Dog fights happen more often than anyone would like. And with dog ownership rising, this number could continue to grow. It is the responsibility of every dog owner to be aware of the warning signs and know what to do when they see them.
#1 – Warning Sign: Stiffening During Play
Robin Bennett, CPDT-KA, author, All About Dog Daycare and an expert in dog body language advises owners to look for stiffening in any dog. This is usually a sign that play is shifting to fighting. The brown and white dog in this picture has become very stiff. It’s time to quickly separate these dogs so a fight does not break out.
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#2 – Warning Sign: Stiffening When Approaching
Like in play, Bennett warns that if a dog approaching you and your dog stiffens (or if your dog stiffens), DO NOT CONTINUE TOWARDS THE OTHER DOG. A fight will most likely happen.
#3 – Pick-up The Smaller Dog
Bennett also advises owners to be ready to pick up their smaller dog if the interaction turns unfriendly. While this can cause your small dog to become fearful of larger dogs (so it shouldn’t be overused), if the other dog is clearly aggressive, you need to protect the smaller dog from harm.
#4 – Too Much Chase
Dogs are predators. Bennett cautions that a “fun” chase game at the dog park can quickly turn aggressive. Watch for signs mentioned about (stiffening), as well as snarling, growling, hackles up (raised hair on back and neck), and/or biting that say the game is not fun anymore. Separate these dog immediately.
#5 – Know Your Dog
One of the best ways to prevent dog fights is to know your dog. Is your dog a guarder? Then don’t let her play with toys with other dogs or feed them food around each other. Does your dog not like big dogs? Then don’t take him to a dog park full of giant breeds. Maybe your dog just doesn’t like to interact with other dogs (that’s fine!) but don’t take him to dog beach and let him loose.
#6 – Spray Bottle
Carry a spray bottle full of water with you on your walks or to the dog park. This can sometimes work to deter a dog coming at you, without causing real harm.
#7 – Throw Food/toy
This tip is one that works only if your dog is leashed and the other is loose. Throw food or a toy far away and behind the oncoming dog (something good like meat or a tennis ball) so it goes back to eat it. This will allow you time to get away.
#8 – Leave at the First Sign
If you see any sign of aggression by either dog. You’re done. Leave. As quickly as possible. Do not try to reintroduce the dogs or think they will “get over it.” You are asking for a fight. If you need these two dogs to get along, consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to help and keep them separated until then.