Dog fights: do this, don’t do that

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By Nicole Stewart, CPDT-KA

In my last post where I discussed what to do when an off-leash dog comes barreling at you and your on-leash dog, I teased you with the question “What do you do if your worst thought comes to be reality: a dog fight?”

Fights can be scary, human or otherwise. However, much of the time, there is more bluster and posturing than anything else. Even those will often end before you have a chance to take action. They can be over a toy, a bowl, or just a dog drawing boundaries. (If only humans had a good way to do this without offense!)

I’ll tell you a little secret – dogs don’t go around looking for fights.

 All that canine body language that we talk about is actually a thing! It’s the way dogs talk to one another to avoid conflict. Most conflicts have been negotiated one way or the other while the dogs are still many feet apart, before we even thought they noticed one another.

However, when the right set of communication happens, or if one dog is saying one thing and the other just doesn’t have the social graces to listen to the other dog (we know people like that, right?), that is when they will bolster themselves up to fight status.

So, how do we get them apart when they aren’t doing it themselves?

Do this:

  • Grab the aggressor by the hind legs (like they are a wheelbarrow). When you get them apart, get them as far from each other as possible.
  • Get water (a hose is best, but a bucket or cup might suffice) and dump it on their heads.
  • If there’s a broom handle, long board, baby gate, or stick, use it to get in between them and get them disengaged.
  • Got an air horn? Try it.

Don’t do this:

  • Don’t get in between the sharp ends (aka, the teeth).
  • Don’t grab one of the dog’s collars (redirection happens).
  • Don’t yell like a banshee on the loose (though it’s hard not to, and I would be remiss not to admit that I’ve found myself having a horrifying out-of-body experience, looking down on myself ineffectively screaming).

Dogfights are dangerous and getting involved can be as well. Use caution. Even your own dog can redirect a bite on to you in the heat of the moment.

The best tactic is to prevent dogfights by learning about dog body language and pay attention when you are out in public with your dog (not on your cell phone).

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Nicole Stewart 250x300Nicole Stewart, CPDT-KA, is the Director of Training at AnimalSense / Paradise4Paws.  She strongly believes that dog training is as much about the people as it is about the dogs. Her favorite place to be is at home with her human family and her steady Clumber Spaniel, Finlay.

This post was originally published in the AnimalSense blog.

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