How to Break Up a Neighborhood Dogfight Safely

3. If the two dogs do engage in a fight, here are some tactics to use if you feel you must break up the dogs:

Even the sweetest dog faces two choices in a fight: stay and battle, or try to flee. The survival instinct kicks in, and you may be surprised by the sudden shift in your dog's demeanor from easygoing to snarling, lunging and biting to protect himself. In a fight, both dogs are moving so quickly that they are biting at anything touching them — including your hands. They are concentrating so much on each other that they can't or won't listen to you. Breaking that concentration can help stop the fight.

  • Throw a sweatshirt or jacket on the dogs to distract them.
  • Position a backpack, board or any big object in between the two dogs.
  • Spray the dogs with water if a garden hose is near.
  • Pull the back legs of the dog starting the fight. Use your elbow on his shoulders to pin him. Ideally, if someone else is present, use this "wheelbarrow" maneuver on both dogs at the same time.
  • Make a loud noise by stomping your feet, yelling in a deep voice or, if available, banging two metal garbage can lids.

After separating the sparring dogs, move your dog away as quickly as possible, and definitely out of eyesight of the other dog, before inspecting your dog for injuries. This tactic can help diminish the prey drive, because if the dogs can't see each other, they can more easily focus on other things. Even though you may be rattled, speak in a calm, confident tone to keep your dog from being reagitated.

“Most dog-to-dog altercations are using what I describe as spit-and-drool fights with a lot of bravado, but not any real bites,” says Dr. Yin. “But if a big dog bites a small dog, it can be fatal.”

After a fight, do a complete head-to-tail inspection of your dog and be sure to examine inside his mouth for any injuries. Take your dog to your veterinarian if you seen any bites, even minor ones. Dog bites can be easily disguised by fur, involve deep layers of skin and muscle, and become infected. And if you are injured in a dogfight — especially if you are bitten — you should get yourself checked out by a medical professional as well.

Remember, you are always taking a safety risk if you try to breakup a dogfight but smart preparation can help you and your dog.

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