How to Break Up a Dog Fight

How to Break Up a Dog Fight

Although a stereotypical dog is benign, there, unfortunately, exist aggressive canines who you should watch closely in the dog park. Distinctive from your average rough-and-tumble, you’ll know immediately when your dog is engaged in a real dog fight as it’s, quite frankly, terrifying.

However, the majority of dogs don’t immediately resort to fighting immediately – just like when humans fight, there are distinctive warning signs which present themselves beforehand. Consequently, before educating you on the steps you must take once dogs are fully engaged in a dog fight, let us first explore how to stop a dog fight from breaking out in the first place by learning about dogs’ aggressive body language.

Fighting dogs

Identifying Aggressive Body Language Before a Dog Fight

Bared teeth: Up to this point, we’re sure that many owners will perceive their dog “grinning” as “that cute little smile he puts on when meeting friends!”. Don’t be fooled – although for us humans, flashing our teeth is a telling sign that we’re happy to see someone, for dogs it’s a sign of aggression. The same goes for dogs who may look like they’re grinning but, in reality, they may be panting from fear.

White eyes: Whenever a dog is either scared or threatened by another animal, they’ll widen their eyes to expose the white part of their eyes, otherwise known as the sclera.

Stiffening or “freezing” of the body: When a dog’s body stiffens, this is a physical manifestation of the fear or aggressiveness they’re experiencing of or towards another dog.

How to Separate Fighting Dogs

If the dog fight broke out before you had the chance to identify any abnormal behavior detailed above, there exist several effective ways that you can safely break up two dogs fighting with minimal risk of injury.

Two People or More:

  • The Wheelbarrow

If a dog fight erupts and you’re lucky enough to have another person with you, there is a relatively safe way in which you can both break up a dog fight. This method is commonly referred to as “the wheelbarrow” and refers to when two people grab each fighting dogs’ back legs in a bid to prize them apart – exactly like the wheelbarrow race game that us humans enjoy playing at parties. Once “the wheelbarrow” technique has been deployed, the dog in question should disengage. At this moment, it is important that you immediately separate one dog away from the other so they don’t begin to fight once again.

Only you:

How to stop dogs from fighting when you’re the only witness is far more daunting. However, it can be carried out safely.

  • Firstly, identify which dog is the aggressor

Although it may seem imperative that you immediately throw yourself into stopping the dog fight, experts recommend stepping back from the scene to identify which dog is the aggressor, or which canine seems to physically have the upper hand. Once you have determined which dog is more capable of inflicting serious damage, it’s this pet you should focus on removing from the equation.

  • If one dog has a strong jaw grip on the other, break it

Now, you simply cannot attempt to prize one dog away from the other if one dog has their jaw on another. To separate this grip, you should first start towards the dogs with a confident posture. It’s important to remember that at no point do you want to give off the impression through body language and signals that you’ve also entered the fight, so use a non-aggressive yet firm tone of voice

Next, grabbing a dog by their tail is the best way to encourage a dog to release their bite grip over another. With your strongest hand, grab the most aggressive dog’s tail, quickly pulling it up and backwards. As the majority of dogs will release their jaw grip at this moment, keep moving backwards so this dog cannot bite you. You should also refrain from stepping in between the dogs, as this provides an aggressive dog, who will still be riled up from the fight, ample opportunity to prize their teeth into you instead. If you aren’t the owner of this dog, keep your hand firmly gripped on that dog’s tail until their owner arrives to put their collar on and pull them away from the scene.

  • Use a leash

This is why experts encourage dogs who are perfectly capable of walking without a leash to bring one out with them on dog walks – they become critical for keeping fighting dogs apart. Ideal for preventing dog fights from causing serious damage, you must slide one end of the leash in the looped end so it can be slipped under a dog’s belly. This should create a sling to pull them back with.

Related Post: Dog Leashes

  • Place a barrier between both fighting dogs

Before we begin to describe the barrier method, we must reiterate that your own body should never operate as a barrier. Instead, if you take the initiative to break up a fight, quickly find a nearby garbage can, a large fallen branch, or even street furniture to throw between the two fighting dogs, thereby districting them. Even a momentary distraction is enough to pull one of the two dogs apart.

Know When to Stay Back

We believe it’s important to end this somewhat daunting article by asking you to know your limitations. Realistically, not every owner can follow the advice distributed in this article – some dog fights are unfortunately too dangerous to break up. Remember before you try out any of these techniques that many people who have optimistically attempted to break up severe dog fights have ended up seriously injured. Stay safe out there.


  1. What Is Dog Fighting, and What Can You Do To Stop It?, ASPCA

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