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DOG FIGHTS: HOW TO AVOID THEM AND HOW TO HANDLE THEM IF THEY DO HAPPEN

Dog fights…probably the most worrying and stressful event that every dog owner can experience with their dog(s).

Dog fights can happen, but they are not as common as people like to think.

Dogs tend to engage in a series of behaviours that will solve things without a fight.
Body language signs and other canine communication tools tend to do the job when a dog needs to clarify to another dog their discomfort in certain situations.
Although this is a skill and not every single dog has it.

As I mentioned earlier, dog fights can happen, but again, if the dog has good social skills to avoid one, or/and we as owners know how to read our dogs, or other dogs for this matter, we can easily avoid any problematic situations without much stress.

This is another topic (dog fights), where basic knowledge of dogs’ body language can make a big difference in the long run. If you know how to recognise stress signs in a dog, be that your own or another, you can avoid a fight between them.
If you know how to handle a dog through appropriate lead handling skills, you can handle your dog in case of problems, and possibly handle other dogs, or instruct the other owner how to handle their dog in case of need.

Another important point to mention is that not every “dog fight” is a dog fight.

What I mean by this is that people will mislabel a simple altercation between dogs as a fight, just as they label an air snap or nib as a bite. These are very different things, and we need to be clear about this to avoid further problems for ourselves or the dogs.

Dog fights can occur with different levels of intensity. Some fights are a lot of noise and very low physical contact. In this case, dogs will vocalize a lot, possibly move a lot around each other, but in the end, no dog is injured because none of them engaged in a bite. This can be a higher level of communication between dogs, and although it can certainly be scary for those watching from the outside, sometimes this is the way dogs solve things without a real fight.

So what is a real fight?

A real fight is when one or more dogs involved show intense aggressive responses that aim to injure the other dog(s). In this case, there are bites involved, and usually, these are bites that will cause puncture and bleeding and they can be inflicted a single time or multiple times during a fight depending on the dog showing the aggressive responses.

Now, how to handle a dog fight?

This is a very dangerous move, to try to handle a dog fight, especially when the fight is a serious one. You need to be aware that by stepping into it and trying to break up a dog fight you can get bitten. This is a real probability and many times it is simply an outcome of redirected aggression and not so much because one of the dogs decided to harm you. In any case, again, the probability is quite high. If you do decide to try to break up a dog fight though, there are some things you MUST NOT DO:

Yell
Kick
Punch
Pull the dogs away from each other if there is a bite and hold being inflicted

All these things can make the situation even worse by increasing arousal and stress in dogs and also increasing damage.

So what can you do?

First, you need to control yourself and act in a focused manner.

Panicking and doing the things I mentioned above is not good. If the dogs are on a lead, both owners should shorten the leads making use of defensive handling techniques and if there is no bite and hold being inflicted simply turn the dogs around from each other with one single move (no tugging on the lead) and walk away.
In these situations, using an air horn can help to separate the dogs and make it easier to break up the fight.

If there is a bite and hold, things are much riskier, both for humans and dogs involved. And in this case, you need to think straight and control yourself even more, as it will probably take you longer to break up the fight.
In the case of bite and hold, there are a few different things that can be done, and not all of them will work with every single dog.

Regardless of the technique, you will use, you need to control the dog’s head to avoid shake, and after that, you can make use of a lead to choke the dog who is inflicting the bite.
It is extremely important to not pull any of the dogs away from each other UNTIL the dog inflicting the bite releases the other dog.
Because you will be choking the dog, he will feel the need to release the bite to breathe, and this is the exact moment when you need to pull the dog away.

Using citronella based sprays or break sticks can be necessary as well, although using these tools require some knowledge.

This is an extremely sensitive topic and it requires a lot from the people involved, although, because some people will be in the situation at some point in time, I felt the need to give you some info on this.
Mainly because every time I hear about dog fight stories from my clients, someone tried to punch, kick and pull dogs away during a bite and hold, and that is the worse thing you can do.

Thank you for reading!

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