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My Older Dog’s Aggressive to My Puppy! What Should I Do?

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You have a sweet, new playful puppy. You pictured your older dog welcoming the puppy and romping around with him, tugging at toys

And you picture the two sweetly snuggling together on the floor.

But, instead, reality hits. Your older dog wants nothing to do with the newcomer. In fact, he’s pretty rough with the little guy.

What should you do?

dog looks up as puppy attacks.

How you introduce them and have them live together is important. Be patient and go slowly.

Some adult dogs are better with puppies than others.

Things To Consider Prior To Getting a Puppy

I love puppies. But not all adult dogs want a puppy to live with them–even if they’re friendly to puppies away from home. Consider the following prior to getting your new puppy:

1. Does your older dog like puppies in general?

If your older dog has been properly socialized with puppies in the past and enjoys encounters with them, the chances are greater that you’ll be successful in him accepting one at home if the situation is properly managed.

If your older dog doesn’t like puppies, it’s much harder to get him to accept them living in your home.

2. Does your older dog have any behavioral issues?

If so, it’s better to resolve them first prior to getting a puppy.

Any issues will be magnified when you have a puppy, Plus it’s not fair to either dog to ignore any issues.

If in doubt, get advice from a canine behavioral expert.

3. Does your older dog have any health issues?

If an older dog has health issues that affect his sight, hearing, or mobility, it’s probably not the best thing to get a young puppy. It may be too much for him.

Also, if he has any issues that can affect his pain level, such as arthritis, he probably won’t enjoy playing with a young puppy.

My rescued Shih Tzu Trevor loves all dogs. But he’s about 16 years old now and is losing his vision. 

I wouldn’t put him together with my Aussie mix puppy Millie off-leash and expect them to play together. It wouldn’t be fair to either dog.

But I do have them meet on a leash, in harnesses, after Millie has had a sufficient amount of exercise to be calm.

4. Consider whether the puppy you choose is appropriate for your older dog

For example, a Saint Bernard puppy may be too much for an older Maltese.

When choosing a puppy, choose one that won’t overwhelm your older dog and that has similar energy levels.

Doing so increases the likelihood that they’ll successfully live together.

It’s not impossible for the odd couple to get along. It usually just makes it more difficult.

But I’ve had my Lhasa apso Ralphie who’s an adult except my Aussie mix puppy Millie. It just required more management and work.

5. Has your older dog been properly vaccinated?

Check with your vet that your dog has all the necessary vaccinations prior to getting a puppy.

What’s Normal Behavior Between the Puppy and Older Dog?

It’s normal for an older dog to appropriately correct a puppy. The problems arise if the older dog becomes truly aggressive to the pup.

It’s very stressful for the older dog when a newcomer joins the home.

Is your older dog being aggressive to the puppy?

If your older dog snaps at or growls at the new puppy when the pup becomes rambunctious, that’s normal. 

The older dog is telling the youngster to respect him and back off, much as the puppy’s mother would do.

The puppy should then back off from the correction. He should respect the older dog.

The puppy may even let out a squeal. But as long as the interaction is brief and the puppy isn’t injured, it’s probably normal.

If, at any time, there’s any question regarding whether the interaction is normal, separate the dogs and get professional help from an experienced, positive-reinforcement trainer.

One thing we’ve noticed with our older dogs and new puppies is what we call the “puppy license”.

For some reason our older dogs let our pups get away with more when they’re little but as they get older they lose their “puppy license” and the older dogs start correcting their inappropriate behavior.

What Can You Do To Be Successful?

There are many ways that you can help the relationship between your older dog and puppy be successful. 

You never want to rush introductions or give the older dog an opportunity to guard desired items. 

Also, the two should not be left alone together until you are sure that they are getting along. And that takes time–even many months. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

1. Prepare your house prior to the puppy’s arrival

Pick up all chews, toys, and food bowls. These are all items that your older dog may guard. (Please note that if your adult dog guards such items–or even you–prior to getting a puppy, get help from an expert before deciding to get a puppy.)

Have a toy-free zone in which both can learn to get along. At first, you can have separate play areas with their toys for each so that there’s no conflict between them.

You want to set them up to succeed.

