I recently brought home a new puppy. I was thrilled to have a new addition ot the family. My older dog, however, didn’t take it as well. They started biting my puppy’s neck.
I was naturally concerned, and began learning about why it occurs, and how to stop the behavior. It turns out this is often a perfectly normal behavior, but it can signal problems.
Why is my older dog biting my puppy’s neck?
Perhaps you just brought your puppy home, and the introduction went from playful to concerning. Perhaps you’ve had your puppy for a few weeks or even months, and the behavior is just beginning. If you want to stop the behavior, the first step is understanding why it is occurring.
It’s possible that your pooches are simply playing. Dogs will naturally bite each others necks when playing. However, this will look different than aggressive biting.
When playing, dogs may bite, growl, and chase each other. You’ll also notice that they seem happy. They may bow to each other, or take turns “winning”.
Their tails may be wagging, and their ears will be relaxed or straight up because they are excited. You may also see them jumping or bouncing around each other.
These are all signs that the dogs are simply playing. As long as both dogs are enjoying it, there’s no need to intervene.
Aggression Based Neck Biting
Now let’s take a look at aggressive neck biting. This behavior is concerning. Instead of both dogs enjoying themselves, this is essentially one dog bullying the other.
You may notice your puppy whining or yelping when being bitten. Your older dog may be biting roughly, or even shaking their head while biting your puppy’s neck.
The puppy will seem afraid or angry. Their tail will be down, and their ears may be back. The older dog may hold the puppy down, or mount it frequently.
Now that we know the difference between playing and aggressive neck biting, let’s take a look at the causes of the aggressive behavior.
One of the most common reasons a dog will will bite a puppy’s neck is jealousy. Your older dog may be used to being your only dog. When a new puppy is introduced, they must share your love and attention.
This can naturally lead to jealousy. This also occurs with children. When a new sibling is born, the older child can be jealous.
Lack of Puppy Etiquette
It’s important to note that it’s not always the older dogs fault. Puppies are still learning dog etiquette. Similar to a toddler who is just starting to learn manners, a puppy can offend an older dog with its lack of manners and boundaries.
If the puppy wants to play, and your older dog doesn’t, the puppy may bother the older dog, in an attempt to get them to play. When the dog gets tired of this, they will put the puppy in its place. This can include neck biting.
Some dogs have a difficult time controlling their excitement. What may start out as a friendly play session can get too rough when one dog gets overly excited.
Puppies lack impulse control, so they may play too roughly, causing the older dog to bite their neck. The older dog can also be the culprit, as they can have impulse control issues as well.
Some dogs have a high prey drive. The prey drive is what leads dogs to hunt. It’s also why they enjoy playing, and chasing other animals. Typically, parts of the prey drive will be stronger than others. Herding dogs, for example, have a strong chase drive, but a low attack or biting drive.
Puppies are smaller than their adult counterparts. They also have a higher pitched voice. These factors can trigger the dog’s prey drive, because they are similar to the dog’s natural prey.
Your dog may be biting your puppy’s neck due ot resource guarding. Your dog’s resources include their territory around the home, their toys, food and water bowls, and their sleeping area.
Some dogs naturally have a higher instinct for resource guarding than others, but its present in all dogs. In the wild, it ensures that they can keep their food and territory.
Domestic dogs have less need for it. However, if you have multiple dogs,it’s important that they each have their own resources.
Putting Puppy in Its Place
Dogs naturally have a hierarchal structure. You should be the alpha, or leader, in your household. However, your older dog will usually rank above your puppy in this hierarchy.
They may bite your puppy neck to assert their dominance, and remind your puppy of their place in the household. Other signs your dog is showing dominance include mounting and the puppy bowing down to them.
How to stop my older dog from biting my puppy’s neck?
How to stop your older dog from biting on your puppy’s neck depends on the cause. In some cases, you don’t need to do anything. However, if your puppy is in danger of being harmed, you’ll need to step in.
Determining When to Get Involved
Your first instinct is probably to jump to your pups rescue at the first sign of trouble. However, this isn’t always wise. In many cases, it’s better to allow the dogs to work things out for themselves.
If your older dog is setting boundaries, establishing their dominance, or legitimately guarding what belongs to them, you may do more harm than good if you get involved.
The exception is if your older dog is being very aggressive. If you are concerned the dog will actually harm the puppy, you should certainly step in, regardless of the reason.
The other time you should step in is if the older dog seems to be bullying the puppy. This can be due to jealousy or intense resource guarding. Both your dogs deserve to be safe and happy in your home.
If the behavior is aggressive, you’ll need to decide the level of aggression. If your older dog is a bit rough, this will be handled differently than a dog who is at risk of causing real harm.
Remedying Mild Aggression
To remedy mild aggression, work on fixing the underlying cause. If your dog is jealous, spend more time with them. If resource guarding is a problem, be sure each dog has their own items.
If the puppy is out of line, consider enrolling them in obedience school to help them control their behavior.
Separate the Dogs
If your pup is in actual danger from your older dog, you need to separate them. You may only separate them when you aren’t able to supervise or you may need to keep them separated all the time, depending on the level of aggression.
Get Professional Help
Separating your dogs is a temporary solution. It keeps them both safe while you work on correcting the behavior. If you need to separate them, you’ll need to seek professional help.
A vet is a great first step. They can rule out any medical issues that are causing the behavior. An animal behavioralist should be your next step. They can help you train your dog to not be aggressive with your puppy.