How to Break Up a Dog Fight

Three Parts:Breaking Up a Fight From AfarGetting Physically InvolvedStopping Fights Before They Start

When dogs wrestle and nip at one another they're usually just getting some playful exercise. Sometimes, though, the roughhousing gets out of control and you've got a full-blown dogfight on your hands. If the fight doesn't seem to show signs of stopping quickly, it's important to step in before one of the dogs get hurt.

Part 1
Breaking Up a Fight From Afar

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    Stay calm. Most dogfights only last for seconds. Your greatest advantage in this situation is a clear head. The best thing you can do is to startle the dogs enough to distract them. [1]
    • Resist the urge to grab your dog by the collar. This might be your first impulse, but when dogs are really fighting, they may whip around and bite instinctively, even without any past aggression. When the dogs' bodies are rigid and it's clear they're actually fighting, not playing, don't risk reaching your hand in there.
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    Make as much noise as you can. Dogfights don't last long, so use whatever you have at hand.
    • Yell, shriek, stomp your feet, and clap your hands -- whatever you can do to attract the dogs' attention.
    • If you have metal dog bowls or garbage cans nearby, you can bang two pieces of metal together. [2]
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    Hose them down. Water -- as much as you have -- can really get a dog's attention. Douse the fighting dogs with a hose, a bucket, or a cup of soda if you have to. No harm done, and in most cases the dogs will walk away, a little wet but not worse for wear.
    • If you are going to a dog park or another location where there will be unfamiliar dogs, bring a spray bottle to use in an emergency.
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    Use a barrier to split them up. Look for something you can use to separate the dogs. A large piece of cardboard, plywood, a garbage can lid, a big stick -- any of these can be used to separate the dogs without putting your hands in harm's way.
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    Throw a blanket over the dogs. Some dogs will stop fighting when they can't see each other anymore. If you have a large blanket, a tarp, a jacket, or another piece of opaque material, try tossing it over the fighting dogs to calm them down. [3]

Part 2
Getting Physically Involved

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    Yank on a tail. Dogs may startle and release their jaws if you pull hard on their tails. Pull up and backward - this can also pull the dog away from the fight, depending on their size. Continue pulling backward to prevent the dog from turning and biting you. [4]
    • If you have to get physically involved, be careful in yanking the dog's tail because it could cause potential harm to the dog. In addition to being painful, if sufficient force is exerted you can dislocate the tail bones or stretch the nerves at the bottom end of the spinal cord. If this happens there is a risk the dog could lose bladder or bowel function and become incontinent.
    • It's always easier to apply these techniques to your own dogs. However, you may have to interact with the other dog if you are alone or if the other dog is the aggressor. This is why non-contact interventions are best.
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    Use your legs. If nothing else is working, you may feel that you have to get physically involved to prevent serious injury. If you're wearing pants and heavy shoes, you may be able to push some dogs apart with your legs and feet.
    • This technique is especially effective when done with more than one person.
    • It is not necessary to kick or try to hurt the dogs; the goal is to separate them.
    • Once you have separated the dogs, don't forget to protect yourself. In particular, if one or more of the dogs becomes aggressive towards you, don't turn and run - continue to face the dog, stand still, and avoid eye contact.[5]
    • However, be aware you are at potential risk of injury yourself. This method is not advised for large dogs, such as German shepherds, since it is possible to receive collateral damage from a nasty bite to the groin.
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    Use your arms as a last resort. Approach your dog from behind and grab the top of its hind legs. Lift their back paws off the ground into a wheelbarrow position. Move away as quickly as possible. Keep moving until your dog is safe and has calmed down. [6]
    • You may also be able to use a leash looped around the hind legs to pull your dog out of the fight.
    • Once they have been separated, keep the dogs out of each other's sight. They may start to fight again when they see each other. Put your dog in the car or behind a closed door as soon as possible. Use a belt or a tie as a temporary leash if the dog does not have one, and if you are alone. tie one dog to an immovable object and remove the other dog to another location.

Part 3
Stopping Fights Before They Start

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    Observe how your dog interacts with other dogs. Does your dog bark, pounce, and snap? How rough does she normally play? If you know what behavior your dog usually exhibits around other dogs, it will be easier to tell when there's a fight brewing.
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    Watch the dogs' bodies. When dogs play, it often sounds a lot like it does when they're fighting.[7] Dogs will growl, snap their jaws, and bite one another roughly. Instead of listening, watch the dogs' bodies. If they look loose and relaxed, and they're wagging their tails, they're probably just playing. However, if the dogs' bodies appear stiff and rigid, and their tails are down, they may getting ready to fight.[8]
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    Intervene in harassment and rough play. In some cases, one dog will think it's playtime, but the other isn't having it. If this is the case, it may be better to separate the dogs.[9]
    • Sometimes, playtime can be too rough, even if both dogs seem to like it. A very large dog might accidentally hurt a small dog, for example.
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    Don't encourage competition. Dogs can get territorial over food and toys. Some breeds are more apt to defend their rights to beloved possessions, while others are better at sharing. Know your dog's unique personality traits so that you can prevent a battle from happening when another dog comes around.
    • Put treats, food, and toys away when your dog is having social time with other dogs.
    • Feed multiple dogs in separate rooms if they tend to get territorial.
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    Teach your dog to play nicely. When you first bring your dog home, it's your responsibility to teach your dog not to attack others. Use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior. When your dog bites, growls or exhibits other behavior that seems too violent, separate her from the dog she's playing with and put her in time out until she calms down.
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    Teach your dog to come when called. If your dog is good at obeying your call to come, you'll be able to pull her out of most tense situations before they escalate too much. Start training her how to come and stay when she's still young, and practice often, especially in the company of other dogs.


  • Always leash your dog when you're outside to be safe. Even trained dogs sometimes can't resist temptation.
  • Introduce new dogs to each other slowly -- this approach is much more likely to avoid fights than allowing the dogs to negotiate their own meeting.
  • If you are bitten, seek medical attention. Be safe rather than sorry.

Article Info

Categories: Dog Obedience