole lot of treats!) I find they are no more upset to be apart then my past dogs who were not siblings. Overall it has been a great experience though I would not do it again because it is a lot if work (though I still believe that dogs should always have a friend) early socialization was the key I believe.

  25. Patti says:

    We have 2 lab mix littermates that we adopted 3 years ago when they were 4 months old. We had never heard of nor did anyone ever tell us about Littermated Syndrome. In fact, the rescue we adopted them from was so thrilled that we were keeping them together. As a result we did everything with them together (from crating to training to vet visits and so on). I will admit that sometimes they function as “one unit” but they are very well socialized and each has her own individual personality. I will however take a page from your book and begin working them separately. Hopefully it’s not too late! Thank you for a very interesting and informative article.

  26. Dave says:

    I think that this also apply to kittens, I can now understand why my two are like they are

  27. Mina says:

    This text was an eye-opener, everything now makes much more sense and I think I finally got an answer to question I’ve been asking myself for more then two years: “Why is my dog like that?”

    I must say my experience …. I got a female Dobermann puppy at age of almost 7 months, which stayed with her breeder until that time … She had one litter-mate staying there with her and other dogs similar to her age … I know for sure that they were always together, meaning breeder didn’t feed them separately, take them to walk separately etc …
    When I got her, I experience the most disturbing dog personality I have ever ever encounter. Such amount of fear was unbelievable! And it wasn’t a fear that she would easily shake off or get used to quick…. It was so intense and so irrational, completely without any logical understanding or explanation. She feared everything that was around her, inside and outside of house. Passing through doors, stairways, bags, bushes, trash cans, traffic signs, not to mention people, dog, traffic or noises, she feared going outside when it’s dark, or passing over bridges, under highpasses etc … everything! To her I was OK, but I with a cup in my hand was not. It was the most horrible experience of my life. And every time I talked to her breeder, she told me that in her pack she was just fine, not scared and being even bold and outgoing! The breeder thought it was my fault …
    I struggled with her for many months, thought that she is just poor socialized and spent up to five-six hours every day (before and after a full-time job) to get her accustom on as much as possible things that was going outside, and also inside, and after couple of months of endless hours spent with her, I finally get to see glimpse of improvement. We continued hard work, and socialization and education, and now with her being almost 3 years old, I can say she is doing much better, most of the time you can’t even say she is fearful or shy or was anything like before. She has well manners and is very obedient, has very strong bond with me, and is very much loving to anyone she knows, dog or human. But is still shy to most strangers, especially the ones we meet outside, very rarely allows strangers to pet her, and doesn’t like to play much with dogs, only ones she knows; and also it takes much longer to get her used to new situations or items … Like she was fine with metal crate in the house, but it took me three weeks to get her accustom to plastic crate inside a car, and also I’m trying to get her accustom to dog trailer (for my bike) but very very slowly, so it’s taking now more then couple of months …. So, in the end, thankfully we worked it out somehow, she is manageable and loving, but I know she will always be “my special one”, and I’ve except her as she is.

    Thank you for this article,
    Mina

  28. Bonnie says:

    Come to my house and see the exceptions to the rule!!

  29. Gewanna Nichols says:

    I have adopted a brother and sister from the same litter twice. First, a pair of Jack Russell/Beagle mix and then a pair of Dobermans. I haven’t seen these extremes in my pairs and we were always pleased about having a pair so they weren’t alone. Now I have one old Doberman and a Mini Dachshund. We adopted the pairs at 8 weeks. The only aggression was between the girls and boys of the different breeds. It always seemed to be the Alpha battle.

  30. Bridget says:

    It’s funny that most of the responses completely agree with the author. I have three litter mates, 2 boys and a girl, and not only was it not hard to socialize them with other dogs, or take them to the vet at different times, it’s also quite easy to feed them in their crates and play and work with them or walk them individually at different times. None of my three show any of the “syndrome” mentioned in the article. I think the article is very one-sided as it doesn’t cover what may have happened during the important time period when puppies get introduced to strangers and strange noises, a time when they are within their litter protected by Mom. By the time my pups went to their homes, they were used to normal household noises and had seen plenty of other humans as well as a couple of other dogs. Even with my three now, I do not have any of the listed problems aside from normal age appropriate squabbles.

    • I am sorry you find the article one-sided. In fact, you mention the manner in which you worked with your dogs (walked, crated, played and train separately) is exactly what I recommend for siblings in the article. This absolutely is a socialization issue, with the siblings not properly introduced to strangers, other puppies, noises, bicycles, cars, buses, children, etc before 12 – 16 weeks because of the hyper focus on each other. Also, as for the alleged one-sidedness, I do state that there are exceptions. I don’t have the resources to do a bona fide study. The upcoming print version of this article expands on this a great deal, and I interviewed Dr. Ian Dunbar and renown behaviorist Nicole Wilde as well, both of whom have dealt with numerous tragic cases. So, just because you took the appropriate steps to individually socialize and train your siblings doesn’t mean everyone else knows to do that, or even how. That is the purpose of the article!

  31. Kevin says:

    I have two rescues from the same litter who exhibit none of these problems. They have only been separated from each other one time, the day they were both neutered. From the time I got them I socialized them heavily with other dogs, people, and other animals. They’re now over two years old and are some of the best behaved and socialized dogs I’ve ever had.

  32. Elisabeth says:

    I am a breeder and have experienced this when running on two bitches. Invariably one would turn out ok and one would not want to hook on and work properly with me, the one not hooking on was always desperate to scale authority in the pack, not just with the sibling, so I feel its an alpha issue. Always trained and fed separately, taken for drives seperately, seperate shows etc. Never had a problem running on a promising bitch and dog from a litter… but again a lot LOT of work of separate training and social activities. I am lucky my extended canine family are all obedience trained and help to pull young dogs in line, we work as a pack, Running on siblings is not easy and I fully dont recommend it to the average dog owner. Lots of sweat and tears.

  33. Fred Neal says:

    My personal experience is quite the opposite. I’ve have/had two sets of female litter mate Mastiffs, and at the same time. No problems at all! They always had someone their own age/size to play with. Just need to always treat them equally. I learned to use there names first on commands and reprimands.

    I pretty much violated all the rules you list. They were raised together. Fed together (separate bowls). Slept together. Went on outings and to the vet together. I do spend some individual time, but mostly we do things as a pack (currently 7). Some puppy training required one on one time. I do require a structured environment and required all to mind. I believe discipline is a must, especially when dealing with giants. That is not meant to say I use negative, cruel or abusive training methods.

    Later, as adults, they all are very social and have helped many rescued fosters de-stress, relax and recover. They are, and always have been, very social to dogs and humans. Now as seniors they still snuggle, do everything together and are best friends. It is great to experience the special bond litter mates have for each other.

    The worst experience was when I lost one. The pack did mourn, especially the lost’s litter mate, but everyone did move on.

    Even the two different sets liked each other, but not as much as their own sibling. Perhaps the generally mellow Mastiff temperament is a factor. There are always exceptions, but I certainly would not hesitate again to bring in litter mates when the time arises.

    • The article notes exceptions. But read through some of the other comments on here. It’s a real phenomenon.

      • The fact that they spent lots of time apart between 8 weeks and 6 months could be a huge factor; they had plenty of time to develop their own personalities and experience the world without their sibling. This is key. There is a strong genetic component as well, and your giants may not be predisposed to it. Plus you obviously know what you’re doing! Thanks for your perspective.

      • Fred Neal says:

        I’ve no doubt it does happen. However, there may be more to it then just being litter mates. I know some that swear multiple dogs of X breed have problems with each other even when introduced as unrelated adults. Sometimes males, sometimes females. Sometimes rescues need to be the only dog. They are all individuals.

        Not sure about the second comment spending lots of time apart, mine have always been together. Maybe it was intended to be in response to a different comment.

  34. Belinda says:

    Four and a half years ago we brought home two female Beagle puppies. They started fighting the day after we got them and it just escalated from there. No one warned us about the problems we would encounter such as them failing to pay attention to us and only focussing on each other and it was only after searching the internet that we became aware of this syndrome. We persevered for 6 months, training, feeding and walking them separately but the fighting escalated until they were hurting each other (and us when we tried to break up the altercations). It got to the point where I couldn’t go to work because I had to keep them separate. We eventually had to rehome one of them with a friend and they have both been calm, happy and well-adjusted dogs ever since.

  35. Julie says:

    I am not seeing this. We have giant schnauzer littermates that will be two years old the end of January. They are male and female. We have had the female since she was eight weeks old and the male off and on after that but at about six months he came to us permanently. She is very alpha so we started socializing her heavily as soon as she had her third puppy shot. At eight months of age she started basic agility and attended a puppy class. After he arrived, we did not socialize him as much but he has now also started in agility classes and has been to a carting demo. She has done lure coursing and herding. She is far more mature than he is, but I think that is somewhat the nature of male and female giants. They were not neutered until they were almost 19 months of age to allow their bones to fully mature. We do have other giant schnauzers that they play with. Two other females who do mother them and keep them in line when needed so it is not just the two of them. We have other male dogs that the female of the litter plays with. He is very OCD about chasing balls and toys and retrieving. I also do giant schnauzer rescue and we have taken in and adopted out several pairs of littermates. One was a pair of male giants. We don’t like for people to have same sex giants unless they are very familiar with the breed and know how to handle them.

