Dog fight!!! What to do when your dog is in a dog fight…


What should we do when our dog is attacked? What should we do when our dog attacks another dog? How do we safely intervene? How can we fix the situation?

Dear Reader, here are some guidelines to consider concerning when dogs fight.

1.Stay calm.

2. Please re-read and actually follow rule number 1!  

If everyone involved were to actually follow my first two rules the world would be a better place for people and our furry companions. I bring up calmness because it would imply that you are operating with a clear mind and not one exploding with fight/flight adrenaline and excessive human emotions. If you aren’t calm you aren’t in charge. End of story. If you aren’t calm how do you expect to handle conflict resolution? If you aren’t calm whatever actions you take will just INTENSIFY the situation.

Example: Imagine if you were stabbed or shot and then as you arrived at the hospital the doctors and nurses were shocked, and yelling, and totally flipping out; some crying, some severely angered, others simply stunned or stupified. Would they be of much help to you? Also keep in mind most fights (dog or human) last a very short time (many just seconds) Panic never helps in any situation.

If we back track we would discover that you were the one who thought it was a good idea to bring a domesticated predator into your home.  A domesticated predator whose mighty ancestors still roam the mountains and plains and hunt, kill, and feast on prey animals up to 2000 pounds!A wolf from the Canyon Pack stalks an ailing bison at Otter Creek in Yellowstone National Park. (©Meg Sommers - click to enlarge)


3. Be prepared to take action.  Semper Paratus.

Being prepared is great.  Besides serving as the motto for the Boy Scouts and what Simba’s plotting Uncle Scar gave for advice to his minions of hungry hyenas, being prepared is never a bad thing. Attempt to be as aware as you can of your environment.  Our dogs are usually more aware of the environment than we are.  Up your game.

4. Proceed with caution!

All dogs are very quick (certainly quicker than people). All dogs can see movement better than you or I (due to the ratio of rods to cones in the dog’s eye). All dogs come equipped with a host of amazingly powerful jaws and large pointed teeth (you know, their “canine” chompers). Dogs are well known for their bite force and are used around the world by police, military, and private training companies for just this purpose. No need to elaborate on the mouth and teeth. All dogs have sharp claws too. I’ve been bloodied up many times in my day to day just from an aggressive dog attempting to grab me with their paws/claws!  Almost all dogs have fur (armor) that can protect them to a degree.

And the most important part of point number four…they have the inherent nature to survive. They don’t want to get hurt and will often end disagreements quickly if they can.  This means they will fight or flight if necessary but would typically prefer not to.  Dogs are highly intelligent social creatures who will simply and honestly disagree with each other.  Sometimes they use fight to do it.  So do Not take it so personally if there is a fight.  Just because you’re a human living in today’s instant gratification, ultra-convenience and entertainment-based culture does not mean we cannot be understanding in the case of our dogs.  Fighting is a way of communicating.  Because dogs are so social it also means that they have a fantastically peaceful nature and that in most cases means a disagreement will only last a few seconds.  Thank God.

(An exception to this would be dogs that have been conditioned to fight or are constantly pulling on the leash.  Leash pulling will always escalate a dog’s energy levels. In protection work we want a taut leash. In calming a dog we do Not want any pulling.  Learn to develop a great “heel” command where your dog walks loosely at your side.)


Now please take a quick look at yourself and see if you are equipped as well naturally to jump on into the fray and break up a dog fight. Do you have an incredible bite force? Do you have claws and fur and powerful sharp pointy teeth? Do you have more rods than cones in your eyes and although you cannot see color as well, because of the muted color scheme, you can detect the slightest movements and zero in on them? Do you have an inherent nature to avoid confrontation and get along with the pack family? Do you see where I’m going with this? Or maybe I should ask… Do you value your fingers? Do you value your hands? Do you value your legs?  How about your face?

5. To yell or not to yell?

If you yell it should only be for a moment and even then it typically won’t really do anything (barring the exception that your dog is somewhat well behaved and is not in too immediate danger/ is already latched onto the other dog) and yelling and emotional screaming or crying could just exacerbate the problem due to your addition of more sound energy!

