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Dog on Dog Attack – My Dog Attacked Another Dog (or vice versa)

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.

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 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:

  1. Stay calm and assertive, call for help and give clear instructions if possible
  2. Don’t kick the dogs or put yourself at high risk or otherwise encourage to bite harder
  3. Twist the collar and/or grab the rear legs
  4. Check your dog and exchange insurance information
Two dogs snarling at each other, displaying their teeth as warning before the fight.

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).

Two dogs clashing midair in the snow.

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.

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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.

Chris

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

I had the unfortunate experience of my dog attacking another. Both dogs were on a leash when it occurred, and it was over fairly quickly. The other dog appeared scared but free from injury. The owner seemed more shaken than his pet. Both the owner and I checked his dog over and did not see any bleeding or bite marks. We both observed the dog for several minutes. The dog calmed down, was bouncing around, and was not suffering any trauma. However, I received a call about two hours later, and the owner had taken the dog to an emergency vet - after hours. They found a small abrasion that was healing (that's all the info I know) and something about the dog having anxiety, and they were keeping it overnight. I want to do the right thing, but what are my options when not wanting to pay for what appears to be an overreaction or what could have been handled differently with a regular vet visit the following day? Thank you for any advice.

Danielle

Thursday 7th of April 2022

Hi Chris, that's really unfortunate and I'd recommend that you look into why it happened to avoid that in the future, surely unpleasant for everybody involved. It's hard to say whether or not it's their right to go to the emergency vet if you've both checked the dogs over, and then to even keep the dog overnight.

The fact that your dog was leashed helps but according to some local laws, the owners still have to pay for the damage that was done.

I'd usually suggest just paying, but since I'm assuming you're in the US, the bill might be pretty expensive. Does your dog have insurance? Even if not, maybe you just want to get it out of the way.

The only thing you can do is consult a lawyer but if that's worth it is debatable. I can't legally consult on this though so maybe you can fight this but at what cost? Worst case is you'll have to pay your lawyer + vet bill + your dog is reported and has this incident on their record for the foreseeable future.

Hope that helps, Danielle

Amy lee

Thursday 17th of March 2022

I have a dog who has sever anxiety, he is on medication for this. He has for a while been aggressive towards our other dog.it is snapping and lots of noise but no biting. It can be triggered by someone knocking on the door, he will run at her and get in her face and then run to the door. He has also at times done thia for no apparent reason. They will be both asleep on the floor and then he will suddenly wake up and run at her. She has now become timid towards him. We are currently staying with friends until our new house is ready which will be another week or so. I understand he is out of sorts because of a new environment, but he started doing his to there pets as well which is another dog and a cat. All.three dogs are small dogs. I don't know what to do.

Danielle

Friday 18th of March 2022

Hi Amy, it's probably best to get a dog trainer/behaviorist involved. Since the dog is on meds already, there seems to be a history. Why exactly is he on meds, have you consulted another vet or trainer already? The medication itself could be the reason for this as that alone is not a fix in the long run.

The fact that he's doing it to the other dogs too is unacceptable and you should definitely consult a professional to avoid witnessing the situation escalate.

Toni

Sunday 13th of February 2022

While walking my dog yesterday(leashed)my next door neighbor’s dog got out of the house and charged us. We were not yet even on their property line and I could not see the dog coming from behind the cars in their driveway. It happened so quickly! I tried to grab my small pug to pick him up but could not do so fast enough. The large Labrador bit my dog on the hind quarters but did not break the skin. My neighbor was bit on the hand as she tried to gain control of her dog. I was very shaken by the whole event. I returned home and monitored my dog carefully for injury. Luckily he is fine. I am not sure what to do about this. I don’t want to be in a feud with my neighbor but this dog is not socialized. He has gotten loose from them before and I feel eventually he will seriously hurt another dog or person. Any advice?

Danielle

Thursday 24th of February 2022

Hey, sorry your dog had to go through that. Depending on the state you live in, you can probably bring this to the authorities since your dog was leashed and the attacking dog was unleashed. However, since skin wasn't even broken, there might be few consequences. Even if there are consequences, it's probably the dog who has to bear them.

All that aside, it's always best to talk to your neighbor first. Maybe they're currently training and struggling with their new rescue, or perhaps the owners are just reckless where reporting the incident will truly prevent other incidents from happening. Hard to tell as an outsider.

Definitely state your concerns when talking to them and see how they react. If they're understanding, suggest a muzzle themselves, more secure fencing, training sessions, or whatnot, or if they're discarding your concerns right away.

Hope it all goes well for everybody involved, Danielle

DogGone

Saturday 1st of January 2022

When an unleashed dog attacks a leashed dog, the common thought process (fight vs flight) is to try and run away with the leashed dog (or pick it up), however this does two things:

1. It amps up the attacking unleashed dog, as it feels it is now the alpha in the situation. This will encourage the (attacking) dog to become more aggressive and give chase/jump on the owner and dog (who are now in a submissive and scared state).

2. It can make your dog feel helpless and that you are not there to defend it in an incident.

Standing your ground and "bursting" at the attacking dog (yelling, stepping up to it, and looking intimidating) is a better way to get it to back off. Suddenly YOU and your leashed dog are alphas, against a single unleashed and aggressive dog. You are creating a simple numbers game (and due to native canine pack insticts) the aggressive dog will normally back down, considering there are two targets defending themselves.

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.