  36. Genie Murphy says:

    To respond to the comments about breeders and rescue groups encouraging people to adopt or buy litter mates, responsible breeders do not sell litter mates to a buyer for the very reason explained in this article. I have bred dogs in the past and refused to sell litter mates to buyers especially if they were unexperienced dog owners. I will interview and investigate the buyers, check references, and get to know the people and their experience with dogs and the breed in question and based on the outcome of the investigation would then decide whether or not I would sell them litter mates. However, a general rule of thumb is to refuse to sell litter mates to inexperienced owners. Responsible breeders do know about how difficult it is to raise two dogs of the same age be they litter mates of from different litters. Obviously, the woman who bought two “chiapoos” did not buy from a responsible breeder as a “chiapoo” is not a breed, they are mongrels and the “breeder” was only breeding these dogs to make money and cared nothing about the dogs.

    • Liz says:

      If the buyer had other dogs or enough people to work the dogs and give them time I would. I am a responsible breeder.

      • Older established dogs in the household seems to be a mitigating factor. Enough hands on deck to give each and every puppy born a rich socialization, whether littermates or not, and the problem would all but disappear.

  37. Anne Wilson says:

    Loved your article. Did not know of these problems with litter mates and the rescue encouraged us to adopt both the six month old cocker spaniel/silky terrier sisters together. They are now two and a half years old and very happy dogs, good with children and other dogs, although one is more timid. I did have problems with training and walking properly on a lead. Puppy school was a disaster and they had to be taken separately. I’ve not seen any aggression towards each other and they play well. They sleep together but are happy to be apart when inside. The timid girl is much more people oriented and happier to spend time with me rather than her sister and she was easier to train. I am so happy we don’t have any major troubles as they are both adorable. Thank you for all the information – I also really enjoyed reading the responses and comments.

  38. lori says:

    Interesting and informative article….unfortunately for the dogs, one, two, three or however many dogs people decide to raise(train)??? is all about how they train(raise) them….just like human children; if you don’t discipline and train them, they will grow up to be problems…i have raised(trained) many sibling puppies and it takes A LOT of energy, just like raising children, of which I raised three. It is ALL about how you deal with them, whether you let them be the alpha or you are the alpha…….all human babies and canine babies are trainable.

  39. fibait says:

    As a serious small breeder of quality purebred terriers, I have always refused to sell littermates to prospective buyers. A single puppy of our breed is sufficiently challenging to even the most knowledgeable owner!
    I also require that the pups leave my home at 8 weeks, the most favorable bonding age. Recently, I made an exception for a buyer who wanted a pick bitch at age 12 weeks, so I kept the 2 best bitches much longer than I had ever done before. They formed a mini-pack and caused me concern. Now that one has left, the damage does not appear to be lasting. My little bitch and her littermate are thriving in their separate lives. But I will never do that again!
    Thank you for spelling it out. I will send this article to any future buyers who are asking for littermates or who want a pup older than 8-10 weeks.

  40. Mari Lynn says:

    My ex husband and I fostered 2 beagle mixes in the early 1990’s from a local rescue. The puppies were around 3 weeks old and the mom had been hit by a car. By the time they were old enough to be adopted by the agency, I couldn’t let them go. We did have littermate issues but they were very mild and mostly funny; we’d give them both a toy and they would chew, cuddle, within inches from each other and growl, grumble, glare(guarding). if we moved them and the toy to a distance apart they didn’t like it and would return to ‘inches’ apart and continue cussing each other out. We didn’t do the socialization we should have because we didn’t know about it. They were happy, reasonably well adjusted, well trained although in a 2-dogs-1-brain sort of way, and accepted other dogs, cats and people. Years later when they were around 9 or 10, fighting started, infrequent still, but it was always the same dog getting hurt, once ending requiring stitches and in a serious infection that didn’t heal easily. We had to be much more watchful and never quite figured out what caused it. Could it still have been a late arrival of the more violent part of the fighting littermate syndrome that had only exhibited as grumbling? We were fortunate with them but I would never do a littermate adoption again. I’m a part time dog trainer now and really try to advise against it when I can. Great post and comments. Thank you.

  41. CL says:

    I had a pair of sibling labs in one of my classes, and one week the female came to class with sutures over her one eye, and when I asked what happened the owners told me that the male had bitten her when he was stealing her food. They also mentioned that the female will crouch over her food and eat quickly. I recommended that they feed the dogs separately. The male owner basically told me that they were his dogs and he would do what he wanted with them, and my suggestion was dumb and the dogs would “figure it out.” One week only the male was in class, and he almost couldn’t function because the female wasn’t there. I also warned them that letting the dogs “figure it out” would probably esclate and they would end up with major vet bills. Unfortunately they all unexpectantly stopped coming to class, or communicating with me at all, so I really hope nothing too terrible has happened to the dogs. I have recently started talking about Littermate Syndrome in some of the classes that I teach, mostly the puppy class when sibling puppies (who are owned by different families, luckily) are in class, we highly encourage the pups to interact with the other puppies, not just each other.

  42. Mary Ann Rose says:

    I have raised sibling Scottish deerhounds, one sib set at a time, for over thirty years. I have never had the problems you mention, but it was likely because I was told very early on by a reputable trainer that it was important to separate the siblings for eating/sleeping/ training experiences early on, as you recommend. Most reputable deerhound breeders do not hesitate to sell siblings to experienced owners, especially those who like to show, course and hunt–the reason? Because with the giant running hounds, it is nearly IMPOSSIBLE for an owner to give the puppy the degree and the KIND of exercise they need to fully develop into a functional sighthound. If you are writing an article to be widely published, you should talk to a few deerhound/wolfhound/greyhound breeders.

    • Michelle Cowan DVM says:

      Most Deerhound breeders also keep their puppies until they are at least 12 weeks of age. Raising puppies in a pack situation, keeping them with sibs until this age makes a huge difference in their responses to the outside world. I have no problem selling pairs of sibs to experienced people. As Mary Ann says these dogs need a huge amount of exercise as puppies and it needs to be on their terms not on a humans.

    • Joy Windle says:

      I’ve lived with sighthounds (Borzoi, Scottish deerhounds & Whippets) for 35 years. With the large breeds, it’s much easier to grow them out well if they have a playmate of the same size & style. In one case it was a borzoi & a deerhound bitch, born a day apart in different states which came home together at 10 weeks. Currently, 3 year old dog & bitch Borzoi litter mates are the household youngsters. Although they slept together in the same ex-pen as little puppies, they ate sedately from the beginning, tho’ not in crates or separate rooms. They continue to go to classes separately, and they frequently show on different dates to different judges. When Phoebe is in season, Eddy goes to camp. They do not quarrel, but Eddy is very much “me-me!” and will push his smaller sister aside if he can. As the owner, it is my job to make him mind his manners and wait his turn for attention. They are both clearly bonded to me as well as each other & the senior dogs in the pack, but they don’t freak out if I hand a lead to someone else if I need to step away for whatever reason. I am not unique among Borzoi breeders & owners in this.

  43. Norma Braun says:

    I am a breeder and show my dogs. I usually keep one to two puppies out of a litter for showing and I have not had any of these issues. Of course, I socialize quite a bit and the puppies are taken to show matches separately and together. I have never had this problem with litter mates. I can see how a “pet” person who doesn’t show or train their dogs for some type of performance event may have a problem but I haven’t had this. I have only sold litter mates once and they turned out beautifully and the owners did not have any problems. However, I should note none of my puppies leave the house until they are almost four months old. The breed is Norwich Terriers. I do believe socializing is the biggest responsibility we have as breeders of any breed.

  44. len says:

    Thank you for such a good article. I was a foster failure and kept two litter mates. I got them when they were four weeks old. One male one female. I talked to a well respected trainer locally and the first thing she told me was to take them separately anywhere several times a week. It was a monumental task but I took one to the park then one to the store and the saga goes. They will be four in July 2014 and they have different sports. I trial with the female in agility and the male is a therapy dog and trials in rally. I have just this month started to take them both to the trials of each other. QUESTION: is this a mistake?
    They play hard together and run like the wind ( they are flat coat retrievers) they have acres to run on but you can see they always keep their eyes on each other and sometimes the play is rough, but they always settle into their “preferred corners” in the house.

    • Heck no, no mistake there. Man, those pups are lucky to have you: One does agility, the other therapy and rally. Once again, a focus on giving them separate identities and ample opportunities to understand the world, people and dogs and you can end up with co-homed dogs as functional as any two dogs, siblings or not. The article points this out. That said, it’s impossible for most people to do. Your dogs are lucky, and it sounds like your are too! Kudos!

  45. Becki says:

    I have 2 Saints that are litter mates. However we did not rescue one until they were 10 months of age. We rescued him from a home where he was inadequately cared for, never socialized and needed vet care badly. Both were great and didn’t show any of the symptoms until this past April when they were about 18 months of age. Max ( the rescue) barks and lunges out of fear at other dogs and people. He is great with my family but no one else. Moose whom we’ve had since age of 11 weeks is laid back and loves everyone and everything.

  46. Rachael says:

    We just adopted littermates three days ago,10 week old girl and boy great pyrenees and shep x. We had no idea of this problem. If we split them for six months do you think this will prevent the problem?

  47. Diane says:

    We have a brother and sister littermates…the male we got when he was 7 weeks old but did not get the female until they were 7 months old.. Although we are convinced they knew they were littermates even after being seperated we have had nothing but great experiences with them. They are very attached to each other but love to interact with everyone, including other dogs (we have 2 cats in the house also). Our primary concern is how they will adapt if something should happen health wise to the other…it will be a great loss for all of us!

