When you’re out with your four-legged friend, the possibility of a dog fight breaking out is a very real risk. Fights between dogs are common and often start very suddenly. When dogs meet other dogs, they can be unpredictable. Even the most passive pooch can attack or be attacked with little to no warning.

Preventing a dog fight

Prevention is the best defence. If possible, stopping a fight before it breaks out is always the optimal solution. Knowing the signs that tensions are beginning to rise can stop conflict before it even begins, so pay attention to your dog’s body language. Watch out for:

  • Raised hackles
  • Stiff body posture
  • Deep growling
  • Snarling that bares a lot of teeth

If you notice your dog displaying any of these signals, The Vets say you should call him over and reward him with a treat: “Tell him to sit or stay until the situation has diffused. Make sure to reinforce obedience training regularly and always reward good behavior.”

If you have complete confidence that your dog will obey your commands, the chances of fighting are significantly lower.

What not to do

If a fight still breaks out, let’s begin with a few things you should never do while attempting to stop a fight. Dog fights are extremely dangerous and you should never put yourself at risk.

  • Do not panic or scream. Dogs know when we’re agitated and this will only make the situation worse.
  • Never put your hand or yourself between two dogs, not even to grab their collar. Even if you believe your faithful friend would never bite you, at that moment they don’t know it’s you. The adrenaline will cause dogs to bite anything that enters the fight zone.
  • In a situation where one dog is the aggressor, do not take action on the dog being attacked. The aggressive dog will continue to attack while the other dog is unable to defend himself. This also applies to small dogs. While it may be tempting to simply scoop them up, you are not only immobilizing him but also placing your body in the fight zone.
  • If a dog has latched their jaw onto the other dog, never try to pull them from their mouth. This will tear the dog's flesh and cause serious injuries.
  • Never pull their tails in an attempt to separate them.

Two dogs being aggressive

The best ways to break up a dog fight

Dog fights are intense and can escalate rapidly, and the prospect of getting involved can be scary. Yet, intervention is necessary to avoid serious injury or even death.

The wheelbarrow method

This is the safest way to break up a dog fight, assuming you have two people. To do this, each person should grab the hind legs of their respective dogs and lift them off the ground. Be sure to lift them high enough so the dog is walking on its front legs. From here, both people should walk backwards. This will separate the dogs and make it impossible to keep fighting. To prevent them from re-joining the fray, each person should turn in a circle. This step is vital for your safety, as this forces the dog to circle with you and leaves them unable to bite.

Should you be alone, try to identify the aggressor. In a conflict, there will almost always be one more intense dog. Grab this dog’s legs and follow the above steps to break up the fight.


A great hands-off way to break up a fight. Throwing a bucket of water over the dogs should get their minds off fighting. If you have no water nearby, loud noises such as an air horn or trash can lids clanging together could also do the trick.

Placing a barrier

If they can’t be distracted, try to find a large object to place between them. Anything big enough to keep your hands out of harm's way will work. A board, chair, cane or umbrella are all great options, as long as they’re sturdy. 

After the fight

Once you’ve separated the dogs, approach with caution as they will still be agitated. Calm down your dog, check for injuries and go straight to the vet if necessary. Wounds left untreated can become dangerously infected. 

At home, you may notice your pooch is more clingy than usual. While you should absolutely reassure your dog after such a harrowing incident, it’s important you don’t coddle him as this can create problems in the long run. Being over-protective of your dog could cause him to become overly dependent on you and increase anxiety. Remind him the rules haven’t changed. Giving your dog a free pass is a sure-fire way to create long-term behavior problems.