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9 Ways To Stop Your Older Dog from Attacking New Puppy

It is incredibly sad and concerning to see an older dog attacking the new puppy.

After all, you probably introduced the puppy in part in the hope that your current dog will also benefit from it.

Dogs don’t like to be alone, right?

Well, some do.

But many enjoy the company and yet still act seemingly hostile towards a puppy.

What gives?

The reasons why your older dog is attacking the puppy include issues that you can easily work on.

Depending on the cause, you may need to work with one of them specifically, but more often than not it’s a combination of keeping the puppy under control and training your older dog to accept the new addition.

Why is my older dog attacking my new puppy?

Your older dog is attacking your new puppy because of poor socialization, a lack of patience with rambunctious puppies, jealousy, underlying aggression issues, or medical problems that cause pain.

The course of action will depend on the cause.

Older dogs with poor socialization may need positive reinforcement to gradually learn to accept the puppy.

Feeling cornered, jealous, or a build-up of nasty actions are also common reasons why older dogs attack new puppies.

You could call that a lack of patience with puppies.

A Husky puppy stalks an older Husky to communicate with its face.
Photo by Andrii Spy_k on Shutterstock

However, it’s not always just your older dog’s fault.

Sometimes this comes with a puppy who is naturally extremely energetic and focused on your other dog’s face, paws, or tail.

If your older dog isn’t used to puppies in his face or has never really been good at it, the tips below will do wonders for you.

You suspect jealousy?

Older dogs who are very cranky because they have to share toys, food, or rest areas can benefit from the privileges and 1-on-1 training I discuss below.

Territorial issues require proper introduction to avoid most problems.

Some dogs are just not suitable for puppies.

If your dog has aggression issues or underlying medical issues, you may want to delay purchasing a puppy until these are resolved.

Basically, you need to determine the cause of the bad blood between your canines.

  • Would you rate your older dog as well socialized?
  • Do you provide a safe place?
  • Is the puppy often in your dog’s face?
  • Do you spend time with both dogs?
  • Does your older dog have problems with his resources (food, toys, etc.)?
  • Is your dog territorial?
  • Are there aggression problems or medical problems?

Older Dog Attacks New Puppy: 9 Ways to Stop It!

Prevent your senior dog from attacking the new puppy by providing a quiet, safe space, doing 1-on-1 training with your senior dog, and improving the bond between your senior and puppy.

1. Safe haven

It is crucial that you provide a safe haven where your dog can be alone if he is overwhelmed by the puppy.

With a good space that your older dog has access to, you can avoid overwhelming him.

Of course you don’t want to separate the two.

Instead, you’ll have a space just for your older dog where they can go when it’s all a bit too much and the pup can’t keep up.

An adult Rhodesian Ridgeback sits next to a young one in a puppy seat.
Photo by Sheeva1 on Shutterstock

2. Protect your older dog

Protect your older dog by understanding his body language and prevent your puppy from pushing boundaries excessively.

If your furry friend shows signs of being uncomfortable, don’t ignore him.

Instead, act and teach your pup how to behave properly.

There’s a fine line, as play is natural for puppies and absolutely essential to their development.

However, your puppy must learn to take corrections from older dogs.

Sometimes the puppy is quite resistant to accepting the signals, but other times it is the adult dog who has to learn how to correct them properly.

3. Senior Citizens’ Rights

Give your older dog some privileges as this will prevent jealousy and strengthen his position in your household.

Don’t let your old friend get grumpy because the pup has claimed all his favorite toys.

To avoid jealousy, avoid feeding your puppy continuously before feeding your first dog.

Physical attention is important for both dogs, so make sure you don’t leave anyone outside.

4. 1-on-1 training

Do 1-on-1 training with both dogs to prevent jealousy and reduce tension.

Training each dog alone occasionally allows you to focus solely on him or her.

Puppies need a lot of basic training, which comes in handy if they aren’t distracted by another dog.

Playing, doing some obedience work or working on new tricks or commands can go a long way.

5. Spending time together

While 1-on-1 time is great, you should also adventure together and encourage your dogs to bond with each other.

This is probably one of the most important factors in having two dogs that get along well.

