Hi, I'm Jeff. I was born and raised in New Jersey and now live in Cleveland Heights, Ohio with my husband, Todd. We just adopted two Mini Australian Shepherd mix puppies. They're sisters and now a few days older than 15 weeks. :wave:
Wow that's quite a commitment! Was there some reason you had to take both puppies? One puppy is an incredible amount of work. I can't imagine having two at the same time - not to mention littermate syndrome (which if you don't know what it is I strongly recommend you look it up).
We intended to adopt one puppy, but the shelter urged us to take both sisters so they wouldn't be separated. Yes, I read a lot about littermate syndrome and was wary about adopting two siblings. Then I spoke with two friends who have a lot of experience with dogs (one of the friends is a longtime foster mom and has fostered littermates). I also spoke with the veterinarian who treated our late longhaired dachshund. Everyone I consulted said they were familiar with reports of the syndrome but had never experienced it. So far, Elsie and Nina are a handful, but they're exhibiting no symptoms of the syndrome. We crate them separately and play with and potty them sometimes separately and sometimes together. We've had them two weeks and they're strongly attached to their dads. They're good pups, loving and sweet.
Welcome, and good job separating them from time to time! I think you are doing a great job!
The shelter on the other hand... in my opinion, no reputable shelter would adopt out two healthy puppies that could otherwise go to two separate home. No less, insist that an adopter get two especially when you originally wanted one. Unfortunately, littermate syndrome is not something a foster parent, shelter, OR vet would see (plus, vets are usually not behaviorists or trainers so sometimes their behavior advice can be lacking) with young puppies. It doesn't spontaneously happen with very young puppies. This is why the socialization period and early stages in life is the window people have to prevent it. It is the attachment littermates (or any young, impressionable dogs) form over time to the point where it becomes a dependency. It is when they choose each other as comfort in a questionable situation rather than learning to cope or depend on the owner. It is when the puppies affect each others personality (one is usually a little more brave, pushy, domineering, etc. and the other is usually a little more laid-back, fearful, etc.). Or worse, if both pups are fearful.
Key point is, they need to spend SIGNIFICANT amounts of time away from each other, in a positive way. I know someone experienced in training and breeding who owns a boarding facility. She purchased two littermates. And she is literally taking one puppy to my puppy class one night of the week, and the other puppy to the other puppy class another night of the week. I hope she is doing more than just that, but it's a good start.
So, I'm not trying to fear monger or anything like that. No one is saying your pups WILL develop this, but it is a real risk. And like I said, I'm glad you are loving your pups and helping them grow to be their own individual dogs!
I'm glad to hear you are aware of it and taking steps to avoid problems. Keep it up and do as much separately as you possibly can. Even crating them in separate rooms for the night would be a good idea. It does take time to develop.
When our dog Kane was a puppy I thought he was fine and he seemed to be okay by himself, but we didn't do much with the dogs apart and then one day (around 6 months old) he had to stay home alone and he completely freaked out, broke out of his wire crate, shredded things, peed everywhere, and was completely stressed out when my husband got home. That's when we realized he had separation anxiety and we had missed it up to that point. He's four now and we're still working on it, but he still can't be left home alone. Trust me, the more you do now to prevent SA and Littermate Syndrome, the better of you'll all be in the future.