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What To Do If a Fight Breaks Out: Tips from Rick Alto, Certified Professional Trainer

Dog fights are your worst nightmare!

There are many reasons a dog fight can break out, and sometimes we will never know what caused a scuffle because we cannot communicate with our dogs. Supervising your dog and the others around your dog is the best way to avoid fights and to recognize dog body language that is inappropriate play. Play fighting is normal and is usually loud, bouncy, and exaggerated where dogs will take turns biting each other with wide open gaping mouths. If a dog keeps coming back for more, then it's play; however, it can morph into a fight if the dogs aren't socially savvy.

The number one rule is not to create another victim by putting yourself between fighting dogs!

Dogs are Apex predators and communicate with their mouths and teeth. Many owners are bit by their own dogs because a stressed dog is actually acting on primal instinct and will not recognize your hand.

A blast from an air horn is the safest and most effective way to break up a dog fight because it startles the dogs long enough for owners to grab their dogs and leash them up. This is why we require that you keep a leash on your person at all times. We have two Emergency Air Horns in bright orange boxes in both the large and small dog areas.

As a last resort, if the air horn is inoperable, I suggest the "Wheelbarrow Method" where two people each grab the hind legs of both fighting dogs and in a coordinated fashion, pull the dogs apart. Be very careful as dogs may redirect on you. Another reason that I don't like this method is because if dogs are truly locked onto each other, pulling them apart may not work and it can cause more damage. In this case, I use a break stick (strong flat stick) inserted behind the molars to pry open the jaws.

After the fight, check for injuries, exchange information and complete a FBDP Incident Report.

Rick Alto is a member of the Friends of Brewster Dog Park Board of Directors and the owner of ExFed Dog Training.

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