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What To Do If Your Dog Gets Into a Fight

dogfightMost 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:

  1. 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.dogfight5
  2. 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.dogfight4
  3. 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).The Sweet Natured Golden Retriever...
  4. 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.dogfight3
  5. 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.wheelbarrow
  6. 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.dogfight6
  7. 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.dogfight5

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!

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{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Chris July 27, 2016, 4:09 am

    Thank you for these tips. Last year while walking my dachshund in my neighborhood, we had bad experiences multiple times where dogs were loose without their owners who attempted to attack my dog. Since he is a dachshund, it’s difficult to pick him up quickly without risking hurting his back, although I’ve been practicing and have gotten better at that. I no longer feel safe walking him in my neighborhood unless we walk early in the morning or later in the day. Instead I’ve started taking him to a local park that has a nice trail to walk on. At least with these tips if something were to happen, I would feel better knowing how to help him if not able to pick him up.

  • Raymond Stevens July 27, 2016, 4:28 am

    The wheelbarrow method will only work if there is another individual with the other dog and they maintain their cool under stress. I carry a can of high powered pepper spray AT ALL TIMES if with my dogs. I would hate to use it on the other dog because of the danger of the dog freaking out in pain and running into traffic. But desperate measures in desperate times. I also carry a revolver. This may not be permitted in your state. It is also the absolute LAST measure you want to resort to and reserved only for large dogs. Be prepared to clearly articulate that you felt your life was in danger. If you’re dealing with a small to medium dog a swift and forceful kick in the ribs with the arch of your foot, not the toe. Or use your collapsible baton should the foot fail. All this is called escalation of force. I have run into coyotes and large dogs. Your best bet is to reverse course if you spot them in the distance and get the hell out of the area.

    • Kristina Kerry July 27, 2016, 1:26 pm

      My puppy was attacked by another dog while we were walking ( on a leash) in the park. We could not get he large dog to loose my puppy. A quick thinking teen had a bottle of water and threw the water in the face od the large dog who then released his bite. Now when we walk, I always carry a bottle of water!

      • VetDepot July 28, 2016, 9:08 am

        Yeah, that’s a good tip! 🙂

  • Jackie Johnston July 27, 2016, 7:34 am

    I have found throwing water into the face of the dogs is very helpful. That has worked every time. Sometimes a spray bottle will work. It is imperative to separate the dogs immediately once they break apart. The wheel barrow trick only works well if there are two people. It will also work if one dog is attacking the other. If you can stop the attacking dog, the fight will be over.

    • VetDepot July 27, 2016, 12:14 pm

      Yeah, I am assuming that people don’t just have water on them at all times (although I do, lol).

  • Dody Dunning July 27, 2016, 10:49 am

    Avoidance is best. If there are 2 dogs and only one person, grab both dogs by their respective tails and lift them both. They may remain engaged at the other end but not for long. Sometimes you can find an obstacle and drop them on opposite sides of it. Dogs without tails are a problem, as are very large ones that cannot be simultaneously lifted.

    • VetDepot July 27, 2016, 12:13 pm

      Have you had success with grabbing them by their tails? I don’t see how that would be a more effective approach than grabbing their legs and using the wheelbarrow approach?

  • Zhinka July 27, 2016, 4:01 pm

    THIS IS SUCH BULLCRAP!!
    seriously, bullcrap, if you have tsmall dogs like labs or pits or rat dogs like the terriers this might work.
    But I dare any one of you reading this to try to pick up the back end of a 240 pound mastiff breed, seriously who writes this junk?
    The easiest way to separate dogs and this is THE ONLY TIME I will ever suggest this, but choke them, a dog that cannot breathe cannot fight, the leashes can be put around without getting hands close to faces and it will make the fight be over in less then 20 seconds.
    Seriously, the people that write this have obviously never rescued giant breeds to suggest this would even work on all breeds.
    So ashamed of this site for thinking the average person could life a mastiff’s back end lolol

    • Ziplock July 28, 2016, 12:16 am

      In all fairness, most people do not have dogs the size of mastiffs. My dogs usually run 60 – 80 lbs, and I am a 66 yr old woman. But I found the article to have very helpful ideas. I do agree with you about the choke, however. A dog that has no air supply soon loses interest in biting.

      • VetDepot July 28, 2016, 9:12 am

        Yeah I wrote this assuming that 240 pound dogs are NOT the norm, LOL. Apparently I wasn’t being inclusive enough. How horrible of me! 🙁

    • VetDepot July 28, 2016, 9:12 am

      I’m actually the person who writes this “junk,” and I would have preferred if you just simply said, “This method probably won’t work on giant 240 pound dogs,” without being rude and condescending. To write this blog post, I did a fair bit of research and also PERSONALLY used the wheelbarrow method to break up two fights that I have encountered between two Pit Bulls that were at least 100 pounds. The point of writing this blog post was to give an alternative to the knee-jerk response that people usually have when dog fights happen – which is to try and pry their mouth open, beat them, yell at them, etc. which are usually NOT effective. I will add your tip to the list because you’re right, that could help – but what if the dog turns on you and bites your hand? Have you personally used this choking method before? Hopefully you’re not too ASHAMED to respond to my question.

    • Linnette Stone July 29, 2016, 6:07 am

      This is written for people who do not have “240 pound bull mastiff’s” which, I think, is just about everyone. Obviously, if you have an unusually large dog you are going to have to resort to more aggressive measures. So, “seriously” this advice is for the vast majority of dog owners.

      • VetDepot July 29, 2016, 9:11 am

        Thank you, Linnette! There always has to be a random internet troll who has to criticize something because they’re bored. 😛

  • George Stevens July 28, 2016, 2:57 pm

    Zhinka’s must be a Hillary supporter.

    She knows stuff. But, she doesn’t understand anything.

    I’m sending over the Dog Police to seize her dog … by the back legs.

    • VetDepot July 28, 2016, 3:13 pm

      LMFAO! Thanks for that, George. You made my day with your comment. <3 I agree 100000000000% - they know stuff, but they should still know BETTER.

  • Rae July 31, 2016, 10:06 am

    Don’t get why people think it’s “fun” to write such nasty responses– get’s really annoying! I found this info extremely helpful! I’ve been lucky so far, but I live pretty rural and if a strange, aggressive dog would show up– I need to have some idea what to do to protect my little 39 LB guy. Thanks for taking the time to research and share your experience with us..I’m sure the majority of us really appreciate it!

    • VetDepot August 1, 2016, 9:29 am

      Thank you, Rae! 🙂 There always has to be that one person who has to find something wrong with literally everything and complain about it. 😛 I try to ignore it!

  • Renee Goshorn August 5, 2016, 12:17 pm

    I have used all kinds of methods to break up fights/squabbles. I did only once have to choke a dog out. It was a very large American Bull. I am a shelter employee and volunteers seem to always let strange animals come in contact, then a fight breaks out. Many different methods work, especially when you are working with several different breeds and sizes. For the average dog owner, this is very good info.

  • Elena August 6, 2016, 12:25 pm

    Zhinka yo came a bit strong, especially considering that 240 pounds dogs are the exception. The advice by VetDepot is reasonable and good to keep in mind.

    Personally I have adopted rescued dogs for the last 20 years, having 30 dogs at once as my maximum (now I’m down to 13), and while in the last years I have had no fights there was a time when I’d have 2-3 fights a year between the big ones, never the small ones.

    First order was to get any dog under 25 pounds FAR from the fight because they stood no chance. Then separate the big ones (weights ranging from 40 to 80 pounds). Water only worked the first time, from then on I used the wheelbarrow technique or, when the dog refused to let go, I would insert my hand on their collar by the nape and twist it to press their ‘piping’ and force them to open their mouths to breath, at what point I would lift/carry them by the collar and tail (I know, very painful) to a room, close the door, and go back to the melee. Since I know my dogs I knew the ‘picking’ order of withdrawal, pulling the strongest/meanest first and so on. I only got bitten once, on my toe, and it was a mistake by the poor dog on the bottom, who was howling and biting blindly left and right trying to get up from his tummy-up position.

    Of course, they were my dogs, I would never have done it with strange dogs unless other people are present and can step in and help.

  • Pam Green August 8, 2016, 10:45 am

    this is essentially the advice I give. especially do NOT put your own body parts near the end with teeth. you , me , or Queen of England, dogs who are fighting will get you by accident.
    also if it’s outdoors and hose is handy, run hot water out and then run water into both dogs’ mouths and noses. if they think they might drown, they will let go. sounds mean but better than injuries they might do to each other.
    remember to BREATHE. breathe long and slow if you can. very hard to stay calm when you are terrified your precious dog is getting hurt.

  • Pam Green August 8, 2016, 10:50 am

    and yes, the choke method could work. probably takes some strength and your hands are in the danger zone.
    choice of methods for anything can depend on your own personal abilities and with dogs also on size and temperament of dogs involved.

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