2. Swap scents

If possible, have something with the puppy’s scent placed in the older dog’s crate or bed so that he gets used to the puppy when he arrives.

If possible, have something with your older dog’s scent left with the puppy prior to his arrival too.

3. Introduce them away from home base

It’s usually best to introduce your older dog to the puppy at a neutral location, not at your home. 

Doing so will help prevent any territoriality that your older dog may show.

It’s difficult to introduce a puppy to an older dog in many locations because the puppy shouldn’t be where other unvaccinated dogs may have been.

So you might introduce them at a friend’s house or another neutral location.

When I got my Aussie mix puppy, Millie, last summer, the rescue group had us meet her at their location. And I brought my five other dogs to meet her.

My other dogs are dog-friendly tolerate puppies and know how to appropriately correct them. But it was still important for them to meet there.

4. Make introductions slowly

Yellow lab and puppy
Yellow lab and puppy

Have your older dog get treats when he even sees the puppy and is calm. If at any time he seems aggressive (raised hackles, lunging, snarling), end any potential interaction and get professional help.

In your introductions, you need two handlers–one for the puppy and another for the older dog. Have one person hold the puppy on the leash and the other person hold the older dog’s leash.

Have them on six-foot leashes–no long lines or Flexis. Also, it’s best to have them on harnesses they can’t slip out of. 

A tight collar on the older dog may send him the signal that something’s wrong.

Have them on opposite sides of the room.

After they get used to being in the same room together, move them a few feet closer, making sure that the older dog is comfortable.

It may take an hour or more, depending on the dog, to have them meet briefly face-to-face. 

Walk up to each other over time if the adult dog seems relaxed, have them meet for a few seconds if all goes well, then walk apart (telling them “let’s go” as you walk away).

5. Walk the dogs together to get acquainted

If the puppy can walk on a leash, you can walk him parallel to the older dog, with separate handlers walking each canine.

This is a good way to introduce two dogs. Keep them at least 10 feet apart. You can move closer over time, depending on how the older dog reacts to the puppy.

6. Slowly integrate them together in your house

Don’t force them to interact, play together, or pose for photos.

7. Feed them separately

So that there’s no conflict over food, it’s best to feed them in different areas.

8. Manage all interactions

Use gates between rooms to have them meet. One can be on one side of the gate and the other on the opposing side.

Get your puppy used to a crate, so that he can be crated sometimes when in the room with the adult dog.

QUICK RECOMMENDATION: We like using the MidWest LifeStages Dog Crate. We’ve had the same one we bought for Linus over 17 years ago!

Watch your older dog’s body language so that he doesn’t go over threshold and become too rough or aggressive to the puppy. 

In the beginning, and for days or weeks (depending on the dog’s reaction), I would have them meet in harnesses on loose leashes. 

Have two handlers–one for the puppy and one for the adult dog.

Take your time and be patient.

If the first encounters go extremely well, you can eventually (over days) have two leashes dragging so that each person can take a leash and tell the dogs “Let’s go” and walk in opposite directions before things escalate.

Make sure that the leashes don’t tangle or wrap up the dogs. After all, you don’t want any problems or want them to be too rough with each other.

If the older dog demonstrates any stress such as raised hackles or tense body language, end the interaction immediately.

Have one handler lure the puppy away with a toy and the other handler call the older dog over.

Take each dog to separate areas, such as separate rooms to settle down.

9. Don’t let the puppy harass the adult dog

Even adult dogs who enjoy the company of puppies don’t want them constantly bothering them. 

Redirect the puppy away from the adult dog. Use a toy to get the puppy to play away from the older dog.

10. Have the puppy exercised before interacting with the adult dog

Set all interactions up for success. If the puppy isn’t too frenetic, the older dog is more likely to accept him.

Have the puppy exercised through a walk or play session away from the older dog so that the puppy won’t be too energetic for the older dog.

11. Teach the puppy some commands

In order for the puppy to understand what’s expected, obedience training is important. 

As a foundation, the pup should learn to sit, lie down, walk on a loose leash, pay attention to you, and settle on command.

The more the puppy knows, it’s more likely that the two dogs will get along.

It’s important to teach the puppy some impulse control.

