About a month ago, we took in beagle sisters Jackie & Scottie. At the time, many people said “I really hope they can stay together” which sounds amazing but will not be happening. Why? It’s not because we are cruel, it is because of this little thing called Littermate Syndrome.
Littermate Syndrome happens when two or more pups from the same litter are raised together from birth in the same household and leads to a host of behavioral issues. The main 2 reasons that Hero Hounds, and many rescues, do not adopt out littermates, are aggression towards each other or their humans and limited character development in one of the littermates.
Aggression in littermates often does not appear immediately, in fact, it can take many years to show, but when it shows it is usually impossible to redirect without removing one of the siblings from the situation. This is usually attributed to the fact that littermates have higher levels of anxiety, separation issues and fear due to dependence on each other. Rescues are often asked to take in littermates that have turned aggressive towards each other sometimes leading to a human family member getting hurt in the midst of a fight. At this point, families either reach out for rescues to help or worse they surrender to a shelter where a pup with a bite history is deemed aggressive which can be a death sentence. For Jackie and Scottie, they choose to mostly spend time with other dogs in the house, but when they play together for too long, their play sessions often turn into something more aggressive.
The 2nd big reason is one of the siblings tends to not fully develop their personality as they become dependent on the other. For humans, think about when someone tells an older sibling to not do something for the youngest so they can learn or when you meet twins that are complete opposites. For dogs, one sibling often tends to be the “shy one” less interested in their human companions and often appears more fearful. Once separated the shy one, often feels free to express itself more, gains confidence and engages more with human and other dogs. For Jackie and Scottie, they are both playful, fun and loving when separate. Together, Jackie’s bigger personality makes Scottie appear more reserved.