How To Break Up a Dog Fight and What To Do After

My current pack has never had a fight but that was not always the case. If you own more than one dog you would be considered lucky if you have never had a fight between your dogs. A large majority of the calls I get are based on dogs in the same home who can't get along, and once the pattern of in home aggression gets started it can be very difficult to fix.

There are generally 2 types of fights.

The cartoon dustball and the bite and hold. The dustball moves quick and the dogs are biting and bumping but not grabbing and holding. The grab and hold moves slower but can include tearing and thrashing. The later is the one that does the most catashrophic injury to the dogs and the dustball is where most humans get bit.

Here is a list of the do's and don'ts of breaking up and handling the aftermath of a dog fight:

Do: Have a plan. Think about how to break up a fight and what tools, methods and techniques you may use to do it - before it happens.

Don’t: Wait until a fight to think about how to break it up

Do: If a fight happens you must stay calm. You have to stay as calm as you possibly can.

Don't: Panic or yell. Panic will do to a fight what gasoline does to fire - intensify it quickly. The slower you move the more clearly you will think and the easier you will “see” the fight and make good decisions.

Do: If the dogs are not locked together you should take something from the environment like a couch cushion, bar stool, chair, trash can (my favorite), etc. and use that to separate the dogs like a battering ram. Be fast and commited in your action once you engage to break up the fight. Once they are apart they may come back to fight so you may only have 2-3 seconds to get the dogs under physical control by throwing one behind a door or having someone else take one dog while you control one.

Don't: I don’t suggest grabbing the back of the collar or reaching in with your hands but I have done it. This is how most people get bit during a dog fight. The dogs are blinded by the intensity and think you are part of the fight. When you are calm you can better target where to grab a dog to get control of a fight but its very easy to get bit with this strategy. If its a pack fight, I use my feet.

Do: If one of the dogs is “locked” on there is an appropriate way to apply a choke hold to that dog to get them to release. Sometimes dogs will release when their back legs are lifted and you can also use a leash. Place the leash around neck of dog who is “locked” and when he takes a breath in you can firmly touch him on his side which can create a release. When they release they may turn to bite whatever touched them so the leash is helpful.

Don't: Don't hit, punch, or yell. It usually makes it worse.


Don't: Don't grab the dogs and frantically separate them in different rooms of the house.

Do: After the fight has been broken up you should immediately get both dogs to lay down and become calm where the fight happened. If it takes 3o minutes, so be it. If the dogs become calm after a fight they can move on and be fine. If dogs are separated after a fight and not calmed down first, they get stuck in a fight state of mind towards the other dog and it gets really bad.

Do: Once they are calm you are going to let them back together. Dogs live in the moment and argue and fight like little kids on a playground. They don't hold grudges and once the fight has passed the dogs have moved on. It's really quite remarkable how quickly they move past. Don't: Isolate the dogs from one another. If you don't get the dogs back together after a fight a bit of scar tissue develops in their mind, and in your emotions. After a few fights the scar can become too deep. When this happens their is nothing that can be done. Some of the most intense dog aggression I have worked with has been from dogs who live together.

Do: Once the fight ends and you have calmed them you need to make a quick medical check. If one or both of the dogs are seriously injured you need to take the appropriate medical steps and get them to a vet immediately.

Don't: Wait. If there are injuries - you need to get them help. I had a client who waited after a dog fight and it almost cost the dog his life due to infection.