All You Need To Know About Why Dogs Fight and How To Stop Them

December 17, 2020

All You Need To Know About Why Dogs Fight and How To Stop Them

As a dog owner, nothing is scarier than seeing your dog fight with another dog. Dogs can do serious harm to one another during a fight or attack, and can sometimes even end up killing one of the other dogs involved. While it may feel natural to jump in and try to break up the fight, this can also be dangerous. If it's done the wrong way, you could also end up injuring yourself. 

To be a responsible owner, it's essential to know all you can about why dogs fight and how best to break them up, just so you're fully prepared if you ever find yourself in this situation. Read on to learn how to handle it.

Why Does My Dog Fight?

There are a number of reasons that dogs fight one another. Even the friendliest dogs, or canines that live together, can end up fighting. 

There are a number of triggers to keep an eye out for that can cause two dogs to begin fighting, which, if avoided can help mediate any possible altercations between pets. These are:

1. Hierarchy

Most dogs have an innate desire to maintain some form of internal hierarchy. For this reason, households with multiple dogs of the same sex (all male or female) are more likely to see their pets fight. In the wild, dogs would fight to be the alpha of the pack or gain “top dog” status, and this is still seen in some domestic situations.

If the dogs are of a different sex, then they can both occupy a “top dog” status, as the different sexes would have different roles in the pack and are not in contest with one another. Even if your dogs are related, they can still end up fighting each other, particularly if they're pups approaching adolescence. 

Some dogs that live together and are normally friendly can also lash out at each other due to the need to redirect their aggression. If one dog becomes frustrated it could lash out at another dog for no other reason than it was the nearest target.

2. Possessive Behavior

Toys, food, and other things dogs may claim possession over can be common triggers for fights. Dogs can be possessive over what they've got, and (much like humans) always want what they don't have, which can lead to fights. 

You should never feed two canines next to each other as when one dog is finished, they may try to eat the other's food and cause a fight. It's generally safer to feed them in different parts of the room, and, if your pet is particularly possessive, it may be worth not leaving their food on the ground where another dog can access it.

Dogs can also become possessive over things such as bones and chew toys; sometimes hoarding them and keeping them from other dogs. If your pet displays this sort of behavior, it may be best to remove these chew toys from your home. Never remove a toy with just your hand, as you could end up getting injured yourself. Instead, try to distract the dog with another toy or piece of food whilst you take the toys that they are hoarding. 

3. Overexcitement

If your pet is mixing with other dogs for the first time in an outside setting such as a park, it is possible they could get overexcited and hurt one of the other dogs, triggering a fight. There is no hierarchy that's been established with a group of new dogs, so if multiple are running together for the same toy a fight could break out. Also, if multiple new animals begin playing together this can create a “pack mentality” that could also lead to aggression.

4. Territory

Dogs can be incredibly territorial, especially when they're around new dogs. This territory can include spaces they consider to be their own, or they can even feel territorial over their owners. If a canine feels they are in a threatening place, they could lash out at anyone that tries to approach their owner or their own personal space. If a new dog comes into your home, this could also be considered by your dog as an invasion on their territory, possibly causing a fight.

How Do I Stop Dog Fights?

Unfortunately, in most dog fights, the fight won't break up naturally until one dog has sustained significant injuries and backed off. Because of this, you as the owner may need to step in and take action. It's important to note that you should never physically intervene with your hands or your body during a fight because you will get injured. In the midst of a fight, a dog won't hesitate to bite its owner as it will seek to remove anything that gets in its way.

If a dog fight breaks out it's important to remain calm and not exacerbate the situation. Remove any children from the scene to ensure they don't get hurt or see any injuries and then proceed with trying to break up the fight. Here are some ways you might do this:

Spray Them

If you have a hose nearby, spraying down the dogs with water can often break up a fight. Aiming for the nose or eyes of the more aggressive dog can disorient them long enough for them to calm down and not do any further damage. A citronella spray or vinegar spray in a bottle can also be effective as dogs dislike the smell.

Use Noise

Using a car horn as a distraction can occasionally break up less intense fights. It's important to note that making noise doesn't mean screaming or shouting, as this can often intensify the fight.

Use Objects Strategically

Throwing a blanket over the fighting dogs could disorient them and also provide the owners with a slightly safer opportunity to break them up. Using long objects such as an umbrella or stick to physically push the canines apart can also sometimes work. Alternatively, placing a laundry basket or a chair on top of the dog can also help isolate and break up the two animals that are fighting.

Physical Intervention

This is the most dangerous of the methods, so it's recommended to only be used as a last resort. Never attempt to get in between the two dogs and never grab their collar, as this will result in you getting injured. 

If there are two people present you can attempt the wheelbarrow method, which involves two people slowly approaching each dog from behind and grabbing their hind legs at the same time. They'd then quickly walk backwards (pulling the dog like a wheelbarrow) moving in a circular motion to keep the dog on it's front and move it away from the other dog where it can calm down. It's important to keep the animal on its front legs — if it rolls over it could bite the owner that's dragging it. 

If you are alone physical intervention is not recommended. 

Bottom Line

The best method of dealing with a dog fight is prevention, through ensuring your dog is never in a situation where it may feel aggressive or have the opportunity to be aggressive to another dog. 

If a fight does break out, it's best to intervene using tools such as a water/citronella spray or other objects. You should never intervene if you are by yourself, but if there is another owner nearby you can attempt the wheelbarrow method to separate the dogs as a last resort. 

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