Your dog may act all lovey-dovey with your neighbors and he doesn’t seem to mind the company of other dogs, but have him meet a puppy and he’ll either growl, walk away or seek help from you in hopes you send that little monster away, but why does your dog hate puppies so much? It’s almost as if he’s dealing with some sort of creature from another planet. Rest assured, you are not alone. There are many adult dogs who seem to hate puppies and have a harder time tolerating them compared to other dogs. The reasons behind this may be several and may vary between one dog and another.
A Lack of Continued Education
When dogs are puppies, they are often socialized to other people and other dogs and hopefully get to meet other puppies safely in a well-conducted puppy class.
There is a great emphasis put on socializing puppies during the brief window of opportunity which is estimated to close around the age of 12 to 16 weeks. More and more puppy owners are becoming aware of the importance of socializing puppies, and this is great, but not much emphasis is put on the fact that there is such a thing as “undoing” socialization.
The puppy is basically socialized during the critical period, but then everything abruptly stops. The puppy grows and then has no clue on how to act when he’s exposed to puppies or other dogs.
Dogs, just like dog trainers and other professionals, benefit from continued education, so they can continue to expand their knowledge and stay up-do-take with the all the subtleties of the world that surrounds them. For more on this, read about the neuroplasticity of a dog’s brain.
This doesn’t mean that your adult dog should be forced to meet puppies if he doesn’t like them, but he should at least learn through remedial “socialization” (under the guidance of a trainer) to not react aggressively or fear them which can lead to cumulative stress, especially if he encounters them often such as on walks or at daycare.
A Word About Puppy Licenses
We often assume that adult dogs grant puppies a “license to misbehave” meaning that they will be pretty much tolerant and forgiving of those bouts of puppy misbehavior. Veterinarian and animal behaviorist, Ian Dunbar, explains that granting a puppy license is often a matter of detecting hormones in urine, which is not surprising considering that dogs live in a world of smells.
While adult dogs may recognize that a puppy is a puppy by its shape, size, behavior and sounds emitted (like whining and squealing), it’s most of all the pup’s smell that advertises the youngster’s age.
When the pups rolls over his back and pees, he’s simply advertising his age to the adult dog, letting him know that he’s just a pup and it wasn’t his intent to act a bit boisterous. Many times, the adult dog will keep this factor in mind and acts lenient.
However, things can change quite a bit once the puppy grows older and the license is abruptly revoked. Why is that? In most adult mammals a high level of testosterone is the norm, but when it comes to dogs, things are quite different. Testosterone levels start rising when the pup is just about four to five months old, with a peak level (like 5 to 7 times higher than adult dogs) reached when the pup turns about 10 months. These levels then drop to average adult levels by 18 months of age, further explains Ian Dunbar.
This may be one reason why an adult dog may seem to have a hard time tolerating the behavior of a 10-month old youngster.
“By ten months of age, adolescent male urine smells sooper-dooper, ultra-mega-hyper-male, informing all adult dogs: “Why look here. This young urinater must be a developing male adolescent — a potential thorn in the side of social harmony. Let’s educate the young fellow right now, while we still can. And sure enough, most adult dogs (especially males) start to harass developing male pups to put them in their place before they become a significant challenge on the social scene.” ~Ian Dunbar
A Glimpse into Policing the Puppy
In many cases, behind what looks like an adult dog that hates puppies, is simply a dog who is trying to set some boundaries for a “socially illiterate” puppy.
Puppies don’t come into this world knowing perfect social etiquette. They are quite impulsive, come on too strong and don’t know how to greet other dogs properly.
Adult dogs may therefore decide to take the task of “teaching the pups” some rules. Since dogs cannot hold a conversation as we may do when we are telling a child to say “please and thank you” they do this best by growling and teaching the puppy to “behave.”
If you watch the adult dog and puppy interactions, indeed, you may notice how the adult dog reacts mostly when the puppy paws at his face or engages in some other obnoxious behaviors.
However, sometimes things can get out of hand, and some adult dogs may be excessively harsh in “policing the puppy.”
” Some dogs do a great job of “policing” puppies and others do not. Some dogs will take anything the puppy dishes out to the point that the older dog gets persecuted. Some adult dogs will reprimand puppies excessively to the point of persecuting the puppy.” ~Dr. Lore Haug, veterinary behaviorist.
Holy Moses, Too Much Energy!
Puppies are often bundles of perpetual energy, bouncing around, then maybe plopping themselves on the floor for a couple of minutes to re-charge, and then they’re quickly back to their antics.
Just like people, for an adult dog, it may be difficult at times to cope with this excess energy, especially if he’ is older or has some medical problem. He may play with the pup for a little while and then he may walk away or directly roar in his face to tell the pup he has had enough.
Some puppies get the message, they may squeal or roll over their backs sometimes peeing submissively, and some others may not, so they go back to pestering the adult dog who reaches his breaking point, and finally decides to hold the puppy down with his big paws telling him in doggy language “What part of my message didn’t you get? Chill out and leave me alone!”
“Generally, well-adjusted dogs will tolerate a puppy’s attempts to play with great patience and will join in the play when the puppy is playing “by the rules.”Sometimes, however, a puppy will bite too hard or persist too long without a break and the adult dog will growl, bark or even lay his mouth on the puppy to warn him. Don’t be alarmed; this is a natural part of learning how to safely interact. If your older dog cannot tolerate any level of play, immediately separate the dogs and call a qualified trainer. “ ~Paul Owens
Tip: if your puppy is too boisterous and harassing your older dog, it’s time to step in and take some precautions to prevent trouble. Simply exercise the pup, play with him until his energy is drained at an acceptable level, before introducing him to your adult dog. Even better, take both dogs for a nice walk. Chances are, you have taken the edge off and your pup so he’ll likely be less rowdy afterward and possibly much calmer.
The Bottom Line
Often people assume that adult dogs will automatically grant a puppy license and accept everything the puppy does, but this is often not true. A puppy license doesn’t mean permissiveness. Yes, an adult dog may tolerate some “social mishaps” from the puppy, but it doesn’t means the pup can take over and create chaos. An older dog may want to relax and conduct a laid-back life the he deserves without being constantly pestered by a boisterous pup all day. At the same time, an adult dog shouldn’t be disciplining the puppy in a way as to create emotional problems to the puppy and fear.
For puppy owners this means that they should always practice caution when introducing a puppy to an adult dog and all interactions should always be supervised. At times, the intervention of a behavior specialist may be required so to provide an expert evaluation and determine whether the adult dog is engaging in healthy discipline or if there is more into it.
“Growls are a form of communication. Because puppies have immature communication skills, they frequently miss the more subtle signals your older dog shows, and the dog may need to resort to growling.Resist the urge to correct your dog for growling. Growling may be what the puppy needs in order to recognize that the dog doesn’t want to interact.”~Laurie Luck
Warning: Never allow an adult dog to pick up the pup and shake it by the scruff. This is dangerous behavior that can lead to potential injury and even death.
Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for a professional behavioral advice. If your adult dog shows worrisome behaviors towards puppies, intervene immediately, keep both parties separated and consult with a certified applied animal behaviorist to play it safe.