It is important to differentiate a fight from an altercation. Altercations may involve growling, barking, snapping, and dominant-aggressive body posturing, but in most cases the dogs do not harm each other, and the altercations usually do not require intervention. A fight involves at least one dog grabbing or latching on the other dog’s skin or body parts with the intent to do harm.
Prevention is always best, so have the appropriate tools on hand before introducing dogs such as water spray bottles, shaker cans, air horns, or a garden hose to spray the dogs in case they do get into a fight.
Breaking up a fight between dogs is dangerous. DO NOT attempt to pull a dog off or away from another dog when it is latched on to another dog and not letting go. Grabbing the dog’s collar can put you at risk of a redirect bite, and attempting to pull the dog that is latched on to another dog while it continues to hold on, almost always results in more severe injuries by creating lacerations or tearing in the muscle tissue instead of punctures.
What do you do when there is a dog fight?
- This first thing you should do, which is often the most difficult, is REMAIN CALM.
- Create a loud noise initially to distract the dogs from one another, any loud sound will work (air horns are great, but so would banging two pots together)
- If the loud sound does not separate the dogs or you do not have an air horn, use any item near you. Examples include chairs, lawn furniture, baby pools, dog beds, or anything large that you could wedge between the two of the dogs that are fighting. You could grab a large dog bowl and slam it on the ground near them to scare them or spray them with a water hose to distract them from each other.
- If these fail, pick up the legs of the dog that is latched on to the other dog by the back legs and lift him straight up in the air vertically causing the dog to be upside down (90 degrees). This will cause the dog to lose its balance and let go of the other dog. As soon as the dog releases its hold, spin the dog 180 degrees and back away from the other dog by sidestepping with the dog that is being held. The purpose of circling will cause the dog to stop focusing on the other dog and will make it more difficult for them to redirect and bite you. This is called the wheel barrel method and is most effective when you have two people doing it, one with each dog, but it can be done with one person when another person is not nearby to help.
- Kicking or hitting a dog during a dog fight is not recommended because it increases a redirect bite risk to the handler.
- Please seek medical attention for any injured dog following a dog fight.
If you own a dog that has animal aggression, it is best to leave them at home. If you need to take them out, I recommend muzzle training and keeping an air horn on you anytime you are away from the home for the safety of your dog and others.