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Breaking Up Dog Fights
Learn to keep you and your dog safe in case of an emergency.

This past weekend, one of my pups was involved in a bad scuffle with another dog. Luckily those present were able to break up the fight fairly quickly, but it was a scary experience. Despite taking pet first aid classes, I realized that I don’t know what to do when one of my pets is attacked. The weekend’s events inspired me to do some research. 

According to Jacque Lynn Schultz, ASPCA Companion Animal Programs Advisor, making noise or spraying citronella spray can be used as a first resort, although it’s usually not effective when the fight is heated. 

My first instinct was to grab my dog’s collar and use my arm to separate the fight, but doing so can make the situation worse and is a sure ticket to serious injury. 

The safest way to physically break up a fight is for two people to grab the back legs of each dog and lift their rear off the ground like a wheelbarrow. Then they should move backward in an arc away from the other dog. This forces the dogs to sidestep with their front feet to keep their chin from hitting the ground.

If this doesn’t work, Pit Bull Rescue Central suggests that you use a break stick, a tool that is inserted in the back of the dog’s mouth, behind their back teeth. 

My dogs get along with everyone, canine and human, so reading up on dog fights hadn’t previously crossed my mind. But dog trainer Adam Katz says, "the issue isn't whether your dog is or isn't nice, it's how the two dogs' temperaments interrelate." Understanding canine behavior and knowing the warning signs can prevent fights in the first place, no matter how laid back or friendly your own dog may be.

I hope you never need to use this information, but in the event you do, you’ll be more prepared than I was this weekend.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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