6. Evaluating the fight…

If your dog is on leash and they are not latched (from biting the other dog) you can pull back. And quickly turn the your dog away.  If they are latched onto each other with a firm bite Do Not pull back as this will only tear the flesh more and could cause real damage.

7. Leave in control of yourself and your dog and don’t inadvertently cause a behavioral problem!  (Pay attention to this one)

If your dog is around a large group of dogs (at the dog park) calmly leave the area – After exchanging personal info at the scene of course – I would assume this goes without saying!  Unless the wounds are so small that they really won’t need any vet assistance.  I mention leaving because you don’t want more dogs jumping in because of the over-excited fight energy in the atmosphere (see rules one and two!).  If it is only your dog and another dog I would NOT suggest you leave the area right away as this can almost instantly cause a behavioral issue in your dog! Your dog could form a new habit and think that it was such a traumatic experience (even if it wasn’t traumatic and most times it is not!) based on your raw and foolhardy emotional responses!  If it indeed was traumatic -meaning a real fight that lasted more than a couple seconds with real puncture wounds (you know the ones, they look like a vampire bit down on your dog and your dog has many lacerations) – you should literally pretend for your dog’s sake that it was no big deal.  This is when you need to be strong for your dog and in control of your thoughts and your emotions.  (They say he who has self control is more powerful than he who controls an entire army)

Let me explain. Dogs live in the moment and can form habits extremely fast. I believe many animals can form habits faster than humans (we typically form then in 21 – 30 days). If you are presenting weak, ineffective, over-excitable, angry, pathetic, or any other imbalanced types of energy you can imagine this will literally be hurting your own dog psychologically. Dogs feed on the energy around them.  Dogs are also watching our lead.  And, honestly, if you’re crying, screaming, swearing, dancing around ineffectively, you certainly won’t help anyone -least of all your own dog.  Take this to heart.  Remember it.

All lead dogs in mother nature are the calm, cool, and collected type.  Dogs will not follow a hysterical, sobbing, out-of-control human even if they’ve had years of the typical “sit, stay, down” et cetera training. Again please see rules 1 and 2.  I’ve handled thousands of dogs over the long years and the owners tell me they “used to be fine with other dogs UNTIL they were attacked or until they got into a fight with another dog.”

8. Develop resilience and a tough skin.

Do your self and your dog a favor and Pretend Everything is Fine and handle the situation like a real dog leader would. Because chances are (and I’ve seen this many times) there is minor or no damages in many cases and the humans are all worked up because their two dogs had a disagreement. This does not mean you cannot honestly disagree with the other human about their dog but this leads into my next point…

9. Be polite to the other dog owner as best you can.

You get more flies with honey than vinegar. This is hard for most people in today’s unnatural, technology-crazed, fast food, instant gratification, selfishly-driven society. Manners are at an all time low. Be upfront and honest but try not to be rude.

Please imagine two somewhat, normal people and now picture their dogs fight for a few moments and now ask yourself this question…Do you think anyone of the people actually wanted a fight to take place? If their dog was the initiator don’t you think the owner would be concerned about the behavior?  Yes, some folks are jackasses but that doesn’t mean you have to be.  Let’s elevate the situation.

10. Don’t be a victim!  (this is a major issue!)

If you are the victim don’t act like it. Acting like a victim has never helped anyone ever in the whole history of the world.  If you are incredibly worked up you have that right but, again, it won’t do you any favors when interacting with the other owner. And what’s more, you may be inadvertently hurting your dog with all the Human Drama. Please check rules 1 and 2 just one more time. Eliminate all Human drama. It is unnecessary and a foolish waste of energy. If you are wasting energy what are you teaching your dog?  Now is the time to Calmly Lead.  Now is the time to show how you handle adversity!

