While your dogs may get along most of time, there may be occasions when things may get on the tense side. Generally, dogs avoid conflict by using body language and vocalizations instead of going straight to a bite, and fortunately, most of the time they get out of arguments unscathed; however, there may be times when one dog won’t back down and you will need to act quickly before the fight escalates and a dog gets hurt. Don’t panic. Screaming at the top of your lungs will only make mater worse and increase the level of tension. There are very important guidelines to follow when breaking up a dog fight while keeping yourself safe.
Protect Yourself from a Re-directed Bite
First and foremost, you want to avoid becoming a victim of a re-directed bite. When two or more dogs are fighting, the arousal levels are very high, and therefore, getting in between the dogs may trigger a re-directed bite. It may feel instinctive to intervene especially if you notice one dog is getting hurt, but you definitively don’t want to grab the dogs by the collars and try to pull them away as that’s an easy way to make yourself a target. Yet, you can’t just stand back and watch them fight without doing something, so what’s left to do? More tips follow.
Distract from the Fighting
Dogs often reflexively respond to stimuli around them without thinking about it much. To distract the dogs from fighting you can therefore try to pick up some leashes and say something like “Ready to go on a walk?” Another option would be to ring the door bell if this isn’t a trigger for further fighting. Ringing the door bell may have the dogs respond quickly by rushing to the door in anticipation of some guest.
Startle them to Disengage
Sometimes, you will need to take more dramatic measures to stop the dogs from fighting. Startling the dogs will often trigger them to stop in their tracks. Try using a hose to startle the dogs with water, or alternatively, try a bucket of water or a spray bottle. There are some over the counter spray products that can also be effective. A popular one is Spray Shield. A startling noise may also be very helpful. Dog trainers often keep a can filled up with a coins, an air horn or a couple of pans to clunk together in their training rooms so they’re handy in case a fight erupts. Alternatively, clapping hand and stopping feet may work. Tossing a blanket over the fighting dogs may also confuse them enough to stop the fight.
Part them with an Object
Since you shouldn’t get in between the dogs to prevent getting hurt, you can use some large object to place between the battling dogs. A sheet of plywood, a large board or a folded lawn chair can be used to shove in between the dogs. Of course, this method proves quite difficult since chances are low you will find such large objects readily.
Grab by the Legs
For serious fights where startling won’t work and the dogs are holding on to each other, you may need to physically intervene. One way to do this is by grabbing the fighting dogs by the legs. This requires the collaboration of two people: one person grabs one dog’s hind legs right under the hips, while the other grabs the other dog’s legs in a wheelbarrow fashion. Simultaneously, then they both move the dogs to the right allowing the dogs’ teeth to disengage. The ASPCA recommends spinning the dog around so it’s facing the opposite way and can no longer see the other dog. However, this can be a risky maneuver, especially if you are dealing with large, powerful dogs who are capable of turning around to deliver a re-directed bite. Once the dogs are separated, it’s important to prevent another fight. It’s a good idea to keep the dogs out of sight of each other for a while until they have totally calmed down.
The Bottom Line
The best way to stop a dog fight is not allowing it occur in the first place.
Through management you can prevent fights from happening. If your dogs get into serious fights consider keeping them separated to prevent serious injuries. For minor fights, such as squabbles where there’s nothing more than vocalizations, you may even not need to intervene. Learning more about body language and the signs that a fight is about to erupt is helpful so you can intervene before things escalate. Familiarize yourself with your dog’s potential triggers and the types of aggression. Do the dogs fight over your attention? Over food? When going through the door? Try to avoid creating situations where the dogs may feel compelled to compete and consult with a professional if you need help. These actions should ultimately lead to much more harmony in your pack.