Is It A Good Idea To Have Two Dogs From The Same Litter?

Littermate syndrome refers to a set of problematic behaviors that can develop between two puppies from the same litter. Generally, littermate syndrome is characterized by overly-dependent sibling relationships that prevent normal socialization and development. It presents serious challenges for training and discipline. The main questions addressed in this article are: What causes littermate syndrome? What are the risks and potential problems? Are there benefits to raising littermates? And what can owners do to mitigate issues and raise happy, well-adjusted dogs? Keep reading to learn more about littermate syndrome and decide if adopting siblings is right for your family.

Bonding Too Closely

One of the biggest risks of getting two puppies from the same litter is that they may bond too closely with each other rather than forging strong bonds with their human family. As mentioned by K9 Behavioral Services, “Professional trainers recommend against getting two puppies within six months of one another, because the risks are just too high. This doesn’t even take into consideration littermates who have spent every second together since birth” (source).

Puppies from the same litter have been together since birth and as a result can become overly dependent on one another for comfort, play, and fulfillment of their social needs. This over-attachment prevents them from forming a close bond with their human caretakers. As PetHelpful explains, “Littermate puppies fail to form strong attachments with humans. Puppies need to form attachments at around seven weeks of age. If they are already attached to their sibling, this attachment process with a human does not form properly” (source).

Having littermates too focused on each other can lead to issues like separation anxiety when they are apart, since their social and emotional needs are met solely by their sibling. It also prevents them from looking to their human owners for guidance and bonding. Careful steps must be taken to encourage bonding with human family members right from the start.

Behavioral Problems

Two puppies from the same litter can develop behavioral problems due to littermate syndrome, including anxiety, aggression, and obsessive behaviors. According to an article on Veterinary Partner, littermates often “don’t learn to regulate their interactions with other dogs. They become so dependent on each other that they pay little attention to their human caretakers” (https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&catId=102897&Id=11564754). Without proper socialization and training, these pups may not learn good play and communication skills with other dogs. They may react negatively when separated and become distressed.

Aggression is another common issue, as the dogs may fight constantly to establish dominance. Per an article from Texas A&M University, “Littermate syndrome can also lead to fearfulness of unfamiliar people, dogs, and situations” (https://today.tamu.edu/2023/09/28/understanding-littermate-syndrome-in-puppy-pairs/). This fear can also manifest as aggression when the pups feel threatened.

Obsessive behaviors like tail chasing, aggression, or self-mutilation may also develop between littermates. The pups essentially end up in an unhealthy, dysfunctional relationship. Without proper training and attention from their human owners, these problematic behaviors can intensify over time.

Training Challenges

Training two puppies at the same time comes with many difficulties. The pups will often be more focused on each other than on you, making it hard to keep their attention during training sessions. They can also feed off each other’s energy and become overly excited or distracted. This can make it very challenging to teach basic commands or proper manners.

According to dog training experts, it is nearly impossible for one person to effectively train two puppies at once. Even training them separately takes double the time and effort. The puppies should be worked with individually if you want them to develop good skills and behavior. Trying to train two rambunctious pups together often results in poorly socialized dogs that have not learned basic obedience.

Trainers recommend starting early socialization and training classes with each puppy separately. Take them on walks and to new environments one-on-one as well. You can bring them both to the same puppy class, but they should not participate together in the exercises. The one-on-one time will allow you to bond closely with each pup and address their unique training needs.

As the article “How Do I Train Two Puppies at The Same Time?” on PuppyTrainedRight.com explains: “Training two puppies at the same time is nearly impossible for one person to do, and training them at once (even if not simultaneously) will just confused the puppies and be counterproductive.” https://www.puppytrainedright.com/site/blog/2021/03/15/how-do-i-train-two-puppies-at-the-same-time

Socialization Issues

One of the biggest risks of getting two littermates is inadequate socialization with other dogs. Puppies raised together often bond very closely to each other, sometimes to the exclusion of other dogs. This means they may not get the early socialization experiences they need to become comfortable around unfamiliar dogs as adults (https://peachonaleash.com/littermate-syndrome-dogs/).

Littermates tend to play and interact primarily with each other rather than learning how to communicate properly with other puppies. Without frequent socialization opportunities in the critical early months, they can develop fear, anxiety or even aggression towards unfamiliar dogs as they grow up (https://www.thewildest.com/dog-behavior/dont-take-two-littermates).

