Best Way to Break up Dog Fight

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best way to break up dog fight

Know how to stop a dog fight quickly and safely.

If you’re here to learn the best way to break up dog fight, I’ll tell you in a second.

But first, I want to share a story with you…

A couple of years back I was walking my two German Shepherds.

And suddenly out of the blue, a fully grown male Rottweiler came charging out of it’s yard.

So there I was trying to control two fully grown German Shepherds…

My female weighs in at 70 lbs (32 kg).  And my male weighs 80 lbs (36 kg).

And there’s a 120 lbs (55 kg) male Rottweiler hurtling towards us.

My first instinct was to make one hell of a big noise to distract the Rottweiler and stop it dead in it’s tracks.

I have a loud voice and believe me, I used it.  But it didn’t stop the dog. I was panicing and my dogs were out for blood.

Thankfully a lady came driving down the road in her pickup  and saw what was happening.

She slowed down and started revving her vehicle’s engine.  This is what snapped the Rottweiler out of its mission to get into a brawl with my dogs.  He turned and headed back to his yard.

If it wasn’t for that lady and her pickup, the situation would have turned out differently for sure.

Dogs are social animals and function well in groups.  But there’s always the possibility of a fight eruping, even between dogs that live together.

We’re all dog lovers here.  And if we see dogs fighting our natural instinct is to separate them before they get hurt.

But, it’s a risky business.

Our first response is to yell at the top of our lungs, just like I did.  But that rarely works as a way to break up a dog fight or even to stop one from happening.

So our next instinct is to physically separate the dogs.  We think that our dog won’t bite us.  And under normal circumstances this is true.  But in the middle of a dog fight, your dog can’t make that distinction.

But it’s not reasonable to expect us to stand on the side lines watching our dogs in a fight.

So What’s the Best Way to break up dog fight?

The first thing to realize is that not all dog fights are actually fights.

Dr. Sophia Yin (who’s one of my dog training idols) defines dog fights into two categories…

Spit and Drool or Serious Fight?

According to Dr. Yin, most dog fights are spit and drool matches, even if there’s a lot of noise going on.  In these ‘matches’ any biting is usually a quick bite and release (if there’s any biting at all).

Whether it’s a spit and drool fight or a more serious one, we have two main goals…

  1. First, is to separate the dogs without having a chunk taken out of us.
  2. And second, to do it as quickly as possible.

And the golden rule here is to NOT grab anywhere around the head or neck area.  Doing this is a sure fire way to get bitten.

Or worse…  The dog might turn their aggression on to you, in the heat of the moment.

So Dr. Yin recommends grabbing the dog by the rear legs and pull them apart as your first line of defence.

Another way to break up a dog fight is to place your foot on their rib cage and push the dog away.  This does NOT mean you should kick the dog.

Your foot is only for leverage to cause the dog to lose balance and snap them out of the focus on the other dog.

This method is much safer than bending over the dogs and using your hands.  It’s also the best way if you’re alone without anyone to help you.

Best Way to Break up Dog Fight with Distractions

  • Wedging a board or another hard object between them.
  • Spraying the dogs with water.
  • Spraying the dogs with Citronella spray.
  • Covering one or both dogs with a blanket.
  • Using an Air Horn.
  • Distract with the dogs with an opportunity to go for a walk or a drive in the car.  Here you can open the car door, or excitedly call your dog while walking away.
  • Lightly popping one or both of the dogs on the head with a magazine or newspaper.  Don’t roll up the paper or magazine!  And keep in mind this is only a light pop, you’re not trying to hit the dogs.

It’s always good to keep in mind that where there’s a dog fight, there are always risks involved.  Both for you and the dogs.

So it’s up to you to weigh up the situation and decide what’s best.

What to do After the Fight is Over

Dr. Yin recommends paying close attention to what happens next…

Does your dog want to have a go at the fight again?

Do they calm down?

Or do they want to get away?

If your dog is the one who wants to continue the spat, you might need some help from a professional on behavior modification.

But whatever your dog’s reaction might be, don’t ignore what happened.  It’s not a fluke.  And don’t be lulled into thinking it won’t happen again.

Recognize the Signs of a Looming Dog Fight

Best Way to break up dog fight

Know the signs of dog-on-dog aggression

It’s popular belief that dog fights ‘just happen’.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Dogs are great communicators, and always give loud and clear signals that they are tense or uncomfortable.

These signs are the precursors to fights, and knowing these signals can put you on the front foot to avoid fights before they start.

