How To Handle A Puppy and Older Dog?
September 25, 2006 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Our 6 month old golden retriever is a lovely girl, smart, active and generally pretty obedient. But, her one difficult behavior is intense dominance wrestling with our 14 year old lab. Nobody gets hurt, but Doc, the 14 year old, clearly gets fed-up and Daisy, the baby, seems to find it irresistible. She puts her mouth on his ears, neck, feet - not biting, but annoying. I want her to stop, so that we can all be together without having to separate them. When we're out walking or running them, or when Daisy is in a calm mood, they're great together. On the other side of the equation, Doc, who usually couldn't care less about toys, will take one or two and just lie there with them in his mouth or between his paws and it drives Daisy crazy! I'm sure these are natural dominance games, but I want to be able to control them better. Any ideas? Will all this tend to stop as she grows up?
posted by madstop1 to Pets & Animals (7 answers total)
Best answer: First, I rather doubt that the wrestling has anything to do with dominance. Dogs wrestle to play, and dogs like playing. It's up there with ass-sniffing for some dogs.

If Doc is willing to put up with Daisy's games, why should you care? Why should you force Doc to not accept something he in fact accepts? It's not surprising that he accepts it after he's clearly fed up; when in doubt, the bitch is in charge. If Doc decides he really doesn't like it, he has lots of ways to express this sentiment in fluent Dog.

If you don't like it, the most obvious thing is to get Daisy more exercise, even if Doc can't have more exercise. And go to training classes with Daisy -- if nothing else, it's good mental exercise.

If you really really don't like it, then train her not to do it on command. A relatively simple way to do this is to train her to do something, and then give her that command when she's playing with Doc at an inappropriate time, and reward her copiously when she leaves Doc to do whatever it is you asked her to do.

The toy thing could conceivably have something to do with dominance, but it seems unlikely to me that a sane, old dog is going to be uppity to a bitch unless these are *really* high-value toys to Doc. Another possibility is that he's playing, and that he enjoys the Drive Daisy Crazy game, because she barks and jumps and acts like a fool in entertaining ways.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:23 PM on September 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to say the above poster is spot on. And if Doc does in fact get tired of the puppy, there is no doubt in my mind he will put the smack down on the puppy at which point the puppy will leave him alone. Most adult dogs I have been around are very patient with puppies, but once they have had enough, they have no problems letting them know.

Also, while the older dog may sound vicious when informing the puppy that play time is over, it is mostly theatrics and the actual physical force (biting) is minimal at most. Just remember, the puppy is still learning the ropes, and the adult will gladly give a tour. There shouldn't be any need to step in, unless the puppy starts yelping and the adult does not stop.
posted by chrisroberts at 6:27 PM on September 25, 2006

Best answer: As a life long dog person, I have to say that this behavior is actually the best thing for the older Doc.

I had a 15 year old Shepard mix. Who was seriously on his last legs, didn't want to play, wasn't enjoying eating very much etc. When I brought home a Rottie puppy things changed quickly.

The Rottie was a fierce little bitch and would drag "Shep" around by his tail-until he got pissed. Sure some minor "I'm the boss" fighting ensued, but after that they were best friends and Shep was totally rejuvinated. It wasn't long before "Shep" was acting like a big puppy himself. (I really believe that having a younger dog there added a few more happy years to his life.)

Sorry for the long response, but regarding the toy thing, Doc is totally asking for more play.

Will Daisy grow out of it? Yes. Give them some time. They'll work it out.

Doc may seem agitated, but Daisy is probably the best thing for him.
posted by snsranch at 6:38 PM on September 25, 2006

I'm gonna fourth what the other posters have said. When we brought my ridgeback puppy home, she terrorized the rest of the dogs until one day, the 130 lbs Great Dane who's the alpha male got fed up with it and pretty much swallowed her head. Scariest moment ever watching a dog THAT BIG open his mouth wide with a "BARK!" and close it on her head... it was like a scene out of Jaws.

They haven't had problems since. Now they all enjoy playing together. She's about six months old this week.
posted by SpecialK at 8:04 PM on September 25, 2006

One of the most amusing moments of my dog-owning life was watching our 70kg 18mo Newfoundland playing with a tiny old Scotish Terrier. The terrier got feed up, showed the newf his teeth and "BARK!". The newf was on her back whimpering inside of half a second. Never seen her move so fast.

No contact whatsoever occurred. Inbuilt dog etiquette is an amazing thing to watch.
posted by pivotal at 9:44 PM on September 25, 2006

By the way if your dog tends to "walk you", he's probably alpha male over you etc. Check out "The Dog Whisperer" on the nat. geographic channel if you have it. I'm not much of a dog person and I love it. I'm almost thinking about rescuing a dog...
posted by prodevel at 4:03 AM on September 26, 2006

My 2 year old Patterdale will play this way with my parents' 5 year old Border Collie for as long as the Collie will let her, no matter how tired they both are. I mean she will literally do it for hours on end. They put each others' ears, feet, limbs in their mouths and make the most ferocious noises - but no one gets hurt, and when the big one is done he somehow gets the little one to stop. They self regulate.

That said, not all dogs are going to want to play this way, so it's probably not the best behavior. I second the idea of training yours to do an incompatible behavior and then rewarding her for responding appropriately. You may not get her to completely stop playing that way, but you will know that you have a way to safely stop her from doing it if you need to.
posted by KAS at 8:29 AM on September 26, 2006

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