Tuesday, August 4, 2009
By Linda Cole
If you have multiple dogs, sooner or later you will have to step in to break up a dog fight. I have two Terrier/mix sisters who are the best of buddies. However, sometimes, out of the blue, one will be on the other in a flash. A fight has to be broken up quickly to avoid injury to them. The challenge is breaking up a dog fight without getting bit yourself.
Obviously, the best solution is to avoid a fight to begin with, but dogs are like people. One dog just rubs the other one the wrong way for reasons only they know. It can be a threatening glance or body bump one finds intimidating or a dog attempting to establish his/her rank in the pack. Perhaps it’s a jealous or possessive reaction to a toy, food or your attention to another member in your pack. It could even be a simple lack of exercise or stimulation. A dog's mind is just as difficult to read as your kids sometimes.
Remember, dogs have an instinctive sense of social order in the pack. If one feels no one is in charge, he or she will take that as a sign of weakness and attempt to take control of the pack. Whatever the reason, you have to break up a dog fight quickly. Unlike the alpha male's corrective posturing of making a pack member submit to his command, a full fledged fight is meant to cause pain and injury and can be deadly.
Breaking up a dog fight is a dangerous situation for everyone. Never allow children to get into the middle of a dog fight. They may be seriously injured by the same dogs who snuggle up with them at night. Fighting dogs hear, see, smell and feel nothing except the dog in their face. At this point, they are no longer your pet. In their minds, they are in a fight to the death. Make no mistake about that. Do not attempt to break up a dog fight by pulling on their collar, and forget about calling their names.
Thinking about how you will handle the situation is your best course of action. You need to remain as calm as you can and having thought about what to do will help maintain your composure if and when a fight breaks out. Your immediate purpose in breaking up a dog fight is to get them to release their hold on each other and get them separated. Not an easy task. It's like trying to pull apart two vise grips locked together.
There is no silver bullet in breaking up a dog fight. That's why you need a plan. If the fight happens outside, a garden hose can help dampen their spirits enough to get them apart. Spray directly into the eyes and muzzle/nose area. Once they have released each other, get between them using the hose as a barrier. Don't stop spraying until both have backed off and you have secured at least one away from the scene. If a hose is not available, find something large you can use to separate the dogs, such as a trash can lid or folding chair. The idea is to put a barrier between them. This works better with two people; it's much harder if you are alone.
Have a pair of sturdy chairs you can place over the dogs, laundry baskets you can use to trap them in, a large piece of plywood to put between them, or large blankets you can throw over their heads. Anything you can find, besides your legs and arms, to get in between the fighters to block them. These suggestions may sound harsh, but when it comes to breaking up a dog fight, they will cause far less damage than two out of control dogs can inflict on each other if the fight is not broken up quickly.
Smaller dogs can be grabbed and pulled up out of the reach of the other one. However, if they have a death grip on each other, you still have to get them apart. A squirt bottled sprayed directly into their eyes and nose should help break their grip on each other.
Never try to break up a dog fight by hitting dogs with a stick, kicking them or yelling. This will only raise their level of excitement. Your job as pack leader is to know each individual dog. Pay attention to body language, growls or snaps which can be early signs a fight is brewing. Step in with a stern no. Get their attention immediately to stop any impending aggression. Avoiding a dog fight is much easier and safer than trying to break one up.
Read more articles by Linda Cole