12. Have both dogs sit and reward and praise

As long as your older dog won’t guard resources, give each a treat and praise them. Give the treat to the older dog first.

13. Give the older dog attention first

It’s less likely that there will be a conflict between the two if the older dog is acknowledged first.

14. Create positive associations with the puppy

Have two handlers. Have someone hold the puppy on a leash walking the puppy near the older dog. 

They should be at least 15 feet apart so that they can see each other but not reach each other. 

Pet and give positive reinforcement (treats, praise) when your older dog is calm.

Move the puppy closer as the older dog can handle it without becoming stressed. Keep giving high-value treats to the older dog so that he’s associated great things with the puppy.

As the handler with the puppy walks the puppy away from the older dog, stop giving treats to the older dog.

You want the older dog to think that great things–treats like small tidbits of chicken or hotdogs–appear when the puppy is present or approaches.

Have bonding activities. Walk the older dog at the same time (a short walk) with the puppy. One handler should walk the puppy while another walks the older dog. Only walk where unvaccinated dogs haven’t been. 

Once the puppy has had all his vaccinations (around 16 weeks old), he can walk in regular areas.

15. Redirect your older dog to known commands

Call him over to you and praise and reward him. Have him target–touch–your hand. Have him look at you on cue.

This will help get control and not have him hyper-focused on the puppy–in addition to having him know what’s expected. 

PRO TIP: It’s usually best to have them walk in well-fitted harnesses rather than a collar. A tight collar can send a message to the older dog that something’s wrong. And a collar may put too much pressure on a young puppy’s trachea.

16. Maintain a routine

Dogs are creatures of habit. So try to keep your adult dog’s routines that you had prior to the puppy’s arrival. A routine also helps the puppy know what’s expected.

17. Give your older dog separate attention

It’s important that your older dog knows that he’s still loved and valued by you. 

Still, play with him and walk him separately. Do other activities with him that you used to do prior to the puppy’s arrival.

18. Introduce valuable items like toys slowly

At first, they should have separate play areas with separate toys.

As you see that they’re getting along, introduce toys that your older dog doesn’t really care about and that are safe for the puppy. Or bring in new toys as long as the older dog doesn’t guard them.

Have one handler play with the puppy and another with the adult dog.

What NOT To Do

There are some things that you shouldn’t do in trying to integrate the puppy into your household. You don’t want to harm their interactions or unintentionally set them up to fail.

Don’t force them together

It’s important to not force the puppy and the older dog to be face-to-face or otherwise in each other’s space. 

Patience and time are important for the older dog to accept the puppy.

Don’t suppress the older dog’s growl

Some things that the older dog does to correct the puppy are normal. A growl, and air snap to tell the puppy that he’s crossed boundaries are normal.

If, however, your older dog truly seems aggressive to the puppy, get professional help. 

Don’t let them be together until any issues have been resolved.


How Long Does It Take For a Puppy and Older Dog To Get Along?

There’s no set formula regarding how long it will take for your dog to get along with a puppy.

It depends on the two canines.

Some adult dogs accept a puppy pretty quickly. They may have successfully been exposed to them in the past. 

Whereas even some older dogs who like puppies may take a longer time when the puppy will live with them in their house.

Some adult dogs will never accept a puppy no matter how well you introduce them and manage the situation. 

After getting professional help to evaluate the situation, sometimes it’s better for both dogs to rehome the puppy.

Some senior dogs may have vision problems, arthritis, or other problems and a puppy may be too much for them.

Is It Normal For My Older Dog To Bite My Puppy’s Neck?

We observe this behavior quite often between our new puppies and older dogs. It usually goes back and forth with the older dog biting necks then reversing with the puppy biting at the neck.

Fortunately, for us, our older dogs are very patient with our younger puppies.

Our older dogs like to play a game with the puppies that we call “bitey face“. Basically, grabbing cheeks, necks, scruff, faces, showing teeth while making a growly noise. It’s usually a harmless game but it can sometimes escalate.

In our house when the game escalates our older dogs will sometimes make a yelping noise and other times, they will give the puppy a correction by nipping.

However, always keep a close eye when your puppy and older dogs are playing a rough game like bitey face. You want to make sure you are there in case you need to regulate play.

