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Younger Dog Attacking Older Dog? Here’s What to Do

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By Nicole Cosgrove


There’s nothing as tough as trying to settle the disharmony between the canines in your household. After all, you love them both, but you also want to protect them. If you have dogs with a bit of an age gap, you might worry that your older dog being attacked can be pretty dangerous—and that’s true.

But the good news is, there are always solutions to the problem. With a bit of help and perseverance, you can get everyone on the same page. Let’s go over the root causes of aggression between younger and older dogs and explore the solutions.

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Signs of Dog Aggression

Dog aggression can display itself in several ways. Some dogs are more prone to go from zero to 100, attacking with minimal notice. Others have certain body language and triggers that you can spot to avoid the behavior.

You might notice:
  • Growling
  • Snarling
  • Standing hair
  • Bared teeth
  • Low grumbling
  • Stiff, lowered stance
  • Showing teeth

There is often a common denominator or theme in aggressive behavior. Once you spot the reason behind the attacks, you can work diligently as an owner to protect each one of your dogs and others in your household.

puppy biting adult dog
Image Credit: SabineGeringer, Pixabay

Puppy Keeps Attacking Older Dog (Reasons & What to Do)

1. Jealousy

It’s no secret that dogs compete for our attention. If you have a younger dog that’s noticing that your older dog is getting extra love, it could cause a bit of jealousy. If jealousy issues arise, it’s not uncommon for the younger dog to attack the older dog as a means of competing for affection.

This type of aggression won’t be too hard to spot. Every time your pups come running up to you for some pets, the older dog is likely to get a lashing.

One primary concern is not only the safety of your older dog but for yourself as well. Dog bites can be pretty brutal. Since dogs have long fur to protect their skin, a bite might not affect a dog the same way that it will a human.

If you’re caught up in the mayhem, you can get her as a consequence, so correcting this type of behavior is absolutely essential.

Brown puppy sad
Featured Image Credit: Skitterphoto, Pexels

Ways to Stop Jealous Aggression

There are ways that you can curb jealous aggression in dogs.

Here are a few tips you can try.
  • Don’t get your dogs wound up when you arrive home – It’s tough to stay calm and collected when your pets are so excited to see you. But when you come home, try to be highly even-keeled. You might even try ignoring them completely initially, so the younger dog doesn’t get out of control.
  • Utilize time-outs – Create a safe space for your younger dog to go when they do not act the way they should. If the younger dog is uncontrollable, use your words to tell them the behavior is not wanted and show them to their kennel or another secluded area. Once their energy calms down, you can get them back out of the space. If they are acting appropriately, reward them with a treat and give them praise. Repeat as often as needed.
  • Pet both dogs at the same time – You may unintentionally give your older dog attention first. Make sure that when you are interacting with your dogs, you use both hands to pet both at the same time equally.
  • Use a calming voice and slow gestures – When you want to give your dog some loving, make sure that you use an extremely calming tone and no frantic movements. If your dog thinks you’re excited or ready for play, it can cause an influx of energy, leading to aggression towards the older dog.
  • Give your jealous dog attention first – This might sound like an adverse reaction type of behavior modification, but if you give your jealous dog the attention first, their energy will be channeled towards you. That way, when you are petting your older dog, they are already receiving your affection and feel as though they already won the game.
  • Praise good behavior – If you’re in the process of training your younger dog to channel their energy correctly, always make sure to praise them for a job well done. Dogs are extremely food motivated, so give them their favorite treat or their favorite toy—anything to correlate the good behavior with reassurance.

2. Possessive Aggression

Maybe your younger dog doesn’t like to share. If your older dog walks past a favorite toy or a chew bone, you might notice an upheaval. It’s not an uncommon display of behavior, and it’s primarily manageable if you carry out the proper responses.

There are varying levels of aggression when it comes to objects. Your dog might huddle their body around the toy and make vocalizations towards the older dog. This act serves as a warning for them to back off and stay away. Or they might spontaneously attack anytime they fear that their personal belongings are threatened. That is when things can get a little dicey.

