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This Is How You Should Deal with Dog on Dog Attacks

No matter how it started, dog fights are a scary occurrence. Breaking up the fight itself can not only be difficult, but it’s often when owners end up being bitten as well.

While we all hope that we don’t have to deal with a dog fight during our dog’s life, it’s important to be prepared.

In this article we will be covering how to stop a dog attack, as well as how to handle the aftermath – no matter if your dog was the aggressor or the one being attacked.

How to Stop a Dog Attacking Another Dog

Knowing how to stop a dog attack in the moment is extremely important in securing the best outcome possible for the dogs.

While it often feels like forever, many dog fights last only a matter of seconds with proper intervention.

It’s extremely important to remember your own personal safety during a dog fight as well. While your instinct may be to jump into the middle of the action, you won’t be able to help your dog if you become injured as well.

If you have a small dog, picking them up and shielding them with your arms while turning to one side (avoiding eye contact) and staying calm is the safest way to deal with this situation.

However, this is only going to work if you can safely grab your small dog without being bitten yourself.

It’s always important to stay calm and assertive in an adrenaline-soaked stand-off. I have seen people screaming on top of their lungs when their dog is being attacked which is one of the most counterproductive things you can do.

For larger dogs, or in cases where your smaller dog is being held by a larger dog, additional steps will need to be taken.

Important notice: There is something I want to show you that will change the way you interact with your dog. Check it out here.

Avoid kicking the attacking dog or grabbing any dog by the collar or scruff as the inflicted pain often escalates the situation, pushing the dogs to bite even harder.

Two Weimaraners facing each other and showing teeth, about to launch into fight.

Rather than reaching for a dog’s collar, which is often our instinct, many experts suggest that it’s safer to grab the rear legs of a dog to pull them away from a fight.

Dogs in the middle of a dog fight don’t pay close attention if they are biting at the other dog, or if they are accidentally biting a human. Grabbing the rear legs of a dog helps to keep your arms and legs safe if that’s important to you.

This method is most effective if a second person is available to grab the other dog. Even if one dog was the initial aggressor, dog fights often escalate to a fight between both dogs and they may both need to be separated.

Continuing to hold the back legs of the dogs, each person should slowly continue backing away until the dogs can be contained.

If you find yourself alone and need to break up a fight, the most effective way is to grab the rear legs of one of the dogs and drag them towards a doorway.

Again, by grabbing the rear legs of the dog, you are keeping yourself safe from injury so you can effectively handle the dog fight.

Once at a doorway, shutting the door between the two dogs can be an effective way to get one dog to release their grip while separating both dogs in the process.

In my personal opinion and experience, twisting the collar and applying the right amount of pressure with a skilled grip can definitely resolve a dog fight. I actually prefer this method over grabbing the rear legs as it helped me in the past.

If you are not physically able to break up the dog fight, or if getting involved would put you at risk of injury, it may be a tough decision to make and in many cases, dog fights sound worse than they are, and the dogs will break apart for a moment.

However, I’d never let a dog fight play out and instead always step in. It’s my personal opinion that it’s our job as responsible owners to be physically and mentally prepared for these situations and at least try our best.

In this case though, your safest option may be to try and call others for help while you wait for the dogs to hopefully disengage.

Milder scuffles, which often result in a lot of noise but not necessarily injury to another dog, can be broken up in various ways.

A loud noise, such as an air horn, can startle many dogs involved in a smaller scuffle for a moment in order to get them to stop so you can intervene. Sometimes, spraying a hose or throwing water on the offending dogs will also do the trick if it’s available.

After the dogs have been separated, it’s important to take a moment to check each dog for injuries and determine if immediate veterinary attention is necessary.

Even if your dog seems fine in the moment, you should check them over again in 10-20 minutes. Punctures don’t usually start bleeding right away, and you may notice them after they’ve had some time to form.

In addition, your dog might not seem to be in pain or show signs of injury in the moment, but that may change as they calm down. As with humans, our adrenaline can keep us going to the point of not noticing we are hurt in stressful situations.

If your dog was attacked by another dog, it’s also important to get that owner’s information in case you need to speak with them about paying medical bills or to file a report in the future.

Two dogs snarling at each other, displaying their teeth as warning before the fight.

All the steps summarised:

  1. Stay calm and assertive
  2. Don’t kick the dogs or put yourself at high risk
  3. Grab the rear legs or alternatively twist the collar
  4. Call for help if you’re unable to break up a fight alone
  5. Make loud noises
  6. Check your dog and exchange insurance information

My Dog Attacked Another Dog Unprovoked

While it’s a scary event to witness a dog fight, it often feels even worse when it’s your own dog that attacked another dog.

