Table of Contents
- Littermate Syndrome: Does It Ever Go Away?
- Littermate Syndrome: What Is It?
- Littermate Syndrome: Fact or Myth?
- Signs of Littermate Syndrome
- How to “Cure” Littermate Syndrome
- Littermate Syndrome: When Do My Dogs Need Professional Help?
- Littermate Syndrome FAQs
- Littermate Syndrome: Does it ever go away — Summary
One common question constantly being asked by litter owners is: Does littermate syndrome go away?
I'm sure, you have been noticing the constant sibling puppy aggression among your dogs and how they get anxious when separated from the litter.
And I'm sure you're constantly wondering how to stop it, and stop it at once.
Below, let’s discuss what littermate syndrome is, its telltale signs, how to prevent it, and if it does exist, does it ever go away?
Littermate Syndrome: Does It Ever Go Away?
The dreaded question. Does littermate syndrome go away? Well, luckily, the answer to this question is… Yes!
Our puppies can outgrow littermate syndrome, but only with constant help and guidance from us, their fur parents.
The symptoms may not go away in an instant, but with enough patience, they will decrease over time.
We may think that puppies need a playmate as they grow older, but giving them alone time once in a while is also important for their well-being.
Start training them to eat separately, play and train separately, and even meet other people and dogs outside the house separately.
But it’s also important to balance it out–let the siblings have a couple of hours to play and spend time with each other. We don’t want them to be complete strangers, after all.
We still want them to be familiar with each other’s presence while growing up to be the individual and independent dogs that they can be.
To understand more about how to help our pups overcome it, let's answer the question: what is littermate syndrome, anyway?
Littermate Syndrome: What Is It?
Littermate syndrome, also known as sibling syndrome, happens when two or more pups form unhealthy codependency.
They usually become overly attached and extremely dependent on one another.
Now, that may sound ideal—there's nothing cuter than two pups extremely close and playful with each other, right?
But it can be a cause for a major red flag later on as they grow older.
This closeness may affect their behavioral development, social skills, and overall relationship with other dogs and even their owners.
But don’t be confused!
Although pups from the same litter mostly experience littermate syndrome, it can still happen to those from different litters.
As long as two pups grew up together, whether they're the same breed or not, they can still develop littermate syndrome.
It's really on a case-to-case basis.
And do you know that some dog experts even say not all puppies may be affected?
And on top of that, littermate syndrome is not a medically recognized condition, too.
No wonder some people argue that it is nothing but, well, a myth.
Littermate Syndrome: Fact or Myth?
It's honestly difficult to argue whether littermate syndrome is indeed a fact or just a myth.
After all, we all have different experiences in raising puppies.
But as experienced dog parents, we know that it’s not impossible to raise well-behaved dogs.
However, many dog owners, including veterinary professionals, observe the unnaturally misbehaving patterns of puppies that grew up with a sibling.
Usually, it's with how these pups socialize with other animals and humans, and how they react to certain situations or stimuli.
Because of this, canine experts say that littermate syndrome is a serious cause for concern that should be addressed the sooner, the better.
However, there's not enough scientific study to point out its true existence!
It's not even medically recognized yet, hence the argument that it may only be a myth.
There's no doubt that we need more research to prove that littermate syndrome actually exists.
But no one can't discount the observation and first-hand experience of dog owners and vet experts.
In the end, it all boils down to our personal experience and observation of our pets.
Are they shy? Are they hyperactive?
Do they like playing with their siblings or do they instead prefer being left alone by themselves?
That being said—how can we definitely determine if our pups possibly have littermate syndrome?
Signs of Littermate Syndrome
Ideally, pups should be separated from their mama dogs and siblings at 12 weeks old.
At this age, they should have learned enough social and behavioral skills to be ready to meet their forever family.
However, they may also start developing unhealthy habits and dependence on their siblings at this stage because littermate syndrome can start manifesting at 10 to 12 weeks too.
And since it affects pups that are basically young and generally playful, the telltale signs may be difficult to spot at first.
Lack of Social Skills
The lack of social skills among puppies with littermate syndrome already goes without saying—they always need to be in the presence of their littermates.
When the siblings are together, you may observe one being the more dominant and the other being the submissive type.
However, this doesn't matter in the presence of strangers. Either pup may find it difficult to adjust to unknown people and/or animals.
That's because their usual ways and behavior at home may not be accepted and tolerated by other dogs.
Lack of Training and Simple Skills
Similarly, performing common tasks may be challenging for them too, like eating alone.
You'll probably notice their lack of appetite when eating only by themselves.
Teaching them simple commands may also be difficult for the owner, especially if the pups are being trained at the same time.
Most often than not, they will be more focused on one another instead of the trainer.
Because puppy siblings grow up together, rough playing and play biting will definitely be part of their bonding.
But this seemingly innocent roughhouse may turn into further aggression as they grow older, especially for same-sex siblings.
This may be dangerous later on as they become stronger and use more force against each other.
And as you notice one puppy being more dominant than the others, it may usually grow up to be the bully while others tend to be bullied.