Not only is your older dog at risk of being attacked, but this behavior might also extend to small children and other household pets as well. It’s important to get a handle on it because your dog might very well perceive something as a danger when it is absolutely not.

Ways to Stop Possessive Aggression

Possessive aggression can show up and many dogs for various reasons. Most commonly, this is a behavior that stems from their interactions with litter mates when they are very small. It might also be a shelter dog syndrome where they were forced to fight for what they needed.

Rather than encouraging this behavior to continue, try to curb this tendency through training.

  • Keep prized toys put up unless your dog is alone – If you have a kennel or other space where your dog can be completely alone, offer their favorite toys in that space only. This way, they feel secure knowing that they are the only one with access. If your younger dog is out and about, make sure that there are no potential objects that could be triggers while your dogs are together in the home.
  • Teach commands – Teaching your younger dog commands such as “leave it” can benefit their overall behavior. If they learn to focus on what you’re saying, they will control their impulses better.
  • Try multi-step conditioning – Multi-step conditioning is a process where you give your dog a less desirable object than the one that they want. Once they are focused on that particular object, you then give them a more desirable object as a reward. If they show any poor behavior or aggression, remove the object and start back at square one. It can definitely take time and patience to develop, but once they learn to harness their impulses, they will be much better behaved and less likely to attack the older dog.

3. Dog Food Aggression

Food aggression is a widespread and somewhat manageable problem amongst dogs. If your younger dog doesn’t like the older dog interfering with their food bowl, it can cause them to lash out aggressively. Even though separating them might seem like a good idea, it doesn’t provide a solution.

One hazardous thing about food aggression is having other pets, children, or even adults in the household. Sometimes, dogs can perceive a threat when there is none. If they think any passerby is going to steal their food, it can evoke a reaction. You don’t want to leave the behavior left as it is because it can have much bigger consequences in the long run.

Image Credit: Phuttharak, Shutterstock

Ways to Stop Food Aggression

Food aggression stems from multiple factors. Many times, puppies and litters learn this behavior as an instinctual response to fight for food. If your puppy had to compete for their food above their littermates, it could create behavior in their brain where they feel like they have to continue this with your older dog.

Many times, rescues or previous strays also exhibit this behavior. If they were ever in a situation where food was scarce, it could make them extra possessive of their food since they think they might have it taken from them.

If food aggression is the problem, try these tips.

  • Teach your dog impulse control with treats – When you’re training your younger dog with treats, it’s best to have both dogs together at once. Make them focus on you directly and not each other. Give them each a treat at exactly the same time so that there is no battling between the two. Ensure that you only try this if you feel safe and know that you are in control of the situation.
  • Don’t separate your dogs at mealtime – You might think that completely separating the dogs at mealtime is a good alternative to aggressive food behavior. However, this only encourages the conduct by not nipping the problem in the bud. Safely work with both dogs by putting them at a distance while eating but not in different rooms. Monitor the situation attentively.
  • Interact with your younger dog while they eat – While the younger dog is eating, you can try calming mechanisms such as soothing voice, gentle petting, and even touching the food bowl. The more that they get acclimated to the fact that no one is out to steal their food, the more success you will have teaming food aggression.
  • Hand-feed both dogs when the situation is safe – Much like treat training, you can pour a small amount of dry kibble into both of your hands. Hold it out for each dog to eat from. Since both of your dogs trust you, it is a good way to get them both on the same page relying on you to monitor the situation.

4. Dog Epilepsy

Epilepsy, or seizures, is common in older dogs. If your older dog is experiencing a seizure, it could be an impulse for your younger dog to attack them to get them to stop. The younger dog doesn’t have any understanding of exactly what’s happening.

If they become panicked, it could lead to unwanted behavior, making everything worse in the long run. And having the older dog attacked during one of these episodes can be extremely dangerous.

Ways to Stop Seizure-Related Attacks

If you were older dogs suffers from epilepsy, there are definitely ways that you can protect them.

