How to Stop Dogs From Fighting: Maintain A Safe Environment for Your Pets

How to Stop Dogs From Fighting
John Walton
Written by John Walton

A lot of pet owners are at a loss on how to stop dogs from fighting and most of them, end up being the one getting the worse end of the fight. Even though we, as pet parents, you may have your dog’s best interests in mind, they may not be able to stop themselves from engaging in a fight if they are not properly trained and when presented with enough triggers to set off an aggression. There had been a number of pet owners who have experienced having a tame and friendly dog for years only to be taken by surprise when these same dogs engaged in a dog fight.

To better learn how to cope with dog fighting, one should have a proper understanding of a dog’s personality as well as provide the necessary training that will help control his behavior when faced with other dogs. Only an owner or a pet parent would of course, be able to know such things as they are the ones who spend a lot of time with the dog. Also, knowing how to read  your dog’s body language may help you understand it better, so read our piece on that topic.

Animal abuse infographic

Knowing the dog’s temperament, breed characteristic, as well as any health condition which may affect his or her attitude will serve as a good guide on a pet’s personality. Teaching your dog the proper behavior will also help him avoid any unwanted confrontations in the future. You can read more about this in our piece on dog aggression and how it can be stopped.

What is a real dog fighting?

It is important to know when a dog is really engaging in a dog fight and when he or she is only engaging in a play fight. Dog fighting is quite different from play fights in that the dogs involved often end up getting seriously hurt and one or more dogs are subjected under the force of another unwillingly.

Play fighting on the other hand is more relaxed and the underdog will often try to engage the other dog again when they try to walk off. This is somehow different in a real dog fight when the losing dog will usually run away from their oppressor once they get the chance.

Animals fight

Here are some signs that you should look for to determine whether your dog is in a real fight or a play fight:

  • In a real dog fight, the dogs maintain a rigid and aggressive stance with the tails in a stiff and unmoving position. In a play fight, one or both of the dogs will have their tails wagging and they will try to engage the other by moving around a lot.
  • A real dog fight is not often as noisy as a play fight. In a real fight, the aggressor will have that predator behavior where they will silently stalk the victim and attack by surprise. Play fights on the other hand, will involve a lot of growling and yelping right before the dogs attack each other.
  • A real dog fight, the bites result to bleeding and serious injuries whereas in a play fight, they are more controlled and will not often hurt the other dogs involved. In a dog fight, the dogs are intent on hurting the other dog.

Why do dogs fight?

Dogs are somehow like humans in that they can be provoked to aggression for a variety of reasons. These reasons can range from the dog’s inherent or natural personality because of their breed to that of health conditions which can make them irritable and grumpy. Knowing what could trigger a dog fight will not only help you solve them once they are happening but even avoid them before they begin.

Dogs fight

Here are some of the common reasons why dogs can engage in a fight as well as the possible solutions for them:

  • To establish order in the pack. Dogs are just like wolves in the wild in that they usually form packs in order to survive. The problem however, is that domesticated dogs do not really need that hierarchy in order to survive when they adopted in a home. The instinct remains though and newer or younger dogs who had been adopted in the family need to understand that they have a pack leader that will look out for them and establish order.
    • Solution: Allow the dominating male to remain in their position as pack leader and recognize their authority by giving them priority when it comes to feeding, giving out treats, or by simply spending more time with him. Opting to treat the dogs “the same” will provide confusion in leadership and will only lead to more dog fighting as each one asserts leadership.
  • To gain possession of a desired object. This often occurs between dogs of the same age or between those of the same gender. Dogs who would like to have the toy, food, or treat that has been given to another will fight with that dog until they get it. They may also do it to gain your attention or favor. This seldom occurs though between small puppies and adult dogs, as well as between male and female dogs.
    • Solution: Give food, treats, and toys individually in separate areas or crates. Never allow dogs to fight over one toy by throwing it at them. This will only develop their taste for aggression as they learn that the strongest and most aggressive will be the one to take the prize. If you have trained your dogs to sit and wait until they are called, you can try to line them up and give the treat, food, or toy individually as they are called one by one.
  • To release pent up energy and stress. A lot of times, an angry and aggressive dog is one who had been chained to a post and did not have the right avenue with which to release all of his stored energy. The dog may not know that his bite will be strong enough to seriously hurt another dog as he thinks that it is his normal or average strength.
    Since the dog is tied, he can only try to lunge and bark at the things that may be annoying or are new to him instead of releasing all of his energy to explore the object. This frustration can lead to feelings of aggression especially if the dog is being taunted.

