How to Prevent Dog Fights

Aggressive behavior in dogs can be scary, whether it’s in your home or in public. Luckily, you can take steps to prevent it. If you have 2 or more dogs that are resource aggressive, meaning they fight over food or toys, you can take steps to keep them separated during stressful times. If your dogs just tend to fight with each other, you can lower aggression by changing some of the environmental factors. When you’re in public, take steps to stay away from stray dogs, as you never know when they’ll want to start a fight. When you’re introducing new dogs, make sure to do it slowly and in a neutral location to keep them from fighting.

[Edit]Steps

[Edit]Preventing Resource Aggression at Home

  1. Feed your dogs 2-3 times a day on a strict schedule. Fights over food often stem from feeling insecure about it. To help tone that down, try spreading your dogs’ food out over the day so they get to eat more often, as it reassures them you will continue to feed them. Also, make sure to use a set schedule. If they can predict when they will get fed, they will feel more secure about their food.[1]
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    • Once your dogs are on a schedule, they will know when feeding time is. They will bug you until you feed them, so try to stay on time!
  2. Give your dogs an amount of food they can finish in less than 5 minutes. Only feed your dogs as much as they need during their meal times so they don’t leave any food in their bowls. That way, your dogs will only focus on eating their meal rather than fighting over food. Aim to give your dogs ⅔-1 cup (148-224 g) of food per meal so they have 2 cups (448 g) total throughout the day.[2]
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    • Don’t move the bowls before your dogs are finished eating since it could increase how protective they are of their food and may make them more aggressive.
  3. Move your dogs to separate rooms to feed them to calm aggression. If you have dogs who constantly try to steal each other’s food and end up in nipping wars, then this may be your best option. Put them in rooms where they can’t see each other and then feed them.[3]
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    • This is also a good idea for when you’re giving them treats or toys. If you know your dogs are going to fight over a treat or toy, take them to separate rooms. Make sure each dog gets something, though, as leaving one dog out will cause tension.[4]
  4. Discourage your dog from guarding its food by training it over time. Part of food aggression is territorially based, so your dog will want to guard its bowl. Start by standing away and asking the dog, “What do you have there?” in a conversational tone. Toss a small treat into the bowl after you talk to them, and repeat the process every few seconds. As the dog gets more comfortable, start taking steps closer to the bowl and feeding them treats. Once the dog feels safe when you’re near it while it’s eating, try lifting the bowl away.[5]
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    • Training your dog so it doesn’t guard its food can take a bit of time. Stay the same distance away and continue training if the dog doesn’t respond or is still aggressive while it eats.
    • If your dog is still actively aggressive about its food, then seek professional help from a behaviorist to help.
  5. Put away food, toys, and bones when you’re not there to supervise. If you have resource aggressive dogs, these items can cause fights to break out, which could be dangerous if you’re not there. Only let your dogs have them when you can see them, and put them back up when you’re not around, even if you’re just in another room.[6]
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[Edit]Reducing Other Types of Aggression

  1. Work on obedience training with your dogs. Obedience training won’t necessarily keep your dogs from fighting. However, they are more likely to stop fighting when you command them if they have this kind of training. Take your dogs to an obedience school or work on training commands like “sit” and “stay” at home.
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    • Try the clicker training approach. With this method, you teach your dog that the sound of a clicker button is a good thing by rewarding it with a treat as soon as it hears the click. Then, you can use it as a way to reinforce the behavior you want, like clicking when your dog sits.
  2. Have your dog spayed or neutered if a vet recommends it. Intact dogs have more hormones running through their bodies, which could lead to more fights, particularly in male dogs. However, getting your dog spayed or neutered could make your dogs more competitive if they have similar natures or behaviors. Talk with your vet or a behaviorist that’s familiar with your dogs to see if spaying or neutering them is the best choice.
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    • If you can’t afford to have your pup spayed or neutered at a veterinarian, look around for low-cost clinics in your area. Sometimes, local shelters will offer this service inexpensively.
  3. Crate your dogs when you’re not around. While some people consider crates cruel, most dogs feel safe and secure in their crates, as it acts as a den for them. Plus, crating will keep your dogs from acting aggressively toward one another when you’re not there to stop it.[7]
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    • Make sure a crate is just big enough for your dog to stand up fully, sit up, and lay down. If it’s too big, it won’t feel secure, but you don’t want your dog to feel uncomfortable. Crate training can also help you housebreak a dog, and it can be a good way to break up fights if you send the dogs to separate crates.
    • If you don’t want to use crates, try leaving your dogs in separate rooms.
  4. Try a calming pheromone diffuser for dogs. The pheromones in these sprays or diffusers are shown to decrease stress in dogs. If your dogs have fear-based aggression, it may help calm them down and lower the number of fights in your home.[8]
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    • You can find these diffusers in most pet stores and online. You just plug them into the wall and refill them as they empty.
    • This may not work for all aggressive dogs, but it doesn’t hurt to try it.
  5. Visit the veterinarian if aggressive behaviors suddenly appear. If your dog’s behavioral problems recently appeared, they may have an underlying condition. When your dog is in pain or not feeling well, they may lash out other dogs around them or even you. Get your dog into the veterinarian to see if anything is wrong.
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    • You should see the veterinarian if you notice any change in behavior with your dogs. You never know what could be behind it.
  6. Consult an expert if the dog fighting continues. If you end up having to take one of your dogs to the veterinarian because of a fight, it may be time to call in expert help. An expert will observe your dog’s behavior and give you tips on how to prevent fights. They can also help you to train your dogs to follow commands.[9]
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    • To find a trainer or dog behaviorist, ask your vet for a recommendation or look up reviews online.

