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How To Break Up a Dog Fight (Without Getting Hurt!)

It happens all too often. You’re in the park walking your dog, when all of a sudden there’s snarling and biting as a dog fight breaks out. If this situation is new to you, then it can be extremely frightening. What do you do, especially if you’ve never had to know how to break up a dog fight before? 

Dog fights are a natural part of dog behavior, and they are thankfully short. But some are more vicious than others, and owners need to know how to intervene to stop their pets from hurting each other.

Dog fights are also unpredictable, and owners need to know how to safely break up a dog fight without getting hurt themselves!

In this article, we look at why dogs fight in the first place, how you can prevent dog fights from breaking out, and how you can break up the fight itself.

Keep reading to find out how to break up a dog fight (without getting hurt!). 

Why Do Dogs Fight? 

Dogs are domesticated animals, and as owners, we like to think of them as being fun, friendly, cuddly, or affectionate all of the time.

While this might be the case at home on their own with their human parents, the reality is that dogs still have a wild, natural streak inside of them. This wild streak most often appears when there are other dogs around, and in many cases, it can lead to dog fights.

Dog psychology shows that there are many reasons for the fighting, while the severity and longevity of the fight depends on the temperament of the dogs involved, their training, and how worked up they become. 

The most common reasons for fights include the following:

  • Dogs are territorial - One of the main reasons for dog fighting is marking territory or ‘protecting’ their home. Dogs often confront unknown dogs in areas they see as belonging to them.
  • Dogs want to protect their owners - Dogs are loyal animals, which means they also want to protect their owners and their family. If they feel threatened by other dogs, fights can break out. 
  • Dogs want to protect their food - Dogs naturally try to protect their food and other resources, so competition can turn into fighting. This can happen with toys or sticks too. 
  • Dogs have too much energy - Play fighting can turn nasty if dogs have too much energy or haven’t had enough exercise. Likewise, a more energetic dog can annoy an older, less energetic dog, leading to fighting. 
  • Dogs have experienced trauma - Dogs that have been abused earlier in their life or that have experienced trauma are more likely to lash out at other dogs or people. 

While dog fighting is in many ways natural, it can obviously lead to tragic dog leg injuries, pain, and trauma, and owners need to know how to prevent fights and how to safely intervene before anyone gets hurt. 

How to Prevent Dog Fighting 

Every responsible owner should know how to break up a dog fight when the time comes. 

Sometimes worried dog owners say - my dog keeps attacking my other dog for no reason. In fact, most of the times - there is always a reason. 

Different dogs will display different warning signs or a combination of different signs, but the following are the most obvious things to look out for: 

  • Growling - Dogs start to growl if they feel threatened or are preparing to fight.
  • Teeth baring - Dogs bare their teeth towards an opponent as a sign that could launch a fight. 
  • Flattened ears - Your dog’s ears can flatten against their head as they feel threatened or uncomfortable. 
  • Tails stop wagging - If a dog feels uncomfortable, then they tuck their tail in. 
  • Excessive panting - Dogs start to pant more than usual if they feel uncomfortable.

If you notice that your dog is visibly uncomfortable, then you should take precautions when they are around other dogs: 

  • If you are outside, in public areas such as the park, ensure your dog is on the leash.
  • Inside, you can separate dogs into different rooms or let one dog into the yard to use up their energy.
  • Avoid creating competition if there are multiple dogs around by ensuring all dogs have equal access to food or water and watch out for the warning signs above.
  • If you know that your dog is predisposed to aggressive behavior, then they may need a muzzle when in public.
  • Owners can also attend training sessions or seek out the help of a vet or behavioral psychologist.  

How to Break Up a Dog Fight

Dog fights happen unexpectedly, however, and even the calmest of pets will end up in a scuffle at some point in their lives.

Not all fights can be prevented, and owners also need to know the best course of action to take if a fight breaks out. 

To start, there are several things that owners shouldn’t do to stop a fight that’s already in progress:

  • Don’t grab a dog’s collar - they might bite you. 
  • Don’t place yourself between the dogs that are fighting or use your hands to break them up (to avoid injury to yourself). 
  • Don’t pull a dog by grabbing its tail, as this can exacerbate the situation. 

So what can owners do to break up fighting dogs?

To begin with, owners need to remain calm. Don’t just start jumping in and grabbing pets!

Assess the situation, and then use the following methods to separate dogs:

Start making noise

Owners need to start making noise when dogs start fighting.

  • Shout commands that your dog understands, such as no or stop or sit.
  • Call their name loudly.
  • If shouting doesn't work, you can start clanging pots and pans together (if you're at home), or start letting off air horns.

The idea is to make noise as a distraction. This method is surprisingly effective, but it might not work on the most aggressive dogs or the most involved of fights. 

Spray fighting dogs with water

Spraying dogs with water is another effective method of distraction to separate aggressive culprits.

  • If you’re in your backyard, then the quickest way to end the fight is to bring out the hosepipe. 
  • If you’re at the park, then it’s a good idea to take a water bottle with you. If your dog starts to fight, then spray them with the water to distract them from the other dog. 

Place a barrier between the dogs 

To avoid being bitten, owners should separate fighting dogs using a physical barrier rather than stepping between them. You might not have much choice, so use what it is to hand. 

  • For instance, if you’re in the park, then a large stick or piece of wood can separate and separate the dogs enough to stop the fight.
  • If you’re in your home, then use a chair, large pillows, or any other large objects in the room.  

The wheelbarrow technique 

The wheelbarrow technique is an effective method to employ if there are two people available to break up the fight. 

  • This method needs one person to grab the hind legs of each dog that’s fighting before pulling them away from the other dog.
  • The dog should be pulled backward, then in a semi-circle, so they are facing away from the other dog they were fighting. 
  • Remember not to grab the dog’s tail or to grab them by the collar or head.
  • Once the fight has been broken up, owners need to remove their dogs from the scene.
  • Keep them calm, put them on the leash if in public, or take them to another room in the house.
  • Owners should check their pets over for any injuries, and if concerned, contact their local veterinarian. 

How to Break Up a Dog Fight: The Last Word 

Dog fights can be scary for owners, especially if it’s your first time dealing with aggression or if you have to learn how to break up a dog fight alone.

In all dog fighting scenarios, always remember to stay calm and never separate the dogs by putting yourself in danger. 

Dog fights are always short, however, and using safe methods such as hosing with water, creating distractions, or putting up barriers will help to end a fight even quicker.

Always check your dog for injuries afterward, and in the future, try to prevent fights before they break out. 

Why not bookmark our guide to how to break up a dog fight, in case you ever find yourself having to deal with fighting dogs?

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