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Why is my puppy bullying my older dog?

When you brought your puppy home, you may have worried about how your oder dog would react. You may be surprised to find that your puppy is actually bullying your older dog. 

There are several reasons for this behavior. The good news is, your puppy is probably not trying to be malicious. 

Why is my puppy bullying my older dog?

It can be difficult to see your puppy bullying your older dog. After all, they are both members of your family, and you want them to get along. Once you know why it occurs, you’ll have a better idea of what to do to stop it. 

Is It Bullying? 

First, it’s important to distinguish bullying from play. Dogs can play rough at times. There are a few ways you can tell the difference between dogs who are playing, and one dog bullying another. 

Dogs who are playing may bite, chase, and even growl at each other. However, their tails will be wagging, and neither dog should cause any actual harm. 

On the other hand, bullying is an aggressive behavior. You’ll see the puppy biting hard, and perhaps even shaking their head. They may growl deeply. 

Your older dog may whimper or try to get away from the puppy. They may eventually defend themselves, biting back or holding the puppy down. 

Lack of Social Skills

One reason your puppy may bite your older dog is simply because they don’t know better. As dogs interact with each other and play, they learn what behavior is acceptable. 

This starts with mom and siblings, but continues as the puppy grows. During this learning stage, the puppy may get too rough, because they haven’t learned proper boundaries. 

As dogs grow, they learn bite inhibition. This is why your dog will play bite you, without biting hard enough to hurt you. They’ve learned to bite gently when playing. 

Another aspect of a lack of social skills is being insistent on playing. The puppy may simply want to play, and pester the older dog when they don’t want to play. 

This can look like bullying, even though the puppy isn’t being intentionally aggressive. 

Trying to Find His Place in the Pack

Dogs naturally have a pack hierarchy. Each dog will have their own place within the pack, with one dog being the leader. You should be the alpha, or leader of your pack. 

However, the dogs will still have to find their place in the pack. The puppy will attempt to assert dominance over the older dog. This will continue until the puppy knows where they stand. 

Resource Guarding 

Resource guarding is also a natural dog behavior. In the wild, a dog must protect their food and territory. This instinct is still present in domestic dogs. 

Your puppy may bite your older dog because they are defending their resources. This can include food, bowls, toys, and treats. It can also include areas of your home that your puppy has claimed. 


Your puppy may be jealous of your older dog. This is a common issue, because both dogs want your attention. Your older dog may have more patience than the puppy. They may seem to understand that both of them need attention, while the puppy wants you all to themselves. 

How to stop my puppy bullying my older dog?

There are some steps you can take to get your puppy to stop bullying your older dog. It does require patience and consistency. 

Give Them Separate Areas 

Both dogs should have their own area. When your older dog is in their area, be sure that the puppy doesn’t bother them. This gives your older dog an escape route when the puppy is bullying them. It also reduces jealousy and resource guarding, because they each have their own space. 

Don’t Scold Your Older Dog 

If your older dog reacts to the bullying by putting the puppy in its place, you need to let it happen. As long as the older dog isn’t actually harming the puppy, allow them to set their boundaries. 

This can make the process of getting your puppy to stop bullying your older dog much easier. 

Redirection Training 

Redirection training is absolutely invaluable for many reasons. When you need to get your dogs to stop doing something, redirecting their attention is an excellent way to handle it. 

To use redirection training, start by working with each dog separately. Choose a gesture or a sound. Then you’ll connect them to something they like, usually a treat. 

For example, you may snap your fingers, and then give your dog a treat. Over time, they learn to expect the treat when they hear the fingers snapping. This causes them to stop what they are doing, and pay attention to you. 

Once you have your pooches trained to do this, you can use it when things begin getting out of hand. At the first sign your puppy is bullying your older dog, use the sound to redirect them before things get rough. 

Socialize Your Puppy 

You may find it helpful to get your puppy into a puppy group. This will allow them to interact with other puppies. One of the benefits of this is that it helps tire your puppy out, and helps meet their need for play. 

The other advantage is the puppies can teach each other through play. They may learn better boundaries and social skills by interacting with other puppies. 

Supervise Interactions 

If your puppy is being very aggressive, you’ll need to supervise their interactions. Keep them separated when you can’t be there to watch them. At the first sign of bullying, separate them. 

Tire Your Puppy Out 

Another way to help your dogs get along is to play with your puppy before getting them together. This can help your puppy be relaxed when interacting with your older dog. 

This is particularly important if your puppy is very high energy. If your older dog has a relaxed or calm demeanor, tiring your puppy out is essential. 

You may discover they like each other when the puppy isn’t constantly trying to get your older dog to play. 

Get a Checkup 

Anytime you are experiencing behavioral issues with your dog, it’s a good idea to get a check-up from the vet. They can rule out any physical issues that can cause behavioral problems. 

Get Professional Help 

Once your pup is cleared of any physical issues, consider speaking to an animal behavioralist. Interactions between dogs can be complicated, and solving them isn’t always easy. 

An animal behavioralist  will help you get to the root of the behavior as well as solve it. They are experienced in dealing with problem behaviors.