Litter-mate Syndrome

Litermate 3

Litter-mate Syndrome

Litter-mate Syndrome

Bringing home two puppies at the same time can seem like a great idea! Dogs are social animals and since litter-mates already have a strong bond, they would always have a built in playmate. Getting litter-mates, or two puppies close in age, sounds like a fantastic idea, but unfortunately, what sounds good on paper does not always work in practicality.

Adopting a pair of puppies can be very stressful!  First there are the economic concerns to take into consideration, such as double (or more!) food costs, vet costs, and everything-else-costs. Then you need to consider the developmental well-being of the puppies. Young puppy minds are still developing when they go to their new homes. They are extremely impressionable and still very malleable.  One puppy takes a lot of time and forethought to mold into a well-behaved and well-rounded canine citizen; two puppies takes, not only double the time and consideration, but often need exponentially more.  If you are thinking about bringing home two puppies similar in age (within 6 months of each other), there are a few important tips to keep in mind to help you raise well-behaved and normally bonded adults.

Often times puppies who live with another puppy have a hard time focusing on the people in their home and forming strong bonds with them.  Puppies are hardwired to be attracted to friends and siblings of the same species. We actually need to work with them to help them fit in with human families, so if they have the chance to form strong bonds with another puppy, they will.  While it is important that your puppies like each other and play well together, it is equally, if not more, important that your puppies like and play well with you and your family.

Puppies often play with their teeth and wrestle with one another in ways that don’t feel so nice against human skin. In order to learn how to interact with people, it is important that each puppy gets one-on-one time with each person in the family and trips out in public on their own, as well.  One way to do this without driving yourself crazy is to use one-on-one play time with one puppy as a good time for the other puppy to learn to rest and play independently with a puzzle toy in their crate or play pen.  You can practice taking one puppy out on errands or to classes and lessons at a time and let the other one happily chew a bone or treat filled puzzle toy and swap them the next day.

Speaking of crate time, each puppy should have their own crate. As cute as two pups sleeping together may look, it is not so cute if someone has a late night accident or if they start scuffling in there. Other than treating and training them as two individuals to aide in bonding, it is also important to separate them so that they can develop stable temperaments.

One service dog organization tried to maximize efficiency by placing well-bred service dog puppies as pairs in puppy raising homes.  These litter-mates were bred for temperament and work ethic and were expected to develop into confident, well-adjusted working dogs.  Unfortunately, in every single duo-puppy home, one of the puppies developed fear and insecurity issues as a result of relying on the other puppy.  Even dogs bred specifically for stable temperaments and placed in the homes of experienced puppy raisers developed what was labeled at the time “litter-mate syndrome” and the organization actually lost many dogs from their program.  Now we know how difficult raising litter-mates or even closely aged dogs can be and we can prevent these issues with a lot of forethought and work.

So, if you are considering getting a friend for your young dog, it is generally recommended to wait until you have your dog’s behavior under control and they are already well into adulthood. A good rule of thumb is to adopt a second puppy when your first puppy doesn’t remind you so much of a puppy (10-18 months) is a good starting point.  If your puppy is still having puppy issues such as chewing, house training mistakes, pulling on leash, etc., they will only be compounded by a second puppy so it’s best to get those behaviors under control before introducing a new puppy.

Happy Training!

Tamar Paltin
Head Trainer- Perfect Pooch
BA, CPDT-KA, AKC CGC Evaluator