Witnessing a dog fight is extremely unnerving and scary, especially when it is your dog who is involved. A dog fight can be deadly to both canines and humans. Knowing how to safely and successfully break up a dog fight could be the difference in whether your dog suffers fatal injuries.
I decided to write this after my dog was attacked only a few days ago. It was a difficult situation as I had both of my young children with me.
We live very close to a football field and often go there to let Zephyr off the lead and to chase the ball. With it being so close, my 3-year-old daughter, Summer was walking and my 1-year-old daughter, Lilly, was in a chest carrier, facing outwards.
Upon exiting the field we needed to cross the road, but after seeing a man pushing his daughter in a pram (about the same age as Lilly) while walking a dog on the lead, I decided to cross diagonally to walk on the opposite side of the road and avoid contact.
When we were about halfway across, so, in the middle of a T-intersection, his dog lunged at Zephyr and in turn, Zephyr lunged back. Within a few seconds, the other dog slipped his collar and lunged full force, teeth-baring at Zephyr.
At this point we were certainly caught off guard, standing in the middle of an intersection, Summer on the ground and Lilly in my chest carrier. You can imagine it got out of hand before I could even take a breath.
Now, let's talk about priorities. What did I need to keep safe.. my children, my dog and me, all in that order, and in a moment like this, seconds make a big difference.
I knew straight away that I was not willing to bend down and attempt to grab Zephyrs hind legs to pull him away, that had the potential to put Lilly in the middle of it the fight and at the dogs level. I also had summer screaming in terror beside me, and knew that I needed to keep summer behind me no matter what.
This did not leave me with many options... if any!
Here is what I did:
- I continued to hold onto Zehpyrs Lead. I did not yank on the lead to pull him back. There was no point, the other dog was NOT going to give up.
- I kept myself and my children out of the direction of the fight.
- I called at Zephyr to attempt a distraction.
Lucky for me the other dog owner managed to grab his dog and pull it away from us. Having Zephyr on the lead gave me all the control I needed to pull Zephyr away and distract him.
Is this the 'normal' way to handle a dog fight... definitely not! But each situation is different. I have shared my story with you so that you understand that you must assess your situation and what your priorities are.
I am lucky that Zephyr is a Wolfhound cross and he can handle himself in a fight due to his size. But, let's say you own a small dog who is much less defenceless, meaning your final decision may be different to mine.
The steps below have been proven to be the safest and most effective way to break up a dog fight, that is for a 'standard' dog fight.
HOW TO REACT IN A DOG FIGHT
When a dog fight happens, it is common for owners to freeze due to panic, or attempt to grab their dogs collar with their hands to separate them. These are natural instincts and are also the two things you should definitely not do in this situation.
Your first reaction should not be to abuse the other dog’s owner or scream at the dogs to separate them (this was what I did in panic for the safety of Zephyr and my children, and I can confirm that screaming does absolutely nothing), as the loudness and intensity of your voice will likely only fuel their aggression.
You should never, ever attempt to reach in and grab their collars. This is a sure-fire way to get yourself bitten, and this is not because the dog wants to attack you, it likely doesn’t even realise who you are. At that point in time, they are in the heat of the moment, full of adrenaline and are defending themselves against anything that tries to attack or grab them.
The absolute first thing you must do is… STOP, BREATHE & THINK!
Pause for a few seconds to gather yourself, and then proceed with the following, depending on if you are alone or with someone else.
HOW TO SEPARATE A DOG FIGHT WITH 2 PEOPLE
- Take a few seconds to gather yourself
- Communicate with the other person (they are not mind readers, and will likely do the opposite if you have not discussed what your plan is!) I don't expect this to be a calm conversation, but some form of communication is necessary.
- Both dog owners grab hold of the hind legs of each dog
- Together, pull each dog backwards and away from each other
- Keep moving backwards to create as much space between the dogs as possible
- Whilst moving backwards, turn in a circle. Turning them in a circle gives them something else to focus on other than the fight and will also decrease the chance of them biting you.
- Keep moving away and in circles, until one dog is locked away in a separate yard or area if possible.
- If you can not separate them into different areas, then keep moving back until you can grab their collar safely
- Walk away and assess any damage when you are both safe. If you release your dog too soon, he will likely turn back and attempt to continue the fight.
HOW TO SEPARATE A DOG FIGHT ON YOUR OWN
- Take a few seconds to gather yourself
- Make a loop around your dogs flank with your lead
- Pull the dog backwards using the lead that is secured around his flank and tie it to a tree or anything close by that will support his weight. This will move both dogs, which is ok at this point. If you are in an open area like a park, I would recommend doing this to the dog that is not your own.
- Once one dog is secured, move behind the unrestrained dog and grab his hind legs and pull him back/away from the fight.
- As soon as they are separated, turn him in a circle to distract him. Turning him in a circle gives him something else to focus on other than the fight and will decrease the chance of him biting you.
- Lock him away in a separate room, yard, pen or anywhere you can. You can also tie him up if that is your only option. If this is your dog, distract him and gain control again.
- When you approach the first dog you tied up, ensure you do it cautiously as he will still be fired up. If you are unable to approach him safely, call for help.
- When you and your dog are safe, assess the damage and seek medical treatment if necessary.
NOTE: These steps are a guide only and you must assess each situation yourself. Also, these steps are for a genuine fight. If the dogs are only growling, then these steps are not necessary and placing a pillow or object between them or a blanket over one, is often enough to diffuse the situation.
Before attempting to separate dogs, ensure it is a battle that you will win. Meaning, if you are a petite woman and there are two large dogs fighting, you may not have the physical strength to separate them and will run the risk of one of them turning on you. Separating a dog fight is dangerous and if not done correctly, you will likely be bitten. This is a situation that I hope you are never faced with, but if you are, be smart… if you don’t think you will be able to execute your plan effectively, then you may need to let them fight it out and seek immediate help.
HOW TO PREVENT DOG FIGHTS
- If you are not in an off-lead area, do not have your dog off-lead and allow him to run up to the dogs that are on the lead.
- Keep control of your dog when on the lead. Do not let it run in front of your feet and the passerby’s in order to sniff their dogs behind
- Do not assume that every big dog is aggressive. Your dog will pick up on your tension and assume that there is something to be frightened of and fuel any anxiety they may already be feeling.
- Talk to other dog owners. This seems to be the most forgotten one. If you are uncomfortable with how they are interacting, then move away or kindly ask them to call their dog back.
- Remember, they are dogs and they are not going to interact with a ‘hello, how is your day’, they are likely going to bowl each other over and smear saliva all over each other’s face and body. This is what being a dog and having is all about for them.
Dogs are never going to interact like humans, and will never talk/play with another dog if they do not like them, just because it is the polite thing to do. The more we learn about their behaviour, the happier we can all live with these beautiful creates in our lives.
HOW TO DEFEND YOURSELF FROM A DOG ATTACK
I thought this would be a great addition so you know how to defend yourself if a dog attacks you. We focus on dogs attacking each other, but many people are attacked by dogs during walks, runs and hiking.
This video explains the do's and dont's when you come across an aggressive dog.
As beautiful as dogs are, their mouths have the power to inflict serious injury, making it essential to understand what needs to be done prior to the situation.
Any feedback or questions that you would like to share, please reach out to me. I would love to hear from you.
Founder & Veterinary Nurse