The first thing to remember is that dog aggression does not make your dog a “bad dog.” Rather, aggression is a combination of genetics, upbringing, and their environment, and all dogs have the potential to bite.

However, it’s also important to recognize when your dog is not social with other dogs, and take appropriate management steps to keep everyone safe.

When your dog is allowed the opportunity to attack another dog, not only do you risk serious injuries or death to the other dog, but the outcome can be devastating for your dog too, if you face legal action.

If you know that your dog is a potential risk to other dogs, there are several pieces of management that you can use to protect your dog and others.

One of the most important tools to consider in managing a dog that has the potential to bite is a muzzle. While muzzles often have a negative connotation associated with them, they are truly a wonderful option!

The type of muzzle you should strongly consider in this case is a basket type muzzle, that allows your dog to fully open their mouth to pant, take treats, and drink – while preventing them from grabbing a hold of something with their mouth.

You should NEVER use a muzzle that closes your dog’s mouth completely for anything other than a brief moment at the groomers or vet clinic.

Without the ability to open their mouth fully to pant, you risk serious health problems in your dog. Instead, a well-fitted basket muzzle is safe for your dog to wear, while keeping everyone else safe, too.

Unprovoked aggression is scary to witness in dogs. But oftentimes there have been subtle signs prior to the attack. Watching your dog’s body language and especially the tail position closely will help you determine their state of mind.

Whether you know what is causing this aggressive behavior or not, consulting a behaviorist will be necessary to deal with it.

Can a Dog Be Put Down for Attacking Another Dog?

Yes, sometimes a dog is ordered to be put down after a dog fight.

However, this usually only happens in cases where the owner was extremely negligent and knew their dog was aggressive but allowed another attack to happen.

In many places, dogs will be listed as “dangerous” or another similar designation after the original incident happens.

Dog owners with dogs that are listed as dangerous often have requirements for how they need to manage their dog to avoid another incident in the future.

If a dog that is already declared dangerous ends up in another dog fight, the response from the government and legal system is likely to escalate to a harsher consequence, which sometimes includes euthanasia.

The severity of the dog fight plays a role in the outcome as well. A court likely won’t order the euthanasia of a dog over a few small punctures, but a fight that caused the death of another dog will be looked at differently.

Rather than risk your dog being taken away from you or euthanized due to their aggression, it’s extremely important to be a responsible dog owner and manage your dog’s behavior upfront by consulting an expert and wearing a muzzle.

Unleashed Dog Attacks Leashed Dog

Another consideration in the legal outcome of a dog bite case is if the owners were following local leash laws.

It’s often the case that one owner is being responsible and following local laws by keeping their dog on a leash, and their on-leash dog is attacked by a dog that is off leash.

In many cases, it doesn’t matter if your dog escaped out a door, broke their leash, or you were purposefully letting them run off leash.

Because you can take efforts to contain your dog, such as using a back up leash, training your dog to not rush doorways or putting them behind a barrier when you open the door, it’s sometimes still considered negligence even in the case of an accident.

In order to minimize the risk of your dog running off leash and attacking another dog, it’s important to always follow local leash laws and only let your dog off their leash in areas where it is safe to do so – or avoid letting them off leash entirely if there’s a risk of other dogs being in the area.

You should also consider taking other measures, such as a second leash or another barrier at the door, especially if your dog has already shown aggressive behavior. Repeated incidents are not looked upon favorably.

Two dogs clashing midair in the snow.

It’s also the case that if your friendly dog is off leash, and ends up in a dog fight with an on leash dog, your off leash dog is almost always the responsible party.

Whether or not the dog on a leash is aggressive doesn’t matter, because your dog wouldn’t have been able to run up to the responsible owner with an aggressive on leash dog if you had your own dog on a leash.

If you are the owner with your dog responsibly on a leash, and an off leash dog approaches you, there are also steps you can take to keep your dog and yourself safe. 

Carrying an air horn or pepper spray are two great ways you can deter a dog that is approaching you before it escalates into a dog fight.

In addition, standing tall and making yourself look big by using an umbrella or standing on top of something can give many dogs pause. If you happen to notice an owner, it’s also more than acceptable to ask them to leash their dog.

Many people respond back with “it’s OK – my dog is friendly!” If you find yourself in this situation, a simple “my dog isn’t!” usually gets the point across.

My Dog Was Attacked by Another Dog – What Are My Rights?

Because every country, state, city, and local governments are different, it’s important to consult a lawyer who understands the legalities of dog bites who is local to you if you find yourself in a legal battle over a dog bite.

However, there are some generalities that apply to many places that we will be discussing in this piece.

In general, if you followed all of the leash laws, your dog is properly registered, and up to date on vaccinations, you will not be found liable for a dog attack that your dog did not provoke.

