How To Break up a Dog Fight


Knowing the safest way to help dogs hash it out

Most dogs want to socialize with members of their own species, otherwise they are living through a form of solitary confinement. But allowing dogs to get together isn’t without risk.

Most of us have probably experienced it, that moment of absolute panic and helplessness when what seemed like harmless play or a perfectly regular doggie meeting suddenly turns into a full-on fight, teeth bared and fur flying.

And then the big question: what do I do?!!  How do I stop it without getting hurt myself?!

Prevention is the Best Defense

Of course preventing a dog fight is a far better option than dealing with it once it has begun. While you can’t control how other owners handle their dogs, you are in charge or your own dog’s training and management.

1. Pay attention to the group dynamic

When your dog around other dogs is not the time to get so engrossed in your phone, book, or conversation that you don’t notice when tensions are starting to rise.

Normal, happy dog play often involves a lot of growling and wrestling so it can be difficult to determine when a problem is developing.

Signs to watch out for that indicate a dog fight could be imminent include:

  • Raised hackles

  • A stiff tail or body posture

  • A deeper, more guttural tone to growling or barking

  • Snarling that shows a lot of teeth

  • Snapping

  • A dog who is trying to get away but is not being allowed to do so

2. Practice basic obedience.

If you start to see signs of stress in your dog or other dogs in the group, call your dog to your side and reward him for coming. You can do this by:

  • Tell him to sit and stay

  • Wait until he and the overall situation appear more relaxed

  • Work on obedience training on a regular basis

  • Always praise and reward good behavior

Your goal is to have complete confidence that no matter what is going on around him, your dog will immediately obey your command.

3. Know your dog’s triggers.

Some dogs are well behaved under most circumstances but have certain triggers that bring out the worst in them.

For example, your dog might love to play with her housemate but can get aggressive when she feels her food is in danger of being taken away.

The safest way to deal with situations like these is to avoid them. These two dogs should never be in the same area when food or treats are available.

When a Dog Fight Happens Anyway

If despite your best efforts at prevention your dog does get into fight, keep in mind that your primary objective is to prevent significant injuries… to the dogs and to the people who are involved.

  • Don’t panic.

  • Distract the dogs.

  • Physically separate the dogs.

As a last resort, you can try grabbing your dog’s thighs, lifting him into a wheelbarrow position, and pulling him backwards, but this does involve some risk that you might be bitten. 

Never reach for your dog’s collar or head as this is the surest way to get injured during a dog fight.