Why Do Older Dogs Attack New Puppies And What Should You Do?

When you have a dog in your home for some time, and then you want to introduce another – a puppy, you are likely to experience some jealousy or dog aggression issues at some point.

It happened with our dogs too!

Essentially, the older dogs attack new puppies because of the dog’s instinctual pack behavior and to establish a hierarchy as to who is the top dog (Alpha), the second in command (Beta), etc., down to the “lowest ranking dog” (Omega). This was the key to survival in the past. That’s why the behavior is still hardwired in the brain of dogs

Well, I know! This doesn’t sound too good, but I’ll tell you exactly what you need to know before bringing another dog into your home. You can help your older dog reduce his anxiety and stress by reading this blog. This will also help avoid future conflicts between your dogs.

Cause of the problem:

If the family had only one dog, the new puppy will quickly learn that the older dog is in charge. The older dog makes all the decisions in terms of what the new puppy can do, what toys he may play with, what food he may eat, when and how he may receive attention and affection from others, when to play, etc.

All of this happens naturally, and without incident – especially when you have an older dog teaching a younger dog how to behave. Told you, It’s evolution!!!

Older dogs recognize the puppy as an infant. They will discipline the youngster until they can’t take it anymore. That’s when the tolerance level drops and aggression escalates. —Dr. Jo Ann Eurell, DVM

The problem comes with introducing a new dog (especially a puppy) into a house that already has 2 (or more) dogs, then you will probably notice that one or more of them behaves somewhat dominantly or aggressively. It’s because they try to establish the pack’s dominance hierarchy. If you introduce a new dog into the mix, the “dog hierarchy” must also be restructured in order to accommodate all the dogs in the house.

No matter how old the resident dog is, the introduction of a boisterous puppy can be quite a stressful event. When dogs are stressed, they have trouble dealing with certain situations, so they may be more likely to lash out than when they are calmer.

Dogs enjoy routines and learn their routines, so a new puppy can be an inconvenience. Chances are, if you don’t take steps to introduce your new puppy to your old dog, things might not go too well during the adjustment period.

In addition to stress, there might be some other reasons – why your older dog is having such a hard time getting along with the puppy. You have likely noticed certain patterns in the interactions between your new puppy and older dogs. 

Here is interesting video on ” how to introduce young dog with other dogs”. Watch video and do what is necessary for your dog!

The following are some of the common REASONS:

Different energy levels:

Puppy dogs are full of energy and want to sleep, eat, and play at all times. Even the mother dog grew tired at some point and had her limits as the puppies began growing and tugging at her ears and tails and trying to nurse with sharp teeth. 

Hence, the boisterous puppy will keep on interacting with your older dog while the older dog may just want to relax, or perhaps enjoy some quiet petting time with you. When your puppy tries to interact with your older dog, your older dog is likely the one growling or telling him to stop.

Imagine a toddler who goes to visit grandma and repeatedly annoys her. Even though grandma has a halo over her head, she will surely run out of patience one day!

In many cases, older dogs will grant puppies what’s called a “puppy license,” which means they will let them get away with things they wouldn’t let adult dogs do, but not all adult dogs will grant it.

A puppy will cause problems for shy dogs, aging dogs, and dogs with less mobility if they are not playful or social by nature. Despite their attempts to move away, the puppy keeps going, thinking it’s all a fun game. It’s not the kind of “retirement” older dogs wanted!

Puppy License Conflicts

Puppies are generally assigned puppy licenses by older dogs, but the puppy license usually expires once the pup reaches maturity. Growing puppies are expected to become more aware of boundaries, social cues, and postures as well as learn to respect these cues and postures as they mature.

There is also a possibility that puppies may become bullies and start pushing around as they reach doggy adolescence, which usually begins around the age of six months. As they reach social maturity at around 12 to 36 months of age, more conflict may be expected.

In particular, bitches might encounter more conflicts than their male counterparts. During this period, many bitches living together start fighting. This issue resolve on its own, as dogs began to understand their limits by bad experiences.

Resource war:

When the puppy approaches the food, a favorite toy, a resting place or you, does your older dog attack the puppy? That might indicate your older dog is protecting resources.

The act of resource guarding is the act of a dog protecting things they perceive as valuable. The behaviors of freezing, growling, and showing teeth is distance-increasing and are signs that a dog is uncomfortable when another one gets too close to where they perceive to belong.

