food aggression with other dog only

Posted by drmav
Dec 29, 2008
We have two (litter mate) 14-month old English mastiffs. They lived very happily together until about two months ago. Both are "fixed." The female appears to be trying to vie for dominance over the male, but the male has at least 50 pounds on her, so he easily puts her in her place. [B]He weights about 175 pounds! [/B] Neither dog will growl at me even if I take food or a favorite toy away. They both appear to acknowledge that I am the alpha. The male dog seems very calm and happy until the female growls at her food dish. He attacked her on one occasion badly enough that we now feed the dogs separately. [U]Even though they are separated by two fences and at least 20 yards when eating, she continues to growl over her food dish. [/U] Occasionally, without food in the picture, she will growl at him. This provokes his aggression toward her. If I am right there, I can intervene to prevent a fight. If I am too far away, they might go at each other. She immediately rolls over and cowers, but then gets back up and growls some more. She is full of scars from puncture wounds, and is starting to become skittish in general, but still growls at him.

I may be wrong, but it seems that a lot of the problem would be fixed if she would stop growling over her food dish. [B][U]What should I do when she growls? [/U][/B] Sometimes I can get her to eat calmly if I stand over her the whole time she eats, but this does not seem like a long-term solution. Should I take the food dish away from her? Should I feed her in a place where she cannot even see him???
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Jan 22, 2010
Hi there

It does sound like your female dog is trying to push for a higher place in the hierarchy of the pack. It is quite common for dogs to challenge more dominant ones during the adolescent phase, due to the all the different hormone changes that are occurring at this time. Things should settle down once this stage has passed, but it is important that something be done about it now to avoid any serious injuries to either of them.
You should keep up the alpha dog training, as this will make them more obedient and respectful of your commands. By being leader of the pack, you can also help establish the pack order as you would like it to be. You can do this by always backing the male dog, both when they are having disagreements and during your normal daily routine too. By always dealing with him first, such as when feeding, walking through doorways, greeting them when you come home, you will be sending the message to her that you decided that he has a higher place in the pack and she will respect that. This will be hard for her to accept at first, but if you persist, she will eventually come to understand the system and be mindful of the pack order.
In the meantime, you may need to feed them separately initially to avoid any further tussles, just until she accepts her place in the hierarchy.

I hope this helps and all the best with the training!