Fighting in dogs: what should you do?
A friend was telling me that her poor dog was attacked while out walking. Apparently another dog was running around with a man calling out to him. This dog ran up to my friend’s dog and went for her. Needless to say she retaliated and within seconds they were properly fighting.
It’s scary and difficult, knowing what to do in this situation. How do you deal with it? I’m lucky that it has happened rarely to me in all my years of dog ownership. I think our first instinct is to try and grab your dog and pull it away. Don’t do this! It is quite likely that your dog will turn round and bite you, thinking it is being attacked from behind. Or you will get bitten by the other dog.
My top tips for fighting dogs:
- Shout! A loud, fierce “Get off!” or similar might startle the dogs into stopping.
- Pick up your dog. If you have a small dog being attacked by a large one, removing your dog is a good idea, if at all possible.
- Try to force yourself between the two dogs. I would be reluctant to do this personally, but you might feel able to. If your dog is on a lead, you can try physically pulling it off and dragging it behind you.
- Kick it! If a dog has run up to yours and started an attack, I think you are within your rights to use your foot to push the dogs apart. It’s a lot safer than grabbing and should be more effective. A push with your foot (a kick) is going to inflict less damage than the dog’s teeth.
- Drop the lead. If you are not able to intervene, leave them to it.
- Wait. Dogs usually attack each other out of fear, or misunderstanding. It is usually over within a few seconds, even though it might feel like hours.
How to prevent the fighting
- Let your dog off lead. I know it’s scary, but a dog is much less likely to go for your dog if it is not attached to you. Dogs can communicate with each other perfectly well and given the choice, will move apart or around each other. When a dog is on lead it becomes guarding of you and unable to move away, which makes it defensive.
- Distract your dog. I have just talked about the importance of being able to play with your dog and this is when to use that technique. If your dog is not making eye contact with the approaching dog, there is less likely to be an engagement.
- Turn and walk away. Even if you just do this for a few metres, you should find that the situation is diffused. Again, rewarding your dog’s attention on you will help with this.
- Say ‘STOP!’ to the approaching dog. This is more about distracting the other dog than anything, but might work on some dogs.
Reactivity in dogs
Once a dog has been attacked while out, they may become fearful and ‘reactive’. This means that they will bark, lunge and snap any time another dog approaches them. This is horrible to live with. It makes you as an owner fearful of other dogs while out walking. It is difficult to train out, because you don’t want other dogs to come near you and get attacked by your dog.
When you have a reactive dog, you keep it on the lead. You walk at times you think will be quieter, along less busy routes. Maybe you are constantly on guard, watching out for other dogs. When other dogs coming bouncing over, with the owner calling out “it’s OK, he’s friendly”, you can become angry or tearful.
You may find it helpful to invest in a Nervous Bandana for your dog.
Teach good manners
Having a reactive dog is not very nice for anyone, is it? Which is why it is so important to teach your dog good manners in the first place. Teach your dog to come back to you when you first get it. Have it on a Long line if you need to have some control.
Teach your dog that not all dogs are bad (in fact very few are, really). The best way to do this is to meet up with friends for a group walk. Walking alongside other dogs helps build confidence and you can observe your dog interacting with other dogs.
Reward your dog for ignoring other dogs, either with play, or with treats.
Ask for help?
You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice. I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues. Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.
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