If you have the dog that started the fight – settle your dog down by controlling the eye contact (this means breaking it away from the other dog) and spinning them away if you can safely do so. Some experts suggest grabbing them by the back legs and spinning them in a circle away from the other dog. Others suggest cold water or spraying with a hose.  And others say use a blanket to cover the dog and in order to safely grab it.  (I say good luck with all that.) Make sure to go and see the other dog (if the owner is still there and if you can safely do so). Make sure you see if there is indeed damage and what sort. Offer to pay the vet bills as this is customary and the right thing to do. Unless, of course, the owner doesn’t want to see you or talk to you (some clients tell me this has happened to them and the other party just yelled at them and briskly walked off. This usually means there is little to no injury to their dog and they just want to get out of the situation. Let them.) Don’t cause more human drama. However, if you can stay on the scene a bit this can help most dogs settle down and not go right from Fight into Flight.  Remember, we don’t want any new unsocial habits forming.  Just being around (at a safe distance where they cannot get at each other) even with the dog they just had the disagreement with while the owners correct and calm them can shockingly be beneficial and hammer home that sociability is the only way.

11. Prevention.  Prevention.  Prevention.

The best option is to obviously not let your dog get into a fight in the first place.  You can usually prevent dog fighting drama if you develop an excellent relationship with your dog, socialize the heck out of them but make sure you maintain the lead (remember that “heel” I mentioned earlier?).  And in many cases where the dog already has dog aggression you need to continue to get them out and about (cautiously) but the risk is worth the reward if you know what you are doing because deep down dogs are always ready to learn to be social.  That being said, if it happened to you or ever does please learn from the wisdom of the dogs and shake off stress and care, live in the moment, keep moving forward, forgive and forget, remain in control of your energy and learn to control your dog’s energy through efficient movements and proper spatial manipulation!  

Learn to read their body language. Do not allow your dog to stare at other dogs!  Do not allow your dog to throw it’s head over other dogs shoulders or neck when meeting or playing.  Be a tension calmer.  Many misunderstandings can be prevented if the dog’s language is fluid and the human owner also understands canine communication. Sadly many, many dogs are aggressive, they do pull, lunge, snap on the leash and off the leash and have a horrible dog language and do not know how to get back to a calm, peaceful place! And what’s worse humans trainers and behaviorists mask the real problems with surface level tricks and obedience that gives little to no regard to the cultivation of a healthy and prosperous relationship between owner and dog!  Seek professional help and someone with an excellent reputation for rehabbing aggressive, fearful, or dangerous dogs (remember, while almost all dog training companies and behaviorists advertise that they handle aggression and “speak dog” – the sad truth is that many Mishandle it.

True dog aggression cannot be fixed with treats and “watch me” commands.  It will not usually be fixed from attending a “Growly Class” (think for a moment how foolish the human concept of a “Growly dog class” is.  Dogs are social creatures who learn from other people and from other example dogs so why would I place my dog into a large group of other dogs with the exact same issue?)  Instead, get your dog extra exercise, structure and calming discipline, a great “heel”, proper house manners, don’t let him over-touch you or others, don’t let him escape petting or not come to you, and eventually you have to “jump in the pool” and get your dog more social and around other calm “example” dogs.  Whatever the behavioral question is… the only answer is more sociability!

Need help? Read my first book or give me a call!  I behaviorally rehab fearful and aggressive dogs with great success on a daily basis – and all WITHOUT food treats and WITHOUT harsh handling!  Order my HOT-Listed book, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!  Find out why it made the HOT List for so many weeks consecutive.  Find out why the dog training and behavior modification industry is largely crap, way behind in their methods, and honestly not that helpful when it comes to calmly rehabbing dogs with behavioral issues.  And then, after you are shocked, you will be educated, equipped and inspired in the beneficial ways of natural dog handling and I promise you…you will notice BIG changes once you begin applying even a few of the amazing yet subtle and simple techniques contained within the pages of Dog Myths!  In the very least read the free sampling on Amazon or Apple.

Here is the link.  Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You! by Garrett Stevens

Keep it peaceful,


Post Script,

Also be sure to sample my second book too.  So Long Separation Anxiety, can easily prevent anxiety in a pup, new rescue, or help to reverse it (and reverse problematic chewing, drooling, barking, jumping, escaping, etc) in a dog of any age!  Try the free sample!