    • They were not together during the developmental stages that would have caused problems. It’s not that they are siblings, but if they are littermates who are never apart. All dogs who live together grieve, that’s normal. Sad, but normal.

  48. Jennifer says:

    We got our two Alsation x Collies from a shelter and not only are they littermates (2 of 11), they are bitches and they were orphans who were not put with a surrogate. We now know they received no mothering discipline and that same sex siblings can show greater rivalry. We had disastrous time at puppy classes so stopped going and have trained Bess and Abbi separately with good results, managing to train to voice and hand signals. Although house training has been very difficult with both pups clearing each other’s messes and although 99% of the time our house no longer stinks is not fully implemented yet (they are now 6mths old). We feed and play them together but always put the dominant one first, maintaining what we perceive as the natural hierarchy. We walk them separately as it is virtually impossible to go out together however the one left behind becomes very agitated – whining, pacing and scratching the door, especially the dominant one. This is when they get 1-1 play and training time in an attempt to distract and reinforce/strengthen the bond with us. The only time we all go out is to the beach. So far so good (I hope) the only other syndrome we haven’t been able to curtail is the fighting. As yet this is not overly aggressive and we intervene with a distraction noise (verbal “ac-ac”). We trust this would be alleviated once they have been spayed?
    My husband and I are not young and not in rude health, everyone has advised us to re-home the dominant one for the pups’ mental stability and also for our sake but we are loathe to do so. Beautiful Bouncing Bess and Abigail Dolores Malone have wonderful temperaments and great with our grandchildren just crazy together.
    Does anyone have any other advice or suggestions? Is it just a question of a bit more time, patience and several boxes of tissues?

    • My main question, beyond why you are keeping both pups when they are showing all the symptoms of the syndrome, is why you are waiting to spay them? Make an appointment today. This may not change their behavior now, but it will save you lots of problems down the road. Littermates with symptoms in heat would be a nightmare. It sounds like you’re making the best of a bad situation, but not one I would intentionally enter. That they had no maternal direction make it even tougher. You’re a trooper for moving forward and I wish you the best.

      • Jennifer says:

        Thanks for your good wishes, spaying booked. Have searched out other owners of littermates locally, the support and extra advice to try different ideas has been wonderful (just knowing we’re not alone in wanting to keep our girls is keeping us sane). Also got a “dog-whisperer” on board with experience of the syndrome. Turns out that whilst life is more difficult and at times stressful our situation is not unredeemable.
        From experience so far my advice for anyone wanting 2 dogs would be to get one puppy at a time with at least 6 months in between, However if 2 at once is the commitment then get yourself armed with as much info as possible from both sides of the argument and ask your local vets/pet shops/breeders for a recommended trainer with litter syndrome experience willing to come to your house. Knowing what you’re letting yourself in for is half the battle. Of course, dogs all have differing personalities and keeping littermates does not always work out but at least you will have the knowledge that you tried everything you could.
        It has only been a week since tearing my hair out and feeling like the worst dog owner ever to knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Having outside help is key and asking for assistance is not a sign of weakness or inability to cope – it takes a strong person to stand up and admit to needing someone else.
        Good luck.

  49. Cherish says:

    This is very interesting and I had no idea. Thank you so much for the article!

    I was wondering, can this syndrome exist for puppies that are not raised together, but are siblings and raised in the same family. In my specific case, (and this was years ago) my brother’s dog had puppies. He kept one and I took another (the rest were given to good homes and we never saw them again.) At first we would socialize our pups together and they were fine. However, after they were a couple of years old, they were very antagonistic towards each other. We never brought them together again main because my brother’s dog (who was bigger) would growl and snap at my dog. I’m wondering if this is littermate syndrome. This is just for my information, as my family is close and we often visit with each other & bring our dogs with us and I would never want this to happen again. Both of the dogs described above are now gone (it really was years ago) and all the dogs we have now all were adopted from different shelters and came from different litters.

    Thanks for your time!

  50. Chell says:

    I am getting an 8 week old choc girl and 9 week black girl lab from 2 different litters. I had planned to do separate kennels and training and LOTS of socializing. Glad I read your article. Any advice greatly appreciated

  51. Chris says:

    Thank you for this information. I have been running a puppy rescue for 10 years and people get so mad at me when I refuse to adopt litter mates or 2 puppies together. I am thrilled to have something in writing to back what I am saying to them.

  52. Izzbizz says:

    So true. I’ve been saying this for ever, how annoyed would you become if you had to live with your siblings during adolescence the rest of your lives. Pissed. Lol. Overwhelmed. It’s so true, when they have each other from such a young age, and then no educated guidance or leadership on the dog owner or dog lover, usually, in this case. They become so enthralled in each other. They never spend time apart. They become this intense tight knit unit that is a very primal pack almost, where they know human is not leader. My only question would be, could this happen, adopting two pups in the same development stage, different litters, or breeds. But one tending to be a companion breed, she now latches on, in many of the described ways, aside from the extreme dominance, but it does happen? Or would that just be a simple dysfunctional pair. Because one has no confidence without the other, the other doesn’t notice the other leave. Two clients of mine. The weener dog had a bulldog sister, both puppies, grew up together, then suddenly bulldog passed away. Then they got another for her the weenie, and now she’s just completely lost without her siblings, the other has no issues, but also has more confidence. Very neat how dynamics develop without a structured eyeball watching lol

  53. Hi Jeff,
    My two older huskies (who were not fixed at the time) had a litter. Originally my boyfriend and I had intended on keeping just one puppy, but after falling in love with the runt of the litter, my boyfriend and I decided to keep two. They are fantastic play mates (only 9 weeks old) and my two older huskies are fantastic with them. I have been noticing that when outside together, they dont seem to listen to the humans, and when in the house they are more focused on each other and their toys, instead of playing with us. My boyfriend and I are in this for the long haul and are prepared (and recently have been) keeping them separated, feeding, playing, walking, socializing, and training solo. Is there anything more we can be doing, or any advice that you could send my way? Id really hate to get rid of one of the puppies as we adore them, but of course want whats best for them.

    Thanks,

    Ainsley

    • Having older dogs in the picture seems to reduce the chances or severity of the problems. Just make sure they get lots of quality time apart. I am not sure where you live but if you have access to puppy socials, take each separately to 7-10 before 18 weeks so they each get a chance to learn the nuances of dog language from pups other than their siblings.

  54. Thanks for the advice! Just another question, Ive noticed that they’re already becoming very attached to one another, and not responding to or bonding to my boyfriend and I. Friends of mine have offered to “foster” one of the puppies for a month or so just so they can have some separation, do you think this would be beneficial?

  55. I have two 8 month old Jackapats a boy and girl. and after reading some articles became worried of what they may grow to be like. Luckily so far, all’s good! when they start to become sick of one another we simply separate out their activities one does training and the other goes walking and when greeting other dogs we have found their bouncy energy can be very overwhelming for other dogs so they greet separately and calmly. They have had no problem bonding with humans and rather curl up with us than each other. Their success may be due to the fact they are polar opposites the girl bold and brave, though is submissive to the taller loving lanky wimp, her brother. both have been neutered and spayed, so fingers crossed their will be no problems in our household.

  56. Olga Shmatkova says:

    Hi Jeff,
    more than two years ago, Oct.2011 to be exact, we adopted two 8 weeks old English Cocker Spaniel siblings from the same litter and I happen to read your article before we brought them home and I was terrified to the point when I called the breeder asking if it’s not too late to get just one puppy and she refused to refund us for the second puppy so we ended up taking them both. But I was prepared to deal with Puppy Syndrome and my girls started basic obedience training at the age of 12 weeks, were spayed before their first heat, were sleeping in the separate crates until they were one year old. Potty training wasn’t difficult at all, each of them have their own favorite human, they bonded to each other, but it’s nothing like you mentioned. They love people, excited when they meet a new dog, never fight!, great with sharing their food and toys, play with our grandchildren, who are 2 and 6 years old, do not show any signs of aggression at all! They don’t like to be separated but don’t get anxious when one is taken out. I can go on and on for hours… My point is – the owner must be aware of this Syndrome and be prepared to work twice as hard and, of course I think that human must be in charge and set strict rules when raising puppies.

  57. Pingback: Anonymous

  58. Kevin says:

    Hi, I wanted to just voice my experience. I have two blackmouth curs that I rescued at 5 months old, they were the last of a litter and both males, looking almost identicle. As they are hunting dogs I expected some agression but it got very bad at times. Having raised them with my girlfriend thru the latter portion of college and now we are into our early careers, they have calmed down immensely with eachother and socialize very well with humans (dogs, not so much). We found some techniques that helped a lot – crating is a must and separate crates especially, we feed them separately as this was a trigger for most of their fighting at a young age, now there is little to no aggression with food of any sort (other than bones, they still get agressive with bones), we schooled one that seemed to be more agressive, the only one that would show agression toward me, and this helped a lot as well. side note: they are both fixed – a lot of agression went away after making this move. It’s now almost 4 years we have had them and it’s a great feeling to see the bond they have developed with one another but also with my girlfriend and me as well as each of our families. Our dogs have endless personality and I wouldn’t trade them for the world but it was A LOT of work, almost too much. I wouldn’t advise anyone to do it, and had I known before hand I may have not rescued both of them, but I can’t imagine a life without both of them in it. Anyhow this is a fantastic article and I feel for those people struggling with sibling dogs, but if you really love them and want to keep both as we did, (unless there is literally no hope in sight) stick with it and socialize, train, feed, crate, SEPARATELY and maybe they’ll start to come around as my boys did.

    Good luck and thanks for the write up.

