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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.
Photo by Anake Seenadee on Shutterstock

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.
Photo by Alex Zotov on Shutterstock

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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Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

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.

donald proudlock

Saturday 7th of January 2023

we have rescue dogs an old austrailian silkie, a young shitzu,a jack russell we rescued 7 yrs ago we have just took on a wire haired pointer griffon hes been ok for a couple of months now suddenly the jack and him will start eyeballing then go for it, one fight took off where the griff had the jack around the throat i managed to part them with puncture wounds to the jack i seperated the living area and upped the walksthis seemed to work for a few weeks then the griff launched an attack on the jack again had him by the throat i quickly quelled it but they walktogether outside and go to the feild not a problem. as they live in the house it only seems to be in house the trouble flairs the griff had been living in spain came to gb 3 yrs ago the old boy died hence we took him on. any tips or ideas appreciated thanks

Barbara

Thursday 29th of December 2022

We live in a Indiana apartment complex 55&older or disabled or mentally challenged there's a fenced-in area for dogs to play my friend was at a appointment & her roommate took her boxer pit out in fenced-in area to play with another dog. Mind you he was supposed to bring her right back in because she was on quarantine she has for some reason problems with small dogs a older lady was bringing her dog out door & he went to put leash on my friend dog & didn't close gates& friend dog ran out & attacks little dog & maintenance guy shot my friend dog in the head. Shouldn't the apartment complex had signs up to close gates? Little dog had surgery is OK. Friend dog needed rabies shot was overdue

Danielle

Thursday 29th of December 2022

Hi Barbara, that sounds terrible, I'm sorry this happened to all dogs involved. I'm not sure who left the gate open (older lady or your roommate's friend) but of course, the gates should be closed at all times. If it's a single gate, that's just waiting for an accident to happen. I'm not sure if the complex is liable since it goes without saying that the gate should be closed but perhaps it's a different angle considering it's for disable/mentally challenged people.

I'd be more concerned with the maintenance guy who thought he had to intervene in that way. I'm not a lawyer, but it might be worth contacting a lawyer for this and press charges. At the very least, there should be reprecussions for this man as he seemingly aimed for the head (?), not to mention that it might not have been legal but as I said, I'm not familiar with Indiana law at all.

Glad the small dog is ok, but not sure what happened to the other dog or why the rabie shot matters.

Kat

Wednesday 28th of December 2022

Hi there. Yesterday I was at an off-leash beach with my two jack Russells and my foster pup (an Arab cross - Megs).

Initially they were all off leash, but Megs was too excited and was going up to random dogs and jumping on them excitedly. I ended up putting her back on the lead, but she got away from me twice. The first time ended well and the other dog was calm throughout and I moved further away down the beach.

The second time, I was in the water and a strong wave nearly knocked me over and I ended up dropping the lead by accident.

Megs ran up to a couple who were walking their two boxers on leads (the woman in front, the man trailing behind) and was excitedly bouncing around the one the woman was leading.

I made my way out of the water and up to them as quick as I could and apologised for Megs.

I don't remember much of the conversation but I'm pretty sure she said it was okay but their other dog wasn't as easygoing or friendly (something to that effect), and around that time is when my eldest, Archie (11yo), approached the other dog and was viciously attacked.

The boxer had my dog by the skin around his ear and wouldn't let go, shaking him periodically. The man was trying to get him to stop. I don't know for sure, but I think he hit it in the head, which did largely nothing.

I ran in and tried to pry apart his jaws with my hands (risky, I know, but I was panicked and he wouldn't let Archie go).

I asked the woman to help me and we were finally able to free my dog. She screamed at me to get my other dog away, (I was trying to put Archie on the lead at the time and Beau (my 3 yo) was getting too close. Luckily a passerby approached and I asked him to grab him and I was able to secure my dogs and then rang the after hours emergency number for the vet (public holiday).

Archie's mostly fine. He ended up with a long puncture in his neck that was a cm away from his jugular, stitches in both ears and his left dew claw ripped clean off.

Beau and Megs and the other boxer did not join in the attack at any point. Though I actually have no recollection of what they were doing when the attack took place.

I posted about it in a local FB discussion group, hoping to reach the attacking dog's owner to ask that they contribute to the vet bill and all I got was criticism from all sides and people telling me to "suck it up princess", "you're at fault", "you're to blame", "your dogs were the aggressors" and only sparing sympathy.

Shouldn't the owner, knowing their dog is reactive have taken more precautions than just having it leashed?

Why bring a reactive dog to an off-leash beach without fitting a muzzle?

Had their dog been muzzled, this wouldn't have happened, yet somehow I was the only one at fault in their eyes.

Surely the culpability for the incident is shared?

Danielle

Wednesday 28th of December 2022

Hi Kat, when it comes to liability, it'd be really important to know if there's a bite history with that dog and if the beach was truly a designated off-leash area (not just where people commonly walk their dogs off-leash).

