Find out the top warning signs a dog is about to pick a fight with another dog. Plus, get tips to safely break up a dog fight.

How To Break Up A Dog Fight

If you see a dog fight break out, what’s your first reaction? Many pet parents’ instinct is to scream and jump into action, attempting to break up the fight before their dog (or another dog) gets hurt. The problem? It can be dangerous to lunge in the middle of two aggressive dogs (no matter what size they are). Not only are the dogs at risk of injury, but, in the heat of the moment, you don’t know if a dog will redirect his/her aggression toward you.

Since we don’t want you or the dogs involved getting injured, here are some warning signs a dog is about to start a fight, helping you prevent the situation. Plus, read on for tips to break it up. *It’s important to note that every dog fight is different and you’ll need to judge your unique situation to figure out the right way to handle it.

The Warning Signs

Unlike humans, dogs don’t hide their feelings. So if you understand your dog’s body language and unique personality, you may be able to prevent a dog fight from breaking out in the first place. Some of the most common warning signs include:

  • Staring at another dog
  • Blocking another dog’s path
  • Erect ears
  • Hair on the dog’s back standing up
  • Growling
  • Showing teeth
  • Licking lips
  • Lunging toward another dog

If your dog seems like he wants to fight with another dog, try redirecting his attention by calling his name, squeaking a toy, offering a treat, or grabbing the leash and going for a walk.

Breaking Up A Dog Fight With The Distraction Method

If your dog is involved in a dog fight, don’t try to break it up by hitting the dogs or yelling at them. This will likely just boost their adrenaline and make matters worse. It’s also important that you don’t put your hands anywhere near the dogs’ faces. You don’t want to end up getting bitten. The following methods don’t involve you touching either dog. Rather, the goal is just to distract them.

  • Place a large board between them
  • Place a pillow between them
  • Toss a blanket over one of the dogs
  • Spray the dogs with water
  • Bang two pots together (or make another type of loud noise near them)

Is It Time To Step In?

If distraction doesn’t work and you need to physically step in to stop the fight, evaluate your unique situation and try one of the following methods: 

Method 1

If there is a friend close by to help, one of the safest methods is to grab the dogs by their rear end and lift the dogs’ legs in the air (think of a wheelbarrow). Then, quickly pull the dogs away from each other. If you’re by yourself then try this method on the more aggressive dog who started the fight. Once the dogs are apart, keep the dog/dogs in a wheelbarrow position and walk them around in a few circles. This is an important step for a couple reasons:

  1. Walking the dog in a circle will prevent the dog from being able to curl his/her body around and bite you. 
  2. Walking the dog in a circle will give the dog time to redirect his/her mental state and focus on something other than the fight. 

Method 2

This is very similar to Method 1, but rather than reaching for the dog’s rear end with your hands, you will use a leash. If you have some dog leashes close by and can safely loop the leash under the dog’s back two legs then do so and try walking backward to pull them apart.

Method 3

If you can’t get a grip on the dogs, some trainers recommend placing your foot on one of the dog’s rib cage and pushing him/her away. This does not mean you should kick the dog. Rather, this is just a tip to push the dog away from the fight.

Once The Dogs Are Separated

Keep a close eye on both dogs’ body language to make sure they don’t want to keep fighting. 

If you have multiple dogs in your household who have a tendency to be aggressive toward each other and frequently fight then it may be time to call a dog behaviorist. Find out the difference between a dog behaviorist and a dog trainer here.

Understanding Dog Aggression

I recently interviewed a well-respected dog aggression specialist. Check out that Q&A here.