    • Cherish says:

      Kevin,
      My comment is not about your experience, other than to say thank you for sharing. When I saw that your experience is with Black Mouth Curs, I had to write share that my husband and I rescued a female Black Mouth Cur almost 2 years ago and she is such a joy! This was a breed with which I was completely unfamiliar and I’m so glad we took the plunge. They are such warm and loving animals. I would adopt another Black Mouth Cur in an instant.

      Thanks for sharing your story.
      Cherish

  59. Karen says:

    Thanks for this article, I had never heard of this syndrome. I’m about ready to adopt and was considering getting two, but now I’ll wait and get a second down the road. I’m kind of relieved, too, because I was dreading the chaos I was about to impose upon myself having two at once! Win-win!

    My dad got two at once, and some of the symptoms were there. They didn’t fight often, but when they did it was bad! When the bold one passed away prematurely, the shy one blossomed into a loyal and protective companion. We hadn’t realized how repressed she was until her sister wasn’t there to steal the show, so to speak. Even though she stopped barking at dog walkers passing by her fence, she remained unpredictably aggressive around other dogs. We didn’t see anything wrong with how they behaved, we just figured they were a pair, always a pair, although, I can remember feeling that they weren’t as close with family members as other dogs we’ve owned.

    The symptoms were mild, but I, personally, wouldn’t want to risk even mild symptoms! I want to give my girl all the advantages I can to help her develop into a well behaved lady. I’ll get one now and one later and maybe the older one can show the younger one the ropes.

  60. Pauline says:

    This is nothing to do with this subject I did find it very interested being a dog owner for over 45 years . Just a question my neighbour who has a female Husky who breeds her twice a year different breeds of dogs ( German Shepherd now Husky ) selling them as purebred pups I did not think this is proper I actually do t agree with breeding your dog for just the money side

  61. tina says:

    How Long would one have to seperate them for meaning training wise . We adopted two female pure bread boxers being unaware of all this like most people :( we got them yesterday we do however have two crates and are doing everything apart training , eating and play time . My question is how many weeks do we hve to do this before tey can be able to cuddle and spend time together ? Thank you

  62. kathy says:

    Jeff,
    I have 2 male American bulldogs that are 61/2 months old(tank and pudge). I have had them since 8 weeks.I have a 10 year old male boxer and a 5 year old male bichon. They sleep in separate crates. and I walk them separately(only because they are 2 strong for me to take both 80 and 75 lbs.) Pudge is good on the leash tank is okay not great. He doesn’t like other dog but pudge is okay.
    when I noticed tank didn’t like other dogs at 4 months old I signed them up for doggie daycare. they did 2 weeks straight and were trained in basic commands. Tank took time but in a couple days the trainers said he was fine there. Plays with 50+ dogs on any given day. They recommend I try to take them 2x a week until adolescence. I had them neutered last week. They exhibit a fear of loud noises.and tank recently shows fear when my son’s friends(16 and 17years old) I tell the friends to ignore him and sit down until he comes to them. it has helped. he adjusts.
    I have always had 4 dogs at a time but never siblings.
    Do you have any other suggestions so they don’t develop into full blown syndrome?
    Kathy

  63. I have a rescue organization. I find that people will give up both ill behaved dogs rather than choose one to focus on. It seems we get pairs of sibling pups that have failed as pets frequently. I NEVER recommend adopting sibs together. When we acquire a litter of pups and someone wants two I won’t adopt two pups to them. I have seen too many situations where both dogs end up homeless. We see posts all the time where people are trying to keep sibling dogs together and I just think how misinformed they are. If you were in rescue and you continued to get these pets six months to twelve months old that are so untrained, you would never even think about adopting a sibling pair!

  64. Christine Gray says:

    Hi Jeff,

    We were just discussing this very topic last week. As a Animal Care Center employee and lead on the adoption team this questions comes up regularly. We discourage adopting two puppies from the same litter (but do not deny) and actually recommend waiting a few months before bringing the second puppy into the home. Usually after experiencing Puppy #1 they decide to wait much longer for Puppy #2. Thank you for providing me with an article I can share with staff so that they can reference why we suggest this.

  65. Because of a series of life circumstances, I have female littermates from a litter I fostered 3 1/2 years ago. I was/am very aware and knowledgeable about littermate syndrome. (I also have one older dog and one younger dog.) My family and I have worked (and continue to work) very diligently to offset littermate syndrome. Along with our other dogs, they sleep, crate, eat, go to classes, do therapy and crisis response work, compete, and have one-on-one time separately. They love their individual time and their family time. They are very well adjusted and stable dogs. They have both unique and similar loves and interests. But as I said, their lives and activities have been very planned. It is a great deal of work, but it is an act of both love and responsible pet ownership. Acquiring littermates is NOT something I recommend. But I will help and support those who want to do it and want to do it responsibly and lovingly.

  66. Mary Bird says:

    My first reaction was bull, until I read the article. We have rescued and adopted litter mates three times and would do it again. Never had a problem except two Shepard crosses who did show some aggression to each other but eventually sorted it out without any damage. More importantly, we have always had at least one other dog around when we brought in litter mates. Our experience has been that the training curve has not been steep as the new dog or dogs watch the older dogs and learn from them. I feel like we have not trained a dog in years because they learn so quickly from the older dogs and people always comment on how well trained they are. We also have the advantage of four adult humans in the house so there is seldom a time when there is not someone with the dogs and we all love dogs and interact with them all the time. I personally have never experienced the syndrome but it would appear that this is a result of our particular circumstance. For us it has not been an issue and have never found litter mates to be more work than single dogs. In fact, we have never found any dog to be work, including abused rescues. Love, patience, grooming, feeding, vetting, daily playing, walking and cuddle time are all pleasant and easy to do and will turn the most nervous, distrustful dog into a happy dog.

  67. Hobipups says:

    I found the article to be accurate in its predictions of the issues you can expect with litter mates. With that said, there are exceptions. My wife and I have had two sets of litter mates and both have worked out fine. But, we are both very experienced trainers, handlers and obedience and agility exhibitors. The first pair produced an OTCH who competed in three AKC Obedience Invitationals and an OTCH MACH who finished tied for ninth in an AKC NOI. Both dogs also competed in National Agility Championships.

    We were aware of the issues with litter mates when we got them. But the litter was so exceptional that we took the risk and went ahead. As puppies, we crated them side by side, fed and played with only our own dogs and only let them play with each other about ten minutes per day. And we did have two older dogs in the house to handle some play time and “show them the ropes”. The results were outstanding.

    Our second set, (this an arranged breeding), came along too soon. The first set was only seven years old and were just hitting their prime, showing wise. As a result, even though we used the same procedures as before, they didn’t get as much personal attention as the first pair. Our bad. Both of these dogs are also excellent obedience and agility dogs, (one MACH), but not up to the level of their uncles.

    They are now eleven and we are quietly pondering another “arranged date”. The older boys will be twelve by then, their show careers over, and we’ll have the time necessary to build the relationships we should. But it’s a lot of work and dedication by both owners. If you don’t have the experience, time and willingness to do what we’ve done, don’t do it.

  68. Jeff, wonderful article. As a trainer and blogger myself; I have written often about this. Plus I let people know when I can that it is not a good idea. Thanks for posting such great info.

    Sherri
    http://www.justdogswithsherri.com

  69. Mandy M. says:

    I do agree for the vast amount of people in the world, one dog is one too many to raise properly. However, I have raised 2 sets of littermate puppies, and adopted a third set at almost 9 years old from a “novice” owner. None of the dogs had issues, in fact, most went on to become great show and obedience dogs, all of whom are/were exceptional hunters. I do believe it is how dedicated one is to each pup as an individual instead of relying on the puppies to train each other. Either that, or I should start writing books and going on the road, because I have had none of these issues….lol

  70. Ellen says:

    Very interesting article. Years ago I purchased two male Beatle littermates and this problem. Lots of fights. Went to UC Davis but nothing really worked. Had to keep them separate most of the time or keep muzzled on them. Now some 30 years later I have GSDs and some times have to keep them apart if same sex. I am thinking of having my young male’s sister come and live with us. I own the father and a daughter. I know the 6 year old daughter will probably not get along with the younger half sister so will keep them apart which I can do. I don’t think the female littermate to my 20 month male will have this littermate syndrome as they have not been raised together but have had visits together and get along very well. I do take them places separately and each have been left alone during their first 20 months. What do you think?

