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How to Break up a Dog Fight [Resolving & Preventing Canine Conflicts]

how to break up a dog fight

Playful fighting between dogs is normal. It’s expected that dogs would bite and scratch one another. However, there may be times when this playful aggression turns into a full-blown doggy brawl. Knowing how to tell if a dog fight is serious and how to break up a dog fight can be immensely helpful to both you and your canine companion.


Breaking up a dog fight can be too risky if you don’t know the proper techniques, especially with bigger dogs. Even if you think that your dog won’t hurt you, it would still be a difficult task. It’s hard to know what you are supposed to do. In this short read, you’ll learn how to prevent any dogs or humans from getting hurt!



Dog Fights

When dogs are playing, they might appear to be fighting. There are differences between dogs playing, play fighting, roughhousing, and actually fighting. Dogs fight for many different reasons, most of which are deeply rooted in their natural canine instincts. There might be instances when the most gentle and friendliest dog becomes a ferocious fighter. This is the time when it’s important to know how to break up a dog fight.



two dogs fighting on grass



How to Tell if a Dog Fight Is Serious – Fighting Vs. Roughhousing

It’s normal for dogs to play with one another, and many of their playful games may appear aggressive with throat bites and body slams. In addition to that, play fighting may involve heavy growling, making the activity look more vicious. It is important to know how to tell if a dog fight is serious or it’s merely roughhousing.


You’ll know the difference between roughhouse wrestling and a dog fight by taking a closer look at their body language and behavior.


These are the things that you should take into consideration:

  • See if their bodies are floppy and relaxed or stiff and tense. Those dogs that are just merely playing will have a level of looseness about them.
  • Observe their mouths. Do you see their mouths open, or do they appear tight and snarling? It is normal for dogs to use a wide-open stance when they are simply in their “game-play mode.” It is their “I don’t mean no harm” look.
  • Observe how dogs behave as the “action” starts. They usually start with a play bow wherein a dog’s front end touches the ground while their rear end maintains its upward position. This is just a sign that what follows would only be some good clean fun between these dogs.
  • During play fighting, dogs may take turns in being the mock aggressor. Typically, these dogs would alternately chase each other, body slam, or even bite – but these actions are not meant to harm one another.
  • Keep in mind that during actual fights, dogs would appear to resort to fast movements and not the exaggerated actions of playing. Carefully observe if they would bound around each other with very big movements. This can be a big indicator of how to tell if a dog fight is serious.



Why Do Dogs Fight

Dogs tend to feel the need to fight to protect themselves and their pack from a perceived attack. They may fight over territory or due to overstimulation. They can inflict serious harm to each other during an attack, and some injuries can be fatal.


Certain situations may turn a friendly roughhouse into a fierce dog fight:

  • Many fights are territorial, like when a stranger enters their home. They will fight off any intruder, and they may feel threatened that the other dog will take their toys or food.
  • Dogs become aggressive if they feel fear. Some dogs may tend to take an offensive stance every time they feel threatened at the dog park. They do this to scare the other dog so it will go away.
  • Dogs get frustrated too, and this frustration might turn into aggressive behavior, especially if a dog hasn’t been trained to control their emotions. A frustrated dog might redirect their aggression toward another dog, even if they live together.


When a particular dog doesn’t get something they want, they might take it out on the dog living with them simply because it is the closest target. For example, when an aggressive dog is unable to reach a dog, they might switch their attention to the dog they are living with.


  • Dogs become aggressive when they are pushed too far past their breaking point. They may be merely reacting to a certain trigger that has caused them to feel overwhelmed.
  • When a dog is in pain, they have a tendency to be impatient, hence, resorting to fighting to act out their feelings.
  • Sometimes, it could simply mean that not all dogs can get along well and become violent towards one another.



How to Break Up a Dog Fight

When you see dogs fighting, the first rule is to never throw yourself in the middle of two or more dogs fighting. Don’t even try to grab their collars, even if they are your pets. If you get near them or try to touch them near their heads, they might turn to you and harm you. Don’t think, even for a second, that your dog won’t bite you because you are their owner. In the middle of an intense dog fight, your pet won’t be able to see who is intervening, and they will aggressively bite anything or anyone in their way.


Never underestimate what your dog can do. Take note that it isn’t personal, though. In that spur-of-the-moment aggressive behavior, your dog will only be “seeing blood.”



pups chasing on green yard



Here are some helpful strategies after you know how to tell if a dog fight is serious:


Breaking Up a Dog Fight from Afar

  • Remain calm. The best way to approach a dog fight is to remain calm and not cause further agitation. The key is to startle them enough to distract them. Never attempt to grab your pet by the collar, as every dog owner might do instinctively. However, they might whip around and bite during an intense dog fight.
  • Make noise. Fighting doesn’t last long. There is no time to think and prepare, so use whatever is at hand. Distract the dogs—yell, clap your hands, stomp your feet, blow a whistle, or honk your car. Whatever you do, make sure that the noise is loud enough to distract the dogs.
  • Douse them with water. Use as much water as possible, using a hose or a bucket full of water. In most cases, this action will immediately break up the fight, and dogs will just walk away. Always bring a spray bottle when you walk your dog or go to the park.
  • Place a barrier between the fighting dogs. Use anything you can find to separate fighting dogs, like a piece of plywood, a big stick, a broom, a long umbrella, or a chair.
  • Throw a heavy blanket. Doing so might momentarily distract the dogs. They won’t be able to see each other, and this will eventually end the fight. If there’s no blanket at hand, use your jacket, a tarp, or a piece of opaque material. Toss them over their heads.


