Dog puppies: adopting littermates, a good idea?

At first it seems obvious to adopt two puppies at once. Littermates, in particular, have a close relationship from the start, so that the dogs don't feel so alone when their people go to work. But is that really such a good idea? Littermates have a lot of fun together when they are small, but they also do double work for the owner - Shutterstock / Rita Kochmarjova

In English one speaks of "Littermate Syndrome" when two dog puppies from the same litter come into the same human family at the same time. These are a series of behavioral problems that occur frequently with littermates when they always stay together. The bond between the siblings is so tight that the two are self-sufficient, but at the same time either not or hardly get along without each other.

Dog puppy siblings: Hardly any bond with humans

Unlike cats, rabbits or guinea pigs, it is important for dogs that they have a close bond with their humans. Dogs like cats and many small animals are organized in groups or packs, but they differ more from their wild ancestor, the wolf, than domestic cats differ from falcons or rabbits from wild rabbits. The history of domestication of the wolf goes back further than that of the other pets and the different dog breeds were specifically bred to work with people, to live with them and to listen to them. For this reason, an earlier delivery age is recommended for puppies than for kittens. Puppies can be separated from their mother and siblings as early as eight weeks, so that they end their socialization phase in humans. Kittens should ideally stay with their cat family for up to twelve weeks in order to develop a healthy self-confidence.

If two littermates live together permanently, the dog puppies and later adult animals are inseparable, so to speak, and often have no need to enter into a close friendship with their owners. As a result, they do not listen to their keeper's commands, do not learn to pay attention to them, and focus too much on their brother or sister. This allows them to develop fear of strange people and dogs, for example, fear of unusual sounds, smells and other unknown stimuli. There can also be separation anxiety, but not related to people, but to the dog partner. These are different signs of the "Littermate Syndrome".

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Two littermates mean double work

You can counteract the "Littermate Syndrome" in two dog puppies by raising the littermates separately. However, the supposed advantages of adopting two siblings from the same litter at the same time are no longer valid. The idea behind it is that the puppies have a playmate that they do not have to get to know, with whom they get on straight away. However, that is exactly the problem, because why should your dogs listen to you and play with you and learn from you when it is much easier and more convenient for you to play and communicate with your dog partner.

Therefore, you must not let your two dog puppies stay too much underneath you and have to take care of the two individually so that they build a bond with you. You have to teach them the basic commands separately, as well as all the rules and prohibitions. It is essential for your dogs to listen to you in traffic, on the dog meadow, during visits and in dangerous situations. Achieving this is not easy with a single dog and requires consistency, patience and perseverance. If you have two littermates at home, the work is doubled.

Conclusion: Would you rather buy a second dog later?

However, this does not mean that it is generally not advisable to keep two dogs. Certain dog breeds have been bred to be more comfortable and happier with others, such as beagles, which were originally intended for hunting in the pack. However, it is easier for you and your dog if you only bring a second dog into the house when your four-legged friend has mastered the most important commands and has built a trusting bond with you. You can find out what you need to consider when choosing a new four-legged friend in the guide "Looking for a second dog: which one fits best?"