  71. Danielle says:

    Thank you for your article on littermate syndrome. When I first began to explore the dog fancy world, my mentor explained the potential pitfalls of raising littermates. As a result, I have never considered it nor had I thought about the potential problems that can arise from separating bonded dogs as adults. I recently took in my sister’s Bouvier after her husband transferred to Mexico City for work last fall. Her behavioral problems including inappropriate barking and urination in the house made it impossible for my sister to take her with the family. Tessa is extremely timid and skittish. My sister adopted Tessa at almost 2 years old from a breeder that I have purchased a number of dogs from in past, including adult dogs. Tessa is now 6 years old. I have worked 3 dogs from this breeder as mobility assistance dogs and had a couple others as pets that I’ve worked in obedience and/or rally. My sister’s bitch was one of 2 that the breeder kept to breed and show in confirmation. Unfortunately, the breeders husband became seriously ill and was hospitalized after Tessa’s litter was born. I suspect that they did not get the attention her dogs normally get due to the circumstances. Tessa acts like a fearful dog. Her tail end ears are almost always down. She will often try and make herself as small as possible. Sometimes, Tessa will beg for attention when I call her while other times she will cower in the back of her cage. At first, I thought she was fearful of my oxygen and mobility equipment. But, she will come running towards me, with her ears up and tail wagging if I have her food bowl in hand. The only other time she shows a normal, confident attitude around me or the other human members of the household is when she knocks our 2 male Bouviers of the way to get first dips at the water bowls after coming in from outside. Sometimes, she will bark at the human members of the household for unknown reasons. I can understand barking when someone comes in but she will bark if we go to the bathroom at night or sometimes when we are relaxing on the couch. She also barks randomly. We have not been able to figure out why she is barking. My 8 year old male has just started joining in. This is not pleasant at 2am. At first, I thought she might need to go outside but she refuses to leave her crate. I have tried taking her to beginning obedience and agility but she shutdown and refused to participate. It was obvious that the classes were too much stress. After extensive work, she will walk around the neighborhood but I have been unsuccessful at teaching some of the basics like”down.” She does “sit” and “stay” for food. She has to be muzzled to be groomed as she will bite you if you touch her front paws. Despite these issues, she was good with my sister’s 3 young children and fine with other dogs. I would say she prefers dogs to people although I believe she gets on better with my males than she did with my now deceased, alpha bitch. Lady would frequently discipline Tessa for inappropriate behavior. After reading your article, I am wondering if some of Tessa’s problems stem from being separated from her littermate? I am at a loss on how to help Tessa as I haven’t even been able to identify all of her fears, much less treat them. I would rehome her but I doubt that I would be able to find someone to take on her rehabilitation. I hope you will consider expanding your article to cover how to rehabilitate a dog with littermate syndrome.

  72. Unfortunately we learned this the hard way. We adopted two female litter mate Beagle pups at 8weeks old. One seem to settle in while the other always seemed to have high anxiety and crying which led to the calmer adjusted sister to become very stressed out trying to comfort her sister. I tried to rehome 1 pup with no luck. We ended up re homing both pups to a family with a ranch who had many other Beagles. The family kept us up to date and the girls seemed to have adjusted.

  73. Cathy Ginder says:

    I have two sisters, German Shorthaired pointers, that are 7 months old. We fostered them, their mother and 6 other siblings from when they were 4 days old for a local GSP rescue. We decided to keep these two, however the rescue did warn us about raising two at the same time. They told us that they would be harder to train, and may focus on each other rather than us. They are harder to train, but we have two older GSP, a 7 year old female, 3 year old male, and a 5 year old doxie, and 2 year old Chi, so I think that has helped immensely with their socialization. We like to give them separate playtime with the other dogs, and that has really helped. I can see why it would not be recommended to keep siblings, because you really do need to work at it all the time.

  74. Sarah says:

    I have two brothers, Yorkshire Terrier who are both 11 weeks old. The problem is, even though they are together, one of them keeps whining whenever I am not with him while the other is mellow. They both listen to me well, play with me, and do not fight a lot. I am thankful for that. But one of them is potty trained while the other one has trouble using the pee pad. Any suggestions?

  75. Devon says:

    Great article! I had two litter back in December. One here at home and another earlier litter in a different home. The litter here produced a singleton pup. When the other litter was 8 weeks old I brought home two of those pups and introduced the singleton to her 1/2 sisters. Placed one of the older pups 2 weeks later. I have been carefully raising the two remaining pups. Both are wonderful pups and very well adjusted – but I’ve made sure they don’t sleep together and we have done things separately from early on. Long story short, I could see that neither pup was thriving. They loved each other, the older dogs, and me, but there was something lacking. I decided to place one of the pups. Yesterday one of the pups went to her new home. In just one day the difference in the pup I kept is dramatic. She is attentive, her focus is great and in a very short training session she learned to sit and walk on a loose lead. I’m a very experience dog person and knew raising two pups together was going to take some work, but I was up for the task. What I’m so glad I realized is that raising them together wasn’t best for either pup.

  76. With all due respect, claiming littermate syndrome does not exist just because your particular dogs don’t have issues is like saying learning disabilities can’t exist because your kid is a gifted student. I can’t believe you would have made the comments you did had you bothered to read the entire article, which explicitly states that there are exceptions and that problems can be avoided with proper socialization and training! Read the article, then read the comments; many owners have had these symptoms occur in their sibling dogs, sometimes to devastating effect.

    • LIKE I STATED, THE FACT THAT THE KIDS WERE SOCIALIZED MORE THAN LIKELY HELPED. YES, I DID READ YOUR ARTICLE, WOULD NOT HAVE REPLIED OTHERWISE. THANKS FOR THE INFORMATION. I HAVE HAD GSD’S FOR 34YEARS AND NEVER HEARD OF THIS BEFORE.

  77. diaj says:

    Jeff,
    We started fostering our two hound/lab mix female puppies at 2 weeks old. After bottle feeding them, there was no chance of them going back to the shelter. Of course I starting finding out about the syndrome after adoption and acting fast, crating them separate rooms, feeding separate and when I could, walking separate. I could definitely do more, but as your article states, it’s exhausting. They are only about 9 months old but we are constantly at the dog park and doggie day care. They play wrestle constantly but it’s rare that it ever gets out of hand. They are fearful of unfamiliar people sometimes. They spend their days of nice weather outside together while I’m at work. But once I’m home, one will be upstairs with me and the other will be downstairs on the couch. They do get a little jealous of each other at the park but all in all they’ve been good. I realize they are still very young, so I guess I’m hopefully it doesn’t get bad from here. But in the future I will get one, train, then get another. I think this information definitely needs to get out. My shelter said nothing about it either.

  78. Amy says:

    I raise and show Beagles and Dalmatians and I work in a veterinary hospital. Years ago I was told by many breeders they never sell litter mates to the same family. They explained that often they would be hard to housebreak, bond with each other and often fight. I took the advice to heart and would always try to discourage people from getting 2. I have seen all to often the negative side of having litter mates with clients dogs.

    My first litter of puppies I was encouraged to keep them til they were 10 weeks old. There were 3 beagles in the litter and I was happy to enjoy them longer. Sadly, the extra two weeks was hell! They started fighting and trying to establish a pecking order and I spent all my time seperating them, not enjoying them. I was so happy when the 2 puppies left and I was able to enjoy the one I kept.

    I did keep litter mates in my last litter. There were two gorgeous puppies and I had planned on keeping the girl to show but couldn’t find a show home for the boy. I made it a point to separate them for two weeks when they were 8 weeks old by sending one to a friend. They were crated and trained seperately and I will still send one on “vacation” to my friends. They get along wonderfully in my “pack”, and the extra work and training has helped make sure they are confident, happy and obedient dogs. It has been a wonderful experience BUT a lot of extra work! I definetly wouldn’t plan on keeping litter mates routinely!

    • Joy Windle says:

      I wonder if keeping two of opposite genders makes a difference? This discussion has caused me to think back to 1993 when we brought home a deerhound stud fee puppy bitch, stopping en route to collect a little borzoi bitch that was just a day younger. Might the fact that they did not meet until they were 12 weeks old make a difference?

      • Sure, the more difference the better (see Dr. Bain’s comments in the article), so different genders are better than two same-gendered pups. And getting them after 12 weeks would make a difference too, because that’s when the second socialization period ends.

  79. Denise says:

    My female shepherd had a litter of 8, I knew I was keeping 1, but my husband & son wanted one of the males also. They are 9 mths old now, have had no issues. I have momma and dad at home too. They have gone through obedience class, now they are working on their CGC, momma & dad both have theirs. It is a lot of work, but can be done, I also work full time. If you know what you are getting into and are willing to do your best to socialize them it can be done. My son is working on getting the male his therapy dog certificate, he wants to take him to visit people in the hospital, they are both awesome puppies, love people and other dogs.

  80. MY LIDO AND MEIKA ARE GERMAN SHEPHERD LITTER MATES AND THEY ARE GREAT. WHEN I TOOK THEM HOME AT 9 WEEKS, I BROUGHT THEM TO WORK WITH ME. I OWNED A DAY CARE CENTER. THE ONLY PROBLEM I EVER HAD WAS THAT THE SHEPHERDS THOUGHT THAT THEY WERE TWO MORE KIDS AT THE CENTER. THEY ARE 7.5 NOW AND I AM RETIRED BUT THEY ARE STILL TWO OF THE BEST SHEPHERDS THAT EVER LIVED WITH ME. VERY PROTECTIVE AND VERY SOCIABLE. MAYBE IT WAS THE YEARS AT THE DAY CARE. I KNOW THAT THEY HELPED SOME OF THE CHILDREN TO GET OVER THEIR FEAR OF ANIMALS, SO IT WAS A PLUS ON BOTH SIDES..

  81. Cait Leff says:

    I wish I would have had this article to refer to a year and a half ago. I work in rescue focusing on senior dogs and hospice care. We took in boxer/lab brothers, 10 years old. I think everyone assumed that since they were together, they should be okay with other dogs. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Wyatt was the dominant of the two. He was always “on guard” and never fully relaxed. There was something about one particular female boxer of ours that he did not like, and he would tear down multiple barriers to get to her and fight. Virgil was overly submissive, looking to his brother for social cues. He clearly had no confidence at all. For safety reasons, we ended up rehoming Wyatt as an only dog. Even then, his behavior remained a challenge until he passed away. Virgil is still with us. He has had a more difficult time adjusting, but his confidence is growing and his personality is starting to shine through. He is still not comfortable with our larger dogs, so he lives on a separate level in our home. We have managed to socialize him with our 6-year-old JRT/red heeler mix, Nismo. Nismo is a very confident, “show-him-the-ropes” type of dog, and he has worked wonders with Virgil. I don’t know that he’ll ever be comfortable enough to live fully integrated with our other dogs, but we work around it.

