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How To Break Up A Dog Fight

Posted December 20, 2014 in Dog Behavior

Dog's just playing

Dr. Sophia Yin gives some sage advice on breaking up a tussle between dogs. For more from Dr. Yin, find her on Facebook or at drsophiayin.com!

If you have a dog and he goes to the dog park, lives with doggie housemates, or otherwise socializes with other dogs, chances are that at some point you may need to break up a spat. These may range from low-level altercations with no real contact to a no-bites-spared brawl. So what should you do? First, realize that regardless of the amount of noise, most fights between unfamiliar dogs at the dog park or first fights between housemates are spit and drool matches. When bites are involved during these fights, dogs generally bite and release. So in the majority of cases we do not need to worry about prying the jaws open or getting dogs to actually release.

Instead, our major concern is just getting the dogs apart and to do so without getting bitten. The number one way to avoid being bitten is to avoid trying to grab the head or neck area. Frequently while trying to grab the front end or getting in the between the dogs, the humans accidentally get bitten. Or in the heat of the moment a dog actually turns and redirects aggression to the person pulling them away. The safest method to get the dogs apart is to grab them by the rear end and quickly pull them away.  In other cases, because of your positioning in relation to the dog or because they are moving around too quickly, you may need to shove one away by placing your foot on their rib cage and pushing. This is safer than bending over and trying to push with your hands. It may also allow you to use your hands to grasp the other dog if you don’t have someone else to help.

Other methods for separating dogs include spraying them with water, placing a board or object between them, or banging a noisy object near them. These techniques are all meant to distract them. Other surprisingly benign distractions may work too, says Melissa Morris, a dog trainer who recounts the case of her mom’s dog.  “Her shepherd, Ruby, attacked a visiting yellow lab.  Ruby grabbed the lab's neck and wouldn't let go.  My mom was yelling at Ruby.  My brother-in-law was there and punched Ruby in the head,

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Sophia had several years of experience as a veterinarian, applied animal behaviorist and author. She was also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.