help! new adolescent dog hurting older dog

Posted by Caribou
Sep 24, 2008
We have a 6 month old alpha lab female who is often aggressive/physically rough in exerting her dominance over our older 11 year old female lab. By intervening, are we exacerbating the younger dog's attempts to dominate the older dog (biting her neck and trying to pull her legs out from beneath her and charging her and knocking her over)? The older dog has always slept on our bed and the younger dog sleeps in a kennel in our room. Does this also make the problem worse? We don't want to make the older dog sleep on the floor as this is the only time we can give her attention.
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Dec 26, 2009
Hi there

It does sound like your younger dog is trying to dominate the older one. This happens quite commonly amongst dogs that are going through adolescence, but needs to be dealt with soon before it becomes a bigger problem.

You need to establish a clear hierarchy in the household, with you being the alpha dog. It also should be made clear to her that the older dog is higher than her in the pack. This can be done by several ways, including insisting that you go through doorways ahead of her and feeding her after the rest of the household, including the other dog, has eaten. Make sure you greet everyone else and the older dog first when you come home, before stopping to say hello to her. When taking her out on a leash, be sure to walk in front of her and not let her pull you around. As she is a big dog, you may find a 'gentle leader' helpful in these cases. Make sure you are still spending a lot of the time with your older dog, ignoring the younger one if she tries to push in on you. Don't give her attention when she asks for it, instead only play with her when you want to, with you both choosing the toy and how long the game lasts for. Keep up with the obedience training, even if it is just for 5-10 minutes a day as all this will keep her alert and attentive, seeking to do as you command. Labradors are very intelligent dogs, so she should pick this up in no time!

I hope this helps and all the best with the training!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Dec 27, 2009
Hi Caribou,

I agree with KOPsRobyn on making sure your old dog is treated first and with more attention. The younger dog should realize that she is below the older dog as far as her ranking is concerned. Even though they are both loved equally by you, she should learn how to behave with the older dog.

You said your younger dog tries to dominate the older one but to me it sounded more like the younger one tries to play rough house with the older one. (biting her neck and trying to pull her legs out from beneath her and charging her and knocking her over) - this is a typical way of dogs playing rough housel, if they are both young and physically capable. If it bothers the older dog, she should have either barked once to tell the younger one to stop it, or growled at her. The older one being a lab too, she must be still bigger than the younger one although she doesn't have as much stammina.

What is the reaction of the older one when the younger one tries to attack her (I still think she is playing a rough house...) ? It is a good thing to stop her if she is physically hurting the old one. In addtion to just separate her from the older one, I would grab her collar and put her in place by looking at her eyes and telling her "this is not acceptable" in a firm voice.

The sleeping arrangements sound just right. Your older dog should be allowed on the bed while the younger one being in a crate. Make it very clear that you have given your older dog extra privileges. The younger one will get the same priviledge once she learns how to behave and respect the older one.

You, as the leader, should be able to manipulate the hierarchy between the two dogs and it will make a harmony in the pack. Good luck