How do you break up a dog fight?
While you NEVER want to get in the middle of your dogs’ equivalent of a caged death match, you can do other things to break them apart.
Today, we’ll learn what to do and what not to when your dogs get into a fight!
Related ➨ What can I give my dog to calm him down?
How Do You Break Up a Dog Fight: Do’s and Dont’s
Breaking up a dog fight can be tricky and dangerous. I briefly touched on this in a previous post regarding what to do if you find yourself in the midst of a dog fight while walking your dog.
That post got a lot of comments, some of which I found highly disturbing. That’s why I’ve decided to do a more in-depth post focusing solely on breaking up a dog fight.
I want to first stress that unless you have A LOT of experience with dogs and with aggressive behavior you should never attempt to break up a fight.
I know the first instinct of any dog owner is to try to get the fighting dogs apart, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could become injured in the attempt.
You might think that’s a small price to pay, but the larger price could be medical bills or an inability to go to work.
In addition to that, your intervention could actually escalate the fight if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Now that we cleared that up, let’s talk about what you should and shouldn’t do!
1. Don’t Go for the Collar
One of the biggest no-no’s in breaking up a dog fight is attempting to grab the collar.
NEVER EVER DO THIS.
You are putting your hands directly into the line of fire. When dogs are in the middle of a fight, they have no idea what’s going on. They’re oblivious to everything except the other dog.
If you attempt to grab a collar, you are setting yourself up for a possible bite, at the very least. At worst, you could be maimed.
You’re also setting your dog up for potential injury. It’s just too easy to accidentally twist the collar while trying to hold onto him, which can cause anything from mild choking to a broken neck.
2. Don’t Kick at the Attacking Dog
Again, getting yourself in the middle of a brawl is the best way to get injured, possibly severely.
Another thing to note is that breaking up a dog fight by using force will not work. Rather, you’ll be fueling the aggressive atmosphere.
When the dog feels a kick to his body, he will more often than not increase the intensity of his attack. Remember what I said, in the middle of a fight, the dogs only have eyes for each other.
3. Don’t Use Mace or Pepper Spray
Never under any circumstances use these products as a means of breaking up a dog fight.
Mace and pepper spray act as mucous membrane inflammatories. They cause itching, burning, and swelling of the eyes, nose, and throat. You could very well kill a dog with this stuff. And because it can be difficult to aim in the midst of a brawl, you could hurt or kill both animals. DON’T do it!
The same goes for anything else you may be thinking of spraying. Throwing a bucket of water at them or turning the hose is a quick way to piss them off even more.
4. Don’t Go for the Leash
You might think that grabbing the leash would be the way to go when breaking up a dog fight, but that’s a bad idea, as well.
When dogs fight they use their teeth as weapons, gnashing and biting to cause injuries. If you pull on the leash of either dog, you could very well cause even great harm.
If one of the dogs happens to bite down on the other while you’re pulling at the leash, a simple bite could turn into an extremely nasty wound.
5. Do Use the Wheelbarrow Method
As far as physical intervention goes, there is really only one effective way for breaking up a dog fight, in my opinion – the wheelbarrow method.
While this method is best done by two people, if you’re alone, go for the aggressor. This is the dog putting out the most effort. Neutralizing him will most likely end the fight.
The wheelbarrow method is almost exactly as it sounds.
- You grab the dog as if you’re grabbing a wheelbarrow, with his hind legs as the handle. ONLY do this if you can safely grab the hind feet. DO NOT grab them by the front legs. EVER.
- If you can, grab the back legs down near the feet and begin pulling backward.
- This will put the dog off-balance.
- This effectively prevents him from further attack and stops biting.
- When you put the dog in this off-balance position, he will lose his footing or at least his balance. Most times, this will end the fight.
Note the words “most times.” If they’re still rearing to go at each other after you’ve pulled them apart, you’ll want to put a barrier between them right away. It can be something as simple as a piece of cardboard, a piece of plywood, or another large object that obstructs their view of each other.
However, it’s important to note that you’re not using the barrier to actually separate them. The wheelbarrow method truly is the only safe way to do that.
Check out this video for a visual of how to perform the wheelbarrow method to break up a dog fight (please note that the inclusion of this video is NOT an endorsement of Cesar Milan in general):
Breaking Up a Dog Fight Requires Skill
I want to reiterate this point as strongly as possible.
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE EXTENSIVE EXPERIENCE WITH DOGS DO NOT TRY BREAKING UP A DOG FIGHT.
An angry, confused dog is not a creature to be taken lightly. Even if you do manage to break up the fight, you may be left with a dog who is now focused on you.
If you don’t know what you’re doing and if you have any hesitation whatsoever, you could be in real trouble.
As horrible as it sounds, the average person’s best bet in breaking up a dog fight is to avoid it at all costs, stay out of harm’s way, and NOT intervene.
I know that sounds horrible. It sounds horrible to me as I write it.
But if you don’t know what you’re doing, your dog could either be injured even more severely or you could be injured.
And please remember: dog fights are not the result of an evil dog vs. a good dog. Dog fights are the result of instinct. Dogs are neither good nor evil. They are just dogs.
NEVER injure one do to protect another. Never use chemical mace or pepper spray. You could kill one or both of the dogs. And NEVER try breaking up a dog fight if you don’t have a ton of experience.
Frequently Asked Questions About Breaking Up Dog Fights
Before we conclude, let’s just go over a few FAQs about dealing with fighting dogs. I know we already covered some of this above but these tips are so important that they’re worth repeating.
Yes, it’s a good idea to keep them apart for at least 48 hours after a fight. This gives both dogs AND you a chance to fully calm down so that you can begin reconciliation.Why are my dogs fighting?
There are SO many potential triggers that it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what caused a fight to break out. The most common include:
–Resource guarding: Such as toys, food, heck even your garbage can!
–Redirected aggression: Your dogs can’t attack what is really bothering them- such as a cat walking outside- so they attack each other.
–Territory disputes: This can happen even with two dogs who live together. One may become particularly territorial over his favorite bed or blanket, for example. Sometimes, the “territory” they’re protecting is even YOU.
–They just plain don’t like each other. As much as we want our pets to be BFFs, some dogs simply don’t like each other.
Can I use an air horn to break up a fight?
Sometimes. While dogs who are in the midst of a major fight won’t really be deterred by a loud noise, it can be jarring enough to snap them out of a mild dispute.
Can two dogs live together after a fight?
I often hear people asking, “Do dogs forgive after a fight?” That’s really hard to say because “forgiveness” is a subjective concept. But yes, in many cases two dogs can live together just fine after a fight. However, it’ll take time, patience, and diligence on your part.
Should I keep my dogs separate after a fight?
Yes, it’s a good idea to keep them apart for at least 48 hours after a fight. This gives both dogs AND you a chance to fully calm down so that you can begin reconciliation.
What should you not do after a dog fight?
There are several things you should NOT do after a dog fight, each equally as important as the rest. First, DO NOT punish either dog. Punching, yelling, shaming, and other abusive tactics will only breed more hostility in your dogs.
Second, do not ignore medical treatment. Even relatively mild-looking dog bites can fester and become infected.
Last, DO NOT leave your dogs unattended together. If you were injured trying to break up their fight and need to seek medical attention, find a way to keep the dogs apart while you’re gone. Either put them in their own crates or barricade them in separate rooms.
Does this answer the question of how do you break up a dog fight? Share your thoughts and experiences below.