Litter Mate Syndrome – Don’t Get Two Puppies at Once

This is Ned. If you saw this without knowing anything about him, you might assume that he has been abused and is traumatised. But you’d be wrong. Ned and his sister Kelly have been in the same loving home since they were bought together as puppies and are now five months of age.

There are a couple of reasons that Ned is so fearful (Kelly lacks confidence too but it isn’t as severe).

– There could be a genetic factor contributing to the timidity and making it worse. But we can’t know this one for sure.

– The dogs, and especially Ned, have not been socialised early in life (I have spoken about this in other posts and you can read more detail about it on the blog). More so with Ned as the owners could not get the lead on him to take him anywhere – When Ned gets his collar touched for a leash to go on he actually yelps. Not knowing how to solve this, Ned could not be taken anywhere. There was a great deal of difficulty and many attempts to just get him to the vet for his vaccinations.

– The owners bought the litter mates together – a major factor working against them

– The pups were adopted at 6 weeks which is a bit too early and could compound these issues.

Buying litter mates together is something that people often do with the best intentions. It seems like a win-win as the dogs can grow up together and keep each other company when you’re away. But it can cause a lot of issues too.

Litter mate syndrome comes about because the two siblings are so emotionally dependant on each other that their learning is inhibited. Signs include phobias of people and other dogs, fears of anything novel, intense anxiety when separated, difficulty learning even basic training skills and can lead to the two dogs fighting when they hit adolescence.

Litter mate syndrome makes it more difficult to bond with and train the dogs and actually hinders their learning severely. You will likely never see the true potential of each dog as an individual but will have two difficult to manage anxious dogs that are not mentally developed.

This can also occur with two pups raised together from different litters or different breeds.

For the most success, each dog should be raised and trained completely separate from the other, except for brief interactions, until they are over a year old. This is a difficult task and so it’s often best to rehome one of the dogs so that both can develop into confident individuals. While a difficult decision, this is likely the best outcome for both dogs involved.

Many people are not aware of the pitfalls of raising litter mates together so the owners kindly agreed to me writing this with Ned and Kelly as an example to raise awareness so please share and tag anyone who is considering getting two puppies at once.

Featured Course: Frantic to Focused

This comprehensive course takes you step by step on how to get your dog from a frantic dog to a focused dog on walks. EVEN around other dogs.

Popular Ebook: Training Matters

Looking for information online can be so confusing as there is so much conflicting advice. In Training Matters, we explain not just the how of dog training, but the why, so that you know what to do and why to do it this way.

Join the Dog Matters Academy!


Dog Matters. All Rights Reserved © 2023

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links in this website are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I may earn a small commission. We only recommend products and services we endorse and using our links does not affect the purchase price for you, in fact it may save you money. Thank you for your support.

Follow Dog Matters: