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  1. dogs training and behavior

Why Is My Older Dog Attacking Our New Puppy?

Posted by Dr. Roth on August 10, 2022

Training and Behavior
Lifestyle
What to do if?
Help My Older Dog Keeps Attacking Our New Puppy Header Photo

Dog parents may look forward to growing their family by introducing a new puppy. However, if an older dog reacts aggressively to a new puppy, the playfulness, increased socialization, and shared adventures Fuzzy parents visualize might not immediately become a reality.

While some dogs will never adjust to having a new dog in their house, there are several things a pet parent can do to help an older dog welcome a new puppy.

Is An Older Dog Really Attacking the New Puppy?

Older dogs always correct bad behavior in puppies. Pet parents should learn to distinguish between regular correction, which teaches puppies appropriate boundaries, and overly aggressive behavior that can lead to physical injuries. 

During regular interactions, a mature dog might growl or air snap at a puppy to let them know excessive nipping, hyperactivity, or digging aren't okay. Outside of these moments, pet parents will likely observe displays of affection or other signs that the dogs are developing a harmonious relationship, such as:

Conversely, if an older dog is really attacking a puppy, they'll show dog aggression signs such as:

  • Growling excessively in a low vocal range 

  • Barking whenever the puppy is around

  • Holding their ears erect

Dominant aggressive dogs don't always show signs before biting. Pet parents should be alert to mild signs of aggression to help protect both dogs from danger.

The Potential Causes of an Adult Dog's Aggression

Pet parents should always think of their current dog before introducing a puppy. If a dog already seems uninterested or tries to get away when they meet puppies at the park or elsewhere, they might not want one around them 24/7. 

Older dog attacking a new puppy? Older dogs with arthritis, dementia, or other chronic conditions can find it challenging to keep up with the needs of an active puppy. A young puppy may inadvertently annoy a dog who has been silently suffering from headaches or chronic pain.

The energy levels of young puppies are different from those of older dogs, who may become annoyed when puppies constantly want to play. An older dog may even see a puppy as a threat to their relationship with their dog parent.

Some dog parents might be wondering, "Why is our older dog attacking our new puppy?" In that case, their dogs may also be mismatched in terms of temperament or environmental needs. 

How To Help Curb Aggressive Behavior

Older dog keeps attacking the new puppy? Don't ignore it. If an older dog is showing signs of aggression around a new puppy, don't leave them alone together. Encourage a positive relationship to develop by rewarding good behavior, but ensuring each dog has their own separate and safe areas to claim as their own.

Consistently Monitor Body Language and Unwanted Behavior

Always monitor an older dog's body language for any signs of territorial behavior, such as snarling or a puffed tail. Fuzzy parents might also need to help some older dogs overcome a few behavior issues before they can bring a new puppy into the family.  

Sometimes dogs need to get help from a dog behaviorist to work on self-destructive or unhealthy actions, including:

A recent study by Kirchoff suggested that aggression may be linked to a dog’s diet. As such, the following can reduce unwanted behavior:

  • Sticking to a regular feeding schedule

  • Removing allergens

  • Improving protein quality

Food-based aggression can be curbed by adjusting a dog's diet as well as location of feedings. Always use separate feeding locations for dogs and manage all interactions by having them meet in different rooms.

Provide Positive Reinforcement for Good Behavior

Positive reinforcement involves using anything a dog finds rewarding to produce desired behaviors. So, rewarding good behavior, such as allowing a puppy to enter their space, encourages older dogs to gradually welcome a puppy in other areas of their life. 

Pet parents can provide positive reinforcement for good behavior by using:

  • Treats

  • Praise

  • Petting

  • Favorite toys

Puppies and older dogs care about food and praise, so positive reinforcement is one of the best tools pet parents have. Always give rewards within seconds of desired behaviors, keep verbal cues short, and remain consistent. 

Separate Toys and Create Space Between Sleeping Areas

Resource guarding is common among dogs who think a newcomer threatens their supply. So, an older dog might be protective of high-value toys and their favorite sleeping and lounging spots. Pet parents can give them separate toys and different sleeping areas to prevent conflicts, 

Since dogs are territorial creatures, physically separate their sleeping spaces by using any of the following:

  • Dog beds

  • Dog bean bags

  • Baby gates 

If an older dog has a toy that they're not interested in anymore, let the puppy play with it and observe both dogs while keeping a safe distance between them. After a time, the older dog might allow the new puppy to play with all of their toys. 

Introduce a New Puppy Properly To Create a Relationship

Always introduce a new puppy at a distance first while both dogs are on leashes. If possible, introduce them outside of the home. Pet parents can also let them get used to each other before they meet by placing items with their scent in the home. 

Pet parents can also get the puppy used to a crate, meaning the puppy can be crated initially whenever they're in a room with the older dog. Pleasant bonding activities like walking in the park while leashed also help both dogs form positive associations outside of confined areas where one may have staked a territorial claim. 

If pet parents introduce a new puppy properly, both dogs can form the type of relationship that helps them both to develop. The older dog may even introduce lighthearted games of tug, freely exchanging possession of a rope or another toy with the new puppy to show that they've accepted them. However, if dogs are showing dominant or truly aggressive behavior, they should not be allowed to play tug together. 

Receive the Advice and Care Needed With an Online Pet Membership

Going at an older dog's pace can help when successfully introducing a new puppy to the family. And sometimes a little advice can reduce stress for everyone in the home.

Fuzzy members can record their dogs' interactions to share with the Fuzzy team any time, or they can schedule dog training video consultations with licensed pet health and behavioral professionals in the app. Fuzzy’s always online and ready to help. Sign up for a free 7-day Fuzzy membership trial and chat with a vet in less under a minute about anything needed to help pets live happy, well-adjusted lives.

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