13 thoughts on “Dog fight!!! What to do when your dog is in a dog fight…

  1. MB

    What if the dogs fighting are both mine? One is very gentle and sweet the aggressive one is a feisty puppy less than a year old. The young one had a vice grip on my older ones forehead trying to scalp her. 😦

    • Seek professional help. And not from a training company that will attempt to just bribe the dogs with treats. Dog’s will never fight if they are sure who is in charge. It cannot be one of them. So many people I see are so concerned with their own dog’s pack order and who’s in charge and I always have to let them know that NO dog should be in charge. Dogs should be in last place (as far as decision making goes and where they “rank”) just like a human baby in our households. It does not mean we love our babies less it just means they are last when it comes to calling any shots (or claiming anything at all as their own!). Be firm and make your dogs work for any affection, attention, food, everything!

  2. Hansol

    Hi, I’m not sure if you’re still active on this page but it’s worth a shot. Last night, my dog was attacked by another dog. The other dog had its jaw locked on my dog’s head and all my dog could do was yelp in fear and pain continuously. The owner of the other dog didn’t do much while I was trying to get her dog to let go of mine. In the end, the other dog eventually let go of his bite on my dog’s head and my dog sustained injuries (multiple puncture wounds and scratches) all around his right ear and he is now on antibiotics for the next week. Do you have any advice for me on what I could have done to get the other dog to let go of his bite on my dog more quickly?

    • Hello,
      Thanks for commenting and for your question. Sorry for any delays. The blog has taken a backseat while I actively attempt to finish my book on dog behavior and human behavior. But I plan to update the blog soon and keep it active as soon as we get a publisher for the book!
      I’m sorry you and your dog had to go through that experience. It is, tragically, more and more common nowadays! In 2015 alone in the USA it cost more than $570 million dollars (homeowners insurance liability claims) from dog bites and dog related injuries. If you follow our blog you know I hold piss-poor training methods and terrible externally motivated behavior modification techniques to blame! The dog training and behavioral world NEEDS to change and change ideas and methods rapidly or the bites and attacks on both people and on social dogs will continue their upward ascent!
      Advice for you specifically in the instance you described: Avoid the entire scene if possible. It is the same advice you would get from any martial art instructor, police officer, security chief, et cetera… if one can cultivate situational awareness and read the scenes and vibes around them they can usually avoid most trouble. Was this at a dog park? Were they playing together or posturing or did the dog come out of nowhere and go straight into a bite? Either way Step 1 is always Being aware. Bruce Lee was never tense but he was always ready – I love that. Step 2. would be, as my article mentioned, stay calm. It depends on the size of the dogs involved in the fight but I seldom would risk sticking a delicate human hand into the mix of teeth and claw (and ALL human hands are delicate – even the heavy weight boxer wraps his hands and wears gloves to protect the fine bones in the hands). I would definitely venture a foot before a hand if the dogs are large! But whatever action you take let it be based in calm calculation as much as is possible and try for as much efficient timing as you can. I mean if you see a clear opening and you think you are fast enough you may want to take that chance. Either way once dogs are engaged their is a large risk for you sticking your hand or foot into a fight. Almost 5 million people in the USA are bitten by dogs EACH year and 1 in every 5 bites becomes infected! Proceed with caution. I have further advice on how to get another dog to let go a bit more quickly but it is still risky for the person attempting it and somewhat of a liability for us if I put that online.
      Best thing to do now is Let go of the past, keep your dog very social with other dogs, Do NOT COMFORT your dog (this could make your dog become dog aggressive and certainly more fearful and needy) and do your best to move on. Good luck

  3. Kristin

    We had a ssituation today. I took on a challenge by bringing two 8yo siberian huskies retired sled dogs home. Yeah… I know.
    We went to the park toda, after playing with the original 6 dogs a new dog came in and because i was tending to G, i didnt see D get into a fight with dog 7. Of course, i immediately responded leaving G to perk up and go after dog 7, seemingly to protect D and or me. It wasnt pretty. None of us knew what to do. And G broke skin… And wouldnt let go. Im not even sure now how we got him to release.
    I feel terrible about the whole thing, of course, but myself and an almost too generous woman, got us all away calmly and safely.
    Any suggestions for things to do the next few days would be appreciated. These boys are my life and I refuse give up on them.