Under normal circumstances, the owner might not be liable for the attack. Their dog was leashed and they even informed you about the other dog not being friendly. Having a reactive dog is not forbidden. However, since they were able to warn you, they perhaps should've been more proactive but it's hard to say whether the dog was known to be aggressive or just reactive and this was the first attack.

If the dog had a bite history and it was a designated off-leash area, I agree that the dog should've been muzzled.

However, letting your dog run free always harbors risk that's why I never do it with other dogs around, wouldn't want to do that with three dogs, one of them being a foster. It sounds as if you've struggled quite a lot with the dog jumping up on dogs and slipping away repeatedly.

Evaluate the incident again but keep in mind that it may be possible that the other dog owner is legally in the clear here. Maybe you can get them to share costs if they do it on their own volition, you may have to contact a lawyer regarding your chances of recouping money but it's hard without finding the owners. You may be able to inquire with local authorities (perhaps the dog is registrered, etc.)

Hope that helps, Danielle

JENNIFER

Wednesday 26th of October 2022

Our 2yr old Texas Heeler ( Australian Shepherd/blue heeler) was attacked about 2 weeks ago by neighbors 2 pit bulls. The 2 dogs dug into our yard into our dog kennel ( chain link on thier side with privacy fence and decking boards across the bottom, on ourside)outside. The 2 dogs penned him inside of the large shelter we have in our kennel. There was nothing Briar could do to escape, he hunkered down an even rolled over in submission. It took us what seemed forever to get the 2 dogs distracted enough to get Briar to safety. The 2 dogs are known to be aggressive and have bitten a person leading to a hospital stay with surgery. Unfortunately the state of WV has a 1 bite law ( humans) that gives the dogs another chance. This is why we went tonthe expense of making what was supposed to be a secure kennel ( it's the length of our house).

Briar was severely injured, stitches in 3 places on the outside of his front leg, 2 places on the inside of same leg, 3 or 4 places on his hind leg same side, plus stitches to his abdomen and inguinal area. This required hours of surgery plus a drain tube (.ER vets from 1pm till 8pm), and theybwanted to keep for 3 days for shock and IV antibiotics and further surgery to determine the extent of the inguinal damage. Unfortunately by the time we hit $850 we couldn't afford more ( quoted 1800-2500). Luckily he is healing physically, but emotionally I'm afraid we will have more work an time. He has now been snappy towards our 1 yr old Texas heeler an our cats. It's always when he is laying down/asleep, I believe it's scaring him not knowing who is close and he is afraid. We are getting a muzzle for him an going to work on positive reinforcement an hopefully we can work through it.

A police report was filed. The owners have offered nothing not even remorse ( Briar couldn't get up an walk on his own without help for,48hrs +). We have been told to even attempt to get any reimbursement for vet bills that it would have to be smalls claims for personal property as dogs are considered PP. Any advice on helping his recovery an of its worth trying to get reimbursed for the vet bills?

Danielle

Friday 28th of October 2022

Hi Jennifer,

I'm really sorry all that happened, it's a difficult situation if your dog is attacked, even more so if it's on your own property and your dog is cornered.

What I'm about to say is just my personal opinion, I'm not a lawyer and you'd need to consult one for this.

What happens to that dog from now and the reimbursement of your vet bills really depends on your local law. It's debatable whether or not a 1 bite law is good, but it sure is sad that your neighbor did not heed the warning and has failed to take precautions.

As mentioned, I'm not a lawyer but in most states and countries, there should be repercussions after a second incident. Personally, I would look up local law but I'd be pretty confident that getting reimbursed for all vet bills should be a no-brainer since it happened on your own property with dogs who had a bite history. However, you'd need to consult a lawyer.

You can always try filing a claim but your neighbor might end up fighting it and I'm not sure what your options are or if you have any financial aid. Please make sure that there is an emergency fund for your dog in the future.

Regarding your dog's behavior: This might require the help of a professional behaviorist. It's not uncommon for dogs after such a possibly traumatic experience.

Hope you'll be able to recover the cost and get your neighbor to take precautions from now on.

Sharon Satter

Tuesday 11th of October 2022

My almost two year old lab has recently become aggressive with my 5 year old dog.other than with that dog, she is sweet and submissive. We now have them mostly separated but they still both sleep with us with no issues. Not sure how to resolve this issue. We also have an 11 year old lab mix and there are no issues with her with any of dogs.

Danielle

Wednesday 12th of October 2022

Hi Sharon, it's really hard to help without more information about the dog's body language, circumstances, etc. etc. Was one of them a recent addition? Or perhaps spayed/neutered? Has there been any change in their diet or environment? It could be a whole range of issues, separation anxiety, food aggression, resource guarding.

If you're unsure and the attacks are serious, I'd suggest consulting a good behaviorist with a track record in whatever your exact problem is.