  82. taiairam says:

    I recently rescued 2 6-week old litter mates (boy Chihuahua mixes). I am highly aware of litter mate syndrome and have had them sleeping in separate crates and walking them alone for 3 weeks. However, even though I am trying to spend time with them alone, I am single and live in a 1 bedroom apartment. The puppy who is by itself will cry continuously while I am with the other one unless I leave the house. I am not sure one person can do a great job at this. On the other hand, both puppies seem very social with all people and most dogs, even while on their “alone” walks. I have 2 questions:
    1) How traumatic is it for an 8 week old to cry while I am spending time with the other one?
    2) If/when I decide to re-home one, how do I choose between them? At 8 weeks old, they are different but I can’t tell how they will be as adults…I love them both and it does feel like a Sophie’s Choice situation – though not nearly as tragic for the puppies – just for me!

  83. Sophie says:

    I need some advice. We are picking up 2 whippet puppies soon , both same litter, and male pups! We did not do our research before agreeing on 2. We just thought they will be good company for each other whilst at work. Wasn’t until someone at work mentioned this littermate syndrome.. I am now concerned. I want them to get along, treated fairly. Whippets have always been in the family, but none have brought 2 together like this. Thy have always been different ages. We still want to do this…we are 2 determined people. We just need some professional/ experienced advice please? We would of thought being the whippet bread we wouldn’t have too much of a problem with the type of nature they are. Can you help please?

  84. Byrdi says:

    Hi Jeff, I have a question regarding the littermate syndrome issue. I work at a humane society in my town and after years and years finally have the ability to take home a dog, and wouldnt you know it, the dog I always said I would have “someday” just walked in the door ( 2yo red merle aussie male)! I have spent a lot of time with him and am in the middle working to take him (I am living in a no-dog apartment but will be moving to a ranch soon) and wouldnt you know it, ANOTHER “someday” dog walks in (1yo blue merle aussie male). I havent gotten the chance to spend as much time with the blue, but already he has taken to me and I would love to take them together, but I found out from the shelter owner that they are pseudo littermates (same mother, different years, unknown fathers), and all came from the same home that was having issues because they were trying to keep 9, semi-related working dogs with minimum interaction and brought in five of them saying they “just didnt herd.” The reason the red came in so much earlier is because the owner thought he was the one instigating the problems, but now several weeks later has brought in four more because that wasnt the case.
    I have no livestock and I dont care if they herd, since any herding I do would be as a hobby. Id like to take them both, but the shelter owner (who I trust entirely when it comes to dog know-how, she has been at this a long time), is worried about adopting siblings, even ones so distantly related.
    I guess my question is, how strong is littermate syndrome and would you suggest only taking one dog? The older dog has been at the shelter for several weeks and gets along swimmingly with other dogs and people. The younger dog is a fairly new arrival and is still being kept alone since he is not neutered, but for the most part seems to come out to see people and doesnt mind other dogs walking by. They were raised together, and I suspect allowed to pack up with the other dogs in their previous home, but like I said seem alright now.
    So the summary:
    -Raised together
    -History of packing up
    -Came from same home
    -Out of same mother
    But…
    -About a year apart
    -Are currently kept apart with no issues that Ive come across (the younger whines a bit but that is common for dogs that are recently dropped off)
    Do you think there would be a significant chance of them packing up with each other? All articles on the subject Ive found have been about puppies coming from the same litter, but like I said the owner seems convinced it can happen no matter the distance.
    Any thoughts are appreciated, thank you!
    Byrd.

    • Littermate syndrome has to do with socialization not occurring properly due to the same-aged puppies focus on each other. These dogs with a year difference in age will not experience this particular problem. They may do great. I would adopt one and see about taking the second on a trial basis. I would still work with them separately (it’s almost impossible to effectively train 2 dogs at once because you’re looking for complete focus on you, not divided between you and the other dog.)

      • Byrdi says:

        Thanks for the quick feedback!
        Realistically I may not have the time or space for two little bundles of fur and energy. My thought was that they might help keep each other busy if I was unavailable, since leaving intelligent breeds alone for any amount of time is asking for trouble! But I see the potential problems with that too. It may not be littermate syndrome per se but something similar, the packing up that they were doing when all nine of them were together, that the shelter owner is worried about. I will definitely talk to her again though.
        Thanks again!

  85. Michelle says:

    Wish I had read this 18 months ago! 2 Siberian huskies, the boy goes into “mourning” when seperated from the girl -even if just in a different room for 30 seconds! Socialization with other animals is fine (have 7 dogs). Just separation and bullying issues between the two.

  86. Lynn Haughwout says:

    I bred my first litter last summer. Longhaired mini Dachshunds. Which I show. For several reasons, I ended up with the pup I intended to keep and one other (both females), even though I am a firm believer in not having two pups at the same time. I knew from the start that one girl had a more outgoing personality and the other more laid back. Things went okay for a while and then as they approached their first heat cycle around 6 months, the more outgoing girl started to bully the other one. It got worse as the months passed and there were some bad fights. I could see how it was affecting both of them and how it was going to change them. For me the decision was clear. I found a wonderful family for the softer girl. They send me videos and pictures of her all the time. I can see the wonderful, positive difference it has made for both pups. Both of them are happier, play more and are way more into interacting with people and other dogs. Proving right before my eyes something I had know as fact and now I have seen it.

  87. Bradley says:

    Please could you help with a bit of advice, i have 2 8 week old Pitbull pups, i never really took note of any of the problem until reading this article. Every thing you mentioned our pups do in one way or another. Whilst eating the female is not able to eat an entire meal on her own with out running to her brothers bowl, i figured this was due to been used to suckling, they do play a lot and are very loving towards us as owners, some times during play they do get a little aggressive towards each other but that’s when i break it up and slow them down, i figured this is normal behavior for dogs as dogs do play. I don’t think i have much to worry about currently as they are showing what to me is normal puppy behavior, i am now concerned after reading this article and would like to prevent this syndrome from occurring. There are many solutions i can think of for this scenario but would like some advice on the best option please, (best option is not re-home one). Would a solution be to separate them, for a few nights and days a week to learn to be indipendant? Male stays with me female with my girlfriend, they stay at her place for a day and night and day, then come spend a night and day back with him? or should we push for 2 nights? We can separate them at home my concern is if they cry they will hear and smell each other, been separate they can learn Independence and bringing them together for a while will keep them as companions?

    Please advise on any recommendation you could provide me.

    Thanks

  88. Cathy says:

    We adopted brother and sister dobes and it’s worked out for us. Maybe it was different for us because I stay at home so I was with them all the time, but they were always fine with other dogs and people. I trained both with a trainer. I will say it was more work to train them and they didn’t always listen when chasing balls or if they saw a squirrel and started to chase, but neither did my first Doberman, and he was here by himself. We did eventually get a 3rd dog which is a Boerboel and she fit in great. So I guess it can work, but you need to plan to put in a lot of work for everyone to fit in and be happy!

  89. Paul Todd says:

    I’ve adopted two liter mates in the past and absolutely loved them and had no problems, but that was only because I got lucky. They were purebred Great Pyrenees (which people familiar with that breed will tell you “aren’t really dogs”) and they were brother and sister. (Great Pyrs as a breed sometimes don’t adjust well to same sex parings) They have done just great as LGD’s (livestock guard dogs) and they are well adjusted enough socially to be taken on leash in public without any concerns about their interaction with people. Like I said, I got lucky, but I don’t know if I would be brave enough to gamble on it with any other breed, or with same gender pairings.

  90. Jacki Rose says:

    I have 2 pitbulls; one male (intact) and one female (spayed). They are litter-mates and I have had them from birth. The difference I think, in my case, that they get along fine (they are 9 yrs.old now) is that I raised them with their mother there with them until she died when they were about 3yrs. old. The mother helped me SO much in their socialization skills that it was made easy for me. They NEVER even chewed anything but their own toys (all of the other puppies I have owned did). The only thing I am starting to worry about is with their age I don’t know what’s going to happen when one passes on. They have been together all of their lives. There is no fighting or aggression issues (again, probably because of 5 yr old Mom). I can very well see how this could have turned out different and would not get 2 pups again at the same time as it was hard to train them. They HAD to be trained separately, because what one wouldn’t think up for mischief, the other would! I feel very lucky to have “dodged the bullet” with these 2. Any idea about the death separation? (Life separation is okay).Thank you for your info,

  91. Arlene says:

    A very well-written article. My daughter bought 2 male (crossbreed) littermates about 3 years ago. Luckily, their behaviour is fine and they appear two well-adjusted young dogs. Both are neutered. One dog was the runt of the litter whilst the other was the largest so there is almost 100% difference in size – perhaps the better for it, from what you say. They also interact individually with the family, each having their own personality, and with other dogs too. They’ve always shared their bed and definitely have a strong bond – the downside being that they fret if separated but my daughter’s lifestyle is such that they seldom are and get plenty of interaction with other people and other dogs. I can see it could have turned out very differently. Good advice from you to share. :)

  92. Pingback: 2 puppies - Golden Retrievers : Golden Retriever Dog Forums

  93. JJ says:

    I’m curious to know if this applies to non-siblings, as well? As in two relatively-same-age pups adopted from different litters at the same time?

