According to Dogbites.org, roughly 1,000 people per day (or 365,000 annually) seek medical attention for dog bites. While fatalities are very rare in the U.S. (just 42 in 2014), dog bites are much more common. In many circumstances the dog is just plain aggressive and may need to be put down if it aggressions are a normal occurrence or if it has caused serious harm to a person. However, many people get injured by dogs when they attempt to break up a fight or overly aggressive playing while at the dog park or while taking their dog for a walk. There is a right way to safely break up a dog fight, and there are many wrong ways.
Do Not Pick Up Your Dog or Grab the Dogs with Your Hands
When two dogs’ barks and playful growls suddenly turn vicious, an owner’s first instinct may be to dive in and grab or pick up their dog. This response can lead to serious harm for both the person as well as their dog. In the intense moments of a fight, dogs can become confused about who their opponent is, and may mistake you, the person, as one of their opponents or another aggressor. Using your hands to break up a dogfight is the very last step and should only be done under dire circumstances. Furthermore, picking up a dog while it is in a fight or while it is being attacked by another or multiple other dogs puts your dog in danger. You are essentially taking away its ability to defend itself. An aggressive dog that is still on the ground can easily bite and tear at your dog while it is in your arms, which also poses an additional threat to you in being bitten.
Dog Bites can Lead to Infection
Almost one in five dog bites will become infected, according to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention. Dogs’ mouths are packed full of bacteria, which means that if you are ever bitten by a dog, the wound needs to be thoroughly cleaned and monitored. If it was a serious bite, seek medical attention. Often during a dogfight, the owner ends up more injured than either of the dogs. Dogs’ fur and thick skin is much tougher than ours, and their bodies have stronger immune systems to fight off infection.
Breaking Up a Dogfight
It is important to remain as calm as possible when breaking up overly rough play or a fight. Dogs can sense adrenaline in humans and they respond to it by becoming more excited or agitated. Follow the advice described below to break up a dogfight with minimal injury to the dogs, as well as to yourself:
- Use a loud, deep voice to command them to stop
- Make loud noise such as clapping your hands or banging objects together
- Throw water on the dogs or use a hose if available
- Throw a blanket, tarp, or other large piece of fabric over the dogs. If they cannot see one another, they may stop fighting
- Use your feet to push them apart
- Carefully get a grip on one of the dog’s collar (preferably the main aggressor if there is one) or scruff of the neck. Pull back, not upwards, so that the dog does not get confused as to who it is fighting. By pulling upwards it may think that you are in the fight too and
- The last resort is to pull a tail or leg with your hands