You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Good things come in pairs,” but when it comes to raising two pups at once, the saying “double trouble” might be more fitting. Littermate syndrome is a condition that can develop when two puppies are raised together. If you’re considering embarking on the pet parent journey with two new pups, it’s essential to be aware of this condition, the causes, how to prevent it, and how to treat it if you think your pups might already have it.
What is Littermate Syndrome?
Littermate syndrome is a behavior condition that can arise when two dogs, either from the same litter or around the same age, bond too closely with one another. A close bond might not sound like a bad thing, but it’s not the bond that’s the problem; it’s the behaviors that arise as a result of this bond.
Littermate syndrome inhibits a dog’s ability to create social bonds with other dogs or humans. And because of their dependence on their companion, they might experience fear or anxiety when separated or left alone, leading to destructive behaviors. Littermate syndrome can also result in training difficulties, and some dogs might become aggressive toward other people or animals.
It’s important to note that while there is no scientific evidence proving the existence of littermate syndrome, it is still a commonly reported condition that pet parents encounter after bringing two pups into their home, thinking they would have two perfect companions, but the opposite became true.
What Causes Littermate Syndrome?
The exact causes of littermate syndrome are unknown. Still, anecdotal evidence seems to point to the critical cause as two dogs – typically from the same litter, but they can also just be close in age – become too close and dependent on each other. Another common reason this condition develops is that the dogs were not properly socialized and did not get proper socialization with other dogs and humans.
Because littermate syndrome has not been proven by science, it cannot be said to be genetic. However, there is evidence that behavioral patterns and tendencies can be passed down through genetics. So, if you know that a dog in your pup’s family has littermate syndrome, you might be able to expect similar behaviors in your dogs and take steps to prevent it.
How to Prevent Littermate Syndrome
Do not bring home siblings.
The easiest way to prevent littermate syndrome is to avoid bringing two puppies into the home at once or getting two puppies from different litters. While littermate syndrome can still develop in dogs around the same age, it is less likely if they’re from separate litters.
But if you’re already set on your perfect duo, then we’ve got some tips you can follow to help them develop their bond, and their social skills, in a healthy way.
Properly socialize your puppies.
The best way to prevent littermate syndrome is to give your dogs proper, individual socialization. Puppies have a critical socialization period around 4-16 weeks old. At this time, it is important to expose your dogs to as many external stimuli as possible. The goal of socialization is to help your dog learn how to interact with different places, people, and animals. This way, they know they don’t have to be afraid of new or unfamiliar experiences.
Encourage your puppies to interact with other dogs. This will help them to learn how to behave around other dogs. It is important to choose dogs that are well-socialized and non-aggressive so that your puppies have a positive experience.
Spend individual time with each puppy.
This will help them to bond with you individually and learn to trust you. It is also important to make sure that you are giving each puppy the same amount of attention so that they do not feel jealous or left out.
If you’re still unsure if your prevention steps will be enough, you can also seek professional help and get your dogs some training. Training will help your dogs learn obedience and learn that they can trust you in new experiences rather than having to protect themselves – which can lead to aggressive behaviors towards people or other animals.
What to Do If Your Dog Has Littermate Syndrome
If you think your pup may have littermate syndrome, it’s probably a good idea to find a certified dog trainer who is familiar with the condition. A professional will be able to give your dog the help they need and provide you with the tools necessary to support your pup as they improve.
Other than hiring a trainer, the steps to treating littermate syndrome are very similar to the steps to preventing it – individual attention, socialization, and helping them learn how to be alone. It may just take a bit more time and patience than it would if they were still a puppy.
Encourage positive interactions between the puppies.
When the puppies are together, encourage them to have positive interactions. This could include playing games, giving them treats, or simply petting them. It’s important to discourage any negative interactions, such as fighting or resource guarding.
Be extra vigilant about feeding them separately, taking them on walks individually, playing with their own things in their own space, sleeping separately, and not sharing a crate. The key is to give each pup its own experiences without its companion by its side.
Adding a dog to the home is a wonderful milestone that requires a lot of work, and adding two dogs will definitely double the fun, but you’ll also be giving yourself a little extra work to make sure both dogs are socialized correctly and not too dependent on one another. But if you put in the effort early on and follow these steps and tips provided here, you’ll be on your way to raising two independent and happy pups!
If you’re worried about your puppies not receiving the attention they need while you’re away, hire a professional pet sitter to stop by and give them special, individualized attention. By hiring a pet sitter like us rather than having a friend watch them, you’ll have peace of mind in knowing your pup is receiving care from someone who knows about littermate syndrome and the kind of care necessary to prevent it.
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born in 2016! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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