Sudden Aggression in Dog Toward Sibling

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Sudden Aggression in Dog Toward Sibling

” 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 tAggression in Dogo 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.

Yours Sincerely,
Sherein and Phill Barrass ”


Hi Sherein,

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 bioloAggression in Doggical 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.

Brigitte Smith

P.S. If anyone has any thoughts on this, please feel free to leave your comments below!

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8 thoughts on “Sudden Aggression in Dog Toward Sibling

  1. David Maclean

    Sherein did not mention if the sister dogs have been neutered(spayed) If not that could be part of the problem,dogs just like humans(the female ones anyway)can shoe aggressive behaviour before,during and after they are in season.
    Try getting a “Pet Corrector” from your local pet food store.The corrector emits a harmless jet of air that for a dog is incredibly loud.Use this at the first sign of agression to break “the moment”
    Your dog will quickly learn not to threaten.
    Good Luck

  2. Maruchy

    Hi Brigitte,

    Just read the story on the two lab sisters. I have had my share of fights at the house because of my mix breed Halle. I have Bailey the Bull Terrier who wouldn’t hurt a fly and then there’s Halle (Chow, Sheppard, Dobie mix) unfortunately Halle had put Bailey in the hospital and she was the last one to come into the house hold. They are three years apart (Bailey being the oldest and the first one here). I try to always show them each the same affection but Brigitte, you know all I went through with Bailey and the auto immune thing so I think Halle picks up on her extra care from me.
    Anyway the last fight with these two was just over two years ago. The fight was nasty and I even decided to find Halle a new home. I took pictures of her to the vet’s office and around my neighborhood but no one called. As I was dealing with Bailey’s wounds I began to train Halle again in everything. She needed to know that she was the last one on the list, my roommate and I started this process and even though it broke my heart because she’s just such a loving dog with us and very smart I had to show tough love. Halle ate last, Halle had to sit in order to get anything, she needed to go back to basics and a lot of walking to get rid of any pent up energy.
    Halle is now four and she leaves Bailey alone. When I leave the house there’s a baby gate between them (which they could knock over but don’t) and they walk together, go to the vet’s together but they do not hang out in the house together nor do they eat together. I think the extra training really helped her. Halle needs to always know who’s the boss and she figured it out when she heard me saying she needed to leave the house and go live someplace else. I did speak with Diane Samsel (my animal communicator) about all this and even though she told me that Halle would feel better being the only dog in the house we have come a long way since that horrible December evening.

    Good luck to you,

  3. Anita

    Dear All:
    They are at the age that they are recognizing the pack order… please read about the pack order which will explain that this is normal behavior. You should never get angry with the aggressor as the one that is dominating is doing so because nature has rules, in fact you should thank Bella for teaching izzie manners and pack order. I suggest feeding the one that is the alpha of the two first and then across the room place the others right after. This is the way the pack works. You two should eat before they do, the most submissive of the two should eat last. The worst thing you can do is stop them from doing what is natural and do react with yelling and acting confused causes for Bella to look at you as not the alpha and that means she doesn’t have to listen to you at all as she has no respect for you as alpha. Spit in their food before you give it to them to let them know you are alpha don’t feed them so closely. Put Bella’s down first on one side of the room and then Izzie’s on the other. If Izzie doesn’t learn the order then she would not survive. They may wrestle for alpha status between the two of them at different stages in their lives, one will be happy to be the lesser of the two.

  4. Helen James

    Hi Brigitte Suggest feeding the dogs separately if agression continues during feeding time. I always fed my two dogs together a collie Joy who died in October and a King Charles Jack who I have for over 4 years.However if I was staying with my daughter who has a Springer Spaniel I feed them separately as Freckles would eat Jacks meal as well as her own if allowed and if he went near her bowl she would growl at him. I always had female dogs for over 30 years and Jack is the first male dog and I find that the females look for more attention and are more jealous than the males. Dont know if you found this Brigitte. Helen

  5. Brigitte Smith

    Hi Helen,

    Absolutely – most experts recommend feeding dogs separately. I’ve just always fed mine together, and because aggression is so rarely a problem and I can overcome it easily, I choose to continue to feed them together when there isn’t a problem. I don’t suggest this practise is actually the best one!

    As for your comments about jealousy, that’s interesting. With my dogs, Kara often gets jealous when I pay Jet any attention – she comes over and either tries to push my arm away from Jet, or inserts herself in between us!


  6. Brigitte Smith


    Great comments. Thanks!

    You sound like an expert on pack mentality. I’m sure your input will be very helpful for lots of readers.


  7. Danna

    Hi Brigitte, I have 5 Females they are all spayed they are different breads I Have a Pek. a golden retiever a lab retiever a basset hound a beagle the pek is about 9 the beagle is 12 and the others are 4 years my lab is very aggressive to our bassethound has pulled her done a flite of stais and has drawen blood then the others join in the vets put her a a depression medicine helped some but not alot just wondering if there is any suggestions also my golden retiever has just had her intestine cut 10 times about 1 inch a part as she chewed carpet and she had emerency surgery this last sunday and is still in critical condtion if we would have waited till monday we would of had to put her to sleep for sure she just got of i v today and is peeing but hasn’t had a bowl yet the vet has told us they haven’t been able to save most pets with as much as she had eaten is there anything we can do to stop her chewing she chews on socks blankets pillows , carpet thanks for your help and suggestions

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