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6 Methods For Safely Breaking Up A Dog Fight

Written by: Dina Fantegrossi
Dina Fantegrossi is the Assistant Editor and Head Writer for HomeLife Media. Before her career in writing, Dina was a veterinary technician for more than 15 years.Read more
| Published on July 16, 2017


Witnessing a fight between two dogs is a terrifying experience for any pawrent, especially if one or both of the dogs are your own. The first instinct tends to include screaming and rushing towards the brawlers, but excited behavior may only escalate the situation and put you at risk.  Rather than reacting on impulse, you should first determine if it is safe and completely necessary to intervene.

If you do decide to break it up, try one of the six methods recommended by late-great canine behaviorist, Dr. Sophia Yin.

Image Credit: Flickr | Steve Baker

Dr. Yin believed that the majority of dog “fights” tend to be relatively harmless displays of dominance. Before deciding to take action, Dr. Yin advised dog lovers to first determine that one or both dogs are at risk for harm and not simply having a vigorous play session or a “spit and drool match.”

Image Credit: Flickr | Lennart Tange

Signs of true inter-dog aggression include:

  • Growling

  • Lip licking

  • Snapping

  • Lunging

  • Crouching

  • Fearful or submissive postures

  • Tail tucking

Image Credit: Flickr | Andrey


If there is indeed a fight that requires your intervention, Dr. Yin recommended the following methods for safely breaking it up.

1. The wheelbarrow method.

This is the preferred technique, but requires at least two people. Separating the dogs without getting bitten yourself means stearing clear of the head or neck area of either animal. According to Dr. Yin, the safest method is to grab the dogs by the rear end, elevate their hind legs off the ground, and quickly pull them away from each other.

Image Credit: Flickr | Joshua Ganderson

2. Place a pillow or other item between the squabbling dogs.

Remember to stay calm and keep your hands far from the dogs’ mouths.

Screenshot via Youtube/Mercola Healthy Pets

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3. Toss a blanket over one or both pups.

Similar to the pillow method, a blanket breaks the intense eye contact between the animals and can help to “snap them out” of their aggressive mindset.

Screenshot via Youtube/Mercola Healthy Pets

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4. Spray them with water or citronella.

Many dog owners use a spray bottle of water or pet-safe citronella to deter their dog from a variety of unwanted behaviors. A splash of cold liquid is yet another way to break their fierce focus on one another.

Screenshot via Youtube/Mercola Healthy Pets

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5. Distract them with a loud noise.

Try ringing the doorbell or shaking a can with coins inside.

Image Credit: Flickr | Brian Moriarty

6. Direct their energy onto something positive.

Enthusiastically inviting one of the dogs to go for a walk or a ride in the car can be just enough incentive to tear their tense energy away from one another. By giving them another source to channel their excitement into, they may forget all about the scuffle.

Screenshot via YouTube/Mercola Healthy Pets


Ideally, aggressive behavior should be identified and treated when your dog is still a puppy. Avoid rough housing with dogs that tend to go overboard during play and take care not to reinforce their behavior. Should you notice aggressive tendencies in your dog at any life stage, seek help from a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist.


H/T to Mercola Healthy Pets

Featured Image via Flickr | Steve Baker

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