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Second Chance

FOR HOMELESS PETS

200 Gordon Ln

Salt Lake City, UT 84107

(801)590-8999

Celebrating 23 years!

What is Littermate Syndrome?

When you’re considering bringing a puppy home, the desire to adopt two at once is understandable. After all, the thought of separating brothers and sisters from the same litter can tug at your heartstrings. What’s more, you might think that training two puppies at the same time would be easier. Unfortunately, the opposite is true...

  • Puppies with littermate syndrome become highly dependent on one another.
  • This can affect dogs of any breed and also unrelated puppies who are adopted and raised together.
  • Signs can include excessive crying, whining, and destructive behavior when siblings are separated.
  • Littermate syndrome can be difficult, due to the numerous behavioral issues that are involved.
  • While raising sibling puppies successfully can be difficult, the key is to treat them as individuals.

Two puppies can be twice the work of one. Why? Raising sibling puppies successfully can be a challenge because puppies from the same litter may develop a cluster of behavioral issues known as littermate syndrome.


Littermate syndrome in dogs occurs when two puppies from the same litter (or any puppies close to the same age) living together develop such a strong attachment to each other that it interferes with their ability to interact in a normal manner with other people, other dogs, or any situation where they are not together.

This happens because the puppies bond so intensely to each other that they fail to develop connections with their human family. This can make it harder for them to reach their full potential when it comes to good behavior. Puppies with littermate syndrome only interact with each other and become highly dependent on one another for a sense of safety and normalcy.


At first, puppies with littermate syndrome may seem like they’re acting out or in need of obedience training. However, when dogs experience littermate syndrome, these behaviors are linked to their relationship to their littermate.

Signs of littermate syndrome in dogs can include High anxiety when separated from the other pup excessive crying, whining, and destructive behavior when siblings are separated from one another, as well as a lack of interest in playing or interacting with other people or pets in your household

Fear of unfamiliar people, things, places, or noises. They may avoid interactions with new people, dogs, or things; become very still and quiet when you approach them; or bark, growl, and snap when presented with new things or situations. Unwillingness to eat alone. Difficulty with basic training. Training two puppies from the same litter may take longer than expected because puppies are so distracted by one another.

Because puppies with littermate syndrome dominate each other’s attention, they may fail to learn how to communicate, play, and socialize with other dogs. Over time, this can result in fear and aggression when they’re exposed to other dogs.

In the worst-case scenario, littermates may attack each other. Aggression between housemates is more common between littermates


For these reasons, adopting two puppies at a time may mean more work, not less, for pet parents.


If you must have two puppies? Consider adopting unrelated puppies a few weeks or months apart.


And, if you’re a cat person, know this—littermate syndrome doesn’t seem to afflict kittens. In fact, many pet professionals recommend adopting kittens in pairs. They can be much easier to raise with a playmate and two is not much more work than one