Because dog fights can happen quickly and with no warning if an off leash dog approaches you, this is one of the reasons it’s important to always follow local rules and regulations regarding dogs.

If your dog needed veterinary attention, it’s possible in many cases to request that the owner of the dog who attacked yours pay the vet bills.

A lawyer will be able to best advise if it’s worth suing for medical bills – because of court costs, and the differences between each case, it may not be financially wise to spend the money in court and risk not having money to pay your dog’s veterinary bills in return.

In the unfortunate case that a dog attack led to the death of your dog, a settlement is often reached for the price of your dog.

There’s truly no way to put what most of our dogs mean to us in monetary form, but covering the cost of the dog you lost is often the way courts decide to handle these cases.

While the money won’t bring your dog back, it will hopefully allow you to do something in your dog’s honor, as well as make the other owner realize the seriousness of their dog’s behavior.

Are You Liable If Your Dog Bites Another Dog in Defense?

Defensive wounds are common in dog fights, as the dog being attacked often fights back to try and fend off the attacking dog.

If your dog happens to land a bite on another dog, when the other dog provoked the fight, you are often not held liable.

Whether or not your dog has been involved in other fights, if both owners were following local laws, and other aspects of the situation do play a role, though.

As an example, if you are attacked by a person, you are not going to be held liable for damage you cause to the person when you punch and kick them in response.

However, if you take things too far and choose to continue to harm the person who attacked you even after they’ve stopped and you’re safe, a court may find that your actions were also not acceptable.

Should You Report a Dog Attack?

In many cases, it’s advisable to report a dog attack. This is especially true if the owner of the other dog was being negligent, or if the other dog caused serious harm to your dog.

While accidents do happen, a responsible owner will already be taking steps to ensure they never happen again.

However, it’s the unfortunate reality that not everyone takes dog aggression seriously and will turn a blind eye to their dog’s behavior.

This especially occurs in many cases where an owner believes that by displaying aggressive behavior, their dog is being “bad” and isn’t the dog they want to own and love.

When a report is made for a true dog attack, steps can then be taken to keep everyone safe in the future.

Not only is it important for your own dog, so that they never have to suffer the trauma of an attack by that dog again, but it’s important to keep other dogs and their owners safe as well.

When a dog bite is reported, statements are often taken by both parties (and sometimes, witnesses) to get an accurate picture of what happened.

Then, local animal control or a similar position is responsible for determining if a dog’s behavior has escalated them to a dangerous designation, and what steps need to be taken.

Reporting the dog bites will serve as fair warning to the dog’s owner that they need to take better steps to control their dog’s behavior and keep everyone safe.

If you decide to take an owner to court over medical bills or the cost of your dog, having a police report on file will also help provide important evidence during your case.

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About Danielle
I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.

Ricardo

Thursday 9th of September 2021

Yesterday I was arriving at my house with my kids and their was a small dog off leash wondering, same dog I had seen days before also off leash with no owner on site. My kids opened the door of my house and our dog came to greet us. When he saw the small dog he came to it, the small dog reacted aggressive and my dog reacted equally, the size difference is big but luckily I jumped in and separated the fight with my kids next it, while doing this the small dog got a hold of my hand and made a big hole on it. I had to go to emergency to get my hand checked, get a shot of tetanus and my wound cleaned. I am super concerned with the other dog because of the fight and by the end of the day the owner appeared. I told her that if I was her I would take my dog to vet. She did and the dog is very hurt from what she tells me. I already shared all my dogs vaccines but she hasn’t done the same. I am also worried on any repercussions and want to understand any liability here. Tha accident happened on my property. What should I do?

Danielle

Sunday 12th of September 2021

Hey Ricardo,

in my opinion, the other owner is definitely (partly) liable, and you should talk to her about what she's planning to do to address the aggression issue and send her your medical bills (your health/liability insurance might cover your wound and pet/liability insurance might cover your dog's vet bills though).

The question of who covers what depends heavily on where you're from and what's covered under your insurance.

The same goes for the law on whose fault it is. It was your property and the dog was off-leash but then again, you might face repercussions due to your dog leaving the house unleashed (unless your front yard is clearly fenced) and defend himself. As long as she isn't pressing any charges (and unless you want to) you probably don't need to worry but if you're unsure, get a lawyer involved.

There's no excuse as to why her dog was walking around with no supervision so it's your call when it comes to what you want to do about it (involve authorities, have your bills covered by her or her insurance, etc.).

I'm not a lawyer and would advise consulting one if you want to be sure.

