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Blog of the Week: How Not To Get Injured Stopping A Dog Fight

How Not To Get Injured Stopping A Dog Fight

Let’s first talk about a particular aggression that is commonly found in dogs but often not discussed, displaced aggression, it is also the most common reason why people get bit. To make this easier to understand we’ll describe it in human terms. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all experienced a bad day, and sometimes, although they may not have been the cause, you verbally snapped at a person. That’s displaced aggression; frustration concerning a disruption of aggression or denial of aggression toward the cause, that culminates into a hostile action, directed at a closer more obtainable (oftentimes “innocent”) recipient. The reason why displaced aggression is the most common cause for people being bitten, is because we humans have a tendency, when dogs are fighting, to wade into the scuffle. Not only do we tend to put ourselves in the danger zone by placing our bodies in between the combatants but often we attempt to disrupt the fight in the worst possible way, by grabbing for their collars. As we insert ourselves into the fray, we are often treated no differently then as if we were dogs ourselves. In a dog or wolf pack, if two dogs are fighting, it offers a perfect opportunity to settle old scores or to take sides. The term dog pile is derived from this action, so a dog’s reaction is often to bite/snap at whoever is attempting to disrupt the fight. So it’s no wonder why a dog may snap at their human parent, even if that dog is normally very affectionate and mild mannered.

Now that we understand what’s going on we can now talk about how to be safe, if we do find ourselves unwilling participants during a dog fight. First off try not get in the middle. In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to put your own safety ahead of your dog’s but that’s exactly what you have to do. It’s much harder to break up a fight if you are injured. Instead let’s look at a few different options that maybe safer.

Prevention is the best and safest way to deal with these types of situations. Contrary to popular belief it is not best to let dogs “sort it out themselves,” it may sort itself out but too often it leads to worse and worse fights, creating bad blood between the combatants. For dogs who can’t get along or who have injured each other, I recommend using a crate and only having one of the dogs out at a time. For those of us who have caught the signs of hostility early, it should be much easier as we only need to insist that our dogs follow a few simple rules. First, you must have a zero tolerance policy toward aggressive or bullying behavior for all dogs. Second, never allow a dog to butt in whenever you are showing another dog attention, I strongly recommend that this rule is enforced, rather than giving in and petting both dogs. Third, deter any dog’s commitment toward a housemate who is chewing, sleeping or playing by themselves, it’s a bully maneuver, the goal is to pressure the content dog away from their spot and item. Final rule is to be respectful during feeding time, do not allow any pushing or jockeying for position, if they have their own individual food bowls then do not allow any dog to invade another’s bowl, even if it’s empty.

Now the unfortunate reality when it comes to dealing with highly hostile dogs is that mistakes will happen, especially if you’ve never experienced inter pack hostility before. If a fight breaks out between two dogs, take action, the longer a fight persists the higher the chance that an injury will occur. How we take action is important, if you have leashes on the dogs then it’s easier. Grab the leash handles, while keeping your face protected, use the leashes to give a calming mild extension (consult the book, “Eight Faces Of Canine Aggression” for more info). If the leashes are not an option then you may need to get creative, if there are no other options then you can use a chair to thrust in between the combatants (keep in mind for very determined battlers you may need to charge forcefully while using the chair).

Thank you so much for reading.

– Josh Decker, Dog Trainer

Article written by Josh Decker

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Matthew Duffy is well known for his renowned dog training services, books and DVDs, and online video training sessions through memberships. Matthew uses "genuine control without the rigidity of formal commands." Bring on the dogs!