How to Know When to Step In

  1. Assess the circumstances when it is safe to intervene. Remember that most dog fights will last just a few seconds, and they may look worse than they really are. However, it would be best if you stopped scuffles between fighting and aggressive dogs because these kinds of dogs cannot read social signals from other dogs. Fighting between two female dogs or dogs of different sizes should also be broken up. Likewise, you should step in if the dogs involved in the fight have a history of inflicting physical harm to other dogs.
  2. Grab your dog from behind. To break up the fight: Approach your dog from behind. Grab its hind legs, lift the back paws like a wheelbarrow, and then walk backward. Circle to one side to prevent it from turning and biting you. While grabbing one dog, another person should be doing the same to the other dog, pulling the fighting dogs apart. Once the fighting dogs are separated, make sure they are out of each other’s sight.
  3. Try using your legs. If all else fails, try to use your feet to break them apart, but do so only if you’re wearing pants and sturdy shoes. You can try to push them using your legs and feet. This works with smaller dog breeds, though. Never attempt to do this with larger dogs because you might get seriously injured. This works best when another person is doing the same thing.



How Not to Break Up a Dog Fight

When you get overcome with panic, you might make the following mistakes while breaking up a dog fight:

  • Using your hand to separate the dogs involved. Never attempt to use your bare hands to break up a fight between two dogs because you risk getting injured.
  • Pulling your dog by the tail. Even if you’re the owner, pulling a dog’s tail is not a good idea because you’ll only be taking them by surprise, and you might get bitten.
  • Going physically between the fighting dogs. Whatever happens, you should never attempt to get between two dogs that intensely fight each other. In their confusion, they might mistake you for another aggressor, and you might get severely injured.



Preventing a Dog Fight

The best way to prevent dog fights is to stop them from happening. There are many things that you can do, like making sure your dog knows how to mingle with other dogs. Here is a list of what you can do to prevent a dog fight:


Spay or Neuter Your Canine

Spay or neuter are the terms used for the surgical sterilization of an animal, like a dog or a cat. Spaying removes the uterus and ovaries of a female dog, while neutering removes the testicles of a male dog. This procedure will prevent your dog from reproducing. After the procedure, dogs can become less aggressive, and many unwanted behaviors are “eliminated,” like fighting, roaming, and excessive crying. They can also become more affectionate.


Early Socialization

The earlier you expose your pet dog to other dogs, the better they will learn to mingle and socialize early on. But make sure your dog is on a leash when you are out in public. You can also get help from a dog trainer.



canine trainer with mixed group



Know the Signs of Aggression & Fear

Be mindful of the signs of aggression, including growling, snarling, and standing up tall. A dog’s body may look stiff and its ears raised. Dogs are likely to move slowly and purposely towards another dog.


Don’t Allow Roughhousing

Roughhousing is a way for dogs to play with other dogs. It’s normal for them to bite, swipe, or lunge at each other when playing, but actions are done in a gentle and friendly manner. If the playful actions become more intense, you should break them up immediately. To prevent your dog from becoming aggressive, discourage them from roughing it up with other dogs and teach them to be nicer.


Keep Aggressive Dogs Calm

Keep them calm by being calm yourself. Please don’t yell at them, and deal with them as gently as possible. But your voice should still be firm, so they know that you are still someone with authority. Make your dog feel safe. You might also want to consider enrolling your dog in behavioral courses where they will become more obedient and follow your command.


Avoid Dog Pranks If Your Dog Is Aggressive or Possessive

Dogs become more aggressive with other dogs (even in the same household) if they feel threatened. Don’t try dog pranks, especially if they are aggressive or possessive. Dogs become possessive of their food and toys. It would help if you gave them their own things, like their own beds, their own toys, and food bowls.


Feed Dogs Separately At Home

Dogs become aggressive when other dogs “steal” their food. Smaller animals get bullied by bigger dogs in one household. So, if you feed multiple dogs, give each dog their individual feeding bowls. If they have separate crates, place their food bowls inside so they can eat away from each other.



Final Thoughts – How to Break Up a Dog Fight

It’s important to be able to recognize the different between simple play fighting and how to tell if a dog fight is serious. With play fighting, dogs merely bounce around and take turns swiping and biting one another, and their mouths stay open. But a harmless round of roughhousing could turn into an intense dog fight, where they’ll be growling and snarling at each other.


To break up the fight, remember to stay on the safe side and never attempt to physically come between the fighting dogs. The strategies we just provided you will ensure that dog fights are safely broken up or prevented in the first place.

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