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My Puppy Is Bullying Older Dog & Biting The Neck: Do This!

Bringing home a new pup is an exciting time.

If you have an older dog, they’ll be more active again and the pup will learn from them.

That thinking quickly goes out the window if household harmony is under threat.

Sometimes the older dog doesn’t accept a pup, but other times the puppy seems to be bothering the poor old soul.

Indeed, puppies seemingly have boundless joy riling adult dogs up.

Jumping, biting at the face or neck, and constantly approaching the older dog like a magnet.

Soon, the other party might not be in such a jolly mood anymore and that can be the tipping point.

My #1 tip is to address the root cause.

You need to intervene, but not always by reprimanding the pup.

A puppy bullying the older dog might just be a symptom of a lack of exercise in which case it shouldn’t be corrected.

The case might also be complex with the pup mirroring behavior or the older dog not being able to communicate.

Let’s dive in and figure out why exactly your pup aggravates the chief in the house.

My Puppy Is Bullying My Older Dog: 9 Causes & Solutions

Reasons why your puppy is bullying your older dog include a lack of exercise or socialization, rough play, resource guarding, aggression, or medical issues.

Puppy aggression as a reason why your pup is attacking your older dog might sound harsh but rest assured that it’s rarely the cause.

German Shepherd puppy is licking an adult dog's face.
Photo by Myshun on Shutterstock

You might want to triple-check aggression or resource-guarding issues if the pup was a rescue.

A puppy from a reputable breeder rarely displays these issues right from the get-go.

The number one reason for puppies bullying older dogs is a lack of exercise and socialization.

There are simple ways to tell which reason it could be and I’ll explain each issue so you’ll finally reap the benefits of caring for your beloved canines.

That includes protecting your older dog while training your pup how to behave.

Time to restore household harmony!

1. Medical Issues

Medical issues could be the reason why your puppy seems to bully your older dog.

Puppies can suffer from joint issues or even just the side effects of growing.

Joint issues are often expressed by limping in young dogs.

Also, your little furry friend will go through a puppy-biting phase.

Have your pup examined by a vet if you’re unsure and monitor your pup’s growth or any signs of illness.

2. Aggression

Your puppy may be bullying the older dog due to puppy aggression.

While that’s rarely the cause, aggression should always be kept in mind.

If you’ve gotten your pup from a shelter, inquire about their past.

Owners who got their pup from a proper breeder will have to worry less about aggression.

I’ve seen it happen, though the chances increase tenfold with poor breeders or puppy mills.

A Husky puppy is sneaking up on an older Husky to interact with their face.
Photo by Andrii Spy_k on Shutterstock

These puppies show signs of aggression but the underlying fear issues often develop due to a lack of socialization or issues within the litter (i.e. resource guarding or rough play).

3. Resource Guarding

Resource guarding where puppies protect toys or food from an older dog and bully them to the point where they have trouble accessing these resources is not common but can definitely happen.

Furry companions who had to fight with littermates for resources due to a lack of a proper structure and access to food might develop this issue.

Similarly, your pup may just mirror your older dog’s behavior.

Resource guarding or food aggression should be avoided right away and is a bit more difficult to get rid of once it happened.

  • Hand-feed your pup
  • Dedicate playtime with each dog
  • Remove 24/7 access to toys
  • Incorporate obedience training

All these steps can help with resource issues.

However, your older dog might just appear to be bullied because they can’t properly communicate anymore.

This ties in closely with medical issues, I’ll go into details below.

4. Rough Play

Some puppies just play rough and that extends to older dogs who might not appreciate the bursts of energy and feel bullied, especially if the puppy is biting the neck.

It’s quite common for puppies to go for the face, neck, or legs (more on that below) and older dogs can just disdain that behavior.

Provide your puppy with an outlet for their excess energy and socialize them properly so they learn how to play with their peers.

Sometimes, older dogs use measured corrections and that’s an important aspect of development for puppies too.

Interacting with other puppies is still crucial and rough play can be corrected verbally. However, it’s usually best to let the other dog provide feedback.

5. Socialization

If your pup is poorly socialized, he may interact with your older dog in an unhealthy way and that may include constant nagging and biting the face.

Make sure to check out my socialization guide.

6. Exercise

A common cause of puppies bullying older dogs is a lack of exercise. Naturally, puppies have exercise needs and if not met, they annoy the other dog in the house.

Review your exercise schedule.

  • What do you do for exercise?
  • Do you play together?
  • Desensitizing your pup to new sounds and sights?
  • Are you providing mental stimulation?

Do not correct (and never “punish”) your pup when he seems to be bullying your older dog if, in reality, your pup just lacks mental and physical stimulation.

7. Protect Your Older Dog

Besides providing your dog with an outlet for their energy and training them to behave well, make your older dog feel comfortable.

Provide them a safe space, interact with them 1-on-1 to avoid jealousy, and go on bonding trips with your pup and older dog.

If you don’t teach both dogs how to behave, you may end up in another difficult situation.

That’s when you might find your older dog attacking your pup.

8. Aging Dog Lacks Communication Skills

If your pup is relentlessly stressing your older dog, it might not be bullying behavior at all, but instead a lack of feedback from your older dog, even if they’re well-socialized.

This one’s a bit different than a lack of socialization from the get-go because your senior loses a previously mastered power.

Giving feedback.

If your dog older dog becomes slower and slower and sometimes doesn’t react at all, there’s no feedback loop your pup can use to learn.

Let your vet examine your senior and if that’s the reason, you’ll probably have to monitor their interactions more often and provide a calm space for your senior.

9. Puppy Challenges Older Dog

Even if your dogs have been living together harmoniously, the puppy may start bullying the older dog in a bid to challenge the status quo.

