Should Puppies Play With Older Dogs? A Guide to Keep Puppies Safe

As dogs age, we know that they don’t get excited about playtime anymore, they’d get achy and would prefer quiet time over running around and playing fetch.

As an owner of two dogs, I remember when I introduced Luca, my then-4-month-old golden retriever to my then-4-year-old cocker spaniel, Vicky.

Let’s say she wasn’t impressed by him jumping on her, pulling on her long floppy ears, nudging her as a plea to give him some attention; at first, she would just get up and go sit somewhere else, but as Luca became more persistent she started to growl, snap, and show signs of anger, and I thought: 

So, Should Puppies play with older dogs? Puppies should play with older dogs as long as it’s supervised. Puppies playing with older dogs will help correct their behavior, but you should teach your dogs the limits and be able to intervene if things turned from rough play to aggression to keep your puppy safe.

In this article, we’ll go deeper into how to introduce them, how to train your new puppy to respect your older dog, and how to act if any violence occurs, so if you’re thinking of getting a new puppy to accompany your older dog, keep reading!

Should Puppies play with older dogs? 

puppy playing with GSD to show why should puppies play with big dogs

Puppies and older dogs should be able to interact with older dogs, as this will teach them how to interact with other dogs, in addition to modifying their behavior and aiding in the development of social bonds. 

They must also acquire a range of social abilities and behaviors, which they usually learn through play with other dogs. This indicates that playing isn’t simply for entertainment; it also performs a vital function.

In reality, dog play behavior is essential for brain development and learning how to interact correctly with other canines.

Furthermore, play is a fantastic method for dogs to de-stress, remove tension, and get some exercise and release any energy they have especially at a young age.

Dogs learn how to communicate, bond, and create social relationships through play. Playing and being engaged in activities with older dogs, makes the puppies more aware of the hierarchy of dominance and obedience to the alpha of the pack.

Because playtime is such an essential part of a dog’s life, it is critical that you give lots of opportunities for it.

When can puppies play with older dogs?

Puppies can play with older dogs after around 3 weeks of being introduced to their new best friend. Although in some cases it may take 4 to 5 weeks until both dogs get used to one another and some playtime begins.

Before you initiate any activities between your puppy and your older dog if you want him to be a typical, outgoing dog, it is important to make sure no interaction happens until the pup is vaccinated has gotten all shots.

Puppies require socializing, especially once they reach the age of three weeks until eight weeks. They may not have had all of their vaccinations at this point, but they still require socializing.

As for your older dog, ensure sure that his vaccinations are up to date. As a result, they can serve as safe playmates and guides for the new pup.

In addition to vaccinations, puppies with older dogs need to be monitored 24/7.

How to train your dog to play with older dogs?

To train your dog to play with older dogs, you need to introduce them while holding your dog securely by your side on a leash and slowly approaching the other dog. Make sure to are between the two dogs to help your dog feel more secure. Use treats and praises as long as your dog is calm and peaceful.

It is essential to train your dog to play with other dogs in order for him to be sociable; he should be able to have fun and let off steam with other dogs. A dog who is friendly with other dogs is more likely to be friendly with people.

Gradual Introductions

The goal is to gently introduce your dog to other dogs in order to increase his confidence and keep him feeling at ease. You must keep both dogs on leash, and continuously stimulate them with food and reward positive behavior with a range of simple treats, snacks, and praises.


Make sure you are in between both dogs to make them feel secure and also prevent any damage or harm from happening.

Enforcing positive behavior

Give treats and praises as you approach the other dogs for as long as your dog appears calm and tranquil. Continue to praise and treat him while you move around the dog, allowing them to smell each other out.

Monitor signs of discomfort

Sense any kind of discomfort that may escalate to anger or violence, any growls, shaking, or raised ears should be enough for you to pull the dogs away from one another before either of them attacks.

You can learn more about how small and large dogs should interact with each other in my post on introducing a small dog to a golden retriever here.

How to stop your puppy from playing too roughly with your older dog?

Puppies can get too excited and vigorous, especially that they are not fully aware of how intense or rough their playing should be; that is why you should be there to give cues and alter any too rough behavior.

Burn off some steam

First off, don’t let your puppy play with your older dog with his full pent-up energy, engage him in a couple of activities so he wouldn’t jump on your older dog right away.


Make sure your puppy is on a leash and you giving commands to your older dog while approaching him.


Stand in between and distract your puppy when he approaches your elder dog too fast. A “sit” or “down” command while ignoring the elder dog would also help.

Reward and praise

Give your puppy a reward when he complies with your command, or use a clicker to indicate that he’s on the right track or simply pet and say “yes.”