How Do I Stop My Puppy From Biting My Other Dog?

Here are some things we do to control our puppies and keep them from biting our older dogs:

  1. Exercise Your Puppy’s Body And Brain – a tired puppy is a good puppy.
  2. Teach Your Puppy Bite Inhibition
  3. Redirect Puppy Biting To Your Pup’s Favorite Chew Toy – one of our favorite methods. We like redirecting to our favorite chew: Beef Collagen Sticks.
  4. Distract Your Puppy By Giving Her A Command – use a command that your puppy is very familiar with. “Name” is a good one and make sure you have a high-value treat ready to give.
  5. Use Bitter Apple Spray – often used to deter biting and chewing on one’s own fur. This can also be used to deter another dog from biting. Be sure to check the product and make sure it doesn’t irritate your dog’s skin before using it.
  6. Give Your Puppy (and dog) A Break – separating your two canines gives your puppy a chance to calm down and play more respectfully with your older dog.

I always considered my first two dogs, Stetson and Linus the best puppy raisers in the house as they taught the younger pups the rules of the house. They’d yelp at the proper times and sometimes give corrections with a quick nip to a puppy’s butt.

Now that we have two more easy-going dogs (Raven and Elsa) I have to oftentimes intervene using some of the methods mentioned above.


An older dog can often live well with a new puppy.

They may even become best friends.

But it will take a lot of time, patience, and management to set them up to succeed.

How about you? Have you brought home a puppy to your older dog? How did it go?

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

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My Older Dog Is Aggressive To My Puppy!? - dog looks up as puppy attacks.

UPDATE: This post was originally published on May 29th, 2021. We periodically update blog posts with new experiences and information to keep them as relevant as possible.

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  1. I have 7 moths male puppy which he had sterilized in the and I add 2 month male both of them are cress breeds, the older one step on the small body of the younger one, they meet for the first time, they will get along?

  2. Thank you for a thoughtful article. I have a male 2.5 yr old Biewer Terrier, Bazi, and three days ago brought a baby 10 week female Prague Ratter into our family. Big brother has growled at the baby from the beginning. His growling has lessened. This morning Mila was saying a joyful good morning to Bazi and he air snapped at her. She didn’t cry but her feelings were hurt. She wanted to curl up with me. I was worried there might be emotional harm, but the article reassured me all was normal. Thanks again.

  3. I have two girl Pomeranian dogs , one is about to be one year old and the other one will 6 months in a few days. Anyways my family decided to get a male Pomeranian which is 8 weeks old we introduce all of them at the same time. My almost one year old loves him , she has a lot of patience with him. She tolerates a lot from him , I don’t think I ever even heard her growl at him once till this day. But the almost 6 month old dog at first she was terrified of him, she would run away from him. I believe like the 2nd day they met or whatever you wanna call it she let out a growl and I got her introuble which my bad I just read it’s normal. Anyways I believe the third day she would play with him for a little but then she started getting aggressive and she either was biting him or standing hurting him in some other way cause the puppy let out a cry and he never cries. I’m just so frustrated I want them to get along so bad but she just seems to not like being around him to much . I trust leaving him alone with my almost one year old but I can’t trust him being around the 6 month old because I believe if I’m not there she will attack him.

  4. I have a 5 year old Sharpei female and after the death of our 8 year old last year she has been the only child. We thought we would get another Sharpei because they are pack dogs and we have always had more than one at a time. Daisy is excited by the puppy but when the puppy jumps on her or gets under her legs she growls and nips at him without hurting him. He just rolls over and comes back for more. She has never been aggressive or has never bitten anyone. My husband screamed at her last night because I saw the puppy jump on her back and she growled loudly. He hit her behind and the puppy’s. I do not think this is proper behavior to make them fearful. I feel she is setting boundaries with the puppy, but sometimes you just don’t know. its unsettling. We do keep them apart during the day when we are not home. The puppy is 3 months old.

  5. We have a Chi, he has been in our family for 3 years. We recently (9.5 months ago) introduced a new “puppy” into the family. We thought that our Chi would eventually like her, however this is not the case…he still HATES her and wants nothing to do with her, we have to keep them apart all the time. I don’t know what to do at this point…I am thinking it’s time to rehome our 13 months old pup…thoughts, suggestions?