While the alpha theory finds no practical application in most modern training sessions, there’s quite a lot of debate on whether the dominance hierarchy is an accurate interpretation of the dog’s intentions.

Do puppies challenge older dogs?

Yes, it can happen that your pup challenges an older dog.

The agile and growing pup bursts with life whereas the aging dog withdraws or suffers from medical issues.

Behavioral issues and fights are bound to happen.

Not all puppies challenge and not all seniors refuse to relinquish power.

In some households, this dynamic doesn’t seem to exist.

But in others, the previously submissive puppy is set on overtaking resources they deem valuable enough to fight for.

The senior might also have been relentlessly attacking the pup when they were young, despite submissive body language and actions by the pup.

Consult a behaviorist to get the full picture of your household and rule out resource guarding, aggression, or medical issues as a cause of your pup bullying the older dog.

Puppy Biting Older Dog’s Neck

If your puppy is biting your older dog’s neck, that’s usually just playfighting but if the puppy is too rough, they might need more socialization as well as exercise to get rid of excess energy.

Two puppies lying on grass, mouthing each other and trying to bite the neck.
Photo by Christian Mueller on Shutterstock

What you should do about a puppy biting your older dog’s neck depends on how they react.

Your older dog doesn’t seem to mind?

Mutual play gets a green light.

However, make sure your older dog is not just accepting your puppy biting their neck because they can’t communicate properly that they’ve had enough.

A major sign that your older dog is okay with the pup biting their neck is a relaxed, calm posture.

Love bites are a thing with humans too, but there’s a point where it’s just too much.

If the chief of the house doesn’t appreciate the neck biting at all, you need to do something about it.

Signs that your dog is uncomfortable include showing teeth or gums, snarling, a stiff body posture or tail, flat ears, or hackles.

Provide them a safe space where they’re shielded from the pup.

Don’t do that all the time though.

In addition, you might look into more playtime for your pup and teach them to settle down.

However, if the biting is too rough, it’s often best to intervene.

When the biting causes puncture wounds, it’s definitely too much and doesn’t matter whether or not the older dog is bothered by it.

Teaching your pup bite inhibition isn’t the only thing you can do to stop the neck bites.

If the neck biting is excessive, you also need to provide your older dog with a safe space and get rid of your pup’s excess energy.

Puppy Biting Older Dog’s Face

If your puppy is biting your older dog’s face, monitor whether it’s playful and mutual or if the older dog corrects the puppy. Intervene if necessary to avoid injuries.

In case the playful biting is reciprocated or enjoyed by your older dog, it’s okay.

However, most older dogs hate having puppies in their face 24/7.

If that’s the case, you need to protect your older dog, train your pup, as well as socialize and exercise them properly.

Pretty much the same steps as when your pup is biting their neck, minus the dominance myth.

How Do I Stop My Puppy From Bothering My Older Dog?

You can stop your puppy from bothering your older dog by teaching your pup how to behave correctly while providing them with mental and physical stimulation.

You can’t expect your pup to stop bothering your other dog out of nowhere.

As explained above, there’s a reason why your pup is bothering the other dog in your house.

Either his exercise or attention needs aren’t met, or your pup hasn’t yet learned when your other dog doesn’t want to play.

Figure out why your pup is in your dog’s face all day with the tips outlined above and you’ll soon reap the benefits of owning a puppy and older dog.

Can a Puppy Be Dominant Over an Older Dog?

Yes, a puppy can challenge an older dog but it rarely happens and depends on your response as well as the older dog’s signaling and medical status.

Dominance is an outdated term to describe the relationship between two dogs.

However, it can happen that puppies have a problem with resources and are trying to redistribute them in their favor (food, toys, space, attention).

This issue can be also paired with other issues though.

A poorly socialized dog or rough player is more likely to display “dominant” behavior when interacting with an older dog, especially if they’re more on the gentle side.

Puppy Aggressive With Older Dog

If your puppy is aggressive with your older dog and that extends beyond simple attention-seeking and instead results in serious attacks, you need to consult a professional behaviorist.

Whenever your pup seems to be bullying the other dog in your house, ask yourself a couple of questions.

Is your puppy doing, experiencing, or lacking any of the following?

  • Medical issues
  • Signs of aggression
  • Resource guarding
  • Rough play
  • Lacking socialization
  • Exercise needs not met
  • Constantly nagging the older dog who has nowhere to go
  • Lack of feedback
  • Signs of overthrowing relationship

If you can answer yes to any of that, dive deeper to find out why exactly your pup is annoying your aging canine companion.

Some issues are easy to fix, while others require a bit more refined approach and consistent training.

Medical issues should always be checked out by a vet, be it on the pup’s side or the older dog’s side.

Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

Equipped with 5+ years of expertise as a Rottweiler owner, I partner with licensed veterinarians and trainers to share research-backed and actionable advice for you and your furry friend.

Jill and Vince

Friday 5th of January 2024

Found your article excellent. Commonsensical with valid explanations and several practical courses of action. THANK YOU!! We have a 4 year old GS and the past two weeks introduced a GS puppy. Given our 4 year old male was very submissive/anxious, we opted for a female. From day one she's jumping in in face, biting his tail, legs, and genitals. He may 'growl', but just trys to 'run away and hide' or seek out my husband for 'protection'. We are at the stage of throwing our hands up as can't have our 4 year old a nervous wreck, but just don't believe in giving up or saying 'it didn't work and here's the puppy back' ... we are committed and heartfelt people! I will start with the exercise routine, stimulating toys, and socialization for the puppy. Also, I will try and segment the living area so that the 4 year old has a few 'safe places' to retreat (but not confined to a bedroom or some isolated space). Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so very much!! Jill