Cavapoo Littermate Syndrome – My Personal Experience

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Most people have never heard of the term ‘littermate syndrome’. I must admit that until a few years ago, I had never heard of it either.

What is Cavapoo littermate syndrome and should you be concerned when buying two siblings from the same litter?

Below are my thoughts and experiences from owning dogs all my life and presently owning two sets of litter mates. They are my opinions so feel free to not agree with me.

What Is Littermate Syndrome?

Littermate syndrome apparently happens when two puppies from the same litter are purchased and then raised together.

They then form such a strong bond with each other that they don’t interact with their owners like they should, ignore any corrective discipline and are fearful of strange people and other dogs.

The two pups could also fight aggressively with each other.

Cavapoo Littermate Syndrome, Myth or Truth

I want to start off by saying that there is absolutely no scientific proof to back up the fact that littermate syndrome exists.

However, some aspects of it are worth taking note of and need to be taken into consideration but not because of the term ‘littermate syndrome’ but because raising puppies is not always a walk in the park irrespective if your pups are siblings or not.

People are quick to jump up and say, littermate syndrome, when two puppies are fighting, have separation anxiety, don’t bond with their owners or begin to show behavioral issues.

Should we say the same if a set of human twins display similar behavior? Should we then give one human twin up for adoption to stop the fighting?

This sounds ridiculous doesn’t it because we would never do that would we?

We would discipline our human children, teach them how to behave and spend time with both of them separately to correct their behavior and to bond with each of them. We would not just give up on them, split them up and send one away.

The same applies to puppies.

Another thought – what happens if you get a second puppy of a similar age from a different breeder at the same time? Would this fall under littermate syndrome?

Again, why then do breeders keep litter mates for future breeding and showing if this was such a big no no and will spell disaster?

There have been many success stories of litter mates been raised together and there have also been many stories of litter mates not working out.

But I firmly believe it is not about whether your two puppies are siblings but more about how you raise them that is the issue.

Bear in mind that some dogs just do not get on with each other never mind if they are siblings or not related at all and whether they are the same age or are years apart.

Having two successful sets of litter mates I would like to offer some advise and guidance when purchasing two pups at the same time but first let’s discuss what this syndrome is and why it has become such a big statement.

Signs of Littermate Syndrome

When the following happens or is observed then behaviorists and trainers immediately attribute this to littermate syndrome.

  • Failure to bond with their owners
  • Separation anxiety
  • Fear of strange dogs and people
  • Disobedience
  • Fighting and aggression between the two pups

Most of the points (except the last one) above can happen if you own only one puppy so saying that these wrong behaviors are because of littermate syndrome does not make sense to me.

Two Puppies From The Same Litter – pros and cons

It is very tempting when viewing a litter of puppies to decide to take two instead of one.

After all puppies are so cute and absolutely adorable when they are so young so it is hard to resist the urge to take more than one.

There are pros and cons to doing this.

Pros

  1. The most obvious reason to buy two pups is so that they have each other for company and this is true to a degree as dogs are pack animals and prefer not to be alone.
  2. They will exercise each other because they will play together and chase each other around
  3. To avoid separation anxiety as they will have each other when you are not at home
  4. You love dogs so much, you need more than one to shower your love on
  5. You can potty train both at the same time instead of going through the process again when you get a second pup later on
  6. Having two puppies is double the fun
  7. If you have children then there will be two puppies to share among them

Cons

  1. Two pups mean double the cost for vaccinations and worming medication
  2. You will need someone to help you when taking them to puppy class
  3. Twice the amount of poop to pick up
  4. Double the amount of food to buy
  5. Because they are of the same age then when they are really old then they could pass away quite close to each other leaving you with double the heartache

My Experience With Littermate Syndrome – My Cockers

When I was looking to buy two Cocker Spaniel puppies, I had no idea about littermate syndrome. My thinking was that it would be easier to raise two at the same time.

