Reading a dogs body language can go a long way in the prevention of dog fights. Most fights occur because owners don’t know that their dog is uncomfortable or afraid. Dogs are reading each others body language all the time, in fact when someone says “She’s unpredictable around dogs”. What they’re saying is they had no idea that the dog they have approached is giving all sorts of signs that their dog is reading saying don’t come any closer, yet since they don’t know what to look for they had no idea a fight was about to erupt.
Body language is a dog’s first language and they are reading us and other dogs all the time. In the image below the bigger dog doesn’t like the pushiness of the approaching smaller dog and he is telling this dog with every part of his body that he’s not interested in playing. If both of these dogs aren’t well socialized a fight is quite probable. Understand that any dog can and will fight if they feel the need to defend themselves.
So what do we do when dogs fight? Often times the sounds of fighting dogs is worse than the actual fight. The first thing one must do is look around and make sure there are no people or dogs close by and if so redirect them to move away, calmly and safely. It is very common that other dogs even the friendliest of dogs will join in a fight so be sure to make sure the way is clear around the fighting dogs. The reaction to yell is actually a good one at this point or a making a loud noise with an object to see if this can startle them out of this excited stage. If there is a hose nearby, water can startle them enough to get them to stop for a moment where you can separate them. If the fight happens inside then throwing their water bowl or any bowl of water over the dogs may do the trick.
However, if you feel this is a full on fight that will not stop unless it is broken up then you must never reach for the collars of the dogs or try to split them up with your leg. Doing so will most often result in an unintentional bite to you. When dogs are fighting they are in a state of high excitement and will bite anything that gets in the way of the other dog. You can use an object, anything you can find nearby that is long enough or big enough to put in between them, i.e a chair, broomstick or even a blanket and once it’s between them you can separate them. If there is nothing around the best thing to do is to pull the hind legs up and away while you are moving backwards away from the other dog. Dogs aren’t like cats where they can reach around and bite you. Continue moving away with his hind end off the ground and when he disengages his hold and begins to calm down his state of excitement will lessen to the point where he is now actually aware of you. If the other dog comes at you again because you are alone you may have to be more savvy and have something to put in the way of the other dog, i.e the chair, blanket or object you tried initially before you grab hind legs. Once one of the dogs has lessened in this excited stage the other one oftentimes retreats but ready to defend himself if you weren’t successful in calming the other dog. So, being hyper aware of who you’re being, what your body language and energy is saying will help dissipate the excited energy level.
Once separated and the level of excitement has gone way down, move farther apart keeping a good distance away never turning away from the other dog so your body language is saying “Don’t even think about coming back for more.” You must remain focused and calm so that both dogs match your body language and feel it’s safe again. Only at this point should you check the dogs for injuries.
You can find this image and 59 other images on the Dog Decoder app to help you better understand your dog.