” Dear Brigitte,
We have a small family of 2 adults and 2 female sister Labradors. They are 2 on Christmas eve.
We originally had a sharpei female who unfortunately passed away just under 2 years ago aged 4 from an inherited disease. Although we missed her very much, my partner wanted to get another dog he missed having one around and Hannah was his first ever dog. We had only had her for 2 years as we inherited her off a family member who could no longer keep her.
Phill (my partner) went to the local RSPCA and found these 2 x 13 week old Labrador pups who had been handed in. They were both gorgeous and we could not agree on which one to get so, after discussing it with some breeders, we decided to get both of them. Up until the last two weeks we have rarely had any problems with them. They hate being separated, they adore one another and generally get on. Bella (who is the larger of the 2) seems to know that she is mum’s dog and Izzie just adores her dad.
We have brought them up to be inside dogs and they are very well behaved in the house. They know the pack order: Phill, myself and then there is the two of them. We don’t favour any particular dog, we have both tried very hard to show each dog they are loved and treated equally.
You may have picked up on the comment up until the last two weeks. For some reason Bella has become very aggressive at dinner time. She eats and growls at the same time and will actually lunge aggressively at Izzie while they are eating. We have had to resort to standing between them while they eat to stop any fights and they have had a few. This has come out of the blue we aren’t sure whether it’s Bella trying to assert herself or whether she’s just greedy and wants all of the food. They fought tonight again, but 5 minutes later they were licking their plates together it’s a contradiction! This has come as a shock to us because up until this we could have fed them in the same bowl (we never did though). We are beside ourselves these are 2 dogs who are exercised every day, sleep together, play together, groom each other and hate being apart. They even panic if they can’t find the other one.
Is it something we are doing inadvertently? Or is it something more sinister. Any ideas you could give us would be most helpful. We don’t like our girls fighting it is very upsetting and we start to wonder are they going to fight when we’re not there.
Please help us. We’re going to keep a good eye on Izzie and make sure that she’s not doing anything to set Bella off. But apart from that we’re stumped.
Hoping you may be able to help. I’ve attached a photo of the girls for you.
Sherein and Phill Barrass ”
I’m really not sure I can offer any suggestions. My own dogs do have this same pattern to a certain degree.
My dogs are not biological sisters (or even breed mates!), but they are inseparable. I got them both as puppies, only a couple of weeks apart. My Rottweiler, Kara, is first of the two in the heirachy, although my Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Jet, could hold her own if she wanted to, I think.
I don’t often have a problem with feeding my dogs, but from time to time Kara decides she wants to assert herself at mealtimes. Sometimes it’s just a one off with one meal. Other times it’s a behavior that can go on for weeks at a time.
Kara will growl and really go for Jet and not allow Jet to eat until Kara has had hers (if I don’t step in). She will grab food out of Jet’s mouth sometimes, too, in quite an aggressive way. I don’t know why this happens, as at all other times they are the best of friends, and inseparable. Kara often grooms Jet – licking her ears endlessly, as well as other parts of her body. She’s like a mother to her, really. And they can both get distressed if they are ever separated.
I just yell at Kara when she exhibits this behavior, and I do what you are doing – stand in between the dogs while they eat so Jet can eat in peace, or sometimes I’ll separate them entirely and feed Kara outside and Jet inside.
With my dogs these phases don’t last forever, so it has not been much of an issue in the long term.
Hopefully you will find this with your dogs. If not, I’d recommend that you see an animal behavioral expert for some advice.
P.S. If anyone has any thoughts on this, please feel free to leave your comments below!