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Rorys mom

"littermate syndrome"

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Two of my BC's are littermates, and I recently spoke with someone for advice on why they are so ill mannered despite having basic obedience (I know they are border Collies, but this is ridiculous). He said he noticed all they did was pay attention to each other, and basically rely on each other.

They don't seem to have seperation anxiety because we put them in different crates in the beginning. When all of the dogs are out they can get really "rowdy" toward each other, and gang up on my other dogs. They had been sleeping with us, but decided we needed to fix this problem and work on their "manners"

I know a lot of handlers will sometimes keep littermates when they breed to work stock. They are 7 months old, so I don't feel like it's too late to "fix" this issue. Can anyone give some insight/experience they've had with littermates? (We are going to see if they like agility Tuesday and I decided to only bring one of the littermates-gotta start somewhere)

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Dear Doggers,

 

The littermate mantra: "You have a dog and your dog has a dog."

 

When sheepdoggers keep littermates, they separate them at 8 weeks (sent to different homes) and reunite them when they are ready to start sheepwork and, in my experience, that doesn't work perfectly.

 

I'd board one of the pups for a year with a doggy friend/kinfolk/somebody who owes you a lot of money and hope for the best.

 

Sorry.

 

 

Donald McCaig

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There's a reason why so many people advise against taking littermates as pets and you are finding out what it is. If you don't take enough time to train and bond with each one individually from the moment you get them home they are very likely to bond with each other rather than you and puppies aren't great teachers of how to behave. Many responsible breeders and rescues will not let litter mates go together and I would be suspicious of any who would let me have more than one.

 

One pup is hard work, two are more than twice the work and the idea of having two of my 6 month old would give me nightmares. The notion that two will be company for each other is misguided.

 

And you now have the added issue of adolescence to contend with, an age when hormones start to kick in and most youngsters will start to test the boundaries.

 

Still, you are where you are with your two and want to move forward.

 

You are taking the first step by taking only one to training but 7 months is way too young for agility. What training would you be doing?

 

You need to take them out separately and train them separately and keep them apart as much as possible. Don't allow them more opportunity to shut you out in favour of each other.

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We are on our 4th set of littermates; it helps that one is my pup and the other is my wife's. They get their time together (and with their mother) to run off puppy energy and they each get their one one-on-one time with us for socialization, bonding, and training. Be sure they each get their own one-on-one time not only does it help you bond with the one you're working with but it also teaches the other that their littermate can have attention. I suggest you establish a routine of certain times of day for puppy play time, time for both in their crates, and time for each one loose with you.

 

What I have found interesting is as our previous 3 sets of littermates have reached adulthood they became independent of each other (no longer best playmates and not worst enemies).

 

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Like Liz P said on another thread. Allowing puppies to socialize with other puppies is like Lord of the Flies. And you have that going on near 24/7. About all they learn is how to act worse and worse. Definitely make time for each one individually, away from the other, and put limits on their interactions. Maybe when they have free time together monitor them so you can put a stop to it when it reaches over the top. Maybe being the fun police for a while will teach them to have a little self control when they are together. Maybe.

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In addition to taking time with each of them one on one with you, I would advise giving each of them separate time with the older dogs. Give them a chance to learn to relate to the older dogs as individuals and not as a pair.

 

I have been grateful time and time again for the interaction between my now-teenager and the two older dogs. He learns from them, he interacts with them, and he has his own relationship with them that is independent of me, in addition to his relationship with me individually, and his relationship to the entire group of all of us.

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I raised two that were within a month of each other but not littermates. No matter how hard I tried, despite all the things mentioned above, one always got less work. That is the next problem I ran into.

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We are on our 4th set of littermates; it helps that one is my pup and the other is my wife's. They get their time together (and with their mother) to run off puppy energy and they each get their one one-on-one time with us for socialization, bonding, and training. Be sure they each get their own one-on-one time not only does it help you bond with the one you're working with but it also teaches the other that their littermate can have attention. I suggest you establish a routine of certain times of day for puppy play time, time for both in their crates, and time for each one loose with you.

 

What I have found interesting is as our previous 3 sets of littermates have reached adulthood they became independent of each other (no longer best playmates and not worst enemies).

I can relate because one is my boyfriends and the other is mine, and its clear who's human is who's. If I "take action" now would it be more likely they will be able to be more independent?

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You are taking the first step by taking only one to training but 7 months is way too young for agility. What training would you be doing?

 

You need to take them out separately and train them separately and keep them apart as much as possible. Don't allow them more opportunity to shut you out in favour of each other.

I'm going to see if they show interest in agility. They aren't going to be running a huge course or anything

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The longer you wait to take action the more set into bad habits your pups will get and the harder it will be to break those habits.

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I'm going to see if they show interest in agility. They aren't going to be running a huge course or anything

 

How is that interest going to be assessed though? Hopefully not by putting your dog over the equipment or getting it to jump.

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My in-laws are taking care of a set of littermates that are 5 years old and it is obvious they are more focused on each other than the humans. They also struggle to learn new things or complete trained behaviors when they are together. It has also led to a little dog aggression when they are together, because they have their little 'pack' and do not want other dogs in their group. However apart this is not an issue and they will play nicely with other dogs.

