How to Break Up a Dog Fight: 6 Expert Tips
by Janine DeVault - 9/30/19
ust as changing a tire is an essential skill for anyone with a driver’s license, knowing how to break up a dog fight is crucial for dog owners. You hope you never have to exercise the knowledge, but you’ll be glad to have the skill if you find yourself in need.
Dog fights are stressful and emotional events, and it can be tough to think rationally when you’re worried for your pup’s safety. But it’s really important to keep a level head when breaking up a dog fight. In this article we’ll cover exactly what to do (and what not to do) if you find your pup in a scuffle.
1. Learn Your Dog’s Warning Signs to Prevent Fights
There are all kinds of reasons why a dog might become aggressive. If you know your dog’s body language, you’ll be able to spot the signs early and remove him from a situation that’s triggering him. You’ll also be better able to avoid putting him in situations that could lead to aggression.
Take note of situations that make your dog feel stressed or scared, as this can lead to aggression when amplified. Standard signs of a stressed or fearful dog are frequent lip licking, tail tucked between his legs, whale eye, trembling, avoiding eye contact and more. If your dog conveys any of these signals, it’s up to you to determine the reason why and help him avoid or overcome the issue.
2. Determine Whether It’s Necessary to Get Involved
It’s important to know what a dog fight looks like and when your intervention is required. Many dogs like to play rough, which often involves a certain amount of growling. To the untrained eye this behavior might come across as aggressive, but often it’s just good fun. Additionally, it’s normal for dogs to have the occasional disagreement, and it’s healthy to give them the opportunity to work it out for themselves. If this type of disagreement escalates into something more than a scuffle, however, you will need to step in. If an aggressive interaction doesn’t resolve in just a few seconds, it’s time to intervene.
3. Attempt to Break Up the Fight From a Distance
The safest way to break up a dog fight is from a distance. Your best course of action is to distract the dogs from their fight. This won’t always work, but it’s worth a try. Try shouting, banging pots and pans together, blasting some sort of noise maker or spraying them with a hose to get their attention. If you can redirect their attention away from one another and to you, you should be able to separate them safely.
4. Never Get Between the Dogs
It’s natural in a moment of panic to want to reach for your dog’s collar and drag him out of a dog fight. Don’t do this. Do not put any part of your body between two dogs during a fight, because you are likely to get hurt. Your dog doesn’t want to bite you. But if he feels something grabbing at his neck, he is likely to retaliate. Not only will this hurt your physically, but it may change the way you look at your dog. Instead, use the wheelbarrow method to separate your dog.
5. Use the Wheelbarrow Method
Ideally, you’d be able to break up a dog fight without physical intervention, but that’s not always possible. The safest way to separate your dog from a fight is using the wheelbarrow method. This works best when the owner of the other dog is present to do this on their dog at the same time.
Approach your dog from behind, and pick up his back legs. Then pull him backward out of the fight. Since you’re holding his powerful hind quarters in the air (hence, wheelbarrow) he won’t have the leverage to continue lunging at his opponent.
6. Reflect on the Incident
The best way to avoid future fights is to understand why this one broke out in the first place. Sometimes the answer is obvious and other times it takes some digging. Perhaps the other dog was simply very reactive. Or, maybe your dog didn’t take kindly to the way the other dog greeted him. Your dog could have a surprising dislike for dogs that are smaller or larger than him.
Whatever the case, try to think back to the moments before the fight started. How was your dog behaving? When did he begin to act aggressive? In hindsight, is there anything you could have done to prevent this incident? If the answer is yes, don’t be too hard on yourself. We all want what’s best for our dogs, but we can’t anticipate every situation. As long as you make a continual effort to learn your dog’s behaviors and boundaries, you’re on the right track.
Dog fights are scary and stressful, but with any luck you will never find your pup in this situation. The good news is, now you know how to break up a dog fight without getting hurt. While you can’t control every scenario, there are some things you can do to help prevent your dog from finding himself in fights. The best way is by socializing your dog consistently, so he knows how to manage unfamiliar situations and environments.
Janine DeVault is a pet writer, animal rescue advocate, and former celebrity dog walker. She lives in Mexico with her three rescue pets, Maia, Fozzy and Kesi.