All dog owners who frequent areas where there are other dogs present will observe a dog fight or have their dog in a fight sooner or later. Even the most passive dogs will be attacked from time to time by other dogs, either while they are being walked or while they are loose in a dog park or another area. Additionally, your dog coming into contact with other dogs that are not leashed, are running loose, or are not friendly can pose serious threats to your dog, who might be completely innocent of instigating a fight but finds themselves being attacked and is attempting to defend themselves. No matter what the reason, a dogfight is a very traumatic and scary situation for human beings, as the chaos of the situation or the horrible vision of seeing your pet fighting will generally be very upsetting. In addition to the emotional trauma of seeing your pet in a fight, dogs that are engaged are in defense or attack mode, and will usually not be able to differentiate between their owners and the attacker. This means that when you try to break up a dogfight you may be bitten by the other dog, or potentially even be bitten by your own dog.
The best advice if you find yourself witnessing a dogfight is to not get directly involved, has the potential to be bitten is far too great. However, if one of the fighting dogs is your pet, most people’s natural reaction is to attempt to intervene in order to save their dog. While this does put you in danger, having an understanding of how to effectively break up the fight while minimizing your potential to be bitten is crucial. The following steps should be memorized by dog owners so that they are automatic and will be second-nature if your dog gets into a fight:
- Stay calm. Do not attempt to grab the attacking dog’s mouth to stop them from biting your dog. If you do, chances are quite high that you will be bitten yourself. Additionally, if you panic and attempt to grab at your own dog, you may be bitten by your own pet.
- Douse the dogs with water. If there is a water bucket or a hose nearby, spray the dogs with water. This will sometimes break up the fight while keeping you at a safe distance.
- Do not try to pick your dog up. If you pick up your dog when they are being attacked by another dog, the chances are the attacker will begin jumping on you to attempt to bite your dog. You will find yourself being attacked by the dog that was attacking yours. If you do find yourself in this situation and the attacker is attempting to jump onto you or bite you, sharply thrust your knee into the attacker’s chest or face. Do not attempt to push the attacking dog away with your hands or you will probably be bitten.
- Apply the “wheelbarrow technique.” This is a technique of disrupting the dog’s balance by grabbing them just in front of their hind legs and lifting them up. By placing all of the dog’s weight onto their front legs, their balance will be disrupted and they will stop attacking. The problem is that if you are alone and another person is not present to lift up the other dog in a wheelbarrow technique, you only disable the defense of your own dog. If you are able to enlist the help of another human, instruct them to lift up the hind-quarters of the other dog to separate them. If there are no other humans, use the leash from your own pet to loop around the attacker’s hindquarters and lift the dog using it.
Dogfights happen very quickly, and without much that can be recognized by humans as a “signal” that will prepare you for a fight. The best bet is to be as prepared as possible in the event that a fight could happen at any time, and understand what to do if it does. To reiterate, the safest strategy is to not get involved as you run a very great risk of being bitten, but if you must get involved, use the “wheelbarrow technique” to diffuse the situation as much as possible.