 

I agree with others about separating them for training, as it will let them bond with you instead of just each other.

 

I almost adopted littermates when I got Lyka, but decided against it due to all those who cautioned me against it. I am very thankful for their advice.

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The most recent issue of BARK magazine has a very good article on littermate syndrome. (I think it is the most recent issue. I subscribe and have not yet received the next issue. You may be able to find it still lingering at bookstores or newstands.)

 

Good Luck.

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Just thought I'd share my experience- I had BC/Aussie littermate brothers (didn't know better when I got them) for 13-plus years and it worked out very well. But it was a LOT of work up front, and very hard at the end.

 

Everyone has given you great suggestions and insights already. I took each of my pups *individually* to obediance (and other) classes with me for the whole first year. I made time to walk, exercise, and (clicker) train them separately, as well as walking and training them together.

 

They had to learn to take turns. They had to wait to be asked to do something and earn rewards. Sometimes it was actually an advantage because they competed for my positive attention and for the chance to try a new trick or task. It was very motivating! They waited turns while the other went to "find" a hidden object. They took turns to do frisbee tricks, house "jobs" or agility sequences. When together, each one had to build his tolerance for sitting and waiting calmly, and I made sure to reward each for doing that and for attending to me. When they were young I had to start small and build time of course. They each had to wait politely for meals and at doorways etc. But they also had to learn to respond separately (by name and command) when in each other's presence. They had to walk nicely on-leash with me too. AS Mark mentioned, early on, my pups benefitted from a high degree of structure. Later, one did herding and the other did agility.

 

If squabbles broke out, (and in adolescence they did) I usually didn't care who started it. Whatever it was about- that object of desire, or "earning" opportunity just went away immediately for both of them. They lost out (on attention, toys or goodies) for fighting. As it turned out, they became very good companions, both for me and for each other.

 

One of them was shyer and more sensitve and didn't care for other dogs at all. That was hard. The two of them would respond to an interloping strange dog as a reactive team (bullies). THAT was hard. I became a much better handler as a result of having to manage that in areas with lots of other dogs.

 

In the end, they grew old together. One laid beside the other as he was dying and went himself 6 mos later. I still miss them terribly, and I'm very thankful to have had them both. It *can* work out, but it's a LOT of work and the most important piece IMO is working with them both separtely AND together. Good luck with yours!!

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How is that interest going to be assessed though? Hopefully not by putting your dog over the equipment or getting it to jump.

 

I am taking them to a trainer, that works her dogs on stock, agility and obedience.

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Just to give another perspective: I raised littermates, and aside from the occasional squabble, it worked out just fine. In fact, I raised that pair of littermates along with another youngster who was about 6 months older. No major issues.

 

J.

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I also raised littermates, from birth on and had no problems. I spent time working with each individually; both grew up to be wonderful companions and working partners. I think the big thing is how consistant you are in your expectations and training.

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My guess would be that those who are used to having a pack of dogs could easily raise littermates, but that it could be quite the challenge for someone who is used to having one or two pets in the house. Having multiple dogs of any age requires a lot of management :)

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My thoughts too Emily. I imagine the presence of a lot of other dogs could dilute the effect of being littermates and people with a lot of dogs usually have them for a specific purpose. For that reason I qualified my first post to advise against "littermates as pets".

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I responded to your post on another site, so I'll just echo myself. :)


I think you also described your two pups as very rowdy and wild when with each other. As others here have noted, plenty of folks have raised litter mates together with no problem. But the thing I think what bears pointing out is that it depends a lot on the dogs involved, their temperament and breeding, and the person who owns them.

An experienced border collie trainer who has a system in place for young dogs may get through the littermate business without a hitch. But someone who doesn't have that experience and who has a pair of very rambunctious, sometimes overwhelming pups may find themselves in trouble, as you have. Given your pups' rowdy, boisterous behavior, I'd recommend what others have also said: more time apart, more time with you, more time separate with older dogs, and again, more one on one with you.

They are still plenty young enough to get through this stage, and at 7 months, they're just loony puppies, anyhow! :P It's the stage their at, as well as who they are. But if you give them more of your time and more experiences as individuals, I think it will set the stage for them learning that you're pretty important in their world, and also a foundation for being individuals as they grow.

I have seen young dogs, not even littermates, who grew up pretty much inseparable and they got everything they wanted out of each other and the pack they ran with - which made getting their attention on anything else a little hard. So, work with them more as individuals and see how it goes. Good luck!

~ Gloria

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Not littermates of course but my new 2 month old pup Juno and Tio (20 months) are getting along a little too famously. I've told my wife to spend more time with Juno away from Tio while I'm away at work as I want Juno to focus on people more than an older pup. Tio is a near perfect role model though...

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Not littermates of course but my new 2 month old pup Juno and Tio (20 months) are getting along a little too famously. I've told my wife to spend more time with Juno away from Tio while I'm away at work as I want Juno to focus on people more than an older pup. Tio is a near perfect role model though...

When I got Torque (now 7 years), the breeder suggested not allowing the pup and my resident older dog to be together more than 20% of the time - until 6 months of age. It turned out it was easy for me since the resident dog (female, 10-11 years old at the time) had zero interest in the new pup. So Torque focused his attention on me and ignored the old girl.

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