How To Break Up A Dog Fight – Tricks of the Trade

There really are no winners in a dog fight. Whether you have two dogs at home who dislike each other or your dog gets in a fight when you’re out for a walk, it’s a bad experience for everyone – you and the dogs. The best thing you can do is try to avoid a fight, if possible. However, it’s not always possible to keep dogs from fighting, no matter how hard you try. Even if you have a sweet, gentle dog, he might be attacked. And sometimes even small dogs can provoke an attack with a larger dog. So, here is some advice about how to break up a dog fight.

Try to avoid the fight

If you have two dogs at home who don’t get along, there are some things you can do to minimize their “issues.” Dogs often fight over territory, food, toys, and jealousy. They could fight over things like their favorite sleeping spot, for example. Or if you have intact dogs, then a girl in season can cause fights. Sometimes dogs fight over their owner’s attention.

If your dogs are fighting over food at mealtime, you can separate them when they eat. Feed them in separate rooms or in crates. This can prevent fights and you can make sure that both dogs are eating their own food instead of growling at each other. If your dogs are fighting over a particular toy, remove the toy. If the dogs are fighting over your attention, try to make special time for each dog to receive some attention.

In these cases it helps if the dogs learn some obedience training. Not only will this training give you some good bonding time with each dog, but it will reinforce your role as the one in charge. Obedience training also increases the chances that your dogs will listen to you if they begin to posture and glare at each other.

If your dogs do start to show signs that they might be headed for a fight it often helps to distract them with something they like. Get out a ball or toy and call them for a game in the yard. Get their minds off each other. Keep things cheerful. Or you can separate them, if you can do so safely, and put them in separate rooms or separate crates, until they cool off.

Breaking up a Dog Fight at Home

As a last resort, if your dogs are actually fighting, there are several things you can do to break up a fight. One thing that I have found effective if the dogs are outside is turning a hose on them. The shock of the cold water will usually make them stop fighting, at least long enough for you to move the aggressor indoors and stop the fight.

If the dogs are indoors you can fill up a pitcher or pot with cold water and pour it on them to achieve the same effect. They should stop fighting long enough for you to move one of the dogs to a separate room or crate.

You can also throw a blanket over the dogs to stop a fight. This makes it harder for them to see and hinders them enough to slow down the fight. You can grab one of the dogs and separate them.


Whenever you are trying to break up a dog fight you should proceed with extreme care. People are bitten all the time when trying to interfere between two dogs. It’s not because the dogs are trying to bite you. Dogs in a dog fight are more or less in a fighting frenzy, with jaws snapping in every direction. If your hand or arm, or even leg gets in the way, it will get bitten. (One of my earliest memories is hearing about my aunt being bitten while trying to break up a dog fight.) Dogs in this situation are not necessarily vicious but the adrenaline is pumping and they are in a serious fight. You can get hurt.

Stay away from the head, mouth, and front of the dogs. Don’t try to reach for the dog’s collar, at least not until he is well clear of the other dog. It’s best to try to handle the dog from the ribs back to lessen your chance of being bitten accidentally. If you can throw a blanket on the dog and handle him through the blanket, that’s better.

It’s not easy when you have two dogs in your household that don’t get alone. In most cases one of the dogs will eventually assert his dominance and the other dog will accept a secondary position, but there may still be dust-ups occasionally. You might want to consider re-homing one of the dogs if the fights continue.

Breaking up Dog Fights Outside the Home

There are also times when your dog may be accosted outside the home. You could be minding your own business, walking your dog, and another dog attacks him. Or, things could get out of hand in a dog park. In some cases, it might be your dog that attacks another dog, no matter how loving and sweet he is with you. Here’s some help about how to break up a dog fight outside the home.

Avoiding a fight

There are some things that people recommend to help avoid a dog fight:

  • Carry an umbrella
  • Carry pepper spray if it’s legal in your area
  • Carry an air horn

You get the idea. All of these things can be used to defend yourself and your dog if another dog attacks you.

Another thing you can do is learn to read a dog’s body language. The sooner you recognize that another dog is approaching you with hostile intentions, the better. This allows you time to decide what to do. If you have a small dog you can pick him up. If you have a large dog you can tell him to heel and then turn to leave.

In most cases it’s best to turn and walk away slowly. Don’t yell, don’t run, don’t act scared. Just walk away with your dog. Do NOT stand and make eye contact with the other dog.

Breaking up a fight

If your dog is attacked by another dog outside the home, the first thing you need to do is drop your leash. Holding your dog back with the leash puts him at a disadvantage and he could be seriously injured. Allow him to defend himself.

