Mark Vette – Internationally renowned Animal Behaviourist, Educator, Author and TV personality

Littermate Syndrome

Littermate Syndrome

Are you concerned about getting two pups from the same litter or even two pups the same age? Here we explore an issue that’s commonly referred to as “littermate syndrome” – what it’s all about, and whether you need to worry about it. 

What is littermate syndrome?

“Littermate Syndrome” is a non-scientific term, referring to the issues that arise when you adopt two pups from the same litter (or different litters, but the same age). Some believe signs of littermate syndrome include aggression between the two dogs, separation anxiety, fearfulness of other people, dogs or novel stimuli and difficulty learning basic obedience skills. But there are lots of different definitions!

Is it okay to adopt two pups together?

In my opinion, it’s fine to adopt two pups at the same time or from the same litter as long as you adopt one male and one female. This GREATLY reduces the risk of aggression between the two dogs down the track. 

Other caveat is that you have the time and energy to dedicate to two puppies – it is harder than raising just one! 

The other aspects of littermate syndrome aren’t really an innate problem, but rather an issue that comes about when the pups aren’t raised or trained in an optimal way (easily done when you’re managing two energetic young pups at the same time!). 

The most common ones are:

  • Over-dependence on each other
  • Inadequate training due to the challenge of raising and training two boisterous pups at once

To prevent over-dependence, it’s important that the two pups sleep in separate crates (though these crates can be beside each other) and that the pups have periods of separation from each other every single day so that they learn to be comfortable when the other isn’t around. An hour or two each day is usually sufficient.

To prevent the other issues, spend time giving each pup formal training sessions individually to  ensure they learn commands properly without the distraction of the other pup around. Once commands have been learned and mastered, you can proof the commands with both pups together to ensure they’ll still listen when the other is around! Start with one pup clipped up or in a crate nearby before having both off lead and working together. 

Lastly – desexing your pups generally helps with most behaviours, so that would be my recommendation also.

Do I recommend getting two pups at the same time?

Even though there are no innate issues with adopting two pups at the same time, I still don’t recommend it for the average person. Pups can be pretty full on, and they require a huge amount of attention, training, socialisation, management and consistency in their first couple of months in your home. When your pup is in their Formative Period (2-4 months), you are setting them up with the behaviours they’ll need for LIFE. Having two pups doubles this workload, which is overwhelming for many people, and they end up not giving each pup enough individual training or attention.

It’s great for a dog to have a buddy, but I usually suggest waiting until your first pup is at least a year old and well trained before adding another pup to the family.

However if you are an experienced dog owner and confident trainer, then of course you can go for two pups at once. 

If you have any questions about your two pups or dogs – flick me an email to support@dogzen.com and I’d be happy to lend some advice!

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