Though most pups are born with littermates, allowing them to socialize and learn instinctually, others are born alone, often leading to poor development. Lone puppies—often called singletons—can struggle early on without proper care and conditioning, leading to life-long behavioral issues.
Fortunately, you can counteract single puppy syndrome by recognizing the signs early on, guiding your dog through anxiety, and engaging in valuable training techniques. Read on for a few indications and solutions for struggling pups.
Poor social skills
All dogs need regular social interaction to feel adequately stimulated, whether with other dogs or with human socialization. Unfortunately, puppies raised in a single-dog household run the risk of learning anti-social behaviors, leading to reactivity and potential dog aggression.
For example, super-social breeds like English Cream Golden Retriever puppies may become restless and bite-happy without proper energy outlets. Though taking in a second dog can be a successful solution for interaction, allowing them to learn cues and boundaries, make sure taking in an additional pet is within your capabilities.
How you can help
The good news is training social cues, like bite inhibition or emotional regulation, is far from impossible. According to the AKC, you can engage in puppy play, attend socialization classes, or visit supervised dog parks to help your young pup through learning stages.
It might also be worth seeking a litter mate to encourage development and regulation with other young dogs. Plus, engaging in frequent socialization will burn through a portion of their seemingly endless puppy energy.
Reacts poorly to touch
A dog with single puppy syndrome may have difficulty responding normally to affection, like prolonged petting or being held. Unfortunately, many singleton puppies lack adequate physical touch, leaving them with sensitivities and disproportionate reactions to unexpected handling.
Liters with multiple pups enable close touch, with frequent cuddling, playing, and suckling before splitting to their separate homes. So, making up for the lack of contact will be critical.
How you can help
When purchasing a dog from a single-puppy litter, make sure to introduce close handling immediately, watching their cues closely to maintain boundaries and comfort. Though you may want a pet with unlimited affection to give, you have to respect your individual pups’ needs, allowing them to refuse to touch safely without consequence.
Though single puppies experience less competition for mother affection and milk during the beginning, they may not receive the same instant gratification in the future. Additionally, pups that frustrate easily may lack the social and regulation skills to deal with annoyances from other dogs.
Instead of enabling snappy or defensive behavior, deal with the loss of patience quickly and calmly to bypass potentially dangerous situations and long-lasting adverse effects.
How you can help
Though it might sound odd, you can mimic feeding frustrations by offering resistance or annoyance during meal time, reprimanding any inappropriate reactions. Additionally, you can opt for a puzzle or slow feeder, forcing your furry friend to slow down and delay gratification.
When training in public places, play situations safely instead of risking potential danger to your pup and other dogs when dealing with outbursts and socialization frustrations. Though exposing your young puppy to potentially aggravating scenarios is important, it’s even more critical to maintain comfort, safety, and boundaries.
Before you go
A dog with single puppy syndrome may experience extra challenges in life, but with the proper training techniques and a lot of patience, you can bypass long-term detriments. Just make sure you’re ready to take on the responsibility of raising a potentially challenging dog and understand that each pup is unique—both in personality and everyday needs.