In general, adult dogs know not to approach another dog who is eating, playing with a toy or sleeping (except if they are looking for trouble), but puppies are socially-illiterate and need to learn more about body language, respecting space, and giving attention to others.

Effects of Stress/Fear

This may sound quite funny, but my friend’s female Rottweiler at the age of 2 developed some sort of phobia of puppies. Whenever puppies approached her, she would run the other way so as to avoid them. It’s likely that she’d growl and bite if the puppies cornered her.

As a calm dog, she struggled with rude dogs who would approach too strongly, jumping and wanting to meet face-to-face. It was the same with puppies.

Puppies can be particularly stressful to some dogs, who may become very intolerant of them when they are exposed to them. Some dogs may even fear them. It could be because they haven’t been socialized much with dogs or that they simply have limited tolerance for certain behaviors.

When stressed or fearful, dogs may bite, injure or even kill puppies. You need to keep an eye out for situations like this, which is why you should always monitor all interactions and become your older dog’s ambassador, protecting him from unwanted exposures.

Consider having your older dog and new puppy evaluated by a behavior specialist if you’re unsure whether they will get along. You will be able to receive specific recommendations from your veterinarian, and if things don’t work out, you will have to make an important decision about whether to re-home or return the puppy to the breeder.

Dogs are always happier not to have to be pack leaders.

— Ron Hines, DVM PhD

How to stop my old dog from attacking my new puppy?

The older dogs may have several reasons to attack your new puppy. Depending on a variety of factors, a variety of approaches may be taken to solve this problem. Because dogs are animals, there are never any guarantees on how things will turn out. There are several management options and training options available to stop old dogs from attacking new puppies. Here are some tips:


Puppy play bothers the older dog often enough to cause squabbles between them. Ideally, your puppy should have ample opportunities to play with you, receive training, and be mentally stimulated before being introduced to your older dog.

Make sure your puppy understands he should play with you rather than bothering your older dog. Hopefully, this will lead to calmer behavior.

However, you need to make sure your puppy gets plenty of sleep because tired puppies are usually grumpy and more likely to misbehave!

Environment management

Often, “preventing undesirable behaviors before they occur is the most effective way to eliminate them“. In the event that your older dog growls at the puppy when it comes near his food or toys, you may want to feed the dogs in separate areas and avoid giving them toys when they are playing together.

As a result, management prevents rehearsal of the problem behavior and also reduces stress.

Defining boundaries

If your puppy bothers your older dog with different energy levels, you should set some boundaries and be an ambassador for both dogs. You owe your adult dog protection from continuous intrusion.

If your older dog needs a private retreat, install a baby gate or keep your puppy in a playpen with toys.

The Purpose of Puppy Training

You’ll also need to teach your puppy some basic manners to avoid any potential conflict. Don’t put your older dog in a position where he has to defend himself constantly. Ensure that your puppy follows the request of your older dog to be left alone.

Train your puppy to leave the litter box, lay on the mat, and come to you when called. It will also be handy if you need him to back off from your older dog. Here are some training Activities:

How to train your dog to “lie on a mat”?

It is divided into 4 separate steps: 

1. Moving your dog onto the mat
2. Sitting or dropping on the mat
3. Keeping the dog on the mat.
4. Give treats to the dogs

Before teaching your dog to sit on a mat, you must teach him the ‘sit’ command. Make sure you reward him when he sits on command by using treats. Clickers can be used to capture sitting behavior. In addition, you will want to get your dog used to a mat on which he will be trained to sit so that it is familiar and comfortable. Prior to training, associate the mat with favorite toys, treats, or a chew toy. 

How to train your dog “leave it”?

This is a difficult command to teach, follow the steps wisely:

  • It is important to have two different types of treats. The first type may be pretty boring to the dog, but the second type should be a high-value treat that he enjoys. Additionally, you will need to break up the treats into pea-sized pieces so that he will be able to eat them quickly.
  • Each hand should have a different type of treat. You can also hold the high-value treat in the same hand as the clicker if you prefer to train with it. Place both hands behind your back.
  • With the hand that holds the treat of lower value, make a fist and present it to your dog so he can sniff it.
  • Wait until he finishes sniffing your fist before saying “leave it.”.
  • Once your dog has finished sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then give him the higher-value treat in your other hand.
  • Keep repeating “leave it” until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand.
  • If your dog stops sniffing when you say “leave it,” leash him and throw a low-value treat outside.
  • If he sniffs and pulls toward the treat, wait until he stops. When he does, either say “yes” or click, and then give him a high-value treat. Practice this exercise several times.

