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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Littermate Syndrome?

Are two pups better than one?
Many reputable breeders will not sell two of their pups (siblings) to one person and I have to admit until this subject presented itself from a co- worker and friend who is a breeder, I did not really give the prospect of raising two puppies at once much thought. The premise of littermate syndrome is that it is harder to train and socialize two pups at one time and that they should be made independent of each other or there will be problems when they are separated. Problems such as their individuality would be lost, and there would not be a bond between dog and owner but a bond between dog and dog.

This made me pause a minute because I have a family of Newfoundland’s, all biologically related. So I read the article and I began to think of the three siblings from Abby’s litter, Emma, Chance, and Steeler. Emma and Chance were born and raised in my home, Steeler, while born here, lived with other owners for three years before he was brought back to me.

Chance is very close to me so the dog human bond is there and he is independent of Steeler and Emma, however he is a mama’s boy and in Abby’s eyes Chance can do no wrong. But Abby will very quickly reprimand her daughter Emma. Chance is also Abby’s protector as he so demonstrated when Steeler tried to fight Abby upon his return.

Emma is more attached to Abby and the two do have a problem being separated, but they are not siblings, so the bond falls within mother and daughter, not sibling to sibling. Emma however does not care if Chance is near her or not.

Before Abby’s retirement from certified therapy dog work, when she and Chance went on therapy visits with Peter as her handler I noticed that if Chance was more than ten feet from her, Abby would pull at the lead and whine until I brought Chance closer to her, only then would she settle down. Again this is between mother and child, not sibling to sibling.

Abby’s son Steeler has no standing in her life as Emma and Chance do, and in fact she is afraid of him and mostly avoids him, even though she was the first to recognize and welcome him back into the family when he was returned to us three years after he had lived with his other family. Is this because he left home for a while, or is it because he did not know how to act within a pack of dogs upon his return?

So I have to ask, is it sibling to sibling or just the family relationship in general? I guess there are not many breeders who have sold both a parent and child to one family. If there are any of you out there I would like to hear from you.

Going by the site “Canine Learning Center” I did all the right things as it pertains to Chance and Emma so they are independent of each other, however, the same applied to Abby and Emma aside from them eventually sleeping in the same room (not the same crate) and their bond is incredible and it is fascinating to watch Abby’s devotion to Chance. So is it just a maternal thing, or is it the way they were raised?

Steeler is out in the cold with just about everyone because of his un-pack like behavior. The only one who will try to interact with him is his sister Emma and that doesn’t usually turn out well as Steeler does not know what to do in such a situation. They don’t fight, Emma just gives up.

I was once told by a former employer that she gave me the most difficult client cases because I command respect, not demand, but command. So I wonder if this is just my personality and is it also how my dogs perceive me. Is it my persona that keeps my pack in line?

You can read more on littermate syndrome on the site listed below and as far as I am concerned, if you don’t have the time to train one, then certainly two would be out of the question. I think if the right person is the taker of two pups things will work out fine, but unfortunately the breeder will not know for sure who that right person is so I can understand why they don’t take a chance with pups they’ve invested so much in and care so much about.

To see the interactions between Steeler and the rest of his pack click here.

raising siblings click here.

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