Dog trains man

Monday, October 18, 2010

Are you prepared for a dog fight?

Remember your very first pup and the plans you had for both of you? Your pup will  have outstanding manners. Nice to people and other dogs. Come when you call. No problems whatsoever, just enjoying doggy life. It is a nice dream isn't it.

Somewhere down the road we find out that even if we have the nicest and most obedient of pups, we still need two to tango. Not everybody we meet is as nice and well-behaved as we would like them to be. Even dogs that seem to have great personalities, might just not get along. Like people.

Owning a dog means you have to be prepared for a dog fight. Unfortunately but inevitable. Even if your pup is not reactive, you will meet one that is.

You will be too late

Don't fool yourself you are able to distinguish a dog fight from a skirmish. Dogs just read each other quicker, and they decide quicker. You don't have a chance. When you are still contemplating about if what you are seeing is a dog fight or an impolite exchange of macho dog talk, things are already enfolding. Acting on a fight which is not is just as dangerous. Shouting and intervening will only add the stress that can trigger an actual fight.


Ninety percent of the solution is to avoid. Tune in to the body language of the approaching dog and your own dog beforehand. Is your dog avoiding the dog that is coming, or showing stiffness? Be alert. With stiffness, walk in the other direction immediately. When your pup starts to move in a different direction and sniffing casually, follow them and don't force them to meet or walk by the other dog. Support them in their actions and walk past in a circle. Handlers of search-and-rescue dogs have a great principle to live by: "Trust your dog". This is one of those times. Giving your dog this trust will strengthen your teamwork and your dog's confidence.

If possible, avoid places where dogs can be off-leash, like dog parks, when you don't know all the other dogs and dog owners. Only have an off-leash walk or dog park visit with people and dogs you know and can trust.

Approaching dog

When you are good at avoiding you could still walk into an off-leash dog or a stray that might turn aggressive. That's why you should always carry a citronella spray with you. Or at least a water-bottle, even better pepper-spray when that is legal in your state/country. When you are unsure about the dog's intentions try shouting to make him think twice about coming any closer. Use the spray if that doesn't help. Don't wait until it is too late. Once there is a fight, the spray will have little effect. Think about before hand on what exact distance you would like to use both, this will make you act quicker in the situation itself, when there is hardly time to think. When nothing helps to stop the dog from approaching drop the leash of your dog. This might seem strange, but dropping the leash removes tension from your dog and might enable them to send the correct message to the unwanted visitor. On her blog, Laurie Luck tells how it helped her to avoid a dog fight.

In a fight

I am sure instinct will take over now, despite of what I will write. But please stay with me on this one. When you are in a fight, drop the leash of your dog to give him a better chance to defend  himself if you didn't already.

The last thing you should do is trying to step in and grab either dog by its collar, spark or kick. The chances for a dog bite are high and you can get severely injured. If the other owner is around you should both try to grab a dog by its hind legs or tail and trying to pull them away from each other. Usually there is no time to explain, just start pulling on their dog so they get the picture. Although this is also with risk, and can also provoke a bite. On her blog, Karen Friesecke wrote some other options down that might also work.

Everybody is different, and I do respect when you are that kind of fearless person that in a split-second jumps in the middle of a fight to protect your dog. But beware the consequences. My dad is such a person, and he has been in a dog-fight three times during the last year in which he got bitten each time. The last time it was that bad that they had to do surgery on his hand twice, and we feared he would loose the function of his hand. Do not underestimate the force of a dog bite. And when you get severely injured, what does that mean for the life of your dog?



  1. Very helpful post. Always good to have a plan!

  2. Indeed very helpful! One of my nightmares which so far has not come true and I do hope I will think before I panic, if it ever does come true. (Might seem funny, but I usually freeze when it's time to panic) Another thought to add is to try sharp commands on a strange dog, like sit! Helped me out a couple of times when I ran into stray dogs.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. After Jersey and I were "mauled" by a 100 pound juvenile Bernese Mountain Dog, I stopped going to dog parks. The dog was really sweet and meant no harm, but Jersey was a little scared and I was covered in mud. The owner was not paying attention to her dog, she was too interested in talking on her cell phone.

    I don't trust strange dogs at the dog park and in my opinion, dog parks are just accidents waiting to happen.

    Thanks for the shout out! Much appreciated :)

  4. This is a really useful post; thank you! Lucas was attacked by a dog whose owner just stood by and did nothing... UGH. When the unthinkable happens, it's good to have a plan!

  5. @Leslie Fisher
    Thank you, also for spreading the word on to Facebook

    @Birgit Pratcher
    Very good advice Birgit! A command could be pickep up by the approaching dog. And your own dogs at least will recognize the command so it will freak them out less than just shouting.

