How to Break Up a Dog Fight Alone
Ever wonder how to break up a dog fight alone? My advice is DON’T DO IT! Most of the time people incur serious injuries when they try to break up a dog fight.
But, I also know that it is instinct for most people to want to save their dog or dogs once a dog fight breaks out. But risking your life and your ability to do simple things like holding a fork, spoon or your toothbrush can be more important than saving your dog.
Let me Explain
Most people see two fighting dogs and their instinct is to run in the middle and take both dogs by the collar and try to separate them. Frequently, this only irritates the fighting dogs and one or both of them may spin around and bite you in the hand or arm and then resume fighting. Even your own dog is likely to bite you because he is caught up in the moment and doesn’t even realize he is biting you.
Getting bit in the hand or forearm commonly requires reconstructive surgery.
The bones and tendons in the hand and forearm are very sensitive and it takes what seems like very little damage to do permanent impairment to your hand and your ability to grasp and hold onto things.
Various people rely on their hands to help them make a living, whether you are a dog groomer, computer programmer, or even a writer or cook, your living could depend on your ability to utilize your hands normally.
I once had a friend that was a K9 officer in the Air Force, one of the guys that recently converted to K9 dropped his hand while catching a dog (on a bite suit) and the dog locked onto his hand, ripping and tearing, and then jumped up to his forearm.
He needed reconstructive surgeries and would require a lifetime of physical therapy. He was only in his 20s.
I have always worried about how he would be able to make a living and support his family but I am thankful he was in the military as most of it will be covered in some way. Even if you are lucky, when you are bitten and don’t require a lifetime of surgeries and physical therapy; you will still incur the pain and trauma of a dog bite neither of which is fun!
But I Know You Are Going to Do it Anyway….
I can tell you horror story after horror story and some people will still get involved.
So I will give you the tricks of the trade that I have learned over the years. The first is to weigh your danger.
Don’t just jump into any dog fight!
Sometimes the fights between dogs from the same family can be worse than those between previously unknown dogs; because of the pent up hostility and previous knowledge of behavior.
Don’t waste your breath yelling.
The two fighting dogs almost can’t hear or don’t care about anything else going on in their environment. They won’t hear or acknowledge you.
Adding pain in the form of hitting or shocking the dogs will often escalate the fight and make it worse, so don’t hit them with anything or expect a shock collar to work.
Breaking up a dog fight usually requires two calm people…
If you are not as calm as possible the dogs can feed off of your fear and energy. Take a breath and be as calm as possible before jumping into the situation. Next each person should get behind each dog (hopefully their own dog) and lift up the dogs’ hind legs and begin to circle the dogs backwards and hopefully out of the fight.
The picking up of the back legs usually throws both dogs off balance and they release their grips on one another for a brief moment.
Do NOT let them go once they release their grips!! They will just run back together and fight again.
Continue circling with their back legs lifted toward an exit, a fence or a kennel area where you and the dog can be safe. This continued circling keeps you safer; if you don’t let go because the dog will have trouble getting a grip on you, because if he swings around backwards he is likely to fall on his face, if he is still worked up from the fight.
Once in the secured area the dog can be released as long as you are not going to be bitten.
If this is not your dog and/or he is still agitated make sure you can enlist the help of another person to leash or utilize a rabies pole to keep the dog at a distance.
If You Are Alone…
If you are alone you will have to tie a leash around one dog’s mid-section or back leg securely and then drag both dogs (still fighting) with that leash toward a place where you can securely fasten the leash… a tree or a fence. Next you will have to go to the unleashed dog, lift his back legs and begin circling him out of the fight.
There is a chance for significant more damage to you when you are alone! Be very, very cautious!
Once the dogs are safely secured you may begin to assess the damage.
I recommend wrapping their snouts with their leashes because a dog in pain, even your own dog, will bite.
This will allow you to assess any damage, stop the bleeding and get the dogs to a vet.
Apply pressure to wounds to stop the bleeding. Always keep a list of veterinarians and emergency vets handy, either marked in your phone or listed in your car, just in case. Arm yourself with knowledge, but always take your own safety into consideration FIRST!
Dog to Dog Aggression
Dog-to-dog aggression is a very common form of aggression in dogs. Its root can usually be traced back to poor socialization; a dog who was poorly socialized as a puppy may be aggressive.
The same applies to dogs who were in isolation as a puppy and continued to be socially neglected as time wore on.