It takes extra effort to socialize littermates thoroughly. Attending group puppy classes, arranging one-on-one play sessions, and introducing them to friendly adult dogs are all important. This helps ensure they develop the social skills needed to interact successfully with dogs outside their sibling bond.

Benefits

There are a few potential benefits to getting two puppies from the same litter according to some experts. These include:

  • Built-in companionship – Having a sibling can provide comfort, entertainment, and reduce separation anxiety for the puppies as they have a bonded companion (https://companyofanimals.com/us/the-pros-and-cons-of-having-littermates/).
  • Fun to watch them play together – Littermates often engage in playful behavior with each other, which can be enjoyable for owners to observe (https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Pros-and-Cons-of-Raising-Two-Litter-Mate-Dogs).
  • Less lonely transition – The move to a new home may be easier and less stressful for littermates as they have each other for support and familiarity.

However, experts note these benefits depend on proper training, socialization, and preventing littermate syndrome.

Tips for Success

While raising two puppies from the same litter can be challenging, it is possible with proper planning and commitment. Here are some tips for raising littermates successfully if you do choose to get two:

Spend time with each puppy separately every day to strengthen your individual bond (Positive Pet Training, 2023). Make sure each puppy sleeps in a separate crate at night and take them on walks or to training classes one-on-one (Animal Behavior College, 2022). Use their names often so they don’t just respond to each other. Work on training basics like sit, stay, and come with each pup individually. Socialize the puppies in different locations and allow them to have some separate play time with other dogs.

Have realistic expectations about the extra time and effort it will take to train and care for two puppies. Get professional help from a trainer if needed for potential behavior or dominance issues. Feed, walk, train, and play with the puppies separately as much as possible to avoid an unhealthy co-dependency. With diligence, prevention of littermate syndrome, and commitment to meeting each pup’s needs, raising siblings successfully is achievable.

Reputable Breeder

Finding a responsible breeder who is committed to the welfare of their puppies is key when deciding to adopt two puppies from the same litter. Responsible breeders carefully screen potential buyers by asking detailed questions to ensure the puppies are going to a good home. According to petplan.com.au, some important questions a responsible breeder may ask include:

  • Why do you want a dog?
  • Do you have time to meet the demanding needs of a puppy for feeding, training, exercise, etc.?
  • Who will be responsible for caring for the dog?
  • What type of home will the puppy live in?
  • Do you have a yard? Is it fenced?

Additionally, a conscientious breeder wants to ensure they do not sell two same-litter puppies to one home according to reddit.com. This helps prevent potential bonding and training issues. Seeking out an ethical, caring breeder is essential when considering adopting two puppies together.

Alternatives

While adopting siblings or getting two puppies close in age comes with challenges, there are some alternatives that can provide the benefits without as high of risks:

Adopt puppies separately, spaced out by at least 6-12 months. This allows you to focus on training and socializing one puppy at a time. According to https://k9behavioralservices.com/littermate-syndrome/, professional trainers strongly advise waiting before getting a second puppy.

Get an adult dog first, then adopt a puppy later on. The adult dog can help teach the puppy manners and appropriate play styles. An adult dog provides stability for a puppy to learn from. Just be sure to give the adult dog breaks from the puppy.

If getting two puppies close in age, enroll in training classes immediately and commit to regular socialization. Be prepared to keep the puppies separate for feeding, training, walks, and play. This takes extra work but can prevent bonding and training issues according to https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/resource/raising-two-puppies-once.

Consider doggie daycare and camps, which allow the puppies time apart to develop independence. Hire trainers and walkers to work with each puppy one-on-one.

Conclusion

In summary, while raising two puppies from the same litter may seem appealing, there are significant risks involved with littermate syndrome. The most notable risks are that the puppies may become overly bonded with each other, leading to behavior problems like separation anxiety, fearfulness, and aggression. Training two puppies is also exponentially more difficult as they can distract and reinforce bad habits in each other. Proper socialization is challenging as the puppies rely on each other instead of learning to socialize with other dogs and people. Overall, the cons generally outweigh the pros when it comes to raising two puppies from the same litter.

To avoid littermate syndrome, consider staggering intake so the puppies grow up at different times. Or, opt to only adopt one puppy and socialize properly from a young age. For those committed to littermates, be prepared for extra training and socialization work. Consult a professional trainer/behaviorist for guidance. While cute, the risks of behavioral issues are high. Carefully consider if you can devote the extra time and energy required to raise two puppies simultaneously.

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