Dealing With The Difficult: Dog Park Fights

15 Jun

I’ve been meaning to talk about this for awhile now, and ironically enough, Logan was bitten badly at the dog park yesterday.  I’m not going to make mention of the breed of the dog, as I don’t feel it plays a role in the incident.

When I say ‘badly’, it involved a quick trip to my nearby vet, to get his flank stapled back together. Just a crappy way to start a Monday!
The worst part, is that the aggressive/alpha dog that attacked him, was under the care of a dog walker. That’s when I gets tricky. Who will be paying the vet bill? How do you track down a dog owner?

This can also quickly turn into a legal issue. Who pays for what? And who’s responsibility is it?

This has happened to most of us, at least once. The majority of the time, the dogs are just scratched up, and the owners are the ones left slightly traumatized.

While this specific incident happened in a split second,  Logan did not fight back. He quickly regressed, and ran to the back end of the park, thankfully doing so, a much larger incident was prevented.

How to handle a dog fight

Breaking up a dog fight can go bad in a split second. Know your limitations, and don’t get involved with something you’re not physically able to handle.

Unless you have a lot of experience do not try and break up a dog fight by yourself.
Never step in the middle of two loving pets and try and grab them by the collar to stop a dog fight.  If you try this, the chances of you being badly bitten are extremely high.

People don’t understand that 2 animals in the middle of a fight are in survival drive. If they see you at all, they don’t look at you as their loving owner.

When you charge in and grab them they either react out of a fight reflex and bite, or they see you as another aggressor. When they are in fight or flight mode they will bite you. That’s a guarantee.

Breaking up a dogfight requires 2 people.
Each person grabs the back feet of one of the dogs.
The dog back feet are then picked up like a wheelbarrow.
With the legs up, both dogs are then pulled apart.

Once the dog fight is broken up and the dogs pulled apart it is critical that the people do not release the dogs or the dog fight will begin again.
The two people need to start turning in a circle, or slowly swinging the dogs in a circle while they back away from the other dog.
This stops the dog from curling and coming back and biting the person holding their legs.

By circling the dog has to sidestep with its front feet or it will fall on its chin. As long as you slowly continue to back and circle, the dog cannot do any damage to you. To insure that the fight will not begin all over again when you release the dogs, one of the dogs needs to be dragged into an enclosure (i.e. a kennel, the garage, another room) before the dog is released. If you do not do this, the dogs will often charge back and start fighting again or if you release the dog to quickly the dog will turn and attack the person who had his feet.

Dog fights can be very dangerous to try and break up alone.  You should never rush in and try and grab the dogs to pull them apart.  They are in high “fight drive” and are not thinking clearly when fighting.  If someone grabs them they will bite without even thinking about who or what they are biting. This is how your loving pet can dog bite the living crap out of you in about a second and a half.

The worst case scenario is that you are alone when a serious fight breaks out. There are a couple things that you must keep in mind:

  • Keep your cool – you have a job to do.
  • Do not waste time screaming at the dogs. It hardly ever works.
  • Your goal is still the same; you must break up the fight without getting hurt.
  • Go get a leash (allow the fight to continue while you do this).
  • Dogs are almost always locked onto one another. Walk up and loop the leash around the back loin of the dog by either threading the leash through the handle or use the clip. I prefer the thread method.
  • Slowly back away and drag the dog to a fence or to an object that you can tie the leash to.  By doing this, you effectively create an anchor for one of the dogs.
  • Then walk around and grab the back legs of the second dog and drag it away from the dog that is tied up. Remember to turn and circle as they release.
  • Drag the dog into a dog pen or another room before you release the back legs.
  • Go back and take the dog off the fence and put him or her into a dog kennel.
  • Sit down and have a stiff drink (or two).

People talk about using cattle prods or shock collars to break up dogs that fight.  I can tell you that many times this is not going to work.  The electric collar will only put the dogs into higher fight drive. When they are shocked they will turn and bite, or when they are shocked they will think the other dog is causing the pain and they will fight harder. An electric collar is best used in conditioning training, but not during an actual dogfight.

A point I would like to make,  is that if you see two dogs out there squaring off through body posturing (i.e. one dog with stiff legs and tail straight up in the air putting his head over the shoulders of the other to show dominance) do not run out there screaming “NO NO NO!!!!” Most of the time this is going to trigger the fight. A lot of times dogs will posture and one will give in and back away. They settle their dominance issue without a battle. I NEVER, NEVER, NEVER recommend testing this situation. It’s not worth the fight that erupts if you are wrong.

When one of the dogs even acts like it is going to challenge the other dog you need to INSTANTLY get after that dog. Your the pack leader and pack leaders are the ones who determine when to fight or be aggressive.

REMEMBER: Females usually fight with females and males usually fight with males.

It’s seldom that a male and female will fight. When a male fights with a female it usually a very dominant male who is displaying his dominance over the female and she wants nothing to do with it.  This usually is going to happen with a dominant male who is very self confident, and thinks that he is the pack leader. You will also have males with strong sex drive go after a bitch that is not receptive to them.

Here’s a rather heart breaking video of Logan yesterday, moments from returning form the vet. He was not a happy boy!

6 Responses to “Dealing With The Difficult: Dog Park Fights”

  1. Penny Brokaw June 15, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    I try picking up the back legs and walking and circling, but the dog just held on to the other’s throat causing more bleeding. I finally broke up the fight by pouring water up in the nose. that stopped it.

  2. Erica June 15, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    awwww poor logan!!! I hate breaking up fights and have tried the method above, but it’s hard to always have two people around and I worry about injuring their crutiates.

    Also hard to over-ride instinct in the moment (which is to grab collars and yell!)

  3. vettech2b June 16, 2010 at 11:31 pm #

    Hearing them crying like this is hard. Great advice about breaking up a fight. I am thinking dog parks just suck in general now lol. hugs to L man

  4. Pooya June 18, 2010 at 7:02 pm #

    It’s so sad to see Logan hurt…. :(
    Great post Lindsy. I’ve heard a bucket of water works best but that’s not easy to come by in a dog park.

  5. Sara June 19, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

    Oh, I feel so badly for your dog. It must have been terrifying to watch. I hope Logan makes a speedy recovery, and without a lot of discomfort. Thanks for the advice.

  6. Heather November 7, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    My dog was also attacked in a dog park this last weekend and I found your post while searching for answers. I do know the other owner and he is not willing to help pay vet bills so next step is take him to court… I was just wondering if you ever did try to contact the owner or if the vet bill was paid by the owners dog or not.. Thank you – Heather

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