  • Separate your younger dog immediately – If you realize that your dog will have a seizure, immediately take the younger dog away. You can separate them into another room or keep them on a leash until the older dog is back to normal.
  • Remove potential triggers that could encourage a seizure – Sometimes, it’s easy to spot triggers that lead to seizures for your older dog, and even the younger dogs’ exuberant energy can cause a seizure. Make sure to get ahead of the game by spotting any activity ahead of time.
  • Maintain your younger dog’s energy level – Exercise your younger dog frequently to expend some of its vigors. The more you interact with the younger dog to channel them, the less likely they are to engage in extremely rough play with the older dog. Rough play can be a huge trigger when it comes to having an epilepsy episode.

5. Dog Pain

Maybe your senior doesn’t play the way that they used to. It’s going to be very hard for a puppy or younger dog to understand. Younger dogs typically have higher energy levels and less comprehension of boundaries.

If the older dog is in pain from conditions such as arthritis, they might be snappy with the younger dog to try to get them to quit. The younger dog might see this as an aggressive act and react negatively.

sad black dog
Image Credit: Pixabay

How to Stop Discomfort

The most important part of pain management is making sure that your older dog doesn’t have any type of discomfort and the younger dog understands boundaries.

Try out these tips to protect both of your animals.

  • Teach your younger dog manners – As with all other impulse control, your younger dog needs to learn how to behave and interact. Teach them to obey your commands when you tell them to stop. Once they learn how to obey, you can better control the situation.
  • Don’t allow your younger dog to jump on to your older dog – If your dog has obvious pain, don’t ever allow the younger dog to jump on top of them. This can cause severe pain reactions in their joints, bones, and organs. They need to keep roughhousing to a minimum.
  • If you see that your younger dog is invasive, separate them before problems arise – When your younger dog is in play mode and you know that the other is not in the mood, try to deflect by playing with them yourself. Get out a little bit of their energy to not rely on the older dog for stimulation.

6. General Decline

As with anything that ages, bodies begin to break down over time. Your older dog might not be feeling the way that they used to. Once their energy levels decrease, their patience with rough play can diminish very quickly.

Many dogs will give out warnings that they just don’t want to be messed with. Puppies or younger dogs can get on their nerves quite a bit. However, even if they show that they are interested, a boisterous young dog might not get the picture.

Ways to Help Channel Younger Dog’s Energy

Usually in this case, all that needs to happen is to create a way for your younger dog to get the attention that they need and leave your older dog alone.

  • Make sure that your younger dog gets plenty of physical activity – Younger dogs need all kinds of stimulation. Ensure that they have lots of time to run out their energy and play games that occupy their minds.
  • Offer lots of play toys for the younger dog to play with – You can’t always be around to play with your dog. After all, you have a schedule to keep as well. Ensure that they have a decent supply of different toys of various textures, functions, and shapes. This vast toy selection will make them less reliant on the older dog for play.
  • Take the younger dog on strenuous walks – During youth, taking your dog for frequent walks is absolutely essential for their well-being. Walks are a terrific way for your dog to see all sorts of sights and smell all kinds of sense so that they can feel rested and accomplished later.
  • Utilizes time-outs when necessary – If the younger dog is too rough and you know that an episode is about to break out, sometimes it’s best to place the other dog in an area where they are by themselves. They need to learn not to be so invasive or get aggressive when things don’t go their way.
  • Create a place of solitude for your older pooch – If you prefer leaving the younger dog out so let off some steam, you can always create a safe haven for your older pooch. Allow them time in their own secure corner, kennel, or in a closed-off room. they need much more time to recoup and relax.

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Relying on Professionals

As owners, sometimes we aren’t prepared for the challenges that might arise when you own multiple dogs. If you don’t feel like you can stop aggressive behavior, professionals are willing to help you at every turn.

Reach out to professional trainers so they can assess and train the behavior appropriately. They will be able to try lots of different tactics so that your younger dog learns how to interact healthily.

Golden retriever puppy getting a treat during puppy training on backyard
Image Credit: JulieK2, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

It can be challenging to have two dogs with extreme age gaps. Sometimes, they’re not going to be on the same page. It is a learning process for all of you, so don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t got a handle on the situation quite yet.

If the situation seems a bit too extreme, work with your vet or search locally to find a trained professional to help you.

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Featured Image Credit: ASSY, Pixabay

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