How to Handle a Dog Fight

Dog fights are common when there are multiple dogs in a home or other setting, particularly if the dogs are not familiar with one another. Breaking up a dog fight can be dangerous for dog owners or other mediators if not done properly. It is crucial to follow certain guidelines when breaking up a dog fight to ensure safety.

Identifying Dog Fights

The first step in handling a dog fight is to determine whether the dogs are actually fighting versus playing. Dog play can be rough and is often mistaken for fighting. The difference between fighting and playing can typically be determined by the dogs’ body language. If both dogs have tails wagging and loose bodies, it is usually play. If dogs are fighting, their bodies are typically tense and tails are rigid.

Identifying Bullying

Even in cases of play, one dog can be disinterested and become aggressive. If it seems as though one dog is instigating the majority of play, leading the dog that seems excited away safely using a leash or noose will help to identify bullying. If the dog that seemed disinterested moves to follow the other dog, it is likely that bullying was not happening and the dogs can safely be allowed to continue with play.

Distract Fighting Dogs

If dogs are fighting, creating a diversion may help to safely break up the fight. A loud noise will usually work to distract the dogs, but water may work as well. Fighting dogs should never be touched with hands or body parts, as the aggression will often be redirected and may result in injury.

Secure Fighting Dogs

Before taking action to secure one dog, it is important that others are involved to secure any other dogs involved in the fight. An unsecured dog may take the opportunity to attack the secured dog, or may attack the person trying to secure the dog. Dogs should be secured using leases, muzzles, leashes or other restraints. Dogs should be secured swiftly and taken away from the situation to cool down. If other dogs are present that were not involved in the fight, action should be taken to ensure that those dogs are secured prior to breaking up the dog fight.

Preventing Dog Fights

It is easier to prevent dog fights than to stop them. Keeping dogs secured in a yard or home will help to prevent fights with stray or neighborhood dogs. When socializing dogs, the dogs should never be left unattended. Dog owners should be present to ensure safe play and to handle dog fights, if necessary. It may also be helpful to eliminate possible environmental stressors, such as toys that may cause competition when first introducing dogs to one another.