If this is not addressed immediately, sibling aggression may eventually translate into hostility towards other dogs and people in the future.
Since the puppies learned to be extremely codependent, being separated from one another even just for a little while may trigger unnecessary stress and anxiety.
They feel uneasy or fearful of meeting other animals or people alone. They cry, become aloof, or even become hostile.
Even puppies that are generally outgoing and playful at home can suddenly be bashful, timid, or aggressive in an unfamiliar situation where their siblings are not present for comfort and support.
Littermate syndrome, if not properly prevented, may also be fatal.
In case of an untimely death of a sibling, the surviving puppy may also feel deep sorrow and depression. It may not be as easy for them to cope.
But fur parents, remember!
Not all pups experience littermate syndrome and the list above is only some of the most commonly observed behavior among litters that possibly have this condition.
How to “Cure” Littermate Syndrome
As they say in medicine, prevention is always better than cure.
Please remember that adopting two pups at the same time, whether from the same litter or not, may pose more challenges than taking care of just one.
That is not to say you shouldn’t adopt more than one puppy at a time. After all, double the trouble, double the fun, right?
But you also have to consider the fact that you may have to spend extra time, extra effort, and even extra money in taking care of them.
As early as getting the pups, it’s better to immediately house them in two separate crates.
Sure, it may be cost-effective to let them share, but this often becomes the start of their unhealthy bond.
When you let them sleep in only one crate, soon they will have difficulty sleeping by themselves.
They will always feel the need to be near their littermate before they can relax into slumber.
Having them sleep in separate crates (and in separate locations, if possible) is the best way to train them to be independent and teach them the importance of having their own personal space.
Separate Food Container
While having a separate food container seems to be a no-brainer, it is important to stress the importance of training the puppies to feed independently.
In fact, if you can place their crates in different parts of the house, it’s also best to set up their feeding stations in separate locations.
And if you can commit further, give them separate meal times.
This will allow them to follow their own feeding schedule, and not their siblings', moving forward.
Set aside time to have individual activities with the puppies.
This may be time-consuming, but this is also the best way for you and your family to have a personal bond with them.
By playing, walking, or training them separately, you allow each of them to get to know you better and vice versa, forming a deeper relationship as fur parent and fur baby.
This will also make them focus on you as their trainer and on the commands that you are teaching them instead of the other pup.
At 16 weeks, it’s also important that puppies become comfortable meeting other dogs and people.
Start walking them individually and let them be familiar with the surroundings outside the comforts of your home.
If possible, you may also schedule a separate visit to their vet in getting their shots or having their general checkup.
However, do note that each puppy has a different personality, and therefore, has a different style of learning and adapting.
Pay attention to their needs and temperament so you can train and treat them accordingly.
In the end, our love, patience, and extra attention to our fur babies are what will make a difference in how they will grow up as good doggies.
Littermate Syndrome: When Do My Dogs Need Professional Help?
I know it can get overwhelming dedicating extra effort and time to care for your puppies. But cut yourself some slack!
You can always reach out to your trusted veterinarian or to a registered animal behaviorist or trainer to guide you through the process of ‘treating’ littermate syndrome.
After all, they are the experts—no shame in asking for their help.
But if you feel like it is going to be difficult to sustain this much training until the pups learn to be independent, you may want to reach out to a trusted relative or friend (whom you know will love the puppies too!) to help you care for at least one of the siblings.
Littermate Syndrome FAQs
How do you break littermate syndrome?
Try to give them their own alone time at different locations in the house.
They may start crying at first but by playing with them or giving them treats, they'll hopefully start learning to get used to being separated.
However, it's important to note that it's best to do this at the earliest time possible.
There's no instant ‘cure' to littermate syndrome, but with your constant attention and effort, you and your pups will surely get through this!
Do dogs outgrow littermate syndrome?
Yes, they do but not naturally.
Puppy siblings with littermate syndrome will need your help in overcoming this as they grow older.
They may need extra attention in housebreaking and social training.
Remember that littermate syndrome affects their development process.
It may be quite difficult in the beginning, but the good news is it's possible to outgrow littermate syndrome.
How long does it take for a puppy to forget its littermates?
Actually, there's no scientific evidence that puppies do remember (and therefore, forget!) their siblings and mama dog.
They may be familiar with their litter's smell, but it's also the same way they also remember the smell of other animals.
For now, what's clear is that puppies, especially newborn ones, need to spend significant time with their litter and their mama dog as early separation poses quite a few risks too!
Littermate Syndrome: Does it ever go away — Summary
Littermate syndrome does go away but only with the help and guidance of us fur parents (and experts too, if needed!)
But as mentioned, it's still best if you don't wait for it to get into that situation.
Train the pups to be independent of each other as soon as possible.
So if you are just planning to adopt two puppies at the same time, just make sure you follow the correct process in raising them to prevent littermate syndrome.
But if you already have adorable littermates in your home that are showing signs of littermate syndrome, all hope is not lost.
It may feel like treading on thin lines at times but getting this far ahead in your research on how to care for two or more puppies at the same time is a good start. You got this!