Taking a trip to the dog park with your best friend is a great way to allow your dog to socialize with other canines, smell the wonders of the world (so many smells!) and maybe even have time to play fetch. Dog parks can be a play heaven, but meeting new dogs could quickly escalate into a dog fight or attack, resulting in injury to your dog or you.
A dog fight could happen on a leashed walk, at the dog park, in your own home if you have two or more dogs, really anywhere dogs come across one another. Dog fights are really scary situations and sometimes in the moment, you may panic, so being prepared helps!
Signs of a Potential Dog Fight
The safest scenario is that the dogfight ends before it even starts. Usually, a fight between two dogs will escalate. Dogs don’t go straight for a fight but instead, will give each other warning signs with their body language and warning growls. Dogs communicate through their body language and they also know their human’s body language (ever walk to the fridge and suddenly your dog is right there with you?). Many will say that a dog bite or a fight happened unprovoked, but dogs will show signs before resorting to a fight.
Body Language of Aggressive Dog
- Stiffens his body and legs
- Tail will be lower and held out straight
- He may growl
- Ears are flat against his head and his head is lowered
- The hair (hackles) on his back and around his shoulders will be raised
- Intent stare
- Lips may be curled into a snarl
Body Language of a Fearful Dog
- Tail tucked between his legs
- Back is arched, head and rear are lower
- Legs are slightly bent
- He may turn his head away and look at out of the corner of his eyes, show the whites of the eye while also trying to avoid looking at what’s causing the concern or fear (this is called whale eye)
If your dog mounts another dog (this a dominance display), that could escalate into a fight. If your dog continues to sniff another dog that is showing fearful signs from being sniffed at, stop your dog.
It’s important to note that not every time a dog plays, a dog fight is going to happen. Dogs may show teeth during a play date. They may growl. They might just be playing, but if you sense that the play date is getting too rough and potentially about to turn into a fight, distract them by throwing a ball, asking them to come to you or even breaking the dog’s attention by loudly saying “Hey!”
If the dogs are not responding to verbal communication, physical intervention is necessary. Someone could get seriously hurt and it’s important to take the appropriate steps as swiftly and as calmly as possible.
How to Break Up a Dog Fight
Your first reaction may be to jump right in the middle of the fight, but you’ll be better off behind the dog. Grabbing the dogs collar may also seem like a good step but getting so close to the dog’s face when they are in the middle of the fight is not a good idea.
The Wheelbarrow Method
- This is one of the safest methods to use. Ideally, two people will break up a dog fight. Each person will grab a dog’s back feet, lift the dog off the ground and walk backward with them. The dogs should stop and it’s important to then keep the dogs separated so they can recover.
Throw Water on the Dogs
- Throwing water on the fighting dogs is another way to stop the fight. Either using a squirt bottle or a hose, spray the dogs and they will become distracted. Cans with coins inside and air horns could work as well.
If your dog is on a leash and gets into a fight with a dog off-leash, drop the leash before you or the dog become tangled in it. If two leashed dogs get into a fight, drop the leashes and use the wheelbarrow method.
If a small dog is involved, do not pick the small dog up, despite what your instincts may be telling you. Lifting up a small dog triggers a treeing instinct in many dogs, which moves them into prey drive and exciting them into jumping on you to get the small dog.
If you’re introducing a new dog to your dog/s or just spending some time at the dog park, be mindful of your dog’s body language. Interactions can turn from positive to negative quickly. But don’t be paranoid or avoid allowing your dog to play with other dogs if they are socialized, just be responsible for your dog, as well as yourself, in keeping everyone safe!
Lead image source: Tomasz Wrzesien/Shutterstock