    @Karen Friesecke, @Maggie
    It seems the owners of "attacking" always have in common that they are not paying attention, neither do they step in to help. In my dads case the woman also did nothing and after the incident ran away with her dog. Leaving my dad behind. Bleeding. Happily he didn't go into schock and was himself able to call for an ambulance.

  6. Such great advice. You are completely right, every dog owner should be prepared just in case. When I was a kid I walked the family dog regularly and, unfortunately, one day a strange dog lunged from behind a house and attacked us. Dog fights can happen anywhere.

    You father is a brave man. I hope he hasn't suffered too much as a result of getting bitten.

  7. Dropping the leash DOES work. I was walking my 2 year old doberman and 2 in tact males ran across the pasture right for my dog. My dog stood stock still terrified. I dropped the leash, my dog relaxed and got into a play stance. The one dog tried to hump him but because Buzz could move, there was no fight. THANK GOD!

  8. @Kristine
    Thank you! Yes, even when we have the best intentions, sometimes we are not in control. Thanks for the compliment of my dad being brave. He returned home today, so things start to brighten up again for him!

    Thanks for sharing. You did the right thing. Glad that Buzz is such a great dog that he could master the situation and avoid a fight. Great teamwork!

  9. We avoid dog parks because you just never know what you'll find. Since Lilly's social skills are not great, we tend to do play dates here at home and only with dogs we know and trust (including putting up with Lilly's rough social graces).

    Sometimes, though, when we walk in our rural valley, we get chased down by loose dogs. It's very stressful for me and Lilly. Thankfully, so far, no fights ... just lots of noise and posturing.

    Still ... there was one loose dog who kept squaring off with us, every time we tried to swing around him. We eventually got by, but I later learned that he bit off part of his owner's thumb. So my instincts that this particular dog was dangerous were right on.

    I did once use my citronella spray to try to stop a push Newfoundland who was chasing us. He wasn't being mean, just pushy. It did not stop him, but after a while, he got a funny look on his face and backed up.

    He still followed us, but at a greater distance. I thought it was a decent outcome, but our behaviorist said it was like telling Lilly, "I know there is an axe murderer right there, but everything is fine."

  10. Great post Kenzo. I'm going to share this one with my clients. I am usually good at seeing something about to start, but as you said, dog's reactions are just quicker than ours.

    I like the advice of pulling back legs. I have jumped in without thinking before, don't recommend it. I have also found throwing water on them can help and acting like a crazy person running around and screaming can distract them sometimes too.

    I also received one piece of advice that I believe saved me and a dog-aggressive client one day. We had a dog barrel down a hill towards us. Of course, my dog client went crazy which drew the dog closer. I feared the worst was about to hapen when I remembered someone had said shouting "Go Home!" sometimes works. It did. I shouted it twice and the dog kind of whined and went home. Thank God!

  11. @roxanne
    Good to hear you have been able to avoid fights. Of course having a fearful dog like Lilly makes it even more complicated what to do. Use of the leash and shouting can have the opposite effect, like the comment of your behaviorist indicates. I wonder sometimes what would be better ...

    On the other hand owners of fearful dogs (that are aware) are more savy to avoid other dogs, and actually have fewer incidents, then owners with dogs that always jump into the social scene.

  12. @melf
    Thanks for sharing that tip. It looks like the experience from @BirgitPratcher that shouts a command. Shouting something the dog might understand makes more sense indeed, then just shouting.

  13. Vergeet niet dat gevoelsmatig handelen inzake
    ingrijpen tijdens een gevecht veel ellende voor je eigen hond kan voorkomen.Indien doorgaans veel lawaai en geschreeuw een gevecht niet meer kan voorkomen,schat dan je kansen goed in om zelf te handelen en reken daarbij op de (verstandige)aanwezigheid van eigenaren.

  14. OY! A nightmare indeed. But, you're right to have a plan,,,and I avoid dog parks. Thanks for a thoughtful post about a difficult subject.

  15. hi there, my dog georgia was in a fight today. in a dogpark, and with 2 of her best friends! interestingly enough, i had made a post earlier in the day in which i had shared many links on reactive dogs and onleash aggression, including this particular post of yours.

    things panned out exactly as you'd written. it was fast. it was unstoppable. i grabbed her hind legs, tried to remain calm and probably ended up looking nonchalant! I saw the signs of trouble coming and didn't walk her away because the other dogs were her friends and i didn't really think they'd have a full on fight.

    all your good advice came to naught! i hope i haven't ruined a good friendship between the dogs. thank you for an interesting read :)

  16. Oh no! I went over to your blog and read the whole story. Thank god only "minor" bites (if such a thing exists) that they can recover from.

    Their friendship doesn't have to end, usually dogs can be quite forgiving, even after a bite. The good thing is that you saw the signs of trouble, so you can react next time before it happens.


Blogger Template Created by pipdig