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Two dogs got into a fight at the dog park yesterday. Afterward, everyone debated the safest way to separate fighting dogs. What do you recommend?

Before we talk about the right ways to break up a dogfight, let’s first focus on the wrong ways:

Never reach in with your hands to separate fighting dogs. The intense nature of the fight may cause even your own dog not to recognize your hand or arm. Animals may attack anything in the fight zone, and serious bites can result. 

Never put your face close to the fight. The location of the brawl can change quickly and may move to include where your face is.

Never grab the dog by the tail and attempt to pull him away from the fight. The dog is maximally stimulated and might quickly wheel around and bite your hand.


What, then, are some sound strategies to safely break up a dogfight?

We asked several trainers, veterinarians, dog groomers, and veterinary technicians and were surprised by the wide variety of answers:

One trainer said to step on the combatant’s feet. He said this distracts the dog enough for him to stop fighting.

A groomer says she places a large push broom against the chest of the fighter and shoves him away from the other dog by extending her arms and the broomstick. 

A veterinary technician says he uses a police whistle to blow loud, shrill blasts right above the fight to distract the dogs.

A veterinarian suggests placing the sole of the foot against one of the dogs’ chests and sharply pushing the dog away. 

Other ideas: throw water on them, scream loudly, and bang the ground next to the fighters.

Overall, use some common sense, and be careful. Use foresight before placing your dog in stressful situations that may lead to a fight. Spend time with your dog, learn his temperament, and recognize when he is getting agitated or ready to fight.  If your dog is aggressive or a chronic fighter, these problems can often be aided greatly by neutering. Obedience and socialization classes can help turn a fighter into a better citizen and a more enjoyable companion. I certainly believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Learn why dogs bark at each other here.

Originally published in the “Ask Dr. Kevin” column AKC Family Dog by Kevin Fitzgerald, a staff veterinarian at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, who is also featured on Animal Planet’s E-Vet Interns.
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