Dear AKC: We have a 22 month-old Bernese Mountain Dog and we just adopted a 7-month-old Standard Poodle from the shelter. He was not well taken care of by his previous owner since he is 22 inches tall and only weighs 23 pounds. He is not neutered. We have had the puppy for four days now. At first everything was fine but the past two days the Berner has been getting rough with the puppy when they play. We are afraid the puppy will get hurt. But we don't want the Berner to think he is being punished and not loved since this new guy came on the scene. Do you think we should have the puppy neutered A.S.A.P. Maybe this would solve the problem! – Rough House Hound
Dear Rough: I would not let these two dogs play with each other until the Poodle bulks up a bit. He is fragile right now and needs time to adjust to his new surroundings and family and establish a new routine. The larger dog may want to play but don't know his strength and an injury could occur inadvertently.
I would continue to pay equal attention to both dogs, don't show favorites, and maintain a routine for feeding, play and exercise. Spend time with each dog individually, especially with the new Poodle and try to build up his confidence with simple obedience exercises like sit and stay and playing games.
Neutering the Poodle
When you do have the dogs together, keep the big guy on a leash to prevent unwanted bullying. Neutering the poodle will not stop this behavior on the Berner's part. You have to let the Berner know that rough housing with the Poodle is not acceptable. Once the Poodle has gained some weight, settled into the household, and become a part of the family, then I would contact your vet about the surgery.