How to Handle an Older Dog Stressed by a New Puppy

Older dog stressed by new puppy

Patent, shiny, pink flowers. That’s the rather crazy pattern on my favorite pair of shoes. I had NO idea if I would wear them when I bought them – they are a little on the wild side for me.

But even though I wasn’t sure, I kept coming back to them as something I really, really wanted and eventually I broke down and bought them. After some trial and error, I figured out how to integrate these rather crazy shoes into my wardrobe and now they play nicely with many of my outfits and I get compliments whenever I wear them.

Sometimes if you bring something completely new into your life (like a puppy) there can be an adjustment period. If you have an older dog that is stressed by a new puppy this adjustment period can be tough. It’s important to understand what is going on as well as when you should intervene and when you shouldn’t.

Why is My Older Dog Correcting the Puppy?

Beagle Puppy portrait on white and light blue background.

Have you recently adopted a new puppy and found your older dog growling at it? This reaction is mostly triggered by the wild behavior of the puppy. Just like kids, puppies don’t know how to socialize and this can annoy the older dogs. In these circumstances, the purpose of snarling is to teach the young dog some manners. 

It doesn’t matter how much time you spend to teach your puppies, the lessons they get from older dogs are critical for their grooming. Basically, puppies mimic the behavior of other dogs and try to gather useful information by observing their actions. That’s the reason why the training time of a new puppy reduces significantly if an older dog is already present.

Although it does look a little unkind at times, this correcting behavior is essential for the social development of the puppy. You just don’t want any biting going on.

What Happens When a Puppy Jumps at an Older Dog?

Adult dog and puppy in grassy field laying down with puppy licking face of older dog.

Puppies like to play wild due to their immature age. Jumping at an older dog is one of their favorite moves which is extremely annoying for the senior companion. He usually responds by jumping up, barking, and growling.

In some cases, you may notice that the older dog uses his/her paw to push the puppy away. There is nothing to worry about as the dog is just telling the puppy that this is not acceptable.    

What Happens When a Puppy Enters the Space of an Older Dog?

Older Golden  Retriever laying with puppy on porch. Older dog is looking over at the puppy.

Puppies are energetic and want to explore each and every corner of the new home. This doesn’t go well with the older dog as he doesn’t want another dog in his space.

Upon finding a puppy in his place, the older dog may growl or even snap as a sign of warning. The older dog wants to make it clear that this is a no-go area. As a dog parent, you need to realize that dogs don’t communicate like us and this is completely normal. 

Ultimately, The Older Dog is a Teacher of the New Puppy

Golden retriever puppy and adult retriever standing next to a lake with puppy looking up at older dog.

Not only does an older dog teaches a puppy some manners, but the resident pet also helps the new entrant to learn some unknown tasks. 

For example, some puppies are afraid of using stairs as they haven’t experienced them in their life. Having said that, they learn the art of going up and down the stairs by watching their senior partner. The puppy will observe the older dog very carefully to learn new things like using stairs.

Similarly, the task of housetraining becomes extremely easy with an older dog. This is because the puppy follows the older dog everywhere. Other than that, an older dog can also come helpful in teaching your puppy the ways to play. For instance, tug-of-war is a popular game among dogs and puppies can learn this game by simply watching.

How to Tell When Your Older Dog Scared of the Puppy

Profile view of black senior dog with gray face on black background.

It is difficult for an older dog to accept a new puppy in the family. As a reaction to that, dogs either become aggressive or fearful. The type of reaction (the puppy will get) is dependent on the gender, breed, and personality of the resident dog. Some common reasons that make the older dog fearful are listed below. 

  • The dog feels that the puppy is getting a lot of attention from the owner(s).
  • The presence (breed and size) of the puppy may seem threatening to the older dog.
  • Resident dog treats the puppy as an intruder and this scares him.

Dogs are pretty expressive of their feelings. That’s the reason why they always show their parents some signs to indicate how they feel. If an older dog is scared of your new puppy, you will notice the following changes in their body language.  

  • You will find the older dog irritated most of the times. 
  • The dog shows no interest in the new puppy and backs away from him.
  • The older dog may develop insomnia.
  • You may notice a loss of appetite and weight in the older dog. 
  • The older dog will bark a lot more than usual.

How to Deal with an Older Dog that is Afraid?

Adult and Puppy German Shepherds laying in grassy field

Dogs are sociable animals who can end up liking each other despite their early troubles. All you need to do is to train them patiently and steadily and they will become good friends.

You need to create an atmosphere where the older dog doesn’t find your new puppy as a threat. This will help him/her to overcome all the fears. In extreme cases, you can always get assistance from a specialist who has a better understanding of dog psychology. 

This will work as long as you aren’t dealing with older dog dementia. Sometimes older dogs will pace and show extra anxiety as they hit dog dementia – which can result in fear. If this is the case, then your best bet is to keep the puppy and the older dog separated unless there is supervision.

Help! My Puppy is Learning Bad Habits from my Older Dog

Hound puppy with paw over nose with a look of shame.

As discussed earlier, a lot of habits of a dog come from other dogs. Puppies do look for guidance from older companions and try to replicate their teachings. The scientific name of this phenomenon is ‘Allelomimetic Behaviors’. Although it has some benefits, it is also responsible for a variety of bad habits that may develop in your puppy. 

A common example to support this theory will be the barking of a dog. You may have observed that as soon as a dog starts to bark, all the surrounding dogs join him. This is also true for other bad habits like lunging on leash, chewing on carpet, and stealing food. 

The most obvious method for saving your new puppy from learning bad habits is to distract them. For this purpose, you should use positive reinforcement so that the puppy doesn’t adopt unethical behaviors. For instance, if your older dog lunges on the leash during walks, take both the dogs out separately. In this way, your puppy will stay safe from the bad habit of the older dog.  

The Bottom Line on Older Dogs Being Stressed by a New Puppy

Dogs are emotional and intelligent creatures who want to get all the attention for themselves. The adoption of a new puppy does have some negative effects on your older dog but you can make everything right by handling the situation appropriately. Keep your calm and train them with tolerance and soon you will have a couple of great friends at your place. 

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Hi! My name is Heather Hallman. I’m the mother of two beautiful girls and a MAJOR passionate pet parent. I can hardly wait to bring you the BEST resources and information that I've found for our fur-babies.