Signs of Dog-on-Dog Aggression

  • Growling
  • Lip Lifting
  • Lip Licking
  • Snapping
  • Lunging
  • Raised Hackles
  • Fixated Stare
  • Crouching
  • Backing Away
  • Tail Tucking

These signs apply to dog who live in the same household too, and not only unrelated dogs.


Dr. Sophia Yin.

Pet MD.

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About the author: Gabriella is a certified professional dog trainer with the Victoria Stilwell Academy. She has a special passion for teaching GSD guardians to train their dogs with kindness and clarity using positive reinforcement methods without force, pain, or fear. Join “Dog Speak” for free dog training tips and advice from a professional dog trainer.

  • Deb LP

    I have a German Shepherd and a Pit Boxer mix who grew up together (both females) but this couple of months seems like they hate them so much. They started to have fights and it’s getting worse every time. I am not sure why this is happening. What can I do? I do not want to get rid of any of them.

    • Gabriella

      Hi Deb,

      Sorry to hear that you’re experiencing this. With this type of situation, I recommend getting in touch with a certified positive dog trainer to support you and your dogs in getting their relationship back on track.

      If you would like some recommendations for trainers from me, please feel free to get in touch with me via email and I’ll happily direct you.

  • Amanda

    My 6 month old GSB has started barking at everything outside. It’s an excited bark and I live in an apartment and people let her all the time and encourage the behavior but it’s getting more frequent and now those same people are the annoyed. How do I stop excited barking? It’s upsetting because I was able to take her out and socialize since she was 12 weeks and always did best and recently we were asked to leave somewhere because of her barking

    She also still bites frequently. All her puppy teeth are gone but she still bites all the time. A lot of times if I say leave it or no to something she is doing she will walk up and bite me. She also bites me if my BF is over. Some times she even lifts her lips and aggressively bites especially if I point at her when I say no

    • Hi Amanda,

      Thank you for your questions.

      Yeah, so you’re going to have to un-teach that barking at everything behavior using a distract, mark, reward method. I can imagine your frustration at folks encouraging your girl into an unwanted behavior. But all is not lost, you can easily, with commitment, un-teach this behavior.

      You can follow these steps and do them as frequently as possible. At the same time, the folks who have been encouraging her to bark at everything will need to stop that and in fact, it would be super helpful if they could do the below steps too if you’re not home and they are.

    • To begin with, try to avoid getting so close to the distraction where your dog feels need to react. As it will slow down progress. This might mean you need to turn around, retreat or take a different route.
      When she is close enough to see the distraction but has not reacted, offer her a high-value reward (food works best for this).
      If it’s inside the home don’t worry about moving away from a trigger. In this case, distract her with a friendly word you choose and offer her a reward the minute she looks at you. It doesn’t matter if she reacted to the trigger or not.
      Do this religiously, every time, even if you misjudge the moment and she reacts. For this to work, the idea is that the trigger predicts the reward.
      After a while and several repetitions, wait and see if she looks to you saying ‘hey, where’s my treat?’
      Then mark that with a click or ‘yes’ and give her a treat. So now, the treat comes for looking to you when she sees or hears a trigger.
      Be persistent with this (it’s going to take some time) and slowly you should notice less and less reactions to her triggers.
    • In terms of biting, check out these games to help curb biting behavior. At 6 months most teething is over but biting behavior might persist for a while still. So playing these games will definitely be a fun and force-free way to teach bite inhibition.

      If you want to get more into how to train your girl to be calm and have impeccable manners, check out this online dog training program I recommend and have used for all my dogs. It’s unique because it uses games to tap into our dogs’ natural intelligence. And not only teaches them what is acceptable behavior but it also boosts their confidence and they learn much faster.

      You can read my in-depth review and experiences here.

      Drop me any questions in the comments – always happy to help. 🙂

  • kenneth jackson

    I have a 13 month old german shepperd how canibreak him from chasing cars

    • Hi Kenneth,

      Thanks for your question.

      There are a few things you’ll need to do. The first step is to get into clicker training with your dog. This way you can teach him what you do want in a kind and science-based way.

      If you’re new to clicker training or you’re starting training from scratch, I highly recommend checking out a training program I recommend and use myself which will take you from the basics all the way through to very complex behaviors. You’ll also learn how to teach your dog focus and impulse control which are both essentials when teaching them not to dog things like chase cars, nuisance bark and even jumping.

      Here’s a full review I wrote, if you have any questions, just drop them in the comments.

      Chat soon,

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