  6. Just got a 8week old puppy my older dog whose 6years old hatesthe new puppy and has startedto resent and hate the new puppy he has startedto growl at her if shes running around and attacking her as im on my own i am finding this scary and i just dont know what to do the older dog has just started to make sqeaky yelps which he hasnt done before and it upsets me to see him like this i just want them to get on together.

  7. I have an 11 year old German Shepard dog(male) his best friend died of old age (King Charles) in June , so I got him another friend a German Shepard bitch 13 weeks old, he’s so aggressive I’ve muzzled him as he’s so big and I don’t want him to hurt her I’m letting them meet every day but he’s just pinning her and not letting her move, he’s wagging his tail and she cry’s for him when I put him out it’s so frustrating I just want them to get along why can’t he give her a puppy pass!

  8. I have a 9 yr old collie x cocker and a 6 yr old cocker, the 6 yr old is aggressive to the new puppy,although will walk with her on lead and pass by her but every now and then snaps at her ,I am worried it will get out of hand. Is it time and patience needed. He is still getting lots of attention. Be glad of some advice.

  9. I have a 13 year old female Chichon and have had our little cockerpoo puppy for 7 weeks now. Our older dog wants nothing to do with him when he comes near she growls barks and can get quite aggressive at times. I don’t know what to do when I separate them my older dog gets stressed as she thinks she is missing out. I can’t win I don’t know what to do. Any advise please ?

  10. Hi, we have a 9 year old female mix breed and yesterday we picked up an 8 week old silver Labrador . My 9 year old keeps snarling and growling anytime the puppy gets near her. At first we were reprimanding the older dog but then I read your article and will try it your way. If you have any other suggestions, i would appreciate hearing from you. I will be talking to my vet in 2 days when the puppy has his first visit. Thanking you in advance for your help.

  11. I have a 6 year old male jack Russell and now have a 11 week old Labrador bitch. The puppy wants to play with the jack but he keeps on barking and growling at her. We have a gate between them and the jack has come into the room when she is asleep and sniffs her and sits there but as soon as she wakes he gets on the defensive. He did really well today until he went in the garden and started barking and growling. He was fine when we introduced him to our late German shepherd puppy a few years ago but don’t know why he is like this to our new pup. Any suggestions would be grateful.

  12. I have a 13 year old Maltese and I now have a 6 month old Boston. My Maltese belonged to my mom and always lunges and barks at other dogs outside, he doesn’t do well with socialization at all. He won’t play with the puppy and he snaps at him no matter what he does. I want to get training for puppy and for him because his lack of social skills caused a fight with a big dog, it was scary he got tossed around but no real damage, and not 5 minutes later he lunged at another dog. I have tried making him focus on me with treats, to no relief, if I stop to have a conversation with someone else with a dog, he barks the entire time, I recognize this as bad doggy behavior but I don’t know what else to do. Rehoming the puppy is not an option as I don’t think he is the problem and it wouldn’t solve the lunging. I just wonder if he will ever play with the puppy. Just not a happy household like I’d hoped. It’s been 2.5 months with puppy.

  13. I feel for you… I’m not an expert but it could be your older dog is still mourning the losses of his siblings and not ready for a puppy? Or the energy levels aren’t matched ? How is the health of the 10 yr old?

    I have an 8 yr old only female jack Russell and after a few successful introductions to an 8 week old female puppy of same breed I brought her home and did everything by the book… at times my old girl seemed fairly accepting but as time went on she seemed more and irritated with the puppy. And was acting stressed out. (We did find out she has chronic irritable bowel disease days before getting pup) then the puppy was getting jealous of any attention given to older dog and would cause a scene. My husband insisted we re home the puppy and it has literally been one of the hardest saddest times in my life!
    Good luck… maybe give it more time. My hubby drew the line at 1 month which I don’t think was long enough. I love my old girl but really miss my baby!

  14. Got puppy a month ago and getting no where bringing him together with my ten year old we have always had 4 dogs lost 2 very recently could this be the cause he is being very aggressive but also seems frightened of him

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