When it comes to dog to dog aggression one of my favorite animal training quotes says. And the same can be said about dogs…
One of the most important things you can do to help your dog NOT be dog-to-dog aggressive is to make sure he is properly socialized as a pup, and not fearful around other dogs.
Most people think that proper socialization is just letting your dog hang out with other dogs, like by taking them to a dog park.
But what they often fail to realize is what types of dogs usually go to dog parks?
ANSWER: Other dogs who also need socialization!!!
So, if you’ve got a dog who is dog-to-dog aggressive, don’t think that just dumping him into a dog park is going to help you – it won’t.
From our experience, dogs who are antisocial actually have a very specific problem.
They don’t know how to read the body posture and cues being given by other dogs, and this makes them more likely to be fearful and overreact with aggression, because they are essentially blind to “getting a read” on how other dogs are feeling about them.
As you can imagine, if you couldn’t tell the difference between whether another dog wanted to play with you or bite you, that would make it pretty hard to be a confident dog in a social setting, wouldn’t it?
Because you wouldn’t know how to read other dogs, you’d be full of social anxiety about whether how you were behaving was being accepted or rejected by the other members of your pack.
A properly socialized dog does not have this problem, because it has learned how to read eye, body, posture, and tail wagging cues; which researchers believe is the non-verbal language dogs have evolved to communicate with each other from the wild.
Unsocialized dogs simply haven’t learned this language yet; that’s why they struggle to get along with dogs who have.
If you feel like your dog is bad at reading other dog’s social cues, we have a Socialization Course that helps dogs learn how to read other dogs.
Invest In a Dog Walking or Daycare Provider
We always recommend to new puppy owners that they invest the extra money into finding a local doggy daycare, dog walker or pet sitter that has pre-screened their dogs as ‘dog friendly,’ where you can expose your dog to proper socialization.
When you bring your dog to a doggy daycare facility where they can interact with a whole pack of other friendly dogs, here’s the beautiful thing that happens…
- Your dog will have a desire to do something, let’s say it’s to wrestle with another dog
- There will be some dogs who want to wrestle at that moment, and…
- There will be some dogs who don’t want to wrestle at that moment
- Your dog will attempt to wrestle with one of them and will either be met with a “NOPE” response from that other dog (with some sort of avoidance response) or your dog will be met with a “SURE! Let’s Play!” response.
Over the course of a week, your dog’s behavior towards other dogs will be continuously met with a variety of social body cues that you or I could NEVER hope to teach him. These are cues only taught by other dogs. And if he’s met by negativity there is almost undoubtedly another dog in the pack who’d be happy to play.
Only in this type of environment can your dog quickly learn how to tell the difference in body language between dogs who want to be left alone, and dogs who want to play; and this allows them to learn how to read social cues and start to respect how other dogs want to be treated.
But if your dog is like a social ‘bull in a china shop,’ and thinks everyone should want to play with him, when you introduce him to dogs that aren’t as willing to play… (where your dog continues to try to play, oblivious to the other dog’s social cues that they don’t want to play)… your dog is going to end up getting bitten over and over again… and will start to think that all other dogs are bad.
So please, when getting your dog around other dogs, do it in a pack environment, that way at least one dog in the pack will want to play rough, and your dog will learn how to tell the difference between the one dog who wants to play and the others who don’t.
So that’s step one 😉
Signs of Stress
Get To Know Your Pup’s Signs of Stress
- Stiffening of the body
- Dilated pupils
- Being able to see the whites of the eyes
- Tail tucking
- Showing teeth
- Avoidance or walking/running away
- Choosing to lay as far away as possible
- Rolling over with the belly exposed
- Barking, Growling or crying
If you see a multitude or mixture of these behaviors get your pup out of the situation, but don’t coddle, hold, or fawn over your pup when he is scared. Simply back up to a more comfortable area so that you can offer calming signs and the ability to reward your pup, never leave on a bad note while petting and cooing to your puppy, this will be misconstrued as praising your pup for his fears.
How to Handle Dog to Dog Anxiety
If your dog already has too much anxiety around other dogs or is an OVERREACTIVE dog when around other dogs (like if he’s lunging, barking or snapping at every dog he sees), then here’s what you want to do.
Don’t allow your dog to get too ramped up around other dogs.
When passing by other dogs on a walk, use devices like a head halter to prevent your dog from getting too amped up and charging off.
