Fights happen… particularly among dogs. It doesn’t mean that a dog a bad, nor does it mean that an owner is negligent. Dogs evolved as hunters, and as a result all dogs, whether living in the wild or pampered in a home, are born with innate predatory aggression. What’s more, dog play often mimics fighting, and this play fighting can easily turn into fighting for a variety of reasons.
As more and more dogs and humans are using the dog park these days, it’s important that we do what we can to understand the nature of dog fighting, and what to do if a fight occurs.
Here are some of the things that experts say about dogs and fighting:
Why dogs fight
- Overstimulation – Overexcitement during play can spur fighting for a number of reason including: one dog accidentally hurts the another, or one dog’s level of excitement become too much higher than the other.
- Redirected Aggression – When one dog can’t get something he/she wants or becomes overly frustrated, he/she may take it out on a dog who just happens to be nearby.
- Possessiveness – Dogs may become over-possessive of a their owner, a toy, a random found object, or even another dog.
- Territorial/Protective – A dog may become agitated if a strange dog approaches his/her area, food, and/or owner.
- Bad Matches – Sometimes dogs simply don’t get along. There may something about the other dog that a dog may not like, whether it’s the dog’s personality, manner of play, smell or other.
How to avoid dog fights
- Always keep watch over your dog, and separate him/her from others if they look like they are on the verge of aggression or being aggressed on.
- Know your dog. Be familiar with how your dog plays, and with the signs he/she displays when he/she is fearful or on the verge of aggression.
- When your dog meets a new dog friend, let their owner know your dog’s play style – aggressive, rough, timid, possessive, etc. – so that you can be aware of any possible bad-matches.
- If your dog is not neutered, and he dog is playing with a new dog friend, let their owner know. It’s not uncommon for dogs to be aggressive towards another dog solely because he is not neutered.
- If your dog is in heat, refrain from using the dog park . This commonly causes dogs to act differently and sometimes erratically (both the dog in heat, and the dogs around her).
- If your dog is aggressive, refrain from using the dog park when other dogs are present. If your dog has a known history of having fights, it doesn’t necessarily mean he/she is a bad dog, but it’s still best, none-the-less to avoid any possible confrontations.
How to spot when a fight may be brewing
- The dogs’ bodies get very stiff. The hair on a dog’s upper back are raised. The dog is closed mouth, curled lip, low warning growl.
- One dog being too dominant over the other. Dogs will usually take turns pinning each other down while playing, pay close attention if one is constantly pinning the other down.
- Movements will be quick and efficient – no bouncing, silly movements.
- Fearful posture. Ears will be pinned flat, lips curled back, snarling, tails tucked, yelping.
What do do when a fight occurs
- Remain calm. Dogs can feed off your energy, so if you become panicked or angry, it may make the dogs more frightened and/or aggressive.
- Remove your dog from the situation, if, and only if it is your dog involved. Do NOT intervene if you do not know the dogs involved. If your dog is present but not involved, please take hold of him/her regardless, as some dogs are naturally drawn to fight scenes and their proximity may inadvertently escalate the situation.
- Check for injuries – Once dogs are separated, immediately check for injuries. If no injuries are found, consider giving your dog a bath when you arrive home, as this can uncover wounds that may be hidden by long fur. It’s recommended that you have your dog checked by a vet if any injuries are found. Wounds that look small, can be more serious than they appear and/or may be susceptible to infection.
- Dog owners are liable for any harm that their dog causes. Owners involved must exchange names, phone numbers, and dog license numbers. Note: Often homeowner/renter’s insurance will cover damage that their dog may have caused. It’s also important to exchange information for dog owners to be able to contact each other in case the vet need further information.
- Dogs involved in a fight should be removed from the dog park. After information is exchanged, all dogs involved in the fight should be removed. Even after the situation appears to have been resolved, the dogs’ adrenaline may continue to run high, so it’s best to remove the dogs until you are sure he/she has calmed down.
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