Hey, Break it Up!

December 4, 2017

KelownaNow just ran my most recent article about reading your dog's body language as a preventative measure to your pup getting in a fight. You can read that right by clicking right here. This is the follow up to that, if the dogs have gone too far and you find yourself in the middle of a real life fistcacuffs (or pawstcacuffs, in this case).


Please never intervene in a dogfight if you don't feel comfortable doing it. Your safety is the most important thing.


There’s not much that gets your adrenaline going quite like having to break up a dog fight. When we brought Lucy home, there was a lot of sibling rivalry, especially at meal time. Now they’re inseparable and cry if they are in different rooms, but they’ve had some good fur-flying duals.

It’s a question I get asked all the time, and with the recent incident in town, I’m going to teach you how to break up a dog fight, should you ever need to.


First things first, read your animal, and the animals around you. Most dog fights can be completely avoided with preventative measures. What’s their body language? What’s the vibe in the group?


Secondly, stay calm. I know it’s hard; dog fights are scary business! However, we all know dogs read our energy, so if you’re having a meltdown it’s just going to make things worse.


Now, if a full-on dog fight breaks out, try to redirect their focus with either a loud noise such as a whistle or clap, covering them with a blanket or jacket (if you have one handy), or even by dumping water on them.


There’s also a couple physical methods we can go over if this doesn’t work and the dogs are no longer listening. You should never put yourself physically between the dogs; when those teeth are gnashing, they don’t care what they bite, and I can tell you it hurts. Remember that most dog fights end quickly without you needing to intervene; they sound worse than they are, I promise.


The wheelbarrow method is highly recommended and used most often by professionals. For this, you’ll need two people, or a leash if you can make it work. Essentially, both people are going to grab the back legs of one of the fighting dogs and “wheelbarrow” them slowly backwards. It seems silly, I know, and it may be a little bit of a struggle to find the proper limbs, but the dog physically can’t go on without the use of it’s back legs. It generally causes them to disengage to a certain degree, allowing you to safely pull them apart. The nice thing about this method is that your body is away from the biting end of the dog, so it’s relatively safe, although you need to stay aware because if the dogs are still highly stimulated they may turn to snap on you. That part can be avoided most times if you walk backwards in circles! If you’re by yourself, the modified version is to rope the back legs of one dog with a leash and attach it to something like a tree or fence; then like before, wheelbarrow the second dog backwards.


If you’re alone or feeling braver, the second method is a little less gentle. Put yourself in charge; that means asserting your dominance on the more aggressive dog. Grab the dog by the back of the neck and collar and pull up at the same time jabbing the dog quickly in the ribs to break his focus. This is King Cesar (Milan)’s method. Your timing must be right for this to work, as, again, you don’t want to be bitten.


Make sure the dogs involved in a fight have a little quiet time and cooling off period before sending them back out there. Energy levels need to drop, and if they regain freedom too shortly after they may go right back after their former opponent.


In any dog fights I’ve ever personally broken up, it’s been just me vs two big dogs. I generally grab both by the back of the collar and pull them apart, sending them to opposite corners. My ‘mom voice’ is about enough to scare most dogs off once I’ve broken them apart. That being said, I know I’m lucky to have not been bitten more than the once.


Empathy. Empathy is the key. A lot of the time, all the people around will have completely missed what started the fight in the first place, but I can guarantee no dog was sent directly after yours at the request of it’s owner. Practice patience, work together, be mindful together – we got this!

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©2017 by The Okanagan Pet Project. 

Disclaimer: All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information.

This information and advice may not work for you or your pet.

You should always consult with a professional before taking anything into action.