How to Intervene: The Safest Ways to Break Up a Dog Fight

Posted by Krissy Howard

Familiarize yourself with these safety tips in case you ever need to break up a scuffle.

Any dog owner knows this to be true - fights happen, often suddenly, and sometimes for seemingly no reason.

Most people will want to reach in and pry any poochies apart, which can result in bites to the hand or even face. Fortunately, there are safe ways to intervene that will reduce the risk of injury to anyone involved.

Always be observing.

dogs who meet in a park

A dog fight may look like a sudden outburst over nothing, but most dogs will avoid a fight if at all possible. Something led up to this skirmish, and by learning your dog's mannerisms and behavior, you can probably detect clues to help you spot a fight coming on, and possibly avoid it altogether.

Most dogs will stiffen up when stressed or tense, and others may emit a low or intensifying growl, which may signal that you need to step in and intervene before it blows up. Because every dog is different this will not be the case in every scenario, which is why it's so important to learn your dog's language, and always keep a close eye when meeting new potential play pals.

Try the "wheelbarrow" method.

Dog fight at a park.

It's a situation no responsible dog owner ever wants to witness, but if your dog is caught in a fight and you feel capable of engaging, you may need to intervene.

Most people will instinctively reach for a dog's collar or scruff, but putting your hands anywhere that gnashing of teeth can result in major injury, a la Olympic skier Lindsay Vonn's unfortunate frisbee incident.

One common and effective tactic for separating a pair of dogs is called the "wheelbarrow" method, which requires two people in order to avoid possible harm to the dog being pulled away.

Using a leash, create a sling underneath each dog by slipping it under their belly, toward the groin area. Lifting their back end up into the air, pull them apart in opposite directions, remaining very aware of their heads, and mouths, the entire time. You can also grab directly onto the back legs, or pull at the hips if no leash is available, although that method is preferred for safety reasons.

Prevention is key.

Beautiful German Shepherd Dog Walking on Trail

Of course, if you know your dog to be triggered by certain things, the best way to avoid a potential fight is to prevent your dog from ever encountering that situation. Some dogs just aren't meant to socialize at the dog park, while others may do well with their canine companions until a toy or stick gets thrown into the mix.

As dog owners and members of an always expanding community of animal lovers, the best thing we can do for our pups, and each other, is to avoid setting them up in a position to fail. By getting to know our dogs and their limits, we can work to prevent potentially hostile situations, before it turns into an all-out brawl.

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How to Intervene: The Safest Ways to Break Up a Dog Fight