We bought Charli and Bailey (2 sisters) from a breeder that I had known when I was participating in dog showing. I knew her dogs well and I knew that she bred for temperament and size.

Some Cocker Spaniels are huge and I wanted smaller ones but more importantly I wanted ones with great temperaments because Cockers can be snappy.

We collected them just before Christmas on the 21st Dec 2018. They were 8 weeks old and just as cute as anything. Below is a photo of them.

Cocker spaniel pups
Charli (More Black) and Bailey (More White)

I excitedly took them to my Vet for a checkup and left in tears when she was so obviously against me buying two puppies because of littermate syndrome. I was shattered. This was the first I heard of it and I was devastated to say the least but there was no way I was going to return one.

How was I to decide which one would go back? I was already so in love with them.

I decided to do lots of research and speak to other breeders that I knew. They encouraged me to keep both of them and gave me excellent advise on how to raise them. There was hope.

Here is basically what I did –

  • I let them sleep together at night. It was easier on me as they never cried except when they wanted to go potty.
  • I spent time every day playing separately with each of them. I left one alone in the playpen and took the other one outside for one on one time and then swapped them around.
  • My sister trained Charli at puppy school while I handled Bailey. We trained on opposite sides of the grounds away from each other.
  • I took each one alone on walks. I would take one and leave the other one behind and then go out again with the other one. If my sister was available then she would take one while I took the other but we would go different routes so that we did not walk together.
  • I let them eat together as I did not want to encourage food aggression and all my dogs eat together.
  • As I watched TV at night then I would have Charli or Bailey on my lap and my sister would have the other one on her lap.

Doing this gave each of them quality time with us and times when they were alone without each other. It was hard work but it paid off big time.

Charli and Bailey are now almost 4 years old. I never ever had aggression problems with either of them. They have each developed there own characters and they are very bonded with us.

They are great with other dogs and are a pleasure to own.

I often come home to find Bailey in the lounge and Charli exploring outside or visa versa. They are comfortable being separate from each other and do not freak out if I take one of them to the Vet and leave the other one behind.

Bailey is gentle, sensitive and wants to cuddle. Charli is our wild child. She is stubborn, pushy and determined to get what she wants. They could not be more different in looks and character.

However, Bailey is the pack leader and Charli respects her and listens to her.

I love them dearly.

Charli and Bailey
Charli (front) and Bailey (at the back)

Littermates – My Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

We had our names down for a Cavalier King Charles male before we even bought the two Cocker Spaniels. One night we received an SMS letting us know that there were two Cavaliers available if we wanted to go and see them.

We went to see the litter that weekend and ended up taking both males.

As we now knew how to raise two pups, we followed what we had done in the past.

Cooper and Tucker
Cooper and Tucker

Raising these two boys has been just as successful as with Bailey and Charli.

Each boy has there own character. Cooper is a big softy and would make an awesome therapy dog. He just wants to kiss you and lie on you.

Tucker is more adventurous and is my shadow. He follows me everywhere and will even choose me over spending time with the other dogs.

Again, both dogs are very bonded to us yet enjoy each others company. There has never been any aggression between them.

Important Take Aways About Cavapoo Littermate Syndrome

Yes, you can most definitely raise two siblings from the same litter but it is very important that you do it responsibly.

  • If you want to buy two pups so that you don’t need to spend time with them and they can look after each other without much involvement from you then please do not do it. You are inviting major problems.
  • You must be prepared to put in the work and spend alone time with each pup every day.
  • I strongly suggest puppy school – it gives them confidence and the trainer will help you with them. You will need someone to handle one of the pups.
  • Walking each puppy separately has to happen. It is really important.
  • Only buy from a reputable breeder that breeds for temperament. This sets you up for success.
All 4 cavapoos together
All four dogs together. The crate door is open. They chose to lie with each other.

