How to Break Up A Dog Fight


How to break up a dog fight

Hopefully, you’ll never have to break up a fight between dogs, but it could happen sooner or later, especially if you visit dog parks or work at a dog daycare.

Thankfully, most dog fights sound worse than they actually are. There’s a lot of growling, snarling and posturing, but you can often defuse the situation with a quick “hey!” or clapping your hands. Often enough, the dogs will just “shake off” and call it good.

Of course, that’s not always the case so I reached out to three professionals to get their advice on how to separate dogs in a serious fight.

How to break up a dog fight.

Throw water on the dogs.

Obviously, water is not always going to break up a dogfight, but it’s one of the easiest and safest options to try first.

If you have a hose or bucket of water available, you could spray the dogs, said Kaelin Munkelwitz, a professional dog trainer and founder of All Things Pups LLC.

“This should get them to back off each other,” she said.

You could also try a squirt bottle, especially if it is a less serious fight, said Joe Thomas, director of Motley Zoo Animal in Rescue Redmond, Wash. It’s not so much the water itself, but something new and unusual is happening, and that redirects their attention.

An air horn.

Most of us do not walk around carrying an air horn, but it can help.

“It totally will startle the dogs and get them to stop almost every time,” Thomas said. “The key is to have it handy.”

She said there are affordable, pocket-sized air horns that can work well.

Thomas also mentioned pepper spray as an option for breaking up a dog fight, especially if the air horn doesn’t work.

Should you reach in with your hands?

You will get a different answer to this question depending on who you ask, but most professionals agree there’s a big chance of getting bitten if you do reach in.

“Even your very gentle best friend will bite you when in a fight in an attempt to get to the other dog,” Thomas said. “This is how a lot of bites happen.”

Because of this, she has a rule never to reach into a dog fight.

If you absolutely have to reach in, one approach is to grab the dogs by their hind legs.

This is the approach professional dog trainer Carol Millman recommends. She is a trainer with Wag The Dog Pet Training in British Columbia.

“Each owner should grab their dog by the hind legs and lift them off the ground like handles of a wheelbarrow and then pull the dogs apart,” she said.

If the dogs won’t let go, she said to spray water of the dog’s nose so he will cough and have to let go.

Another option is to grab the dog on the back of the neck instead of the hind legs.

Munkelwitz said this method works better and she believes it reduces your risk of getting bitten.

Since dogs generally don’t like their back legs to be touched, their first instinct will be to snap back at whatever is grabbing their legs, she said. Instead, focus your attention on the dog who is the most worked up. Wait for the right moment so you can get a good grip on the back of the dog’s neck.

“Grab the back of the neck, closer to the bottom, where his or her collar is, and pull up,” she said.

Separate the dogs.

Once you’ve momentarily stopped the dogs from fighting, Munkelwitz said to make sure to separate the dogs.

“These dogs are still incredibly worked up, so be sure to get them as far away from each other as possible and fully remove them from the environment as fast as you possibly can.”

Related posts:

Dog bite prevention infographic

How to prevent dog bites

Have any of you ever had to break up a dog fight? Do you have any advice to share?


About Lindsay Stordahl

Lindsay Stordahl is a blogger for She has a black Lab mix named Ace and two naughty cats named Beamer and Scout. Lindsay owns a pet sitting business called Run That Mutt and also maintains the blog ... Add Lindsay to your Google+ circles at . You can follow Lindsay on Twitter @ThatMutt.

  1. I’ve had to break up a few fights, I was lucky enough on two occasions to be able to push both dogs into a lake. That stopped them. My dog, who is a bulldog/pit mix, will just clamp on and hold. After the initial growl and snap, he’s all business.
    Don’t you try this: i literally had to pry his jaws open one time. Two fingers in front of his nose into the gap between his upper teeth, and grabbing his bottom jaw. This opened his mouth and he released. He never tried to bite me, but this is a last resort. I think if I had an air horn (I do now) or water bottle, that might have worked. The important thing is not to panic, and try those other methods first.

  2. I have broken up dog fights as well. You have to be prepared to be bitten as the dogs don’t care who you are. Pry them apart. Keep your face away from them. If one is your dog- pick them up andove them or drag them away. Kick the other dog to keep it away if you need to. These fights can be life or death in seconds with dogs so quick- strong- forceful reactions are critical. I recommend grabbing them by the scruff of their necks to pull them apart. This could pinch them but they then will tend to let go of the other dog. Call for help from others if you can because you wil be limited on how long you can keep them apart.

  3. Thanks. This recently happened to me and I was prying the jaw of another dog off my little one. I was so afraid but didn’t know what else to do in the situation. I will have to invest in an air horn and/or pepper spray.

  4. My family rescued a pittbull , so sweet and well behaved, until she saw another dog (jack Russell) off lease (illegally) playing ball and darted after the ball, the other dog attacked and our pit clamped down on her back….my son pulled her jaw open with his hands….it was the most frightening experience I have ever seen,
    I have since worked with her on “leave it” and now, when she hears me say that Lucy stops and drops whatever she is doing…I also carry a small spray can in my pocket, it sprays air…and never let go of the lease!!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.