Skip to Content

Why Is My Puppy Trying to Dominate My Older Dog?

Have you ever looked at your puppy and wondered why they keep bothering your older dog and trying to dominate them? Even though the older dog snaps or growls at them?

Your older dog gives your pup a ‘puppy pass’ or ‘puppy license,’ where they are allowed a few weeks to flex their puppy muscles and find out where they fit in with the other dogs. But, eventually, that ‘puppy pass’ runs out, and you, as the owner, will need to step in before your older dog hurts your puppy to assert their dominance as the alpha.

Let’s take a look at why your puppy is trying to dominate your older dog and when enough is enough.

Why Is My Puppy Trying to Dominate My Older Dog?

When a new puppy is introduced to an older dog, their first reaction is one of excitement or fear. Puppies don’t understand their place in this new family, and they try to see how far they can push their boundaries by trying to dominate the older dog. The puppy will test the older dogs’ limits by taking their food and toys or marking their territory.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons why your puppy is trying to dominate your older dog:

A Misunderstanding

If your puppy is playing with a chew toy, for example, and the older dog snatches it away, the puppy will growl or bark at the older dog (and usually doesn’t mean any harm).

Puppies love to play, but sometimes, the game gets out of control. There is a misunderstanding on your puppy’s side and they may feel threatened. Your puppy will try to dominate the older dog as they think the older dog is trying to take their toy or eat their food.

Hormonal or Mood Imbalances

Fluctuating hormone levels will cause your pup to challenge and dominate an older dog. Male pups have higher testosterone levels than older dogs, making them more aggressive. 

A female puppy can also display aggressiveness or dominance toward a more senior dog due to a hormone imbalance.

Rage Syndrome

Rage syndrome, otherwise known as idiopathic aggression or dominance aggression, is a rare condition found in puppies and dogs under 3 years old. Unfortunately, the cause for this condition is unknown and creates stress for your older dog and your family.

A pup that suffers from rage syndrome will often:

  • Lunge toward the older dog
  • Snarl and growl at the older dog
  • Display behavioral changes
  • Dominate the older dog
  • Steal or guard toys or food from the older dog
  • Get a glazed look before they have an outburst

Puppy Personalities

Every puppy is unique and has their own personality. Some pups are shy and submissive, while other doggos are social and dominant. 

Your pup may dominate your older dog because it has an alpha personality, and can be quite bossy and display aggressive tendencies (such as baring their teeth or snarling).

Lack of Training

Puppies that haven’t been appropriately trained or sent to a puppy training school are more likely to dominate an older dog. 

The untrained pup is unaware of the hierarchy, and they don’t understand that there are boundaries and rules, so they easily become aggressive and boisterous around the older dog.

Can a Puppy Be More Dominant Over an Older Dog?

A puppy can be more dominant over an older dog. Puppies have more energy and are more agile and confident than older dogs. As the puppy matures, so will their dominance over the older dog unless the older dog (or owner) puts the puppy in its place.

Depending on the age of the older doggo, they may snap at the pup to warn them off when the pup attempts to dominate them. Older and more frail dogs may become submissive and withdrawn as they don’t have the strength to retaliate against the pups’ dominant behavior.

Here are a few ways a puppy will show dominance over an older dog. The puppy will:

  • Mount the older dog (male or female)
  • Constantly lick the older dog
  • Push its way to the owner and get in the way of any petting or affection shown toward the older dog
  • Guard toys and food from the older dog by growling, nipping, or biting the older dog

How to Stop My Puppy From Trying to Dominate My Older Dog?

Your older dog will only take so much disrespect before they lash out and hurt the pup. Luckily, there are a few ways to stop your puppy from trying to dominate your older dog, such as sending them to a puppy school where they can learn to be obedient.  

As a pet owner, it’s important that you learn a few techniques to stop your puppy from dominating your older dog. The last thing you want is for your older dog to end up hurting your puppy out of frustration.

In more detail, here are a few ways you can stop your puppy from trying to dominate your older dog:

Veterinary Examination

Take your pup to the vet to ensure there are no underlying health conditions such as rage syndrome, which could be causing the dominant behavior. Your vet will provide your pup with treatment to improve their behavior toward your older dog.

Puppy School

Enroll your pup in a puppy school. This is an excellent way for them to learn obedience skills. As a pet owner, you will be provided with the necessary guidelines and training to implement these techniques at home. 

Puppy school will help correct the dominant behavior and create a bond between the owner, the older dog, and the pup.

Neuter Your Puppy

One of the best ways to stop your puppy from dominating an older dog is to have them neutered. This will remove the source of testosterone, which will decrease their sex drive and the need to mark their territory. Ultimately, this will prevent unnecessary aggression between males.

Take Control

As a pet owner, you will need to spend a lot of time with your pup to correct the dominant behavior. A few techniques you can use are:

  • Remove toys from your dog’s play area so your pup has nothing to guard or fight over
  • Reward good behavior with a treat
  • Speak gently to your pup, especially if you notice they are getting worked up
  • Always approach the older dog first, whether petting them, giving them a treat, or feeding them. This will show the pup who is the alpha in the family
  • Set rules and boundaries for your pup
  • Make sure your pup gets enough exercise as puppies have lots of energy
  • Remain calm when your pup is trying to dominate your older dog, as your anxiousness will confuse your puppy, and they may start trying to protect you, which can cause a fight between the dogs