Dominant Puppy Behavior

Kelly Roper

Visitor Questions about Dominant Puppy Behavior

Sibling Rivalry

  • Our two-year-old Airedale recently had a litter of eleven pure-bred puppies, which are now approaching nine weeks of age. Four of the puppies have found families, but we're having a strange problem with three of the remaining seven.

Two of the puppies (one male and one female) like to viciously attack one particular male puppy. This has happened more than once in our presence while we were socializing with the group. The male puppy appears submissive and does not fight back. The odd thing is that it only seems to be this particular puppy that has been targeted by the aggressive pair. We are worried because these attacks have drawn blood twice, and we fear for the safety of the little guy.

We have had two other litters of Airedales and never encountered this sort of behavior. For now, we have removed the submissive one from the litter, but we are now worried that these two aggressors may turn their attention to one of the others. What should we do?

Thanks for your advice--Tom

Expert Reply

Hi Tom,

Sounds like you have a problem going on within the pack hierarchy.

In wild packs, there is usually a male and a female that take the most dominant positions. They are known as the Alphas. It sounds to me like your two aggressive pups have decided to try to take this position for themselves, and that the last little male is at the bottom of the pecking order.

You've done the right thing by separating the injured pup from the ones who are attacking him, but if you are concerned about those two finding someone new to pick on, let me suggest that you separate those two from the rest of the pups instead.

When the two attacked this pup in your presence, what was your reaction? If you just removed the little male without reprimanding the other two, then the aggressors got what they wanted, reinforcing the dominant behavior. Please read our article on The Alpha Roll, as it will show you a safe way to assert your own dominance over these two aggressive pups, and hopefully keep them from becoming a bigger problem in the future. Just remember to keep their size in mind when trying the move so they don't accidently come to any harm.

I'd also like to suggest that you take the male that was bitten to the vet for a thorough examination. He may just be a very submissive character, but sometimes pups and even moms shun a pup when they sense something is internally wrong with it. It's worth checking on.

Let us know how things go.~~ Kelly

Puppy Hassles My Older Dog

I have an eighteen-month-old Pit/Lab mix, and a six-month-old German Shepherd/Lab mix. Both dogs have been fixed.After I take both dogs outside for walk or a game of fetch, the female will continue to pester the male after we come back inside. At this time the male wants to lay and rest, but the female will wrestle and nip at him. I understand that all puppies play, but I feel that the female is trying to compete with the male.

Also, during feeding time the female will always finish eating first, and then she'll try to eat his food. If I don't tell her "NO" then he will let her eat his food. What should be done?

Expert Reply

Hi Brett,

At six months old, your puppy is ready to begin obedience training. Now is the time to begin looking for a dog training school in your area and enroll her. Not only will you learn how to keep her from pestering your male, she'll become a model canine citizen in many other ways. This is the best way to regain control of the situation.

In the meantime, I'd suggest feeding them in different rooms with the door closed. This will give your male time to finish eating as much as he wants. If your female still has energy to burn, take her back outside for another ten to fifteen minutes to let her run it off. This could also give your male time to finish his dinner in peace.

Thanks for your question~~ Kelly

Puppy Fights

My roommate and I recently adopted ten-week-old puppies. Both dogs are fixed. We got them on the same day and they got along great all weekend. My boyfriend then took the female puppy to his house for a week, and the male puppy stayed with us. Now that I have her back it seems as though the puppies are fighting. They show their teeth at each other. I am wondering if there is anything we can do to help these two pups get along, or are they always going to try to beat up each other. I don't think it is just playing, but I'm not positive.

Thank you for your time~~ Rosalie

Expert Reply

Hi Rosalie,

I think the problem lies in the week long break the female puppy had at your boyfriend's. Bringing the two puppies home together was a good idea because you were introducing them to neutral territory at the same time. Neither dog had the opportunity to stake a prior claim, so they were able to get along better.

Now the male has had a week to get settled in and he's viewing the place as his own. The female is uncertain where she belongs at this point, so she's trying to claim a place for herself.

To a certain extent, they are going to have to work it out for themselves. One is going to wind up more dominant, but that is the canine way. What you really need to do is establish your own dominance over both of them so they see you as their pack leader. This has to be done in a fair way so they trust you rather than fear you, but once you've achieved this it will be easier for you to lay down the law and break up the fighting.

Best wishes~~ Kelly

Dominant Puppy Behavior