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Puppy Annoying Old Dog With Playful Behavior

Dear Cesar,

I have a thirteen-year-old male Boston Terrier and a four-month-old female Boston Terrier. The older dog, Higgins, seems to accept the puppy, Tessa, most of the time, except for when she wants to play with him. He does not like for her to run at him or jump on him.

Higgins has arthritis and is very, very calm until she begins her playfulness. He will bark at her (and sometime snap at her) to warn her to back off and let her know that he is boss. However, she doesn”t seem to learn that she should leave him alone and will come back in a couple of minutes. A lot of times she is just standing too close to him, and he doesn’t like that either.

My questions are: Which one do I correct? Do I correct the puppy for being playful and inquisitive? Do I correct Higgins for being so crabby? How do I make the corrections? My fear is that he will become aggressive, and much worse, that he will teach her to become aggressive.

Love your show, and I look forward to attending your seminar.

Thank you for your help,
Madeline Warren

Dear Madeline,

This is a different situation than most of the cases on my show, because your dogs don’t have issues. It is simply a difference in age and therefore, in energy levels. What you need to do is drain the puppy’s energy through exercise before it joins the older dog.

Until she passes this stage, don’t allow the puppy to be around the older dog until later in the day, maybe 1 or 2 o’clock, after you’ve drained some of her energy. I would suggest bringing the puppy to a place where she can meet with other puppies or adolescent dogs. They will be vibrating on her frequency and better understand and match her behavior. Once the puppy is tired out by her new mates, it’s time to put her with the older dog. Be sure to monitor her. If her intensity escalates, take her out of the situation and wait until her energy is drained again before reintroducing her to the older dog.

Do not correct the puppy for being playful and inquisitive. This will create instability and make a dog feel lost or unsure. She’s doing what she’s supposed to: being a balanced, playful puppy. You can’t correct something that is natural; she just wants direction. In a pack of dogs, the senior dogs don’t raise puppies; the adolescent and the adults do. The seniors stay away from them. Learn from the masters — the dogs themselves!

If you exercise the puppy and allow the puppy to interact with dogs that match her state of mind before bringing her around the older dog, you’re not going to have a problem. He’s not being aggressive; he’s just asking for his space. You are right. If you don’t provide right solution, he can teach her to be aggressive with others dogs as a way to solve problems. That’s a good observation, and I hope you continue to follow your obvious common sense!

Stay calm and assertive,
Cesar Millan

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