Separated at Shelter. Why Sibling Dogs Get Split Up for Adoption

The Bond Between Littermates

Littermates often form an extremely close bond as puppies that can cause issues when separated. According to Tractive, littermates synchronize their activities, sleep schedules, play, and even anxiety. This tight bond makes it difficult for them to be independent.

This bond between littermates may lead to separation anxiety, fearfulness, and other problems when they are apart. As noted by Suburban K9, separation anxiety is often the first issue owners encounter when trying to separate littermates. The dogs become extremely distressed when not together.

Potential Behavior Problems

puppies form close bonds as littermates that can lead to issues if not properly managed when adopted.

Littermates adopted together are less likely to bond with their human family and more likely to develop behavioral issues like aggression and anxiety. According to experts, this can occur because littermates tend to overly bond with each other rather than with their human caretakers. This is known as “littermate syndrome.”

As the The Wildest explains, littermates often become so close that they do not form strong attachments to humans. They fulfill their social and companionship needs from each other which can leave them under-socialized with people.

Without proper bonding and training, littermates may resort to aggressiveness and destructive tendencies in the home. Research shows they are more likely to fight with each other and even redirect aggression onto family members as they compete for resources. The risk of aggression only increases as the puppies mature.

Littermates also tend to develop anxious behaviors such as separation anxiety, fearfulness, and reactivity around strangers. According to veterinarian Dr. Evans in Newsweek, their intense bond can make them distressed when separated. They may howl, bark, pace, urinate, and destroy the home.

For these reasons, experts recommend adopting sibling puppies into separate homes. This encourages bonding with humans, eases training, and lessens the likelihood of problematic behaviors developing.

Training Difficulties

It can be very difficult to train sibling puppies at the same time because they are easily distracted by each other. As littermates, they are naturally very bonded and focused on playing together. This makes it hard for them to concentrate during separate training sessions. According to experts at Positive Pet Training, “We recommend 1-2-1 time with each dog daily. This sounds like a lot; and it is! But you need to put in a lot of work to raise siblings successfully.”

Owners often struggle to dedicate full, focused training time to each puppy. The dogs’ strong desire for fun and interaction with each other overrides their ability to pay attention. Without proper one-on-one training, the puppies can easily develop problem behaviors. It takes great time and patience from owners to train sibling puppies effectively. As Puppy Trained Right advises, “You can start by putting their crate or bed close to each other, but gradually move them apart so they get more comfortable being apart.”

Exercise Needs

Two high-energy puppies require more exercise and stimulation than one dog. Most owners cannot meet the exercise demands of two puppies, which can lead to behavior issues. According to Spectacular Siblings: 5 Tips for Raising Litter Mates, each puppy needs daily walks, play time, training sessions and opportunities for mental stimulation. This is double the work than owning a single puppy. Trying to properly exercise sibling puppies takes consistent effort and time that many owners struggle to provide.

sibling puppies have high exercise needs that most owners struggle to meet, potentially causing anxiety or destructive behaviors.

Without sufficient physical and mental stimulation, sibling puppies often turn destructive behaviors onto each other and household objects. They can develop anxiety from pent-up energy. Proper exercise helps curb negative behaviors in puppies. But giving two puppies the activity they need is a difficult task for even the most committed owners. Separating sibling puppies into different homes makes it more feasible to meet each dog’s exercise requirements.

Double the Cost

Adopting two sibling puppies means you’ll have to spend twice as much on all of their supplies compared to adopting a single puppy.

Puppies require a lot of medical care in their first year like vaccinations, deworming, spay/neuter procedures, as well as any unexpected illnesses or injuries that may arise. Paying for two puppies to go through all the necessary medical treatments can get very costly quickly.

You’ll also have to budget for double the amount of high quality puppy food, treats, toys, beds, leashes, collars, grooming tools, puppy pads, crates, etc. Puppies grow fast, so you may even need to replace some of these items as they get older and larger.

Additionally, training and obedience classes can be quite expensive, especially if both puppies require professional training. Group classes often charge per puppy.

Many owners simply find that the combined costs of food, medical care, supplies and training for two puppies at once is too much of a financial burden. Adopting siblings means committing to significantly higher pet care expenses.

