Littermate Syndrome - What it is and how we can avoid it.
Meet the Heelers (who awkwardly autocorrect to the Feelers) Baxter and Bandit. These two have what the industry anecdotally calls “Littermate Syndrome”.
What is it?
Littermate Syndrome refers to a dependency that develops between littermates that are raised together beyond the age of natural weaning. It doesn’t occur in every pair of littermates, however, it is common enough that experts now routinely advise against bringing home sibling puppies.
What’s the problem?
When it does occur, the 2 pups become so hyper-bonded that their personalities almost morph into 1 inseparable canine entity. Their dependency on the other puppy for emotional stability and social facilitation causes them to have difficulty relating to and bonding with humans and other dogs. This often develops into separation anxiety when apart, and generalised fear (including fear aggression) towards novel environments, people and/or dogs. The worst part however is the tendency for one sibling to passively or actively bully and become dangerously aggressive towards the other.
So how do you avoid Littermate Syndrome?
If it’s not too late, avoid getting two pups at the same time.
If you’ve adopted a pair of siblings already, there are management practices you can put in place to prevent any issues. Rather than hitting 2 birds with 1 stone (or so to speak), you’re going to need to double your input.
2 puppies = 2 separate crates; so they can sleep independently at night
2 puppies = 2 separate training sessions; so pups learn to focus on their humans without relying on their buddy for direction
2 puppies = 2 separate play sessions; so pups develop individual bonds with their humans
2 puppies = 2 separate walks/socialisation outings; so pups take in their surroundings and become comfortable in their environment without backup.
Keep pups separated in the home at least 50% of the time by utilising crates, baby gates, exercise pens and indoor/outdoor access
If you're worried your pups are displaying the signs of littermate syndrome, get in touch for a personalised plan to prevent any long term issues. firstname.lastname@example.org
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