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Irma Bense is an experienced dog owner with over 43 years of experience with dog showing, dog breeding, dog training and general dog ownership. Her love for spaniels also includes the Cavapoo, a wonderful mix breed between a Poodle and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Presently she is the proud parent of two Cocker Spaniels, Charli and Bailey and one Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Tucker.

10 thoughts on “Cavapoo Littermate Syndrome – My Personal Experience”

  1. Thank you for this article and sharing your experiences. For how long do you need to walk them seperately for? Should you always ensure you play seperately every day or is this just for the first 6-12 months? Thanks

  2. Hi Claire,
    I walked them separately for the first 7 or so months and then took them out together once I observed that they were just as happy to be together and equally happy to be apart.
    Basically I waited for each girl’s character to develop fully so they were both confident and sure of themselves.
    They are now 3 1/2 years old and I still make sure I spend quality time with each dog and give each of them my full attention one at a time.
    I still do on the odd occasion take one dog out alone.
    If I am busy patting and rubbing the one girl’s stomach and the other one tries to intervene and take over then I gently push her away and tell her to wait.
    I then finish giving the one my attention and then give the other one attention afterwards.
    Everything though does depend on their personalities.
    Both my girls have fantastic temperaments.
    If your two have strong personalities and one of them is very pushy and dominant then I would take longer with the process.

  3. I am getting a boy and girl different liters, after reading up on this I am terrified on getting two ,our main goal was to have one form a strong bond with my son. I am afraid they will bond with each other and not him. Will they still bond with humans?

  4. Hi Christine,
    To be totally honest, a lot will depend on the temperament of the pups as well as how they are raised.
    I bought my 2 pups from a breeder that bred for temperament so both my pups have fantastic personalities.
    I also put a lot of work into spending separate time with each of the pups and even walked them alone.
    My one dog, Bailey, is very attached to me while my other dog Charli is more attached to my sister.
    A lot will depend on how you train them.
    Don’t let the pups spend every minute of the day and night together.
    You take one pup and someone else (your son) take the other one and play in different areas of the house.
    Then swap them around and you take the other pup to play with.
    Let them eat together as you don’t want there to be a problem with either of them guarding their food.
    They should naturally bond with each other and also with the humans in the house.
    The key is to spend time with each puppy separately and to keep swapping them around so you don’t always give the same pup attention.
    Even sitting watching TV, have one pup on your lap and the other pup on your son’s lap.
    The next night, swap them around.
    I let my two sleep together at night in my bedroom.
    Be with them as much as possible and interact with them a lot.
    In the end they will choose who their ‘human’ is.
    They will bond with each other and with the people in the house.

  5. Hi Irma! I didn’t know about this syndrome either, and I got two Australian shepherd brothers from the same litter. They were crated separately as puppies and also fed separately. However, before turning 1yr old one has become a bit aggressive and reactive. also when his brother is not in sight he looks for him and its hard to grab his attention. The other one seems just fine without having his brother around. Not sure if your tips will still work since they are already 1yr old. We just finished obedience training and unfortunately they would train together but did very well during trainings they both listened on command and also kept eye contact with me and my partner. I would take one pup to train and she would take the other and wee would train about 10ft apart at the park. We also do separate walks as well and we try to take them separately to do things they enjoy. But one of them is always crying or barking in his crate when left behind. Is there hope to overcome it, I don’t want to re-home either one.

  6. Hi Andy

    Thanks for reaching out :))

    It sounds like you are doing well and trying your best with your two dogs and you are doing a lot right.
    A LOT depends on the temperaments of the litter mates as to how things will work out.
    Mine have very good temperaments so it has worked out really well for us.
    I suggest carrying on with what you are doing.
    The only thing I would change is about leaving the one behind which is causing stress, crying and anxiety.
    Take them both out together but make sure that some time during the outing you separate them.
    Let your partner take one and go for a short walk while you keep the other one and play with him.
    Then swap them around. Make the alone sessions short and fun and give lots of treats and praise.
    Then join up again, spend some time together and then go home.
    When dogs turn a year old then their hormones are kicking in and they tend to regress in their training.
    Keeping up with their training during this period is crucial.
    You haven’t mentioned if they have been neutered yet?
    If they haven’t then you need to get them neutered as quickly as possible.
    Australian Shepherds are very active dogs so make sure they get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
    Give them a job to do.
    I highly recommend trying dog agility with both of them.
    I think they will love it and this breed of dog is very good in this sport.
    Hope this helps!

