No matter how it starts, a dog fight is a scary occurrence.
Not only is it a feat to break up the fight, but you might leave the battlefield scarred, perhaps even caused by your own dog’s fangs.
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.
Let’s cover 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
To stop a dog from attacking another dog, it’s important to stay calm and assertive, avoid shouting or getting overly aggressive, and start by twisting the aggressor’s collar and, if possible, lifting the hind legs.
Don’t just choke the dog since that’ll only cut off the air supply but instead twist the collar while lifting it to quickly end the fight and avoid damage to the dog’s throat if possible.
Knowing how to stop a dog attack on the spot 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.
It’s always important to stay calm and assertive in an adrenaline-soaked stand-off.
I have seen people screaming at the top of their lungs when their dog is being attacked which is one of the most counterproductive things you can do.
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.
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 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, most dogs will (rightfully) try to defend themselves.
Continuing to hold the back legs of the dogs, each person should slowly continue backing away until the dogs can be contained.
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 call for you and it’s true that these fights often sound worse than they are.
However, I’d never let a dog fight play out and instead always step in.
As responsible owners, it’s our job to be physically and mentally prepared for these situations and at least try our best.
All the steps summarised:
- Stay calm and assertive, call for help and give clear instructions if possible
- Don’t kick the dogs or put yourself at high risk or otherwise encourage to bite harder
- Twist the collar and/or grab the rear legs
- Check your dog and exchange insurance information
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 at 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 at 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 filing a report in the future.
What To Do When a Big Dog Attacks a Little Dog
When a big dog attacks 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, it can be argued this only works if you can safely grab your small dog without being bitten yourself.
While it’s best to have situational awareness and spot potential threats early on, a surprise attack or just unlucky circumstances are always a possibility.
Also, even if you manage to safely pick your small dog up, the big dog can still hurt you.
Personally, I’d always intervene.
Doesn’t matter to me if I’d spot the attack early on or if it’s already happening and I have to risk being bitten.
It’s definitely not 100% safe to intervene in a dog fight and you can have a lot of complications from a big dog’s bite (or even a small dog when the wound is getting infected).
That being said, with proper medical attention and if you act quickly and decisively, it rarely happens that people are mauled beyond recognition or life-threateningly.
Your situation might be totally different (seniors, people with medical conditions, and so on).
My Dog Attacked Another Dog Unprovoked
If your dog attacked another dog unprovoked, break the fight up quickly, offer to pay for all damages, discuss the situation with the other dog owner and start re-habilitating your own dog in addition to muzzling them from now on.
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 environment.
All dogs have a varying potential to bite.
There are no breeds inherently predisposed to biting. None.
Breeds with stronger jaws (not “locking jaws”) do exist. Certain lines of breeds whose terrible breeders foster and feed traits such as aggression do exist too.
You may have just stumbled upon a rescue dog who is exactly that. Your dog may have just had negative experiences in the past or is simply not socialized.
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 the muzzle often has a negative connotation, it’s truly a wonderful tool.
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.
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.
My Dog Attacked Another Dog Will It Be Put Down?
Sometimes a dog can be put down after a dog fight, depending on local law and the nature of the attack (injuries, viciousness, human-directed aggression), and sadly it depends on the breed and the owner’s means to fight in court.
Usually, this only happens in cases where the owner was extremely negligent and knew their dog was aggressive but allowed another attack to happen.
Depending on your local law, you shouldn’t count on that though, especially if you have a breed that’s affected by breed-specific legislation.
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 consequence from the government and legal system is likely to be harsher, 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.
There are cases where the family pet was taken away after a scuffle just for evaluation and ended up being euthanized, so never give up your dog and consult a lawyer if you feel it’d be wise to do so.
I’ll go into more detail if your dog was just defending himself below.
Unleashed Dog Attacks Leashed Dog
If an unleashed dog attacks a leashed dog, that’s definitely in favor of the leashed dog, but cases become more complex once the leashed dog is the one who started attacking. It’s always wise to leash your own dog.
In case an off-leash dog attacked your dog, you should break up the fight as quickly as possible and evaluate whether or not the dog should have been supposed to be leashed in that area, and then take it from there.
Local leash law varies quite a bit and there are differences between the inner city, parks, designated forest paths, or a dog park where leashing may not even be required.
It’s often the case that one owner is 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 the other dog escaped out a door, broke the leash, or was purposefully running off-leash.
Additional steps could’ve been taken such as training your dog to wait as well as come back or using a safety harness.
Repeated incidents are not looked upon favorably, especially if the dog owner was ordered to leash their dog at all times (or when a short leash is required due to breed-specific legislation).
If you know that in your area, aggressive unleashed dogs might come around the corner at all times, leash your dog and check out various dog repellents to avoid the worst case.
If you see the dog owner, don’t be afraid to ask them to leash their dog.
Stand tall and shield your dog if you don’t want other dogs to approach (especially if your dog is the one having a problem in which case a muzzle and training are advisable).
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.
Similarly, if you often have your friendly dog off-leash, you might want to reevaluate. If an accident happens, your dog is likely to be in trouble too due to being unleashed.
My Dog Was Attacked by Another Dog – What Are My Rights?
If your dog was attacked by another dog, the aggressor’s owner should offer to pay for veterinary care and if you want to report a negligent or even intentional attack, local authorities will most likely act, depending on the severity and local law.
Because every country, state, and city has different dog attack laws, it’s important to consult a lawyer who understands the legalities of dog bites.
In general, if you followed all of the leash laws, your dog is properly registered, up to date on vaccinations, and generally well-behaved you will think that you’ll not be found liable for a dog attack that your dog did not provoke.
While that’s true most of the time, it can definitely backfire.
What if your dog defended himself and accidentally nibbed a human?
Or he was bitten by a small dog and inflicted more harm in defense?
What if your breed falls under breed-specific legislation?
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.
Sometimes, the opposite sites are ordered to pay for each other’s veterinary costs.
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.
Cases look entirely different if humans were involved.
Evaluate how much stress the attack is worth to you and if you feel like worse could happen in the future.
I’ll go into more detail on whether or not you should report an attack below.
My Dog Bit Another Dog in Self Defense! Are Dogs Allowed To Bite in Defense?
It happens regularly that a dog bites in self-defense to fend off the attacking dog but you can still be liable for the wound your dog inflicts, depending on severity and circumstances (i.e. was he leashed and viciously attacked or not).
However, if your dog happens to land a measured bite on another dog in a situation where 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.
It’s best to check out your local law, especially if you’re thinking about pressing charges or suing.
How did your dog behave? Was it an appropriate and measured response? Is there evidence? Witnesses?
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 occurs in many cases where an owner believes that by displaying aggressive behavior, their dog is being “bad”.
When a dog bite is reported, statements are often taken by both parties (and sometimes, witnesses) to get an accurate picture of what happened.
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.
Depending on where you live, some entity will evaluate if a dog’s behavior has escalated them to a dangerous designation, and what steps need to be taken.
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.
Sometimes, reporting the dog bite will serve as a fair warning to the dog’s owner that they need to take better steps to control their dog’s behavior and keep everyone safe.
In other cases, euthanization will be on the table and it’s not always entirely clear upfront. Take your time and evaluate if it’s really necessary to report.
If you’re on the receiving end, talk to the other party.
Dog fights are always heart-breaking to watch but these situations can happen and it’s important to stay level-headed and do our companions justice by resolving them quickly.