No fighting

Some signs of playing are indications that it will get rough soon, so make sure you separate the two dogs if you see any of these actions happening 

  • jumping on the head.
  • Neck nipping or biting
  • Growing and barking with raised ears and a stiff posture
  • Ears or tail biting
  • Shaking 
  • Not listening to commands

How can you get your older dog to bond with your puppy? 

In order to have a peaceful environment with two dogs in one house, you need to make sure they both bond and get along, Walking your dogs together is an excellent method to help them bond. 

When you walk them, you can use a leash coupler if they are of comparable size.

To minimize territorial behavior, store your older dog’s favorite chews and toys so that they don’t fight each other over them. 

Engage both dogs in simple activities and give them treats and rewards as long as they are calm and friendly towards one another.

Make sure your home has areas where both dogs can get away from each other, and use crates, gates and impose regular, planned, and consistent times of separation between the puppy and the older dog.

To avoid possessive hostility over food, make sure you buy separate meal plates and water bowls.

Ensure that both dogs’ vaccinations are always up to date.

Keep an eye out for signals of hatred or hostility. Don’t let either of them snap or bite at the other. You can let them meet off-leash once they appear to be comfortable around each other.

You can learn the steps of introducing a new dog in the house in my post on adding a second golden retriever to the family here.

Will an older dog hurt a puppy?

An older dog will rarely, almost never, hurt a puppy, he may snap, growl and move away to convey his discomfort and refusal to engage in playtime with the puppy, but it is important that you don’t force any interaction or engagement to avoid your older dog from getting snappy.

Many dogs would gladly accept a new puppy, and it is quite uncommon for an older dog to harm a puppy.

Puppies must learn the intricacies of canine communication, and they are not always successful as they are unaware of the norms of social interaction.

Keep your elder dog on a leash while allowing the puppy to explore on his own. Allow your older dog to greet the puppy if you are sure that he is keeping calm, but avoid any stress on the leash.

If there is a size difference, keep an eye on the situation in case the puppy becomes scared. Similarly, the current dog may try to back off from the puppy, and he may even snarl at first, so if this happens, create extra space between the two dogs until they are comfortable with each other’s presence.

Will an older dog attack a puppy?

An older dog will not attack a puppy who is restless and insisting on playing. Older dogs rarely act violently against the pup, but if you notice that is play biting, the dogs must be separated. Don’t give the older dog a chance to reach his patience limit.

Since puppies are not fully aware of the limitations of playing or boundaries, sometimes they get too persistent which gets on the older dog’s nerves, although they rarely attack puppies, older dogs will show their unacceptance.

In certain situations, an adult dog will make a low growl, display his fangs or ‘air snap’ near the puppy, and walk away. 

After a period of time, the puppy will start learning from this reaction and will start becoming aware of the rules of playing, the adult dog will typically begin to show more interest in playing with the puppy and they will eventually get along.

What to do if an older dog attacks your puppy? 

If your older dog attacks your puppy, act fast and separate them immediately, although the best option is to prevent these accidents from happening in the first place by feeding them in separate areas, not giving them toys at playtime, and paying attention to signs of anger.

Although it happens once in every blue moon, it’s always better safe than sorry. I assure you though if you correctly introduce both dogs, the possibility of attack will be almost non-existent, especially that older dogs are aware that puppies are youngsters who are not aware of their limits.

Related Questions 

What if my dog hates the new puppy? 

If your dog hates the new puppy in certain situations like eating time or sleeping, and the dogs normally get along, you should be able to create a physical barrier between the puppy and the older dog during those problematic times and distract them.

Should I let my puppy and dog play fight? 

You shouldn’t let your puppy and other dog play fight until they become friends and get along with each other, as dogs who are not familiar with each other may snap and get angry more quickly which may result in actual harm.

Do older dogs know a puppy is a puppy? 

Yes, older dogs know a puppy is a puppy through their, smell, size, behavior, and energetic attitude. Dogs being pack-belonging creatures makes them aware of who should be more dominant on the other which will make older dogs take the alpha role.

Helpful Resources 

Are Dogs Playing or Fighting? How to Evaluate Rough Play

Appropriate Dog Play: Keeping Dog Play Fun & Safe!

Living with a Retriever: Recommendations and Sources

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Hey there, I'm Matt, the author behind With a deep love for dogs and a dedication to strengthening the bond between owners and their retrievers, I've created a hub of resources for enthusiasts like you. Through engaging articles, training guides, and product reviews, I aim to provide practical advice that makes a real difference in your life as a dog owner. Whether you're a seasoned pro or new to the world of retrievers, my approachable and informative writing style ensures that you'll find valuable insights. Join me on this incredible journey of discovering what makes retrievers tick, unlocking their potential, and creating an unbreakable bond with your furry companion. Let's embark on an adventure of dog ownership together. Thank you for visiting and being part of our vibrant community.

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