Home Environment Factors

Raising sibling puppies together requires a very specific home environment in order to prevent behavioral issues. According to Whole Dog Journal, sibling pups often thrive better in quiet, low-traffic homes with experienced owners who can dedicate plenty of one-on-one time to each puppy (“Adopting Sibling Puppies”). Most typical family homes with children, other pets, and frequent guests do not provide an ideal setting for littermates to bond properly with their human family over each other.

The ideal home environment for raising sibling puppies has the following characteristics:

  • A quiet, low-traffic home without many disruptions
  • Experienced owners who can dedicate individual training and play time
  • experienced owners able to dedicate plenty of individual time to each puppy have the best chance of raising siblings successfully.

  • Older, relaxed resident dogs rather than young puppies or rambunctious adolescents
  • Adult-only home or residence with well-behaved, dog-savvy older children
  • Households with just the two littermate puppies, without other puppies or dogs

If you have an active, chaotic household with young children and multiple pets, it likely does not provide the setting sibling puppies need to bond properly with humans. The pups may end up overly attached to each other rather than integrating into the human family unit. Consult with your breeder and vet before deciding to adopt littermates.

Benefits of Separating

There are several advantages to adopting sibling puppies separately into different homes. When adopted alone, each puppy is able to form a stronger bond with their new human family. All of the new owner’s attention and affection goes towards one puppy, helping them establish essential trust. According to, “Each dog is more likely to bond to the owner/family than each other.”

Puppies adopted individually also receive dedicated training time. The owner can focus completely on reinforcing commands, house training, and socialization without having to manage two puppies. Littermates often struggle with training when together, as they are easily distracted by each other’s presence. Separating them prevents the development of problematic behaviors like aggression and anxiety. Owners have an easier time curbing natural competitiveness and tension when puppies receive one-on-one training.

When It Can Work

While most experts advise separating sibling puppies, adopting littermates can work out in some cases. According to this article from Whole Dog Journal, adopting siblings together can be successful if the new owners have plenty of dog experience and are ready to put in extra time and effort. Older, calmer dogs that have already developed some independence or smaller, lower-energy breeds tend to do better when adopted together.

The keys to making it work with sibling puppies are providing extensive training and socialization for each dog individually and establishing clear boundaries and schedules from day one. Each puppy needs its own crate, toys, and alone time with the owners. Siblings should attend separate obedience classes and get walked one-on-one. With vigilant training and management, sibling puppies can learn to be apart without anxiety and form healthy attachments to their new family. But it requires an experienced owner fully committed to raising the pair.

Making the Right Match

Shelters aim to set up each dog for success in their new home. To do this, they use assessments to match each puppy with the right family and environment (K9 Behavioral Services). While genetics play a role, much of a dog’s temperament and behavior is shaped by their experiences, especially in those critical first weeks and months. By separating siblings, shelters ensure each puppy can be adopted into a home that fits their unique needs and traits. This allows them to thrive through proper socialization, training, exercise and enrichment. Each dog receives the individual attention, bonding and schedule tailored just for them. Ultimately, separating littermates gives both puppies their best chance at becoming happy, well-adjusted canine companions.

shelters use assessments to match each puppy with the ideal home environment suited to their unique personality and needs.

Keeping Siblings Connected

Even though sibling puppies may need to be adopted separately, that does not mean they can’t stay connected after finding their forever homes. There are several ways owners can ensure siblings maintain their bond even when living apart:

Sibling puppies can have periodic play dates and interactions after adoption. Setting up play time allows them to reconnect and play together, which can be beneficial for their social development. However, interactions should be limited and supervised to avoid littermate syndrome behaviors from developing.

Owners can exchange photos, videos, and updates on their puppies’ progress. Seeing their sibling thrive in their new home can give each puppy confidence. Sharing milestones and adventures lets owners appreciate the journey both puppies are on.

Holidays, birthdays, and other events are perfect opportunities for sibling reunions. Special occasions shared together can become treasured memories.

With planning and coordination, adopting littermates separately does not have to mean separation. Maintaining their bond while preventing littermate syndrome allows both puppies the best chance to flourish.

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