Most people think that their dog is a perfect little ray of sunshine spreading love and happiness wherever it goes; and for the most part, that’s accurate. However, sometimes you may see a dog in a shockingly negative light, whether it is your own dog or someone else’s. We have to remind ourselves that dogs are domesticated, but they are still animals that every-so-often resort to physical intimidation or fighting to settle differences. This type of confrontation usually occurs because of a dog’s interaction with another dog that turns sour – either due to the dogs being introduced incorrectly and prematurely, or without supervision. Dogs often fight because of protecting their food, toys, or owner – but sometimes it can seem like the fight just came out of nowhere. It’s helpful to know how to break up two dogs who are fighting with each other just in case it happens to your dog; without intervention, a short fight can prove very fatal, very quickly. Every second counts when trying to separate two dueling dogs, so here’s some tips, thanks to The Dodo:
- Look for Body Language to Prevent a Possible Fight: You can sometimes prevent a fight from occurring by closely studying the body language of the dogs that are interacting. Are their tails wagging? Is one’s tail wagging, but the other is sticking straight up? Is one of the dogs frozen in place, but the other is happily sniffing their butt? Are both of them frozen in place? Is one of them slightly snarling its lip while the other is smelling them? Does one of the dogs have the whites of their eyes showing, or do both of them? These are all indicators that perhaps your meet-and-greet isn’t going so well. Any kind of stress indicators including shaking, yawning, and panting can lead to a physical fight. I have unfortunately witnessed two different dog fights (luckily everyone turned out fine), and I can honestly say that the dog(s) freezing in place is a pretty good indicator that one of them is getting ready to lunge. Coupled with the whites of the eyes showing, or the animal following the other with its eyes without moving its head equates to almost certainty that one of them will lunge.
- If the Fight Is Not Physical Yet, Verbally Distract: It is much easier to separate two dogs who are just growling or barking wildly at each other, than it is when they have begun to make physical contact with each other. Obviously if both dogs are leashed, both owners should be able to pull them apart successfully. But in the case of either two unleashed dogs, or one leashed and one unleashed, call out your dog’s name loudly, or any other commands that they know such as “leave it,” “stop,” “come,” or “no!” Once you have their attention, they will hopefully either come to you, or be distracted long enough that you can grab their collar or body and pull them out of the potentially dangerous situation. Hopefully the other owner is also trying to get their dog away as well, otherwise the other dog may still be trying to instigate a confrontation with your dog.
- If the Dogs Are Engaged in a Physical Fight: Do NOT scream, shout, or otherwise verbally add more chaos to the situation, because it will NOT help anything. At this point, the two dogs are both focused on their fight, and the chance that you are going to verbally separate them is slim to none. If you happen to have an airhorn on hand, or a can full of quarters, then maybe you can somehow distract them both – but I am going to assume you don’t have either of those things handy. ALSO, do *NOT* put your hands anywhere near their mouths! This may be difficult, seeing as the dogs are probably grabbing each other with their mouths – but you can get very badly hurt if you stick your hand into the mix. Not to mention, in most cases it will seem pretty impossible to pry their jaws apart in order to separate them. In my experience, when I have tried to do this, it is extremely difficult – and when I finally do open their mouth to separate them, they either instantly latch on again, or the other dog returns the favor and grabs THEM with their mouth. This will only prolong the fight, and you can possibly lose a finger or need stitches (luckily I didn’t).
- If There Is Physical Contact and They Are Leashed, Don’t Yank Them Away: This may seem like a reasonable course of action, considering you want to get your dog out of the situation as quickly as possible. However, it has been found that if the two dogs are already physically biting each other, there can be more damage done by pulling them away due to the other dog’s teeth grabbing the other. At this point, the dog’s mouth is clamped shut on the other dog’s neck, leg, ear, etc. and if you pull your dog away, it could cause skin to be torn. Many times in these confrontations, a dog may have its mouth around the other dog, but the teeth won’t be breaking the skin. If you pull the dog away, you will definitely cause a laceration, which could be very deadly if it’s on the neck. Instead, use the “Wheelbarrow Method” explained in the next step.
- Use the “Wheelbarrow Method” to Separate Them: So instead of sticking your hand in the fight, you should quickly but calmly grab your dog by its back legs, and begin to pull them towards you. It will be sort of like you both are competing in a wheelbarrow relay race, except you are actually trying to just remove it from a dangerous situation. With its back legs off of the ground, your dog will not be as firmly planted on the ground, which will result in a change in dynamic between the two dogs’ grip. In addition to reducing the power of the dogs’ stances, it will be thrown off by having its legs lifted up, and it will hopefully either let go immediately, or let go as you walk it towards you with its front legs. Of course, the other dog’s owner should be doing the same thing to their dog as well, otherwise it will be more difficult to get them separated. Although your hands and arms will be away from their mouths, be vigilant of the possibility that one of the dogs will redirect its aggression onto you.
- If You Have a Leash Handy, Sling It Around Your Dog: If you have a leash, rope, or even jacket on you, create a loop or lasso with it, and slip it under their body in order to pull them away from the situation. This can be used instead of or in conjunction with the “Wheelbarrow Method” to disengage the two dogs, and hopefully you can swiftly turn the dog’s head toward you and pull it away to a different area. Again, hopefully the owner of the other dog is nearby so that this is effective – but in the case that the other dog who is attacking yours is a stray with no owner (or if the owner isn’t present), then just sling the rope/leash/jacket around your dog, pull it away swiftly, and just get them into a different room or environment immediately away from the other dog. If possible, pick up your dog and carry them to another spot, and even cover their eyes with your hands or shirt so they don’t see the other dog.
- Do NOT Let the Dogs Near Each Other Anymore That Day: This should seem obvious, but do NOT under any circumstances, allow the dogs to go near each other again at least for the rest of the day. Although the fight is “over,” there is no guarantee that they will NOT instantly continue where they left off if given the opportunity. Don’t even let them PASS each other, or SEE each other in the same area, keep them completely separated. Also, if possible, keep your dog away from other dogs that day if you think that they are still in a fight-or-flight state of mind. As for the other dog that was in the fight, I would be extremely hesitant in introducing them in the future until you feel that they can interact without any kind of conflict.
Basically, prevention is the key regarding negative dog interactions that escalate into physical fighting. If you take the proper steps necessary in introducing two dogs together, and are very cognizant of the body language being exchanged between the two parties, then you will hopefully prevent any dangerous fighting from happening. But, if you do find yourself witnessing a fight between two dogs, just remember to NEVER stick your hand into the mix, because it could not only get you injured, but cause you to be less helpful in stopping the altercation due to your injury. Your first reaction should be to grab your dog’s back legs, do the “Wheelbarrow Method,” and get the hell out of dodge! Hopefully you’re a bit more aware of what to do should you find yourself in one of these situations, and if you have other tips or advice please don’t hesitate to comment below! Here’s Cesar Milan’s thoughts on the matter, as well!