Thankfully, it is generally not a common occurrence, but there will be the odd occasion where a dog fight will happen. If this is something you experience, you need to be incredibly careful when breaking up a dog fight in a safe way so that you do not get bitten. Dogs go into fight or flight mode and will often bite out of defence. This means if you try and break up a dog fight with your hands, you may get bitten – even by your own dog.
If you can see, the approaching dog is likely to be trouble, then shout ‘no!’ or ‘sit!’ in a firm voice. Many dogs will understand this.
As a general rule, dogs are generally good at sorting out differences and 9 out of 10 times; nothing will happen. Even if the dogs fight around 70 per cent of the time, it is just noise and over in a few seconds.
Try and keep calm and keep a clear head. As mentioned above, resist the temptation to try and grab your dog. Due to the fight or flight instinct, there is an 80% chance you will get bitten.
Try and distract the fighting dogs in some way. Below are a few tips on breaking up a dog fight.
Make some noise
Use your voice
If you can see that a fight is about to break out, shout a firm “no”. If the dogs are already fighting, then shout, scream, stamp your feet etc. Making lots of noise can often be enough to distract the dogs.
Try, and nd keep squeaky toy with you. By squeaking the toy, you may provide enough of a distraction to break the fight up. f
if there is a dustbin lid or something nearby, try banging this to make a loud noise
Try and carry a bottle of water with you, especially on new walks. Should you need to break up a dog fight, then throwing water at the dogs is a great distraction. This won’t cause any harm to the dogs apart from making them a bit damp and will often be enough to make them walk away.
Throw an object to try and break up the dog fight safely.
Throwing something at the fighting dogs could help distract them both long enough to come out of the zone. Try the following.
Blanket/coat – Throw a coat or blanket over the fighting dogs to calm them down. Quite often, dogs will stop fighting once they can no longer see each other.
Bag – Throw in a small rucksack or keys to help distract them.
Toss Treats – Tossing treats at the dog is both harmless and quite often effective. The treats provide a distraction, and if the dog is food driven, he is more than likely to stop and eat them.
Use a barrier
If you can find something nearby, such as a cardboard or a sheet of wood. Slide this in carefully to separate the fighting dogs without putting your hand in
Physically breaking up a dog fight.
This should only be used as a last resort.
If you are wearing trousers (especially baggy ones) along with sturdy shoes or ideally boots, then using the lower part of your body is much safer than using your hands as it will be more protected.
Please note that you do not need to hurt the dogs or kick them to separate fighting dogs.
I would also not use this method with large dogs such as German shepherds.
The wheelbarrow technique
If there is more than one person, you could try pulling them apart but be cautious.
The most common method is the wheelbarrow approach.
This requires getting behind the dog and grabbing the back legs so they are off the ground. Once you have the hind legs, start to walk backwoods with the dog and circle to one side so that the dog cant turn and bite. This method is a last resort.
Prevention is better than breaking up a dog fight.
Like with everything, if you can prevent the situation from occurring, then the chances are you won’t need to worry about breaking up dog fights.
Keep an eye on the rough play and if it looks to be getting out of hand. Call your dog back, put them on a lead and walk away.
As a dog walker, I have seen scuffles start over a favourite toy or treat simply because the dog was not good at sharing.
When a dog is playing with another dog, remove any favourite toys or even just a tennis ball to avoid conflict. In the same way, it may be wise to put the treats away.
Training is better than breaking up a dog fight.
Attending puppy training classes when they are young is an excellent way to help prevent dog fights in the future. A well balanced and social dog is less likely to get attacked than a nervous and vulnerable dog.
Having a good recall is also useful in preventing dog fights as if you notice the body language changing of the other dog, you can call fido away and go the other direction.
You may also be interested in our Dog Bite Prevention article
The Legal Stuff
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 – Section 3 states that it is a criminal offence which can be brought against the owner of a dog (and if different the person in charge of a dog) if a dog is dangerously out of control. A dog is deemed dangerously out of control ‘on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person or assistance dog’.
Furthermore, you can claim damages against the owner/person in charge of the attacking dog. They will be deemed liable if
- The incident was due to their negligence (i.e., they did something they should not have done or failed to do something that they should have done), or
- Their dog has behaved in a similar manner on a previous occasion, and they were aware of it.