  7. I am a very senior woman who lives alone and who has lost her husband and very loyal older dogHow i wish i had read your website before bringing home my two bright endearing cavapoo puppies. I now have a daring little boy and a cute cuddly little girl who are terrors. Despite this i have experienced numerous problems snd live in what i have named “the wild kingdom”. Each puppy has their own list of difficulties and charming qualities. I take each one out separately as well as visits to vet and groomer. I also try to spend equal time with each but it has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced. My son came over and announced that he was stepping in before I killed myself. He calls his solution “The doggie library”. He comes over snd takes one home for a couple of days and then returns that one and takes the other. When by themselves they are great for six month old puppies but together they digress before our eyes. Any suggestions and/or remarks will be greatly appreciated.

  8. HI There,

    Raising two puppies at the same time has it’s pros and cons.
    Mine were great but as mentioned in the article, I made very sure that I bought from a breeder that bred for temperament.
    This made it a lot easier as both pups were quite calm when they were young.
    I think what your son is doing is awesome.
    It is natural that they will be overexcited when they are back together again and then forget how to behave.
    If this is working for you then keep doing it.
    The puppies will outgrow this phase and become a lot better but it takes time.
    They might get a bit worse at around the 1 year mark when their hormones start kicking in so I would advise neutering them if not already done.
    This might also help them calm down a little.

  9. Hello Irma, I have 2 cavapoo puppies (1 boy, 1 girl) that are currently 18 weeks old. We got them as littermates at 9 weeks old. So far they are great, loving and playful puppies. My main concern when we got 2 was that they would bond more with each other then they would with us. After reading your story I see that you did things separately and together. They are crated together when we leave and at bed and they eat together and go out to potty together. I have not done anything with them separately, like playing or going on a walk, ect. because I felt bad for the one left out. My question is, is it too late to start doing things with them individually to get a greater bond with them?
    Also, I read that I should be feeding them at this age only 4oz a day, (over three feedings) do you know this to be correct?
    Lastly, the boy dog is doing great at housetraining, but the girl has more accidents in the house. In between us letting them out if he has to go, he will let us know he needs out by sitting and looking at us or sitting by the door and may even bark a little. She does none of that and if she has to go in between going out she will go in the house. Is there something more we should be doing with her and is part of it her age and bladder development? Currently we let them out first thing in the morning, a little bit after they eat, whenever they wake up from a nap, for the most part every couple of hours. It seems more like the boy will hold it until he gets outside, whereas she won’t.
    Thank you for any helpful advice you can give.

  10. Hi Ricky,
    It is never too late.
    I would suggest taking them out separately and playing with each one separately.
    Can someone else take one for a walk while you take the other one? Just go a different route so that you don’t meet up.
    Same with the playing – can someone else play with one of them in a different room while you play with the other one?
    It is basically just them getting used to being separated from their sibling.
    It is not a problem for them to sleep and eat together.
    You can read here all about feeding – https://cavapoolove.com/cavapoo-feeding-guide/
    As far as house training is concerned, every pup is different.
    Yours are just over 4 months old.
    House training can take over 6 months and with some dogs even longer.
    Just be consistent and take them out after eating, drinking, playtime, as soon as they wake up and even in between those times.
    I know it is a lot but you can gradually reduce the outings as they get older.
    This article goes into more depth – https://cavapoolove.com/potty-training-your-cavapoo-puppy/

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