Some dogs will attack puppies out of territorial aggression. If another animal comes into their territory, they may view it as a threat. However, it’s important to know the difference between attacking and aggression. Adult dogs will “discipline” their puppies by becoming more aggressive. They are teaching the puppy what is and is not acceptable.
Older dogs have years of experience and training behind them. So why would they attack a young puppy that’s brand new to this world?
As stated above, the primary reason is territorial aggression, but that’s not the only reason. Below, we will go over the seven most common reasons an adult dog attacks a puppy.
What You'll Learn
- 1 Why Dogs Attack Puppies – The Top 7 Reasons
- 2 How to Prevent Your Dog From Attacking a Puppy
Why Dogs Attack Puppies – The Top 7 Reasons
Dogs are naturally territorial creatures. When another dog encroaches on their territory, they may act to defend it.
This causes your dog to become aggressive and snarl at another dog. Occasionally, the threatening actions may burst into outright violent behavior.
Your dog may see the puppy as a younger dog moving in on their turf, so they engage in activity to assert their dominance and ownership of the area.
The location where your dog and the puppy meet could have a lot to do with why your dog is behaving in such an aggressive manner.
If you are in your home, your dog wants to establish their authority over the puppy. If you are in a neutral location, such as a dog park, your dog may attempt to establish themselves atop the local hierarchy.
For your dog, a puppy is a young threat to their dominance, so they must be put in their place early.
If the puppy is a recent addition to the family, your dog may be setting the hierarchy in the household. They want to enforce their dominance over the new puppy so that their position is not challenged.
This also establishes your dog as a leader whose rules must be followed. The puppy has not yet learned the rules of the house, so your older dog may want to set them straight.
Social order is an important concept in a dog’s life. Dogs want to assert their dominance over other dogs, even if they are not at home.
You can see this in the way dogs play. They are constantly attempting to gain the upper hand. If an older dog feels their dominance is threatened, they will act out more aggressively to assert themselves.
Puppies are small and vulnerable, so your dog may sense their weakness as a reason to attack. Your dog may associate the puppy with smaller prey. This may take the form of a sudden attack, severe bite, and shaking of the puppy.
Breeds with a history of rodent control may see a smaller puppy as a rat or mouse that needs extermination. They may be simply acting on instinct to perform the role they were bred for.
Your dog may see the puppy as a threat to you or others under his protection. They may believe they are guarding you against a perceived threat that a strange puppy may pose.
Because the puppy is unfamiliar, your dog may see them as a potential hazard to you or others in your family. Though the puppy is small, your dog does not recognize them or their scent.
If there is a toy or food involved, your dog may be protecting their perceived ownership of the toy or food.
This often happens at a dog park where balls are thrown. A puppy may not have learned to leave another dog’s ball alone when it is thrown, and the older dog becomes aggressive when the puppy competes for the ball.
Bones and other chew toys become sources of contention. Any object that your dog deems theirs can become a reason to act aggressively when approached by a puppy.
Sometimes, your dog is just playing with the puppy and becomes overly aggressive. When dogs chase one another, they may grow tired or frustrated. When this happens, the play becomes a contentious argument, and your dog may attack the puppy who has more energy.
The puppy may not understand that the mood has shifted, so they think your dog is still playing with them. This leads to them pushing your dog further into an aggressive stance from which they attack.
Occasionally, dogs get aggressive toward their own puppies. If your dog has recently given birth, they may cull the litter of puppies they believe will not survive.
Sometimes, a mother from a rodent-exterminating breed may not recognize her puppies and attack them, believing them to be a mouse or rat.
It is not common, but sometimes motherly aggression can lead to an attack on young puppies. In these cases, it is important to separate the puppies from the mother until you can address the issue with your vet.
Keep in mind, the aggression could simply be the mother teaching the puppies proper behavior. Puppies need to learn what is and is not “polite” in the dog world. When a puppy does something that’s considered impolite, the mother lets the puppy know by becoming aggressive.
How to Prevent Your Dog From Attacking a Puppy
The good news is there are a few ways to prevent your dog from attacking a puppy. This is especially important when introducing a new puppy to your home.
Separate the bed, food, crate, water, and toys for both dogs. If you remove sources for possessive aggression from the equation, your dog will be less likely to attack a puppy.
If the meeting occurs in a neutral place, ensure that toys are removed from the meeting area until the dogs become more accustomed to one another.
Show Attention To The Adult Dog
When your dog is in the same room or area as the puppy, ignore the puppy at first. You do not want your dog to grow jealous of the attention you show the puppy.
Your dog is possessive of you as well as their toys. Greet your dog first and show them attention before you show love to the puppy. This will show your dog you still very much care for them.
Supervise interactions between your dog and the puppy. Dogs tend to be better behaved when you are around to correct them.
Even when your dog teaches a new puppy the rules and boundaries of the home, they may make up a set of rules for the puppy or enforce the rules too aggressively.
Pay attention. Do not let your dog get too rough with the puppy. Eventually, your dog will bond with the puppy and accept them as part of the pack, but this will take a little time.
It is not unusual for an older dog to become aggressive with a younger puppy. But, as long as you supervise and take precautions, your dog’s interactions with puppies can turn into a positive experience.
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