Why are some adult dogs really intolerant of puppies?

Why are some adult dogs really intolerant of puppies?

All dog lovers love puppies, and most of us are delighted to meet a pup out and about on our own walks to say hello to. Adult dogs are also generally very good with puppies, even if they’re not always hugely tolerant of other adult dogs, and they recognise the youth and small size of pups and tend to moderate their behaviour accordingly. This means that they often afford the pup a lot more leeway in terms of their behaviour than they would allow a fully grown dog of the same type.

However, some adult dogs appear to react very badly to puppies, often actively avoiding contact with them and sometimes responding with inappropriate, out of character aggression if a pup approaches them. This can be a problem and is also something that can be hard to understand, particularly if you’re not sure why your own dog has such a dislike of puppies in the first place.

If your adult dog is really intolerant of puppies, it is a good idea to try to work out why this is, as only by doing so can you begin to look at resolving the issue and improving your dog’s responses.

In this article we will look at the most common causes of an adult dog being intolerant of puppies, and share some insights into why this might me. Read on to learn more.

Bad manners

Socialisation with other dogs is vitally important for puppies, and these direct interactions and the responses the pup gets from other dogs they come into contact with provides them with essential feedback on appropriate greetings and manners, how to communicate with other dogs, what type of behaviour is permissible, and how other dogs will react to them.

Pups begin to learn these skills from their dam and littermates, but it is only when they go out into the world on their own and begin to meet and interact with strangers that they really begin to learn good canine manners in earnest.

Most adult dogs tend to recognise this, providing gentle correction to the pup and giving them more leeway than normal, but this is not the case for all dogs.

If your own dog hasn’t had a lot to do with puppies, is not generally hugely social or playful and is quite speculative about who they make friends with, a puppy may come as a big culture shock! Pups that have not yet learnt the fine nuances of manners and communication may generate a poor reaction in an older dog, until they learn better!

Too boisterous

Playing puppies tend to be comical and boisterous, and they often do a lot of rolling around, wrestling, lunging and mock-biting with each other as part of play. Many adult dogs enjoy this type of play too, and lots of adult dogs really enjoy playing with pups as a result.

However, adult dogs that aren’t into a lot of rough and tumble play or that are dominant and not keen on role switching might not like this, and might actively avoid contact with a puppy or sharply reprimand them for going too far.

This is perfectly fine as long as their response is not aggressive – and will form an important part of the pups’ education, because even when they’re older, not every dog they meet will be keen to make friends unless the puppy is well mannered about things.

Pushed into contact

If you’re really keen for your adult dog and the puppy in question to get on or if you’re hoping to take a few cute snaps of the dogs having a great time together, it might be the behaviour of the two dogs’ owners that is actually causing problems.

Dogs regardless of their ages need to be able to establish their own relationships with each other and relative place in the respective pack structure, and this includes having the choice about what dogs to communicate with and when to keep their distance.

If you keep putting the puppy by the adult dog or pushing them into close quarters and the adult dog isn’t happy with this, they will probably react badly.

Take a more hands-off approach, and the two dogs are exponentially more likely to get on in their own time and space.

Fear and poor experiences

If your dog is generally quite avoidant of other dogs and particularly if they are scared of others or have had a bad experience with another dog, a puppy might make for a perfect playmate as they’re younger and often, less daunting as a result.

However, don’t automatically assume that this will be the case; an adult dog might avoid a pup just as they would any other dog, particularly if the puppy is rowdy or giving out mixed communication signals.

Once more, giving both dogs space and ensuring that the puppy isn’t pushed onto an unwilling adult dog is the best approach. Always keep the puppy on a lead and away from the other dog if the other dog is not receptive to an approach.


Finally, puppies tend to take up a lot of the available attention, and most of us are quick to want to pet a puppy that we meet out on our walks. However, this can cause problems in and of itself if your dog is with you, and many dogs get very jealous of their owners showing affection for others.

Ensure that you don’t ignore your own dog when a pup is around, and give them plenty of attention too – and watch out for signs of irritation or jealousy on the part of your own dog, which might lead to them snapping or being intolerant of the puppy.



Pets for studWanted pets

Accessories & services


Knowledge hub


Support & safety portal
Pets for saleAll Pets for sale