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.
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 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.
All the steps summarised:
- Stay calm and assertive
- Don’t kick the dogs or put yourself at high risk
- Grab the rear legs or alternatively twist the collar
- Call for help if you’re unable to break up a fight alone
- Make loud noises
- 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.
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.