Martyna

Friday 6th of August 2021

Hi, few weeks ago my 4 months puppy was attacked by my friend’s dog. He was bitten on the leg, the bone was compeletely damaged with many fracture displacements. The worst thing was the developing infection. My dog was under surgery over 6h and while the leg could be fixed the growing infection took his life away. Because this happened with my friends I didn’t know if this is right to report the dog, becaues He might be dangerous to other dog in the future. I let my friends decide how to deal with it but after a weeks, They didn’t do anything because they believe that the Vet is responsible of my dog’s death. I do not agree with this and that makes me feel more angry, because of their dog my dog has died. They left us without any help and support. Do you know with whom can I speak about that situation? Will the Solicitor take the case? Thank you

Danielle

Wednesday 11th of August 2021

Hi Martyna, I'm sorry for your loss and that devastating experience. It really depends on the circumstances but since it's extremeley unlikely that a 4-month-old puppy shows brutal aggression towards a (presumably) adult dog, they definitely need to do something about it.

There's a reason the dog has bitten your dog and the issue needs to be addressed and a professional behaviorist or trainer involved if necessary.

Should you report it? Well, on one hand reporting it sounds like the right thing to do because it's what actually happened. But in reality, depending on your country and regional laws, the dog might just be taken away and either euthanized or lands in a shelter where he'll probably never be adopted due to bite history. If you don't report it and the owners neglect that something needs to be done, they won't learn anything and it'll happen again.

My personal solution would be to try to talk to the owners. Surely, they must acknowledge that it's not normal and that this is a really dangerous situation to just keep going. Could your vet be at fault for not catching the infection? Maybe. That's another issue. But even if they are, letting your dog bite another dog that causes 6h surgery is NOT normal. Even if the dog hadn't died, this situation would still be severe. They should definitely pay ALL the vet bills but maybe they didn't know how to approach you? Not an excuse at all but would explain the behavior.

If you would go ahead with reporting them, the police usually take the case and can tell you where to go. Not sure if a Solicitor does, but might be. Beware that he might be taken away because another dog has died (would be even worse in the laws' eyes if it was a human so think about what could happen in the future).

Marge

Sunday 13th of June 2021

Thanks for the tips. Sweetie escaped from the house and had a fight with a dog. The other owner yelled she bit her dog. A witness noticed blood. On the dog and owners knuckles. Owner left the scene. Called the police to file a report but would not allow pictures to be taken of their wounds. The police officer took My statement and the witness who helped separate the dog 🐕 appreciate your advice. The irony of this is we took our fence down because Lowes was installing a new one yesterday but cancelled out until Monday. Frustrated.

Danielle

Sunday 13th of June 2021

Hi Marge, that's a bad situation to be in, hope it'll turn out all right in the end. It's even harder to evaluate if you haven't been there so it's hard to say what really happened. Not sure what's going to happen now but if the other dog was leashed (and yours obviously wasn't) it could look bad. Would consult attorney and never give up the dog for an "evaluation". Dog attacks are serious, and for the local authorities it gets even more serious when one dog draws blood and perhaps attacks the owner.

Also, you should get to the bottom of this and while you can't 100% trust what the other owner is saying, work with whatever they give you to make sure you can solve any potential behavior issues. Yard needs to be 1000% secure, that's even a requirement if you want to get a dog labeled as dangerous in some parts of Germany (Pitbull-types, Rottweiler, etc.).

Wish your dog the best, Danielle

Frances Langan

Friday 9th of April 2021

I have a communal garden and my dog was attacked by another dog in the complex on Easter Sunday evening. I had to call an emergency vet as his eye was bulging out and my dog was screaming. The vet had to stitch the eye together and I have to visit the vet every other day to check his eye. I am going back again tomorrow to see if the stitches can come out yet. It is very swollen so he is not sure if he can save the eye, but if he can he doubts that he will have sight in that eye. I have not reported it as I don't know who to report it too and also I do not know the prognosis as yet.

Danielle

Friday 9th of April 2021

Hey Frances, sorry this happened to your dog. Who was present when the attack happened - was it you, the other dog owner or at the very least a witness? Without that it's hard to say what really happened and who started the fight. Is the other dog injured? What did the dog owner say, assuming his dog wasn't as badly inured from what you're describing.

Even if he doesn't know who started it, he should definitely talk to you, and of course, pay the vet bills. If his dog possibly started the fight, I would certainly report this. Local authorities can take the case as well as animal control but there's often not a lot they can or will do, especially without evidence.

Sadly, if somethings happens, it's just the dog who has to take responsibility, never the actual dog owner who is supposed to supervise his dog and do all the training beforehand to make sure no dog runs around off-leash if other people or dogs can be around. That's disgusting, but since I don't know what exactly happened, I would try to talk to him/her first.

Definitely get another opinion from a vet, the diagnosis of "maybe save the eye maybe not" really doesn't look rosy. I'm sorry for your dog.

Hope she'll be well soon, Danielle