    • Solution: Give your dog ample time to exercise in order to release their energy and to allow them to explore new things. When a dog becomes tired, they will usually be more calm and restful. Aside from that, exercising also releases what are known as “happy hormones” similar to what humans can experience when they exercise. Most of the time, a dog will feel stressed because they are unfamiliar with a thing and will act aggressively towards it.
      Take the time to socialize your dog so they can learn how to react in a friendly manner when confronted with another human or dog. Bring him to a dog park or introduce him to some friends who also own dogs. Make sure that they are in a leash though and in a neutral ground in order to avoid territoriality.
  • To establish their territory. Dogs are very much attached to the territory that they occupy and this can lead to a dog fight if another dog invades that territory without their permission. This is very common when other dogs enter or get near your property or when you have recently brought a new dog or puppy home. This is one of the most common problems when neighbors both have a dog which can’t get along very well.
    Both dogs think that the other one is trying to get into their territory and act aggressive towards each other. If you are bringing a new dog home, it is important that you introduce the new dog properly in order to avoid any possible problems when you leave the dogs alone.

    • Solution: Introduce the new dog little by little and with accompanying dog treats for your older dog so you can condition a positive reaction whenever he sees the new one. It will also help if you can bring the puppy before he reaches four weeks old into your home. This is due to the fact that puppies below that age exude a particular scent which makes older dogs act more gently towards them.
      Put up a fence which can block their sight of the street or of your neighbor’s property in order to avoid fence fighting as well. You can also train them to refrain from barking by commanding them to lie down or sit whenever they start growling at the neighbor’s dog.
  • To avoid getting hurt if the dog is not feeling well. When a dog is sick or if they are not fed properly, they will often act out aggressively either to avoid possible pain or because they are not feeling comfortable at all. Some of the instances include arthritic dogs, older dogs, or those which are suffering from poor nutrition.
    A dog which is suffering from any type of pain brought about by a medical condition will of course be irritated with a playful or reckless dog that can worsen his pain if they bite or step on him in the wrong way. The ill dog will try to drive away the other dog in order to avoid that pain. Grumpy dogs can also be caused by lack of protein which helps the body create and assimilate serotonin which gives your dog a good mood.

    • Solution: Try putting your sick dog in a separate room where they will not be disturbed by the other dog. Give him a comfortable bed and a peaceful area to sleep on in order to ease their pain. Give your dog a healthy and balanced diet which will supply all the natural nutrients that they need in order not only to function well physically but mentally and emotionally as well. This includes a high quality source of protein as well as essential fatty acids which are needed by the brain.

A dog can become aggressive if he is presented with the circumstances that can trigger this reaction especially if he is not trained that well. You must see our list on the top aggressive breeds to better understand your pooch.

Teaching your dog to focus only on you and to obey your commands always when there are other people or dogs around will help you avoid any type of confrontation between dogs and will spare you a lot of stress and even medical expenses in the future.

Stop dog fight

If a dog fight is already in progress, here are some things that you can do in order to stop a dog fight:

  • Hose the dogs with water. This will break up the concentration of the dogs on each other will divert their energies towards another problem – the water. This is helpful if the fight is happening inside your home.
  • Put up a board or any opaque material between them. This is usually useful with smaller dogs as larger dogs can still get over or around the board and reach the other dog easily.
  • Use some citronella spray on the more aggressive dog. A citronella spray is very handy and you can take it with you if you are walking your dog.
  • Pull the dogs away from each other by pulling at their legs or neck collar. This is a very tricky one as dogs can easily turn back and bite the hand that is pulling them. In my experience, this can only be applied if you have a very strong relationship with your dog that you are sure that no matter what you do, they will not bite you. Also, you put yourself at risk of being bitten by the other dog so it is important to do this with utmost care and protective gear if possible. Learn what you can do if you have been accidentally bitten by a dog, by reading our very informative article on that topic.

Dog fights can break out any time and they can pose some serious physical and emotional injury not only to the dogs involved but even to family members as well. It is therefore important to understand the underlying causes and circumstances which can provoke such events and learn how to handle them properly in order to avoid them.

Stop animal abuse

Proper socialization and providing good nutrition and exercise will also aid you greatly in avoiding these unwanted circumstances. Try to develop a good relationship with your dog as well so you can easily take them out of a fight without putting yourself in danger of getting bitten by them.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.