The Worst Of Both Worlds
Fighting: In many cases where these sibling puppies have come to totally rely on each
other then frustrations can play a part in causing underlying animosity. This manifests itself in aggression as they approach both physical and
social maturity. Fights and squabbles may regularly break out culminating in what appears to be all out war, where they cannot stand the sight
of each other. It is normally at this time when all else has failed that I am called in.
Buying Two Puppies
What Happens in the Wild?:
With wild canid's the young pup's stay within their pack and play together constantly. That is true of Wolves, Wild dogs, Coyotes, Jackals,
Dingoes and most other wild mammals.
The incidence of owners purchasing "Siblings", either same sex or brother and sister from the same litter or two puppies
from different litters and breeds but of similar ages is now more prevalent than at any other time in living memory. The old professional
dogmen and owners knew about the pitfalls and problems that this action would create. Unfortunately this knowledge now appears to have been
lost on today’s dog owners.
On the surface the idea of purchasing siblings appears to be highly commendable. With the busy lifestyles we now lead, it would seem feasible
to take on two pups. They could stimulate each other and keep themselves company, hopefully alleviating any separation anxiety. They could also
imitate the good characteristics of each other and will be able to do everything together. thereby benefitting from that closeness and
companionship gleaning untold pleasure from each others company.
Sounds fantastic, unfortunately the reality is far from this ideal, you really get the worst of both worlds in this scenario.
The puppies come to rely on each other and it weakens both of them, often to the extent that they become withdrawn from everything other than
themselves. I call it “Littermate Syndrome”.
Often one of the dogs will appear bold and the other timid. In reality the bold one is actually somewhat withdrawn and timid when his littermate
is not there to give support. Unfortunately it is normally a false boldness in reality he has been emboldened by the others siblings weakness.
They often bark and yap at other dogs, and may either pretend to attack or actually attack to chase the other dogs away. This is normally fear based,
they become so engrossed with each other that all other dogs are seen as a threat to their mutual alliance.
This unfortunate pair may come to fear all other dogs and unknown people, plus any situation where they are separated from each other.
The stress this causes can often then spill over into aggression against each other culminating in fighting, in some cases causing serious injury or
even death, known as “Sibling Rivalry” Strangely enough the worst fights are normally between bitches who can fight to
Although nothing is set in stone, generally bringing together dogs with too many similar qualities, ie age, size, sex, temperament and breed,
may spark a conflict. So many related characteristics make it difficult for them to decide who is the alpha or top dog; therefore fights occur
because of the similarities.
Often, we can inadvertently cause the conflict; owners can disturb the hierarchical
balance by rushing to protect the would-be subordinate from being “bullied” or “picked on”, granting him/her liberties,
such as being petted first, which the other dog may consider his due. The lower dog may now feel emboldened enough to challenge the bolder dog.
We need to understand that dogs have their own set of social rules, whereas we humans just want democracy,”
Whilst these litter mates are together they learn how to inhibit their bite, how to meet and greet each other and that all
important body language is learned from their siblings during this time. They mainly learn meeting and greeting techniques
from their siblings not the adult animals. During this time they also learn the rules regarding hierarchy, rank, and position and social interaction.
That is why it is so vitally important that young pups go to puppy socialisation classes as young as possible.
This all happens between the time they are born and 16 weeks. Then like a light switch being turned off they start to distance themselves from their
siblings. Sleeping alone and showing aggression by threatening any sibling that approaches within a two or three foot radious often shunning extended
contact with their brothers and sisters. This is an inbuilt genetic device to make sure that they absorb into the pack rather than over-bond with
their littermates, which would be to the detriment of the pack as a whole hunting and working entity.
These are two of my granddaughters they are twins.
Unfortunately the domestic dog doesn't have this switch, massive over-bonding can therefore occur. Their inter-relationship
becomes so intense that it controls everything they do. They suffer when separated, even for small periods of time, the relationship
they have with their owners may also decline and they start to look inwards rather than outwards.
Siblings are also more difficult to train and in many cases will start fighting when the get to the onset of puberty.
They rarely reach full maturity as they tend to be mentally and sometimes physically stunted by the closeness to each other.
I have seen German Shepherds and Utonagans bought as littermates and their eyes have never become erect as with normal adult. If it
can have that type of physical effect just imagine what is occuring psychologically.
We see this with human twins. Schools now separate them into different classes so they can learn without the constant interaction
with their twin. Parents are advised from a young age to stimulate and play with twins separately, helping them to become more rounded
adults rather than a symbiotic double act. I have twin brothers and twin grandchildren so I do have some experience of this phenomenon.
Fortunately I have a very high degree of success in sorting out interdog aggression especially with two dogs in the same household whether they
are siblings or just two dogs that do not appear to get on anymore, or their is a battle for superiority.
If you need to break up a fight, squirt the dogs with water or make a noise aversion fallback to break the circle of aggression and to distract them.
Never attempt to break up a dog fight by grabbing the dogs by their collar or getting in between them. Grabbing dogs whilst they are fighting can result
in "redirected aggression," where a dog bites you because he thinks you are part of the conflict.
Sometimes the problem can be resolved if, instead of protecting the underdog the owner supports the hierarchy ie the top dog. Firstly determine who is the more dominant, reinforce that position by feeding, greeting, playing or letting the top dog out first. Usually this will help, but not always. “The problem with that approach is that it’s often difficult to tell who should be the alpha dog, it is also difficult for owners to play favourites with their dogs.