Next, stay calm. It’s a dog fight and that’s bad but it will be over quickly. You can stop the fight. In most cases the attacker will be on top of the other dog so you need to wait and watch until you have a clear opportunity to grab the dog on top by his tail and/or rear legs and pull him off. Even if he’s a large dog and you’re a small person, you can do this. Grab his tail at the base and pull him off, keeping him off balance. Then start moving him in a circle to keep him off balance. This will look like you’re rolling a wheelbarrow. This should allow the other dog to get up and, we hope, move away. If there is another person nearby they can grab the other dog. If you have a leash with you, you can snap the leash on the dog you are moving in a circle so you can get him away from the scene. If he’s not wearing a collar, then tie the leash around his neck and move him away. If you have no leash, slowly circle him away from the scene. Improvise if you have to.

If there is more than one person with you, you can both grab the dogs and pull them apart by the tail and rear legs. Get leashes on them if possible. Remember that when you pull them apart by the tail and rear legs you need to keep moving them in circles so they are off balance. They will have to work on keeping their balance and won’t be able to worry about the fight.

When you separate dogs this way, you may not end up holding your own dog. Don’t be surprised if the dog’s owner is not happy with you or blames you or yells at you. So be it. It doesn’t matter. Stopping the fight is what’s important, especially if you can stop it without getting bitten. Everyone is upset when there’s a dog fight and people are defensive about their dogs. They might say things they regret later. Don’t worry about it. Just take your dog and check him out.

With any luck you have stopped the fight quickly and the dogs are not seriously hurt and no people have been bitten.

Fights with more than two dogs

If your dog is attacked by more than one dog it’s a bad situation and you really need help to break up the fight. If you have anything with you, such as an air horn, this would be a good time to use it. Try to call for nearby help as quickly as possible. It will probably take more than one person to remove the attacking dogs.

If possible, the best thing to do is try to avoid multiple loose dogs when you seem them approaching you and your dog. If the owners of the dogs are with them, they should try to help get the dogs to stop.

Dog fights can be dangerous not just for your dog but also for you. Remember to be careful and don’t put your hand or any part of your body near your dog’s face or head when trying to break up a dog fight. In most cases you can break up a fight, even in public, if you use the “wheelbarrow” approach and grab the top dog by the tail and rear legs, then keep him off balance by moving in circles. Good luck and stay safe.



4 Responses

  1. OK – sounds good but I am a small old very dog-experienced and dog trainer woman and no one will take the aggressor dog to put down and I can’t ethically give the aggessor dog to someone else if she repeats the fighting. Isn’t there any product (lime juice, chili powder?) or something that has been tried. I have a fight between these two every 5 or 6 months and can’t afford the emotional toll NOR THE 700.00 vet bill every time. Yesterday, the hose directed into her mouth did absolutely no use except maybe to wash away blood. I tried lifting the legs like the wheelbarrow and the dog just kept locked on and I was literally swinging 90 pounds of dogs. Finally I beat her over the head with a cement bird bath top – could have killed her. I have read everything on line and have tried all of them. I can’t get the bite stick in the dogs’ mouths without injury to me – tried that too and still have the scars. What about going for the eyes – using chili powder to burn and temporarly blind her so I can pull her away? Help! Our newly no-kill Marion County Animal Services in Florida will not euthanize her nor will any of my 3 vets because she is healthy – arrghh. If you doubt me, contact me and I will give you names and details. I have been working with dogs since 1972 and have never had this problem until now. Now that the agencies won’t or can’t help, is there a way to legally euthanize a dog? In the 40s and 50s you could buy chloroform but what do I do? India is a 48 pound chow mix at 14 years of age and Nyla is a JRT hound mix at 35 pounds and 7 years old. Do you have any ideas?

  2. I don’t know about other products to break up a really bad fight. Dog breeders occasionally have a situation where two dogs just detest each other, like a mother and daughter. And female dogs can be the worst. In those cases they sometimes have to re-home one of the dogs. In a new home without other dogs or with a male, the dog might be fine. But I don’t know a way to stop that kind of fighting once they decide they hate each other in your house.

  3. I know what you’re saying about the ethics of passing the dog along to someone else. If no shelter or vet in your area will euthanize her and they won’t take her, I don’t know what else you can do.

  4. I feel like you never broke up a fight between two female German shepherds. You pull one, you tear the other one to shreds because their grip is deadly. I generally try to get some kind of door between them but even that is iffy…stuff kept falling in the melee and getting in the way of the door closing. Yes I got bitten and yes I ended up in the hospital with sepsis, but I don’t know how to just stand there and watch a pair of angry ladies destroy each other. I have now ordered a break stick (which of course is dangerous because it gets my hands a little too close again), a boat horn, and some pepper spray. Nope, not going to have anybody euthanized.

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