Preventing and dealing with dog fights

Most fights between dogs don't lead to any serious injuries. Dogs can be very rough with each other when they are playing, so what looks like a loud and fierce fight may actually be good-natured. You can often tell from the body-language of the dogs if they are being playful – angry dogs tend to be rigid and jerky, often with their hackles raised.

Even if the fight is real, the chances are neither dog will receive a serious injury. In most cases matters are settled quickly between dogs through growling, posturing, snapping and lunging. Your dog may give or receive small bite wounds on the face or neck which easily be treated at home.

Avoiding fights

If your dog has particular issues with another animal you meet regularly, try to change the route or time of your walks to avoid the encounters. If your dog is fearful or aggressive towards dogs, keep them on the lead and away from areas where there tend to be lots of other dogs exercising.

If you have more than one dog, or are bringing a new dog into your home, you can help prevent fights by feeding them separately, giving each dog some calm time alone and supervising 'valuable' items like chew toys and food treats.

Breaking up a dog fight

Sometimes there's nothing you can do to prevent a fight between dogs. If your dog does get involved in a serious fight you need to act quickly to prevent injuries. It's good to think in advance about what you might do if this happens, so you'll be able to keep calm and follow your plan in the heat of the moment.

The best strategy is try and distract the dogs so they break off the fight themselves. If that doesn't work try to put a barrier between them. Any attempt to separate them manually should only be made as a last resort.


  • Shout and make noise
  • Drop or bang objects together to startle the dogs
  • Throw or spray water on them if there is a water bowl or hose nearby
  • Try to put a barrier of some sort between the dogs
  • Cover the dogs with blankets or clothing so they can't see each other


  • Grab either dog by the collar – they can turn and bite out of reflex and cause you serious injury
  • Grab your dog by the lower legs or ankles as you can cause them serious injuries
  • Put your hands or face between the fighting dogs

Only try to separate fighting dogs as a last resort. If you need to grab them, try to make sure both dogs are held at the same time. Take hold of the top of your dog's legs just below the hips and lift them like a wheelbarrow, then move back and turn them to face away from the other dog.

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