It’s a great tool for preventing your dog’s anxiety around other dogs from growing as you take your dog for walks. However, head halters won’t fix your dog’s anxiety, they just prevent it from getting worse.
To attack the root of your dog’s dog-to-dog anxiety, or over-excitement…
Play THIS game with your dog
It’s called the Look Away Game, and it shows you how to teach your dog to control his over-excited or over-anxious, impulsive emotions and behavior when near or around other dogs.
This exercise is the first step to un-training dog-to-dog aggression.
The Look Away Game trains your dog to make eye contact with you when he sees other things like dogs, cats, squirrels, or deer out in his world (note how the trainer in this video doesn’t have to use punishment to get her dog to learn this behavior).
After you watch this video, make sure you download this FREE training exercise that shows you the next steps you need to learn when helping your dog learn to behave around other dogs.
Teaching an Aggressive Dog to Socialize
This is a tricky statement; because as Inigo Montoya says “I do not think it means what you think it means.” When people speak of socializing an aggressive dog, they often mean turning it loose with other dogs, or that is their goal. Many people tell me that they take their dog aggressive dog to the dog park so that he can learn to get along with all dogs.
I’d just like to say, “YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.” I want my aggressive dog, or my client’s aggressive dog, to simply learn to coexist with his trigger in the environment without any aggressive display. My current Malinois doesn’t like people, and he doesn’t really like other dogs, but you can’t tell that by looking at him.
I have taught him “coping mechanisms” around things he doesn’t like. He doesn’t need to go into an aggressive display. I recognize when he is uncomfortable, and I relieve his stress by giving him something to do and think about.
He also trusts me not to stress him out.
For instance, I wouldn’t toss him in a dog park and expect him to socialize, and I don’t force him to allow people to pet him. If I did those things, I would have a dog who couldn’t trust me. Then his only coping mechanism would be aggression and using his teeth.
After all, he can’t talk and tell me, or others, how he is feeling. I must get familiar with his body language and levels of stress, and work together to decrease them, not make them worse. So, stop forcing your dog to do things he doesn’t want to do when it comes to socialization.
If he is growling, snarling, hackling, lunging, and trying to get away, trust what he is trying to tell you; HE IS UNCOMFORTABLE! I can’t tell you how often people will say “he lunges and barks at people or dogs on leash” but once he meets them… I’m thinking, “EGADS!!” Why is he meeting them if those are the behaviors you are describing?
This is how people and other dogs get bitten. Just because he hasn’t attacked a person or another dog yet, doesn’t mean that he won’t! I only allow a dog who is happily wagging his tail at about mid body (not too high, because that is a dominant wag, and not too low, because that is a scared wag) to openly socialize with another dog or person. Find out more about tail wags here https://thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/tail-tells-tale/
He needs to trust you not to expose him or force him into bad situations. Without trust, you won’t have successful training, because he feels like he has to defend himself and take care of himself. I mean, you wouldn’t be able to accomplish a task if you were in a situation and you were afraid something bad would happen to you, and you didn’t trust the person you were with to take care of you.
In other words, I am going to drive you to the bad part of town and give you a math test to take. My brother is a police officer so I wouldn’t have any trouble doing this task if he was with me. I wouldn’t, however, be able to do this if I was with the coworker that doesn’t like me.
It is crucial that your dog trusts you. If you want him to ignore the “danger” he perceives, and perform obedience tasks, he has to trust that you can take care of him and you!
And, the reward for successfully functioning around his trigger must be greater than the distraction itself! I will also want a hungry dog! If I am going to work on something as important as changing aggressive feelings, I am going to want to ensure that my dog is hungry. A hungry dog is a motivated dog!
Then the rewards that I use are more meaningful. If I took you to the buffet and let you eat till you were full, offering you a candy bar to pick up a snake or let a spider crawl on you probably wouldn’t be effective. If you were hungry and had missed a meal or two, you would probably be more motivated!
Now it is your job to teach your dog how to function around his trigger.
He doesn’t have to be “petted” by people if he doesn’t like people.
He merely has to be able to be around them without an aggressive display.
He doesn’t have to “play” at the dog park or with other dogs.
He merely has to be able to walk past other dogs without losing his cool.
Once you know what your dog needs, being able to trust you and being motivated to listen to you, you will be able to work on his aggression and socialization!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.