Reinforce every instance where your dog interacts with the little guy in a positive way.

6. Socialization

Socializing your puppy is crucial, but a well-socialized older dog will also go a long way.

Ideally, you will have socialized your adult dog long before introducing a second dog.

7. Exercise puppy

A tired puppy will not be able to provoke the older dog, so an attack is not necessary in the first place.

If your puppy is not physically and mentally exercised, he will disturb your older dog.

8. Introduce on neutral grounds

To rule out territorial issues as a reason for your older dog attacking the puppy, introduce the dogs outside on neutral territory.

But that ship may have sailed if you are already in a tense situation at home.

9. Rule out medical problems

If you have an older dog and he attacks the puppy, make sure you rule out medical problems.

Older dogs become disoriented easily, and if your pup startles them while sleeping or resting, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Energetic puppies can accidentally cause pain by pawing or biting sensitive areas of your older dog’s body.

If you cannot rule out that medical problems are the cause of your older dog’s behavior change, consult your veterinarian.

Older dog bit puppy and drew blood

If your older dog has bitten the puppy and drawn blood, separate him to prevent future accidents and initiate aggression training with your older dog.

An incident in which the older dog seriously harms the puppy is not only due to the crankiness that comes with growing older.

Sure, the puppy may have provoked a response.

However, a bite that draws blood is not a measured response to a rambunctious puppy.

A person holds a white puppy while petting an older dog.
Photo by Helen Sushitskaya on Shutterstock

Unless you suspect that your puppy is suffering from puppy aggression itself.

Aggression in puppies should be addressed immediately, but is not usually the cause of an older dog biting the puppy.

Serious incidents have underlying causes.

Your older dog may have been poorly socialized or not properly introduced to the puppy.

A lack of a safe haven, jealousy and a generally over-enthusiastic puppy can contribute to the problem.

But there’s really no excuse for an adult dog going for a full bite.

So let’s start improving the relationship and make sure your adult dog never does that again.

If your older dog is seriously hurting the puppy, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Has your older dog snapped at puppies before?
  2. Is your older dog well socialized?
  3. Were there any resources involved in the incident (toys, food, etc.)?
  4. Is your puppy energetic and pushing his limits?
  5. Are you busy socializing your puppy?
  6. Have you given the older dog a quiet place?
  7. Can you rule out medical problems?

All of these questions will help determine if your dog may have been poorly introduced, your older dog is unfamiliar with puppies or may not even be suitable, or if there have been signs all along.

Your ultimate goal is to get your older dog to accept your puppy.

By following the steps above, most owners can achieve that.

However, because an actual bite has occurred, you may need to take a step back and assess whether your older dog is suitable for a puppy.

If your dog is likely to attack the pup again, you should hire a professional trainer.

Should I Let My Older Dog Nip at My Puppy?

It’s fine for an older dog to correct a puppy and a snarl or growl can be part of that, but it should be a measured response and never leave a physical mark.

Is it normal to snap at a puppy?

Many adult dogs have a fairly short fuse with puppies.

Understandably, when relaxed older dogs meet energetic pups, worlds collide.

Usually the snarling is preceded by a growl and body language, indicating that the older dog is uncomfortable with the puppy’s energy.

It’s okay for a dog to occasionally snap at the air when a puppy is misbehaving.

However, if you notice that your puppy is not actually doing anything and the older dog seeks out your puppy, that is a problem.

Likewise, if your older dog leaves a physical impression and seems to go beyond what is reasonable, that is a reason to talk to a professional trainer.

Should I Let My Puppy and Older Dog Fight?

Never let your puppy and older dog fight unless it is a play fight, which should involve relaxed body language.

You should never just let a dog fight unfold.

Whatever it is that happened before, you should stop any serious fight and seek professional help.

How do you know a fight is serious? Body language.

Signs such as hackles, grunts, stiffness and whale eye are indicators that the fight may be serious.

Dogs with a relaxed attitude, healthy mouth behavior and playful vocalization are usually just play fights.

If your older dog is playing with your puppy, it’s a good sign that he’s bonding.

Disclaimer: This blog post does not and does not intend to replace veterinary attention. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows signs of illness, call your vet.

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