  94. Valerie Hodson Lyons says:

    I had a father of a litter and we kept 2 of the litter mates. My brother also took 2 litter mates as well from the same litter. My Mom took one and MY Mother-in-law had the Mom and one of the litter mates. The puppies were all female. This was when we knew we couldn’t be breeders. They stayed with the family. We had no trouble with littler mates. The 2 sisters I had couldn’t have been more loving to each other. One of them just cleaned the other sisters face and ears all the time. It was quite sweet. The whole story of this collie story was a beautiful story. I thought about writing a book about it.

  95. Bronagh Duffy says:

    Hey I have a dog, Japanese Spitz X, for the last two and half yrs. Brilliant little dog listens to and does interact with me. However he is hard to train to do tricks all he does is ‘sit’ could not train him anything else as he just didn’t seem to quite figure out what i was asking of him and he does not listen very well atall to my partner. With other dogs he can be very aggressive and growly for a long long time(still growls at my mothers dog after two yrs). He can be extremely timid and submissive when it comes to new people and if I’m doing something different in the house ie moving furniture even an inch or even lifting ornaments of shelves. He was reared on a very small pen with his father until he was 9 months old I wonder is this something similar or is he just timid and dependant on me?

    • It is the same in that it is a lack a socialization. A small pen with his father? No interaction with other people or dogs? That is a shame. All dogs can be trained though. Find a trainer in your area that does clicker training

  96. Emilee says:

    I am just now hearing about this, which is sad. I absolutely LOVE both of my dogs(brother and sister). But knowing this problem when I adopted them, I probably would of only got one. Mine are almost a year old now.
    They don’t seemed very attached. I mean one can go somewhere and the other is just fine. The agressiveness is what I have seen. It’s kind of like the sister annoys her brother, and he won’t put up with it and will fight(we’ve only had one bad fight). I’ve tried trainers, and they’ve never said anything about this. So my question is..how can I make this agression stop? My male can’t go places without of people because I am afraid he would bite..I thought it was out of fear? My female is fine, not very sociable but can go out in public and be good. We do not take them to dog parks or anywhere with a lot of people/dogs around together. Too much to handle. I’ve been trying really hard on fixing them. Taking them individually to a pond to let them see different things. If there’s any advice you could give me, it would be GREATLY appreciated!
    Thanks!

    • Emilee says:

      To add on…I do train separately. So no problems there. I’ll go outside and have them both out there..the sister will fetch the ball while her brother just roams around. I got them when they were a couple days old and bottled fed them(became very attached at kept them). I saw you comment and say that could be the problem with someone else’s. I just don’t like the agression towards each other sometimes. It doesn’t seem they’re attached…but like they piss each other off. Since it doesn’t seem they have this full syndrome, maybe they’ll grow out of this.

  97. This article is excellent information. My boyfriend and I adopted 2 chihuahua mix’s about 7 months ago. We got the first one, and felt that it may want company and also that the people we bought him from were very neglectful. So we went back that night and got the other. Between the two, the larger one at that time ate well. Used the bathroom well. And was playful. Over the next few months the larger one, slowly became the smaller one. Apparently we believe the mother was mini pin, and the fathers are different. One was chihuahua, and the other is obviously mixed with dachshund. The chihuahua mix began to become a picky eater. We noticed he would go almost a day at times without eating. He became nervous. And sort of like a really frightened baby. It was not until just this week when I decided that I wanted to make the bedroom off limits to the dogs in the day time. I began to notice heightened agitation from the dachshund towards the chihuahua. He has attacked him several times, and I have always been on edge wondering when he will loose his sh*t on him again. Through the process of beginning to set new limits and noticing heightened behavior, we stumbled upon a writing about “littermate syndrome.” It was really an awakening moment. We are lucky because there is two of us, in a one bedroom apartment so it is easy to separate them now. Beginning last night one of us slept with one on the couch, the other in the bedroom with the door closed. We have decided to raise them separately this way from now on. The chihuahua seems to be extremely care free, and almost confused that no one has their eye on him constantly. And the dachshund its having such a hard time adjusting. We are using Cesar Millan’s techniques of not rewarding the state of mind that creates that behavior. And although they are 7 months developed, we are getting a crate and beginning crate training. If the dogs are in the same room we don’t allow the dachshund to approach the littler one, as a result (since this is the very beginning of the adjustment) the larger one has been going nuts! He almost instantly tries to attack the smaller one. This information on littermate syndrome has been life saving. I never noticed that the littler one, never played on his own before. Never took walks outside on his own before. The larger one constantly interjected into every aspect of him. We thought they are just being dogs and the bigger one is just an aggressive personality. SO THANKFUL to realize that we can choose to raise them “separately” and have a real effective way to solve this problem. I think that this issue needs to be on Oprah and people need to know that if you are adopting two of the same litter, You HAVE to treat them as individual dogs and not allow them to grow up “together.” This information has saved my little dogs life and I could not be more thankful. I didn’t realize it was something like this. People out there may not either. We have to get the message out. Thank you for your efforts! Sincerely, Charles

  98. kc says:

    Of course this is the first I read of this. About six years ago, we got two beautiful goldens from the same litter, both males. The bond they had was like none other. We experienced some of the signs mentioned, but they also were very social with people and other dogs. We lost one of them yesterday to a short but intense battle with cancer, and we are trying to help the surviving brother cope. We are torn apart as he runs around looking for his brother. Are there any resources out there to help us? much love, kc

  99. Doreen Kent says:

    We’ve kept and raised siblings for many years – male and male, female and female, and in the past and currently – female and male. Never had a problem. I guess it’s all in the know how.

  100. Kristen says:

    I found this article very interesting but it doesn’t really follow my family’s own experience at all. Ten years ago we adopted 3 boston terrier puppies, 2 were littermates and 1 was half sibling to the other two puppies. They were all raised in my parents house with my older female boston terrier (4years older) for the most part but roxie, one of the full siblings was my sister’s and did spend evenings and weekends at her house with her 2 year old boston, rascal, at the time. After the first year roxie was at my sisters full time with rascal The 2 boys (half siblings to each other) stayed in the same household until 4 years ago when i moved out and took my 2 dogs, the half sibling (teddy, 6 at the time) and the older female (noelle). I am curious why we never had this kind of problem with the 3 puppies, could it have been the stabilizing influence of a strong assertive pack leader in noelle?

    • Again, it is not just that they are siblings that causes problems, it’s a lack of socialization and time apart from their littermate to develop an individual ability to relate to the world, humans and other dogs. The fact that one of the full siblings spent evenings and weekends apart from her sibling provided this.

  101. Stacey says:

    Hi Jeff! Quick question for you…

    Last May, my boyfriend and I adopted littermates separately. His puppy was his, and mine was mine and we did not live together so the puppies spent a lot of time apart. Now, however, that boyfriend is now my fiance and we live closer to one another and spend most nights together, the dogs have spent nearly every day together since March of this year.

    They are Chihuaha-Daschund mixes. The biggest behavioral problems we have had are jumping/ over-excitement and chewing. They fight each other a lot and get nervous around other people, but warm up over time. We’ve made a consistent effort to socialize them (especially with my parents’ 3 mini-daschunds) and I think it’s helped. Do you think our dogs are still at risk?

  102. Heather says:

    The article is good and certainly worth consideration when bringing home dogs or littermates. I, however, have littermates and do not experience these issues. In fact, my dogs (Boxer breed) are very social with both people and other dogs. They also take separation in stride. My dogs are well behaved, know not to leave the front lawn (based on training, not electricity) and weren’t overly difficult to train.

    The only thing I think this article is missing is that dogs are pack animals. For folks who both work and no one is at home, not having a mate can cause separation anxiety in dogs and lead them to do awful things to your home and/or themselves. Therefore, I think stressing how much a companion is important for dogs, whether it be another dog or someone who is often home, is important.

    Great article, look forward to more!

  103. Lisa Walter says:

    We rescued two catahoula mix female puppies that are now 3 years old. We are beyond the point of being able to give one up so I was wondering if you had advice to my predicament with them. The biggest issue with them which is partly breed, partly our poor socializing and partly the sibling issue, is their anti social skills with other people and other dogs. I can’t seem to find a way to introduce them to other dogs very well. Any pointers? The other main issue is the separation anxiety they each have with each other. I tend to do everything with them as a pair due to time restraints. By separating them in activities do you believe I’ll see results or is it to late?

  104. Naeem Haider says:

    Jeff,

    Looking to adopt two puppies from the same litter (male and female). They are 10 weeks old and after reading this page and all the responses, I am concerned that the behaviorial issues would prevent the puppies from benefitting. If we were to delay adopting one of the pair, at what age would the socialization issues become less of a problem. Many of the comments indicate that littermates do quite well if properly socialized first. Can we delay adoption of one and have less likelihood of running into problems ? If so, how many weeks would you recommend ?

  105. Great article! Thank you so much. I manage Animal Behavior Programs at the SPCA of Texas. This is a wonderful piece to share with management, staff and volunteers to explain why I discourage adopting two puppies to the same home. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but why risk it?

  106. kimberlygauthier says:

    We have 2 sets of littermates and I think we’re one of the lucky stories. We haven’t experienced any of the symptoms of littermate syndrome, our dogs don’t mind being separated – in fact, they self separate. And everyone gets along beautifully. I don’t know what we did differently or if we just got lucky with the dogs who joined our family, but I do tell people that working with a dog trainer is very important.

  107. mesaraberry says:

    I believe that though this may be the norm to warn against, there are pairs that have a bonding that is highly compatible. If the responsible breeder senses this, they should be there to explain the bonding and training needed in a homing situation.

