Cheryl Wicks: What to do when there is a dog fight
The single biggest problem dog owners have with their dogs is aggression.
Dog aggression and people aggression are not always the same thing. This article will only cover dog on dog aggression.
As a dog owner, you may be faced with a dog fight in your home or at the dog park or even in the street. These things happen when you are least prepared for it. First word of advice is know your dog(s). But sometimes even in the best of situations a dog fight ensues over a play toy or your attention or food, etc.
Some dogs (not many) truly do need to be only pets. Most with proper guidance from puppyhood will not be in dog fights. As a person who works at a shelter I have been in a few dog fights. They are memorable and something not to be repeated. I have broken up a couple of dog fights at the dog park (they weren’t even my own dogs, but the owners did not know what to do).
There are preventative measures that you can take long before the thought of a dog fight has even entered your mind. After all no one gets a dog thinking they are going to have dog fights. Sometimes dogs who have lived together for years suddenly have an unexpected fight.
A well-trained dog is a well-behaved dog (so train your dog) which will minimize the likelihood of a fight. Dogs are like children in some ways: what starts out as play gets a little too rough, and in the turn of a second, it’s “game on.” If your dog is well trained, it will be easier to call it off if it does get into a scrap.
Tips & tricks
The best time to stop a dog fight is before it gets started. Body language will indicate that things are tensing up. That is the time to show leadership and grab your dog(s) and redirect them to something else. Some signs that you might notice are a stiff flagging tail (different from a happy wagging loose tail) growling, licking lips, eyes targeting or averting and hackles (hair on nape of neck standing up). If on a leash, your dog might lunge.
If you miss those signs and a full fledged fight breaks out, then you must figure out some way to break it up without getting in the middle of it and getting yourself hurt. Sometimes dogs will redirect on to you if they can’t get to the other dog. The most likely thing to occur is getting your hand bitten as you try to grab the collar.
Methods that can work are grabbing a hind leg, if you can (sometimes hard to do while the dog is jumping and hopping and wiggling), and pull the dog away from the other dog. If you can, grab the leg of the aggressor as the other dog may back off. If you grab the non-aggressor the aggressor will just keep coming. You are now dealing with animals who are stimulated and worked up and want to finish and win the battle.
If a fight breaks out at home, like in the back yard, you can always use the garden hose to spray them with water. The closer you get and the stronger the stream hitting them right in the face, the better your chances of breaking it up.
Sometimes your own voice can be a weapon. A brave leadership kind of “stop it right now” can work. An, I’m-scared-to-death “stop it” won’t help. Your own focused energy can be a big help, scattered weak energy won’t help. You can use chairs to forge your way in between and still have protection. Whistles, “Pet Corrector,” clatter sticks and other noise making things can be effective.
If you walk on trails where others have their not well behaved dogs off leash come charging at your dog and ready for the attack it is good to be prepared. A little stun gun (not a taser) or some pepper spray can be helpful. I have these items and have never used them. Just having them allows me to project powerful, focused take-charge energy telling the dog, “You are not going to get by with this.”
Be prepared, stay centered and project good strong energy and that’s your best shot at breaking things up before anyone gets hurt.
Cheryl Wicks is the co-founder and president of Sammie’s Friends.
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