Littermate Syndrome In Dogs: What Is It, And How To Handle It?

Two dogs are twice the fun for most pet parents. But when those pups are siblings adopted from the same litter, problems such as littermate syndrome can pose challenges to the puppies’ social development. Discover what littermate syndrome in dogs is, how to handle it, and the best way to welcome a new pup into your home. While you’re here check out our new puppy checklist and make sure you have everything you need for your new bundle of joy!

Table of contents

  • What exactly is “littermate syndrome” and is it real?
  • At what age does littermate syndrome start?
  • Is littermate syndrome common?
  • What are the most common symptoms of littermate syndrome?
    • Extreme co-dependence
    • Separation anxiety
    • Poor social skills
    • Fearfulness
    • Training difficulties
    • Sibling aggression
  • What behaviors can be perceived as littermate syndrome symptoms?
  • Does littermate syndrome go away?
  • You’ve already adopted a pair of littermates?
  • Should you consider rehoming one of your puppies?
  • Will getting a third dog help with littermate syndrome?
  • How to fix littermate syndrome
    • Address their separation anxiety
    • Consider training them separately
    • Build their independent behavior
    • Get them back together
  • Avoid littermate syndrome by getting one puppy at a time

What exactly is “littermate syndrome” and is it real?

Littermate syndrome can occur when two puppies adopted from the same litter grow up together in the same home. In some cases, these sibling puppies form such a deep bond with each other that they fail to properly socialize with people and other dogs. When these two pups must be separated from each other even for a short time, they may whine, exhibit destructive behavior, bark excessively, or show extreme anxiety in new situations.

Raising two sibling puppies of the same age together (whether from the same or different litters) is a risk for developing littermate syndrome. Most experts agree that dog parents can avoid littermate syndrome by getting one puppy at a time then waiting a year or two to introduce second puppy to the family.

Littermate syndrome is not a medical diagnosis, but most experienced dog parents and veterinarians can attest that it is real.

One of the worst aspects of littermate syndrome is that your pups don’t properly bond with you. And isn’t that the whole reason you got a dog in the first place?

At what age does littermate syndrome start?

Puppies are typically ready to live away from their mom and siblings at around 8-12 weeks old. At this point, the pups begin their journey to an independent, confident doggie life.

If adopted siblings are kept exclusively together after 12 weeks of age, they may become each other’s “security blanket.” As a result, they miss out on a critical phase of social skill development, resulting in stunted socialization skills and anxiety when they are separated.

Is littermate syndrome common?



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