May 162017

With National Dog Bite Prevention week approaching I thought I would address a question I am asked frequently “how do I break up a dog fight without getting hurt or injuring the dogs?” The truth is there is no one full proof way. The best thing you can do for your dog if he is exhibiting any type of aggressive behavior is training.

I am also often asked if there are certain breeds that have a pre-disposition to be aggressive or vicious – like Pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans and other breeds that have been unjustly branded as bad. A puppy is like a newborn baby – innocent and sweet. Any dog can become mean because that is what their dog owners taught them, either willingly or unintentionally.

A dog is a reflection of you. If you give your dog love and rules, he will be your best friend. Abuse him, ignore him and he will take control. Tether your dog outside day after day without any attention, it will become that dog that erupts into a barking frenzy, growling and snarling to get off its chain.

When aggression occurs it must be dealt with immediately. Even despite your best efforts, the fact is, dogs can fight. Usually most fights last less than a few seconds. However, if a fight continues you should be prepared.

Breaking up a dog fight can be dangerous for all parties involved, canine and human. It is best to have two people when breaking up a dog.

  • First, have a plan. Make sure everyone in our household knows the plan if there are fights within the resident dogs.
  • Don’t panic. Remember that most dog fights are noisy but harmless. If you stay calm, you’ll be able to separate two fighting dogs more safely and efficiently. Yelling can fuel the fight.
  • DO NOT grab your dog by the collar if he starts to fight with another dog. It seems like the natural thing to do, but your dog might whip around to bite you. The dog is reacting to the feeling of being grabbed and bites without thinking. Many people get bit this way—even when their dogs haven’t shown any signs of aggression in the past. Another reason to avoid grabbing your dog’s collar is that it puts you in the middle of the fight. You might be on the receiving end of a bite that was intended for your dog.

Before you physically separate two fighting dogs, try these methods:

  • A sudden, loud sound will often interrupt a fight before it starts. Watch the dogs’ body language. Stopping the fight before it happens is the best way to not have to break up a fight. Clap, yell and stomp your feet. If you have two metal bowls, bang them together near the dogs’ heads. If a startling noise works to stop a fight, the noise is effective almost immediately. If the loud noise doesn’t stop the fight within about three seconds, try another method.
  • If there is a hose or water bowl handy, you can try spraying the dogs with water or dumping the bowl of water on their heads.
  • Try putting something between the fighting dogs. A large, flat, opaque object, like a piece of plywood, is ideal because it both separates the dogs and blocks their view of each other. If such an object isn’t available, you can try a baby gate, a trash can or folded lawn chair. Throwing a large blanket over both dogs is another option. The covered dogs may stop fighting if they can no longer see each other.

If none of the above methods work or aren’t possible, and you feel that it’s ultimately necessary to insert yourself, use this method:

  • You and the other dog’s owner or another person from the household if they dogs live together, should approach the dogs together. Try to separate them at the same time.
  • Take hold of your dog’s back legs at the very top, just under her hips, right where his legs connect to his body. (Avoid grabbing his lower legs. If you grab a dog’s legs at the knees, ankles or paws, you may cause injury.)
  • As you would lift a wheelbarrow, lift your dog’s back end so that his back legs come off of the ground. Then move backwards, away from the other dog. As soon as you’re a few steps away, do a 180-degree turn, spinning your dog around so that he’s facing the opposite direction and can no longer see other dog.

After the fight stops, immediately separate the dogs. Don’t give them another chance to fight. It’s important to make sure that they can’t see each other. If necessary, take one or both dogs into separate rooms. If the dogs are friends and you’ve interrupted a minor squabble, keep them apart until they calm down.

Again, I want to stress, training and prevention are the best ways to prevent dog fights. There is no one full-proof or safe way to break up a dog fight. Please take all precautions before stepping in. If you get injured, go the doctor immediately for treatment to prevent infection. If your dog is injured in the fight, bring him to the veterinarian for the appropriate treatment.



Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery County, northern Chester County and eastern Berks County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit


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