Littermate syndrome can look different in every pair of dogs. But there are a few behaviors that hyper-attached dogs can commonly exhibit:1,2,3
- Separation anxiety when apart from each other
- Protectiveness of one another
- Aggression with one another
- Resource guarding (aka food or toy aggression)
- Anxiety in everyday situations
- Difficulty focusing on training
Typically grown dogs can spend lots of time together. However, if you have dogs in your household displaying some of these behaviors, it’s important that littermates (or any puppies) experience situations independently to properly develop. Here are four things you can do, whether managing grown littermates or training new pups.
Each dog needs one-on-one time with you. Consider teaching them their training cues, taking them for car rides, and playing with them one at a time. While this can be more work, it can be a good way to ensure they develop into independent adult dogs or boost their confidence levels if they’re already grown.3
Consider putting your puppies’ beds or crates in different rooms to provide time apart. You may have to slowly adjust to this if your dogs are grown, especially if they’re already anxious when apart for too long. To protect against resource guarding, provide your dogs with their own food and water bowls, ideally in separate areas as well.3
Expose your puppies to as many situations and spaces as possible during their socialization window. Introduce them to different people and animals while they’re young so they’re comfortable later on. Make sure you do this individually, so one pup can’t depend on the other during the process. And, if you have grown dogs, start by addressing any separation anxiety before you spend ample time with them apart.3
Littermate syndrome can be dangerous, especially if your dogs are on the aggressive end of the spectrum and tend to fight with each other. You’ll want to prevent bite wounds, injured paws, and any other injuries from happening. While not as dangerous, separation anxiety and difficulty training can also be detrimental to a dog’s health.
Whether you’re seeing concerning behavior early on or have two bonded adult dogs you’re working with, a dog trainer or behaviorist can help. They’ll identify major concerns, manage aggression, and work with each dog independently to mitigate risks.
Ultimately, preventing littermate syndrome can be done by not adopting and raising multiple puppies around the same time — whether from the same litter or not. Dog trainers may recommend getting one dog at a time and not getting another until the first is past their socialization window.
But if your mind's made up on adopting two or more together, consider socializing, training, and bonding with one dog at a time. This way they’re getting your full attention, navigating new situations alone to develop confidence, and not becoming dependent on another dog.
Littermate syndrome can cause problems. It could result in pups getting into a scuffle, resource guarding, or exhibiting other aggressive behaviors. Dog insurance may help cover the cost of injuries from housemates or littermates being aggressive. It could also cover anxiety medications like trazodone.
In addition to individual plans, MetLife Pet offers multi-pet policies where up to three dogs can be covered on one plan. This can help you with the costs of managing behaviors and medications if needed. Start your journey today by getting a free quote and protecting your pups for the future!