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Let's Talk Littermate Syndrome

So, for those of you who don't know me, let me start off by telling you a little about my dogs, this then might explain why I am quite passionate about this topic.

I share my life with 12 working Siberian Huskies.

In this GORGEOUS picture to the right is a family unit. They are my dogs, the handsome black dog is my boy Newton who sired the litter and stood just behind him is Tesla my girl who gave birth to the 4 puppies you see in this picture and their 4 beautiful puppies!

Fast forward 3 years and I can report they are ALL still here with me. Yes I have all 4 littermates, BUT I also have a set of 2 sisters, I also have a brother and sister, so when it comes to littermates I have a few!

All of my dogs live indoors, they all have free roam of the house and gardens ( yes I clean a lot as I am quite house proud lol) they are not separated in any way and they get on!

It's actually VERY common in the sled dog world to breed and to keep numerous siblings from the litter, so as you can now hopefully see, when I hear "littermate syndrome" being quoted my hackles may go up a little :)

What is 'meant' by Littermate Syndrome?

Firstly the term in itself is a scientifically unproven label, it's often used to describe siblings from a litter who are raised together but don't get along. The 'syndrome' is credited back to the fact that the issues between the siblings are solely because they are littermates and there are no alternative causes for the "problem" behaviours.

True or false?

There is no scientific evidence to link littermates having a higher risk of behavioural issues towards each other more than 2 unrelated puppies raised together.

In my own personal experience, I have seen quite the opposite in fact, on a professional level I see many issues between non-related dogs more so than related, to be honest.

Instead of trying to label something as "it's because they are siblings" I think we would be much nearer the mark to look at other variants that might be causing or contributing to the dogs struggling to get along.

The only reason I would say that being from the same litter could cause problems is the genetics of the litter, if all suffered from aggression for example but even then, that isn't because they are siblings, they would likely clash with many dogs.

I think we would be much better off spending our time looking at the dogs as individuals and trying to understand what each individual dog is struggling with and why.

Very often, looking at if the environment, boredom, stressors, resources, owner responses and anxieties and so on are causing or contributing to the behaviours is likely to be more fruitful than simply putting it down to the fact they are siblings.

Sometimes, just like in life, we don't get on with the people we live with, whether they be family, a partner or friends, that's not uncommon!

What should we do?

Raising 2 puppies from the same litter can be tough going, and so behaviour that may be seen as difficult and frustrating for humans can potentially be more easily dismissed if we can blame it on a label. If you have dogs that are struggling, it is vital you don't punish them as this often leads to much bigger problems long term and certainly non of this outdated tosh of be more alpha and pack leader rubbish....just felt a little bit sick typing those words! Instead, reach out to a qualified and reputable professional who will do a full assessment of the situation and support you, no quick fixes or guarantees banded about to reel you in, just reputable, ethical, compassionate support.

So don't chalk behaviours up to a label that may totally misidentify what is really happening between your dogs, instead ensure you all get the help and guidance needed.

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