How to train your dog come command?

  • A tasty treat or a fun game with a toy will encourage your dog to return. Show your dog the treat or toy.  
  • Run a couple of steps then call your dog’s name and say ‘come’ in an upbeat, friendly tone – getting low can also encourage them to come back.  
  • If your dog comes to you, gently hold their collar and feed them the treat or let them play with the toy.  
  • Continue to distance yourself from your dog, until eventually you can call your dog from room to room or out of the garden.  
  • Take turns holding your dog’s collar whilst your partner walks a distance away and calls the dog over. Please remember to praise the dog each time he or she succeeds.  

When your dog consistently responds when called in the house and garden, you can begin to practice outside in a safe area. For practicing your dog’s recall outside, long training leads can be helpful since they give him some freedom but not complete freedom.

The goal is to train this to the point where it becomes almost reflexive. Through neural memory, it becomes more fluent with practice.

Establish positive associations

In the case of an older dog, behavior modification may be beneficial, including creating positive associations with the puppy. If your older dog will not allow the puppy near him when you pet him, you can do the following exercise under the guidance of a dog behavior professional.

While you are petting your older dog, have a helper hold your puppy on a leash and practice walking them near each other.

Praise and give your older dog high-value treats whenever your helper brings your puppy near you and your older dog. You would stop rewarding and treating the puppy once your helper moved it away.

Here we are attempting to clarify that great things can happen only when the puppy approaches. As opposed to fearing the arrival of your puppy, you want your older dog to anticipate it with excitement. It is based on the Open/Bar Closed/Bar method of Jean Donaldson.

If your older dog struggles with other situations, repeat the process. If, for example, your older dog feels nervous when your puppy runs around, feed your older dog tasty treats. The goal is to condition your older dog’s behavior to look forward to treats when your puppy runs.

Keep your older dog from being overwhelmed and below the threshold.

Conflicts during feeding time:

Keeping distance between dogs while eating ensures there will be no disputes over food. However, this doesn’t always work. Occasionally, one dog finishes eating first and goes to bother the other.

In situations like these, it might be helpful to supervise the dog’s eating and establish a routine where the dog who finishes eating first comes to you for treats or some kibble. Eventually, you will notice that the dog who finishes first comes over to you for treats after dinner rather than attempting to steal the others’ food.

How to treat the leader (Apha dog)?

From the beginning, we should acknowledge the leader of the pack by :

  • Making him the first to receive treats (every time).
  • Feeding him first (during the dogs’ meals)
  • First bathing him (when all dogs need cleaning)
  • Continually praising him for any positive actions he takes towards the other dog(s)
  • When you come home and dogs are eager for attention, greet him first.

Activities to encourage bonding

Among two dogs, there are certain activities that can be helpful in bonding. For example, walking together. When your puppy has finished all his vaccinations, and your vet gives you the green light, take your puppy and older dog on walks (one person per dog) or even fun hikes.

Taking the dogs for car rides (while they are restrained by a harness) can be a bonding activity as they can spend time together without getting into trouble.

Facts About Dog Dominance

In the words of Barbara Nibling, author of “A Behavioral View on Dog Aggression”, here are some things you need to know about dog dominance aggression:

The dominant aggression of intact males is more likely than that of neutered males or females.

  • A spayed female who shows aggression before puberty may become more aggressive.
  • A behaviorist will typically treat aggression caused by dominance or protective instincts.
  • A sudden movement triggers protective aggression.
  • Aggression caused by dominance is likely associated with androgens and runs in families.
  • 90% of all cases of dominant aggression are committed by males.

Consult a Professional

It’s important to contact a professional whenever you notice aggression among dogs in the family. The purpose of this is to ensure that behavior modification is implemented correctly and to maintain safety. There is a risk of injury (via a redirected bite) whenever dogs have minor disputes or serious fights.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

If an aggressive encounter should occur, do not grab the puppy up and scream and yell at the adult dog. This will only add to the resentment of the adult dog toward the puppy. The adult dog’s “feelings” about the new pup will be determined by how the owners react when they must discipline the newcomer.

Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America

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