What Is Littermate Syndrome in Dogs And What Can You Do About It?

littermate syndromeSometimes it is difficult to select exactly the right puppy. There are two in the litter that you like the most and being unable to decide, you choose to take both of them home. Now it seems that they seem to be bonding to each other, rather than to you, even whining when you separate them. This is called littermate syndrome. In this article we will advise what you can do when these littermate puppies are bonding only to each other in order to create a more harmonious and healthy bond between you and your new puppies. Let’s discuss how to fix littermate syndrome!

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Littermate syndrome dogs

Littermate syndrome can be quite taxing when it comes to training. This occurs due to the distractions that arise from the puppies focusing most of their attention on each other. Some other symptoms of littermate syndrome that can occur are as follows:

  • Separation anxiety – When separated from its littermate, a dog with littermate syndrome will typically whine and become very anxious. This is not a good sign and it will need to be dealt with.
  • Fear of strangers – A dog with separation littermate syndrome may be afraid of people and other dogs, trusting only in their littermate.
  • Fear of other things which are new – Changes of environment, trips to the park, and other new stimuli may be poorly received and this is another indicator that your dogs attention is almost completely focused on its littermate.
  • Constant Fighting – Fighting between pups seems to occur more often with related, rather than unrelated pups and this can be an issue as they get older and bigger. More the reason to deal with this NOW.
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Littermate syndrome puppies : What to do?littermate

So, what exactly should you do if you have two puppies from the same litter experiencing this syndrome? Thankfully there are a few tactics which apply that can help to minimize the distraction of growing up with a littermate. These tactics involve more of your time invested in training but they are going to be necessary. You will want to start practicing the following:

  • Separate training sessions – Attempting to teach both of the dogs commands at the same time is not a good idea. They will generally be too distracted and might even compete for your attention. To discourage this, separate training sessions are in order. For instance, take one dog out at noon or put one dog in the yard and practice training with the other. Once you have finished, swap out the pups and give the other their own training session. This will help to build their bond to you and will minimize the distractions of having their littermate nearby.
  • Separate playtimes – It is a good idea to have separate playtimes for the pups. This gives them time to bond with you or to play on their own, rather than always playing with their littermate.
  • Separate crates – Crate training is a good idea as it gives you a chance to separate the dogs quickly when you need. We’ll go into that a little more in the next section.

Crate training dogs with Littermate syndrome

Crate training is a method of teaching your dog that involves isolation. Using a wooden crate or some pet fencing you will want to create two enclosures. Inside these enclosures you should include a small water bowl, a puppy bed, and a number of toys. These toys will keep your dog amused and also teach them what things are okay to chew. While

          “Place each pup in their own crate every night.”

potty training these crates are very useful as well, as you place each pup in their own crate every night and first thing in the morning you will take them out separately to go to the bathroom. We recommend that you place ‘pee pads’ or faux-grass pads in the crate so that the pup has somewhere to use the bathroom if they simply cannot hold it.

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Littermate syndrome: The pups are fighting

One thing that we should note is that you will want to be careful when your pups start fighting. As we mentioned previously, related pups tend to fight MORE than unrelated ones and these little tussles can get quite heated. Attempting to separate them by hand may very well earn you a nasty bite and so we want to avoid this. Instead, invest in a squirt gun. A quick blast of water can be done from a safe distance and coupled with the word ‘No!’ can broadcast your intent once the water has ‘shocked’ them out of their fighting mindset. Loud noises can also break them out of their fighting but when it comes to overall efficacy it is really hard to beat a squirt gun!

Littermate syndrome : Additional tips

There are a few other things which you can do to help to combat littermate syndrome. Some additional recommendations are as follows:

  • Separate feedings – Try feeding the dogs in separate rooms in order to help discourage rivalries.
  • Increasing crate distance – When crate training the pups, each night you should move their crates further and further apart from each other. This will help to minimize their reliance on seeing each other all the time.
  • Reduce playtimes together – Keep them completely separated, alternating days in the yard, for instance. Follow this up by only letting them play together for around 15 minutes at a time.

littermate syndrome dogs

Some closing words

In this article we have discussed some of the finer points of what littermate syndrome is and what you can do to combat it. While it is going to take a lot of time, this is something which is very much correctable and so you will need to stay patient and firm in your training of the pups. Hang in there and in time you will see your pups growing more well-adjusted with the passing of each day. Count on it!

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