    I find that in general, the stronger bond is often mother to a female puppy.

    But especially with brothers, sometimes the best scenario is that they find homes where they get to have play dates and frequent visits with each other.

    My two 10 year old brothers have been able to have that all their lives, and I think it has been a big enrichment for them, even though they don’t see each other daily.

    Sara Watson, CTC
    Bluefence Bassets
    Member of the Basset Hound Club of America

  108. Neo says:

    I run a rescue and have raised many sibling puppies, some of which have been adopted together. I’ve never experienced any of these issues (thankfully), but I socialize my dogs as much as possible with people and other animals. Even in my home there are 10-15 dogs at any time so puppies are socialized well even at home. This is the key for anyone thinking of adopting sibling pups… socialize, socialize, socialize. And don’t feel bad about taking one out and leaving the other at home, everyone needs a break from their brother or sister, even dogs. Try to attend training classes where pups are allowed to interact but again, take one and leave the other at home or register them for classes at different times. Having siblings dogs can be successful, it just requires a little more work than putting them out in the back yard and thinking that’s enough.

  109. coretnee says:

    Thanks for this article. Very thought provoking. I’m a volunteer trainer with a shelter in NYC who took in two littermate girls from a rescue in Peurto Rico. They were originally picked up as stray puppies. They’re now about 9 months old and have been with us in NYC for 3 months. They came into the rescue already very scared and withdrawn; they’ve made some progress, but not as much as any of us had hoped. They are very bonded to each other and very scared of most human interaction as well as pretty much everything outside their kennel. It’s hard to know how much of that is due to poor early socialization and how much is their over-reliance on each other. BUT… I’m wondering if there’s any research about the timing of separation. How old is too old to separate bonded littermates?

    • I do not have a good answer about when/how to separate. My focus is on trying to keep this from happening in the first place. Sounds like you got them at 6 months. If they had had no human interaction before that, PLUS they were with each other the whole time, well that’s a particularly tough situation. I recommend that you get a veterinary behaviorist involved.

  110. Our rescue Finn was purchased with his littermate when the backyard breeder recommended taking a second pup so they wouldn’t be penned alone. Finn’s original owner was seeking a golden to replace the one he had recently lost who was the best dog he had ever had. He said they were always together & Tuck adored him. He couldn’t understand why neither one of these pups ever bonded with him like Tuck. I told him when we were discussing his disappointment that he made his mistake from the start buying 2 littermates & explained why. From the article: “as they squeeze the owner out of the relationship. They’re always living with an enormous distraction—each other.”

    The brothers were penned up together until they grew big enough to get out of the pen. Then they were placed in the yard together with an underground fence. When they kept running through it, he took off the shock collars & they ran loose in the neighborhood always together. While they were still penned, I went over and asked if we could bring them over to play with Shai who loved playing with any dog he came in contact with. I was looking for dogs for him to play with, and they lived across the street from Bart’s mother, But they would never engage in play with Shai although only a year old and the same age as Shai. Even though they wouldn’t play, we felt sorry for them being penned up so Bart kept bringing them over for a little most days. They would just grab all the toys and carry the toys around but not play with them. We stopped getting them when they started running the neighborhood. Then Finn’s brother was hit by a car, and Finn watched him die. From the article: “Cohabitating siblings may become so emotionally dependent on each other that even short separations provoke extreme distress.” That is when Finn ran away from home to our house and refused to stay at his house anymore. Even now, he doesn’t know how to play with Shai & Rani.

  111. Kay says:

    I have 3 English Springer Spaniels. The first female was 12 weeks old when we got her. I knew I wanted 2 females. I had the time to socialize and train, so we went to a different breeder for the second female. They are 3 months apart. When we picked up the second, she had a littermate brother that was twice the size of all the puppies. We left with only the female. Within a week my husband continued to speak of this great looking MALE dog. Did I mention I never wanted a male dog? So 1 month after getting his sister we were back. Yes 3 dogs!!!! They all have separate crates. I knew about the risks of getting littermates, but took the plunge anyway. We have an open invitation at our house, if you come to visit, you must bring your dog. They socialize well. I wonder if it helped that we waited 1 month before getting the littermate? They have had many training sessions $$$$. They live with 2 cats and 10 free range chickens. Yes, bird dogs trained to like chickens. Great article!!!!
    Signed… Lucky in RI!! Oh and I’ve learned to love male dogs.

  112. Gisela Rodriguez says:

    How do you cure litter mate syndrome is the pups are already 2 years old?

  113. iamglc says:

    Is there any decreased risk if siblings when they are older and at different times – not leaving the breeder together at 8 weeks of age. i.e. as an example – one pup placed in home at 10 months old and the second placed in that same home when 14 months old. Interested if the lapse of time and living apart makes a difference or if this has not been considered. Thank you for your time!

    • Not sure about that long period with the breeder – 10 months and 14 months. If the dogs spend most of their puppyhood apart, getting socialized and developing as individuals, you can definitely bring them back together later

  114. Samantha says:

    Hi Jeff, I really enjoyed the insight you provided in this article. I am currently residing two pups myself, but they are from different litters. My husband and I couldn’t agree on a breed, so we got two different dogs. We have an eight-month-old shih tzu/bichon mix and a four-month-old border collie/aussie mix. They do not mind being separated, although they do enjoy each others company. Whenever I have guests over, they are perfectly friendly. Outside the house, they do tend to be a little timid with new people, but they warm up as soon as they realize the person is okay. They are very friendly with other dogs. However, there is a lot of aggressive playing. It is not constant, and I often break it up. The shih tzu has some jealousy issues though and goes after the border collie every time I give him a lot of attention. The border collie used to allow the shih tzu to be dominant, but he is getting bigger and is starting to fight back. How long so you believe the struggle for dominance will last? Is there anything I can do to speed things up? Do you think they could have elements of littermate syndrome? Thanks for your help.

    • No I do not think this has anything to do with littermate syndrome because they are different ages. This is pure puppy dynamics. You might want to work with a trainer if it gets out of hand. Puppy play can look pretty brutal, but as soon as it crosses the line, give the pups a time out.

  115. Brian Richards says:

    We have two Dachshund sisters, litter mates, and have not seen a serious problem. Rather, they have been a joy. One appears dominant. Curiously, the dominant one nursed on both her mother and a lactating Labrador. The other can be quite aloof. They have very distinct personalities and both seem to relish their alone time. They both have preferred play activities. The dominant one likes fetching the ball, while the other is more interested in hunting varmints. And when little Miss aloof does catch the scent of a varmint then they hunt as a team. One might chase a squirrel, where the other will block the path to a tree. One will dig into the front door of a woodchuck den while the other looks for the back door to catch an escape. The dominant one is more aggressive with strangers and other dogs, while the other is much more social. Overall, I don’t think I could have trained a better team. The hunting strategies they use are very sophisticated.

  116. Alesha Godino says:

    I would like to say that I have two chiweenie puppies, now ten months old. From a youg age, we exposed them to as many other dogs as possible. Golden Retrievers, pit lab, lab, other chihuahas, and our shih tzu as well as my mother in laws older shih tzu. We have made sure to introduce them to new people often. They are very friendly, almost completely potty trained, and very bonded. One of the girls is more bonded with my fiance and the other with me. They sleep together and like to be together but definitely notice other people. I guess I got lucky! They get scared when they first meet new dogs but adjust in less than 5 minutes. We made sure not to “rescue them” when they got scared around new dogs and made them stay on the floor. They have learned how to sit and soon we will teach them some other tricks. The only downside I have seen is they like to get into mischief together, (chewing on things) it took them longer to train, but we make sure they get individualized attention. This article was very enlightening. Now i know what to watch for

  117. Alesha Godino says:

    I will say however, when I first got them, (Lola, and Aurora) My Lola was very aloof and didn’t seem to bond with me much. I had to consistently give her individualized attention to get her to bond with me. now she is definitely mommy’s girl!

  118. Tiffany says:

    We have a 10 month old boxer/pit mix. He is a great HIGH HIGH ENERGY DOG. We have gone through 3 types of behavior/socialization classes (one day of 8 weeks each) and we aboslutely love him. Due to his high energy we were thinking of getting another dog so he could have a companion to get all of his excess energy out. It seems like perfect timing-just on facebook today I see that one of his brothers from the same litter needs a new home! And then a friend told me about littermate syndrome…. Hence how I found this article… But I find that the syndrome is more with dogs that are immediately raised with their littermate… but that raises concerns as well.
    Some info regarding our pup and the one that needs a home

    Our dog: Titan
    Has been raised with cats and has been around children somewhat (he is very jumpy so we have been concerned. Gone through several training courses, is neutured and up to date on shots. Loves car rides, does well on leash (which is new, A LOT of training has been done) but is not able to be off leash due to too much distraction during recalls. He is crate trained, but is able to be left alone for a few hours at a time, (and recently at night hogging the bed)

    New dog: Puddle (we have not met Puddle yet, but this is what we’ve been told)
    Puddle has not been raised with cats, but has been raised with children AND their sister from the same litter. He is NOT neutered and NOT UTD on shots. We are told that he is good on and off leash but can be jumpy at times and VERY high energy just like our dog. We are told he is crate trained and is crated when no one is home and at night (due to playing with his sister)

    My BIGGEST concern after reading this article:
    How is Puddle going to adapt being away from his sister and now with his littermate brother?
    Does the littermate syndrome not apply anymore due to them being seperated for the last several months?

    Obviously no one will know ABSOLUTE answers, but some opinions would be great.
    Thank you!

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