Pet Connection: What’s the best way to break up a dog fight?

Q: My friend’s dog was attacked recently, and she didn’t know what to do. What’s the best way to break up a dogfight?

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A: That’s a scary situation. There’s a lot of sound and fury, and the very real potential for injury to the dog being attacked and any person trying to break up the fight. One of my friends is currently sporting a heavily bandaged hand after trying to separate her two squabbling Jack Russell terriers.

The first rule of canine fight club: Don’t grab the dogs’ collars and try to pull them apart. Putting your hands anywhere near their heads is a surefire way to get bitten. The fastest way to respond is with a verbal interruption.

Using your loudest, deepest voice, yell, “No! Knock it off!” Dog trainer Liz Palika says to avoid screaming. The high-pitched sound can excite the attacking dog further. If you have quick access to a hose, use it to spray the combatants. The shock of cold water may distract them enough that they separate. Citronella spray or pepper spray can serve as a deterrent as well. Try to stick a broom or mop between them, or bang a couple of pots or other noisy objects together.

If you must intervene physically, grab the attacking dog’s hind legs and lift them up as high as you can. This forces him to concentrate on staying upright. Move backward, still holding up the legs, and keeping well out of his way. This is best done if there’s one person grabbing each dog at the same time and pulling them away from each other.

Try to prevent fights by paying attention to your surroundings while you’re walking your dog. If you see someone approaching with a dog and you’re unsure of how they’ll react to each other, turn around and walk away. At coffee shops or other public spaces, steer clear of dogs who are tied up.

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton.