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August 17, 2022
***This article provides suggestions based on AKC recommendations for breaking up a dog fight when you can do so safely. In some cases, attempting to stop a dogfight is not safe. Please use your best judgment. Your safety is always the top priority.***
Even if your dog enjoys playing with other pups, sometimes things can go awry. If your pooch ends up in the middle of a dog fight, it can be scary and catch you off guard. But if you understand what to do in the situation, you can stop things before they worsen.
Recognizing the signs of a potential dog fight can prevent one before it begins. If your dog starts to tuck their tail, flatten their ears, or excessively whine, separate them from other dogs. If a fight breaks out, try distracting the dogs with a loud noise or spraying them with water. You can also try separating them with a large object. Physically intervening should be your last resort.
Proper socializing and behavioral training are critical if your dog is uncomfortable around other pups. You should work on ways to help your dog learn these valuable skills as early as possible. But what happens if your dog ends up in a dog fight?
Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to a dog fight. So if you can stop a dog fight from starting, you’re golden. But to do this, it’s essential to recognize the potential signs of aggression and tension in dogs.
If you notice your dog doing any of the following, it’s best to remove them from the situation immediately. Likewise, if you spot any of these signs in another dog, turn around and go another route (don't run or show signs of panic, as this could trigger the other dog to attack).
It’s also essential to remain calm. Dogs pick up on their owner's stress, so if you start to tense up, you can trigger a reaction in your dog. Your pup might think there’s a reason to be worried and act accordingly.
Sometimes, dogs start to rough house, and it might seem like they’re fighting, but they’re playing. If your dog hasn’t shown any of the above signs and is relaxed and loose while interacting, it’s most likely play.
You’ll also likely notice that the pup’s interaction begins with the famous play bow (when the dog lowers their front end and sticks their butt in the air).
You should also notice that the dogs take turns being in charge as opposed to one dog dominating the other. If dogs are playing, let them play, but stay close and supervise.
Prevention is ideal, but sometimes things escalate and happen quickly. If your dog starts fighting with another dog, remain calm, as startling as it is. Swift action and a cool head can end a dog fight quickly.
But don’t try to intervene by grabbing your dog. Not only can this make the fight worse, but you’ll also put yourself in harm’s way.
Likewise, if your dog is on a leash, it can be tempting to try and pull them away. However, pulling your dog might cause them to try and fight harder. Instead, try these tips for breaking up a dog fight.
Sometimes, a big enough distraction can make dogs stop fighting long enough for you to separate them. You can try spraying them with a hose, making a loud noise, covering them, or spraying them with a strong scent.
You can use a dog training horn to distract your pup or use other objects to make a loud noise. Don’t yell and scream because this can make your dog think the fight should continue. The idea is to find something loud and distinct that startles the dogs enough for you to separate them.
Covering them with a jacket or towel can also potentially break up a fight. The dogs lose sight of each other and can stop long enough for you to intervene safely. Spraying the dogs with citronella spray can also cause them to stop.
If distractions don’t do the trick, attempt to separate the dogs with a larger object. Do not simply use your arms or try to get yourself between them. You can use a large board, trash can lid, a large broom, etc.
If the fight is between smaller dogs, you might be able to put something over one of them. For example, you could get a basket or bin over one dog long enough for someone to remove the other dog from the area.
You might need to use a break stick if the dogs have a strong hold. This is a board or wedge you slide between the dog's jaws and twist to try to loosen their grip on the other pup.
Remember that using something like this puts your hand very close to the dog’s mouth. So, don’t attempt unless you’re confident in your abilities. Remember, you need to remain calm and assertive.
You'll have to get more physical if the first two methods don’t work. Only attempt to physically intervene if another person is present and you both feel you can safely approach the dogs.
The best way to intervene physically is the wheelbarrow method. This method ensures that you don't try and grab the dogs' jaws and puts distance between you and their mouths.
To do this, grab your dog’s hind legs and lift them off the ground. It should almost look like you're playing wheelbarrow with your pup. The other dog’s handler should do the same. Back the dogs away from each other and get far enough away that they can calm down.
Once you break up the fight, get your dog to a safe, calm area. Use positive, soothing words to help them relax so you can check them for any injuries. It’s also a good idea to take your dog to the vet.
The vet can check them out, ensure all is well, and care for any possible abrasions or injuries. You can consult with the other dog's owner to verify the dog has their vaccinations. If you’re unsure, let your vet know so they can determine the best way to proceed.
If your dog still seems stressed, help them calm down by using a lick mat or comforting touch.
Dogs fight for various reasons, including resource guarding, fear, stress, and protection. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to stop a dog fight, remain calm. Try to distract the dogs first; if it doesn’t work, you can attempt to separate them with a large object.
Only physically intervene as a last resort. You can try the wheelbarrow method if someone else is there to do the same with the other dog. If you’re alone, identify the aggressor and focus on getting them to release their hold using a break stick or other object. However, only if you are comfortable and confident doing so.
For more helpful tips on how to take the best care of your canine companion, make sure to check out our blog. You’ll find all sorts of info that can come in handy in many situations.
January 25, 2023