I have two dogs that are brother and sister from the same litter (that's what I was told at the rescue shelter) and have always been together. A couple of years ago I noticed the male dog with a rabbit in his mouth. He would not let me approach him and just kept running off as I got close. Eventually he dropped the dead rabbit and I disposed of it. No other significant signs or actions from him.

About 6 months ago as I went out to feed my dogs I noticed that the male dog was laying on the ground eating a rabbit. He was going to town on it and the female dog was not interested and just laid on the ground 15-20 feet away resting calmly. As I opened the door to go feed them he got up and walked away with the rabbit. Normal feeding process is she eats first then him because since they were puppies he would finish first then take her food.

As I put her food down for her he dropped the rabbit and came to the feeding area. I was not concerned as I thought he was just coming to wait for his food. He did not sit in his normal place and had an aggressive look on him. He attacked the female in attempt to take her food. I broke them apart and separated them for a few days as I struggled with what had just taken place.

Reunited them after a few days and no problems until yesterday. Found a dead coyote in the backyard that he was staying close to while looking protective. I was closing the gate to secure them in the back yard and they both approached as I closed the gate. As I looked at the dead coyote he attacked the female and when I yelled at him he withdrew. I separated them again then let him out into the front yard which is also fenced and gated as I disposed of the coyote. I did not see any signs that he attempted to eat it just that it was dead and already pretty stiff. It was not a very big coyote so i presume it was pretty young. Attached is a photo.

My concern is his aggressive state of mind after a kill and how he is lashing out at the female dog. As a note, I live out in the country on a gated property where there are rabbits, squirrels, gophers, rats, possums, coyotes, bobcats and even mountain lions. All of which I have personally seen on my property. My dogs are watch and guard dogs that have not been socialized much with other dogs or people except me and my family. Both are pit mix must and are pretty awesome besides this. Any info, advice or recommendations would be great.

Thank you!

  • Tough spot. There is a sort it out aggression and true I want to kill you aggression. Was the female injured? Does she act afraid?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jul 6, 2018 at 1:09
  • 1
    Not related, but please contact your vet. Coyotes are rabies carriers, and so knowing your dogs have been in a fight with one, the vet may recommend getting rabies boosters.
    – Kai
    Commented Jul 6, 2018 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


It's hard to diagnose such a behavior remotely, but a possible reason for the attacks is dominance.

First, it seems that both dogs accept you as the pack leader and the most dominant individual around. Make sure it stays that way.

In a wild pack of dogs, the most dominant dog is always the first one to claim a prey and start feeding while defending the prey against all other members of the pack, sometimes even long after he is full and cannot eat any more of it. The rest of the pack sits nearby, but no too near, seemingly calm but excited on the inside. Then the other members of the pack start feeding, in order of their rank. In this behavior domesticated dogs actually differ from wild wolves.

By feeding your female dog first, you unintentionally set their rank. After killing and claiming a rabbit, the male dog expressed his dominance over the female. Shortly after, you prepare their food and the female starts feeding first, disregarding the dominance of the male. From his point of view, he had to reclaim his dominant position.

I think the same could be true for the situation with the coyote, but I'm less sure. He claimed a prey (even if he didn't kill it) and protected it against a lower ranked member of the pack. Your reaction seems to have been correct, since you asserted your dominance over him.

I propose you either separate them when feeding or (maybe the better solution) you turn feeding into an exercise of obedience. For that you assign spots for each dog (not too close to each other) where they have to sit / lay while you prepare their food. They have to stay until you put both bowls on the ground and give the command to eat. Should one start a fight, you take the food away for at least a few hours (even denying food for a whole day will not harm your dogs, but maybe their mood).


I found an article about the difference between wolves and dogs (here's the link).

To compare the two species, Sarah Marshall-Pescini of the University of Vienna tested dogs and wolves at the Wolf Science Center in Austria, which houses a pack of 15 mutts and seven small packs of wolves. All of the animals are raised in semi-wild conditions.

The scientists tested how well dogs and wolves cooperate to get foot as a reward for teamwork.

Though dogs seemed engaged, they approached the food one at a time, “very respectfully waiting for one to finish before the other started,” she says, which prohibited them from testing out teamwork. Meanwhile, the wolves cooperated well, working together on the level of chimpanzees, according to Helen Briggs at the BBC.

  • While I agree with your proposed exercise, the concept of dominance in domesticated dogs is not well-established in scientific literature and many wolf- or dog-behavior experts claim it's just a popular myth. “Attempting to apply information about the behavior of assemblages of unrelated captive wolves to the familial structure of natural packs has resulted in considerable confusion... The concept of the alpha wolf as a ‘top dog’ ruling a group of similar-aged compatriots... is particularly misleading.” (wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/267alphastatus_english.pdf)
    – khu
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 0:55

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