When dogs get into fights, it can be very scary. Whether they are fighting with their siblings or at the dog park, or they get into a scuffle with another pup while they are on a walk, it can be tough to know how to react to make sure all the dogs and humans involved stay safe and break up the fight as soon as possible.
How to Safely Break Up a Dog Fight
If your dog is getting into fights with other dogs, here's what to do in the moment and make sure that everybody comes out of the situation without getting hurt.
Avoid the head and neck
When two dogs start fighting, it might be your gut instinct to grab one dog's neck or try to break them apart at the mouth. Or, you might try to get in between the dogs to tear them apart. These are all bad ideas and can lead to you getting bitten. A dog may also become aggressive towards you if he is already wound up.
Instead, grab them both by the rear ends – preferably with the help of someone else – and pull them away as quickly as possible. If the dogs are moving quickly, you can also place your foot on one of the dog's rib cages and push. This can also help if you don't have a second person to remove the other dog.
A distraction may be able to stop two dogs from fighting. One way to distract dogs is with loud noises. You can bang metal trash cans together or honk horns. You can also spray water on the dogs with a hose or dump a bucket of water on them, if you have either of those things nearby.
Separate the dogs with an object
If you have a long branch, an umbrella, a chair, a blanket or another object that you can put in between the dogs, do it. The object should be long enough so that you don't get hurt trying to put it in between them. Opening an umbrella might be a good idea, since it'll startle the dogs.
The wheelbarrow technique
With the wheelbarrow technique, you and the other dog's owner will approach your dogs at the same time. Each of you will grab hold of your dog's legs - toward the top of the legs, just under their hips. (Don't grab their lower legs, as this could cause injury to the dog.) Lift your dog's rear end up like you'd lift a wheelbarrow, and move backwards. Once you're a few steps away, turn around so that the dogs can no longer see each other.
Preventing fights in the first place
If you have a rescue dog, he may have had fights in the past or been abused by his owner, which is causing him to get aggressive. You may have to take him in for formal obedience classes and be extra careful not to yell at him or make him feel like he is in an abusive situation again.
When taking your dog on a walk or to the park, look for signs that he is getting wound up. He may growl at other dogs, snap, snarl or show teeth. The hair on his rear end may be raised as well. Make sure you have a tight grip on your dog when you take him on walks, and remove him from the dog park should he begin to get aggressive.
Make sure you avoid situations that provoke your dog. For example, he may not like other male dogs, may get upset when another dog is near his food or might have a problem with a screaming children. Do everything you can to keep the environment around him calm, and invest in a good trainer if your basic obedience lessons are not working.
If your dog does get into a fight on the rare occasion, just make sure you check him for injuries after the fight. If he has any open wounds, take him to the vet immediately. While you're there, ask the vet for any advice on preventing fights in the future.