    • Oh, I am so sorry I’m just seeing this now! Super late in the game – I’m sure. I have been extremely active in attempts to finish my upcoming book Dog Myths (about our dogs and our false human beliefs concerning their language and behaviors) and so I have not been at all active here…but will be again! I hope everything worked out for the better, Kristin. Again sorry for the late response.

  4. Practically speaking… if we get down to the utter bare bones of Breaking up a dog fight there are a few options: Tossing water on them. Grabbing a nearby pillow or couch cushion to smack them with in hopes of jolting them enough with a large item like a big pillow so visually the dog’s register that something large is coming and let go of one another. Opening an umbrella right at them. Blowing a fog horn at them. Using an e-collar (yes, I said it, if it’s more humane than having dogs fight one another within your home it’s worth a shot). Grabbing towels to cover their heads and eyes and minimize damage and limit the risk to your own hands and legs.
    All these things being listed though…prevention and smoothly timed interjection when you can observe that the dog is about to be unsocial or aggressive is worth all the foolish external items and methods in the world! Seek to learn the dog language better and no one will be as surprised by escalating dog energy and physicality. We can all improve our game as loving human owners.

  5. EMILY

    My small (15lb) mixed breed was almost attacked by another dog while we were on a walk. Am unleashed pitbull ran out of his yard into the street and started to act aggressively. I was very afraid he would kill my dog.
    I panicked and picked my dog up. My dog bit me BADLY in the face, slicing through my upper lip, and then again on my wrist.
    In the aftermath, with blood pouring from my face, I panicked again, and screamed for probably 5 straight minutes. Holding my dog the whole time. After reading this post I realize how harmful that must have been for my dog.
    I am heartbroken that this happened. I know my dog is traumatized because two weeks ago he bit he (hard) again, when I attempted to pick him up after a walk. Of course afterwards I thought perhaps he was remembering the last time I picked him up outside. But I never expected him to bite me unprovoked. I chalked the first instance up to him being frightened and confused and I picked him up and literally had his mouth right in front of my face.
    Previously my dog never minded being handled (or if he did he did not show it). He is a rescue, we got him when he was about 4 months old. He is almost 6 now.
    Like I said, I’m heartbroken, because I don’t know if I will ever be able to relax around him again. Before this happened he was my trusted companion, I couldn’t get enough of him.
    How can I help my dog heal, and start to rebuild trust?

    • Hi Emily,
      Thank you for your comment/question and I’m sorry you went through that. Key words being “went through” as in, it’s in the past now. That’s the great news! Animals don’t live in the past as much as we do so remember to do your best to free both yourself and your dog from that past event otherwise you lose life and joy in the present. Here is what to do to help your handling skills and your dog’s psyche move forward.
      1. Practice heeling – a respectful walk is always an excellent thing and dogs can gain a bit of natural comfort and relaxation because the pressure is off them to lead on the walk
      2. Practice (every day many times a day) safely picking your dog up. Begin by normal petting and then smoothly (but not too slowly) place a hand in his collar and make a fist – meaning all your fingers are in the collar and the fist shape if placed beside his head (not below or directly above it) will safeguard your hand from being bit in most instances…then…place another hand under his chest/belly and pick up for a moment or two. Do NOT talk or feel bad or emotional in any way (if possible)! Then, as you place him back on the ground just to make sure he doesn’t think he’s escaping out of your grasp you hold him for a few heartbeats longer while he’s standing on the ground waiting to be released. Upon release you turn briskly and walk away – there should be no doubt who controlled touching and spacing. You picked him up and you clearly let him go and now you’re ignoring him as if everything is normal.
      3. Begin to trust other dogs again (if you haven’t already) make sure your dog is smelled and smelling other dogs while on your walks and outings.

      Good luck! Embrace the present moment as you plan for an excellent future with your doggy!

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