We’re writing this post in response to the countless questions and comments we get every year regarding dog fights. Dog fights are common, but people rarely know how to proceed to break them up safely, or what to do afterward.
In this article, we’ll be addressing both of those issues, plus providing tips on how to keep dogs from fighting in the first place. Read on and we’ll get to the heart of the problem, how to address a dog fight if it does happen, and what to do to make sure all parties involved are treated appropriately.
Let’s take a closer look.
Note: If you are concerned with illegal dog fighting, please get in contact with our Humane Investigations Department at (559) 233-7722 (SPCA).
How to Break Up a Dog Fight
The process of how to break up a dog fight is fairly straightforward, but in the midst of all of that intensity and aggression, it can be difficult to do and for many, it is downright scary. Here’s how it should be done if you are the one that has to intervene.
The Wheelbarrow Method
One of the most successful methods of breaking up fighting dogs is the “wheelbarrow method.” It’s done by two people grabbing onto the back legs of their respective dogs and pulling the dogs away from one another, essentially making it impossible to keep fighting. Once the dogs are separated, the two people then turn in a circle while they continue to back away from the other dog. This method keeps the two dogs apart and keeps the dogs from returning to the fray and from biting the person holding their legs.
If you don’t have another person to help you break up the fight, try the following steps:
Assess the Situation/Determine the Aggressor
If you find yourself alone and confronted with fighting dogs, you can break up the fight by first determining which animal is the aggressor, or which dog is attacking the other. Typically there will be one dog who is far more intense. Identify that dog and remove it from the fight. Typically, by doing this, both dogs will stop fighting.
Break Any Strong Jaw Grip
In the case of a dog who has latched on to another, it’s vital that you release the dog’s grip before attempting to pull them away, otherwise you risk injuring the other dog further. Do this by sliding a break stick, which is a strong flat stick, insert it horizontal as close to the back of the throat as possible and twist. This will force them to release their grip. Remember, only intervene if the dog’s owner cannot control their dog, and assess whether it is safe to do so.
Pull Backward on the Collar
As the dog breaks it’s grip, pull backward to remove it from the situation. Remember not to pull up in order to avoid any confusing signals that you’re entering the fight yourself. As Cesar Milan always says, “remain calm and assertive.” This is definitely one of those times. As you pull, remember to make it known that you are a human friend by using a loud commanding voice.
Remove the Dogs from the Area
It’s important to get the dogs far away from one another to keep the problem from happening again. Remember that dogs can cover great distances very quickly, so be sure to keep them leashed after the fight.
What to Do When You Can’t Break Up a Fight
There will be times when you encounter a dog fight and you are unable to break it up. If the dogs are too aggressive and breaking up the fight will put you at risk of serious injury, stay out of it. People end up with severe lacerations, crushed bones, and sometimes far worse when the dogs accidentally turn their attack on them. Use your best judgment to do what is safest for both you and the dogs.
People have lost their dogs to severe altercations, but more often than not a dog fight is over after a few intense seconds.
Know Your Limitations
The important thing is to do what feels safest for you and the dogs involved. Know your physical limitations and make sure you don’t do anything that you feel will put you at risk.
How to Prevent a Dog Fight
Another important thing to consider is how to keep dogs from fighting. The best answer to how to break up a dog fight is never to let it start in the first place.
Avoid Outings if Your Dog is Aggressive
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. If your dog is aggressive, keep them at home. Walk them with a muzzle if need be, but don’t put them in a dog park with other dogs when you know that they have the potential to start a fight.
Read Body Language
A dog’s body language is not as easy to read as people think. A panting dog may look like it’s smiling, but it may be fearful and on edge, ready to snap if it feels threatened.
- Licking lips
- Exaggerated yawn
- Turning away
- Flattened ears
- Tail tucking, standing straight out, flickering
- Whale eye—turned head but with an eye still looking at the perceived threat
- Pilo Erection -the stiffening of hair down the spine
If you notice these signs, it’s important that you remove the dog as quickly as possible to avoid a potential fight.
What to Do After a Dog Fight
If your dog (or another dog) does get in a fight, it’s important to know how to handle them as soon as the fight is over. Be sure to:
Remove the Dog from the Situation
The first step after the fight has been broken up is to keep the dogs far away from one another. Make sure they are tethered or leashed and give them enough time to calm down as you walk them away (considering one or both are not badly injured).
Calm Them Down
After you walk away and when you get to a place where you can inspect them, be sure to give them plenty of comforting words and pets to help them recover from the traumatic event. Most dogs will recover from a minor fight fairly quickly, but some may be nervous for quite some time.
Check Them for Injuries
Fighting can be very dangerous, and it’s important to check each dog very carefully for bite wounds, cuts, and abrasions. Gently go over each dog’s entire body visually, then with your hands to determine if there are any tender areas that may need further examination. It’s always a good idea to get your dog checked out by your vet to make sure they are okay. Their fur and high pain tolerance can easily hide a more serious problem.
Take Them to a Safe Place
As long as your dog is in a good general state, take them home to recover in familiar territory. Make sure they have a comfortable place to get away from it all. Plenty of rest, praise, pets, and even some extra treats will go a long way in helping them recover. If your dog is still nervous, try reintroducing them to public dog parks at slower times, or with smaller dogs.
If Your Dog is Severely Injured
Fighting can be brutal, and there is always the risk of dogs being badly injured. Unfortunately, there are no dog ambulances, so you’ll need to rush your dog to the nearest emergency vet hospital.
It’s a good idea to know where the closest hospital to your house, dog park, and anywhere else you visit frequently is located. That way, if something ever does happen, you know where to go. Make sure they are a true emergency animal hospital and that they are open 24/7. Your vet likely will not be able to handle emergency situations appropriately.
If your dog is injured, it’s best to carry them, when possible, to your car for transport. However, carrying them may cause them pain and discomfort which could cause them to lash out and bite. We suggest placing a towel or piece of cloth over their head which will make them feel secure and less likely to bite. If they are bleeding severely, use a towel or shirt to apply firm pressure to the area to control the bleeding. Try to keep your dog calm and request that someone drive you to the hospital in your car if need be. The worst thing your dog can do in these situations is panic and risk further injury.
Your clothes and car can be cleaned, but your dog’s life may hang in the balance if you wait too long.
Now You Know
Most people don’t understand how to break up a dog fight. Now that you know, be sure to help others if you see them trying to break up a dog fight incorrectly. The risk of injury to both the dog and any intervening person is very high, and using the tactics outlined in this article can help save both from serious injury.