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How to Prevent and Break Up Dog Fights

By: Jeff Noce, Voyce President

For most of us, it’s hard to imagine our cuddly, friendly dog fighting with another dog. It’s not something we like to think about, much less plan for.

But the truth is, dog fights can and do happen. In fact, they’re one of the most common reasons for emergency veterinary visits.

Luckily, a little planning and preparation can go a long way in keeping your best friend safe!

Prevention Is the Best Policy

Fights can happen both between dogs who are strangers and those who have been friends for a long time. While all dogs are different, there are certain scenarios that are more likely to lead to misunderstandings. You can help keep the peace by following the guidelines below:

  • Feed animals at separate times or in separate rooms.
  • Supervise closely when your pets are enjoying high-value treats or toys.
  • Keep your dog(s) leashed on walks
  • Call for a quick “time out” during long, physical play sessions.
  • Avoid the dog park if your pup is easily over stimulated or not socialized.

Although some scuffles seem to occur out of the blue, there are almost always warning signs. Learning to read your dog’s body language will help you intervene and stop a fight before it starts. Watch for things like:

  • Raised hackles
  • A hard stare
  • Rigid body posture
  • Tail held stiffly
  • Teeth baring
  • Growling

If you notice any of these signs, do one or more of the following right away:

Break your dog’s concentration. Taking their attention off the other dog may be all you need to do. Step in front of them to disrupt their line of sight. Whistle, clap or call their name.

Change direction. If you’re out walking with your dog on a leash, make an abrupt about-face and take him out of the situation. The sudden change in direction may surprise him into forgetting all about the other dog.

Do something unexpected. For example, if you have an umbrella handy, quickly open it. Or if your dog knows obedience commands, ask him to perform a sit or shake. Often, performing an “incompatible action” like this will help your dog relax.

What to Do If a Fight Happens

Remember, most dogs don’t want to fight. They’d much prefer to avoid confrontation whenever possible. Even if a fight does break out, it’s likely to sound and look worse than it actually is. So try to act quickly and decisively to prevent an escalation.

Don’t panic. Although this is easier said than done, remaining calm will help you better handle the situation.

Never get in the middle. It can be human nature to try to pull the dogs apart or step in between them. Doing this can lead to injury if a dog bites you by mistake.

Place an object between or over them. Slide a chair or other sturdy object between them to break their focus. You can also try throwing blankets over one or both of them.

Douse them with water. If you have a water pistol or spray bottle, it may be enough to break up minor scuffles. For more serious fights, it might be necessary to turn on the water hose or throw a bucket of water on the two.

Get loud. Although yelling probably won’t do the trick, other loud noises may. Blowing an air horn, setting off the smoke alarm or even ringing the doorbell can startle the dogs enough to separate them.     

After things have settled down, look over both dogs. If the fight was a serious one, consider going to the vet even if there are no outward injuries.                                                          

I’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions that you’d like me to answer on the blog concerning health, wellness or behavior, drop me an email at

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Posted on Aug 13, 2015 by VOYCE Behavior & Training