It can be an uncomfortable fact of life that, sometimes, dogs fight. Dogfights can sound scary, and may appear to be extremely frightening, but in the vast majority of cases no real damage is done. Much canine aggression is actually ritualistic, and dogs will generally only cause harm if they really intend to. Most dogfights, particularly those between dogs that are well socialised, are brief and will not cause any injury.
Dogs having an argument may growl, snap, bare their teeth, and bite at each other’s faces or necks. It is usually over as quickly as it begins.
Sometimes a dog fight is simply rough play that gets out of hand. A dog that is fighting as opposed to playing will have a stance that is stiff or rigid, and he will not be wagging his tail. Some dogs (like people) are simply bullies and will pick on or try to control another dog.
Preventing a Dogfight
• Introduce new dogs to your dog calmly and slowly.
• Avoid competition over foods by giving each their own bowl, their own treats, and their own bones. If giving to one, give to the other or keep them separated in different rooms. The same applies to toys.
• If you are having another dog to visit, put away all toys and items that belong to your dog so that he doesn’t feel the need to defend them.
• Be aware that playtime can get rough with enthusiastic dogs and things can get out of hand. As the “pack leader”, it is your job as household human to interrupt the play when it gets too rough or the dogs become too overexcited. Give them a “time out”. Engage them in a game of fetch, take them for a walk, or give them each something to chew for “quiet time”. Here is where recall training is so important.
• Teach your dog to remain calm, especially when going outside to play, for a walk, or when guests arrive.
Breaking up a Dogfight
Shouting may be enough to distract fighting dogs. If not:
• Be prepared in advance for how to stop a fight
• Remember that most fights are harmless – “all bark and no bite”
• Don’t panic. By remaining calm, you’ll be more able to separate fighting dogs safely.
• Never grab a fighting dog by the collar. A dog will act on reflex and turn to bite without intention.
• Try to startle the fighting dogs with a clap, shout, or foot stomp. Banging two metal bowls together may also do the trick. A whistle is also a good idea.
• Spray the dogs with water or pour water from a bowl over their heads.
• Try putting something large between the dogs – or throw a blanket over both dogs.
• If all else fails, you may need to carefully, physically separate the dogs. Enlist the help of another, and grab the dog’s back upper legs, just under the hips (never grab the lower legs). Lift them off the ground and move backwards.
As soon as the dogs stop fighting, separate them so that they can’t see each other until they have both calmed down.”Time out”. Just like bickering children!