[Edit]Keeping Your Dog Safe in Public

  1. Put your dog on a leash at all times in public. This is as much for your dog’s safety as it is for the safety of other dogs. If your dog isn’t on a leash, you can’t pull it out of a situation when things go bad. Plus, you don’t want to be responsible if your dog happens to act aggressively, injuring another dog.[10]
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    • You don’t know how your dog will react if another dog starts a fight. Your dog may fight back and seriously injure it, and in some cases, local laws may require it be put down. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
    • If you know that your dog has anxiety or behavioral problems that make it aggressive, get a leash that has the word “Nervous” printed on it so other owners are aware of it.
  2. Back away from other unleashed dogs. If you’re with a dog and another one runs up off a leash, it’s best to get out of the situation, as you don’t know how that dog will react. Don’t turn your back on the dog, which could encourage aggression, but do try to get away by walking backward slowly.
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    • If your dog is small enough, pick it up as you back away.
  3. Watch for signs of aggression in your dog and other dogs. These can include growling and snarling, as well as standing up tall. They may have stiff posture. Look at their ears, which may be raised, along with the hair on the head and back. They’re also likely to move slowly with purposeful steps while they stare at your dog.
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    • If you notice these signs, get away from other dogs if at all possible.
    • If you’re taking your dog for a walk and you suspect that it may get aggressive with another dog on your path, pass the other dog in a wide arc so the dogs don’t feel like they need to confront one another.
  4. Try saying “sit” or “stay” to the other dog but don’t yell or scream. Many dogs have learned obedience training, so if you say these to a dog, you may be able to get them to stay back. Just use a firm, commanding tone in a clear voice.
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    • Yelling and screaming will make the situation worse, as the other dog may take it as aggression.[11]
  5. Toss a handful of tasty treats at an approaching dog. If a dog is coming toward you and you’re not sure if it’s friendly, you can use treats to slow down its approach. If you throw them toward the dog, they’ll often stop to look around for more tasty morsels.[12]
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    • Try chicken jerky for dogs, pieces of cheese, or other types of dried meat.
    • Use the time to get you and your dog out of the way!
  6. Hold an umbrella out to shield yourself and your pup from dogs. When a dog is coming your way and looking aggressive, this can be a simple way to buy yourself some time. Open the umbrella and hold it out in front of you. It won’t keep a dog away for long, but it may be enough time for their owners to show up or for you to grab another distraction.[13]
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    • Make sure to carry an umbrella with you at all times if you want to use this trick.
  7. Squirt an approaching dog with water to startle it into stopping. Use a water bottle that has a pop-up lid since they squirt better. Then, when a dog comes your way that’s not on a leash, squirt the water it in its face to keep it from getting too close to you and your dog.[14]
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    • Just be sure not to drink all the water while you’re walking!
    • You could also use a small water gun or even a spray bottle if you prefer.
  8. Carry a break stick with you when you might run into loose dogs. If your dog does get into a fight, you can use a break stick to wedge a dog’s mouth apart. It has a rounded end to make it safe for the dog. Use it to pry open a dog’s mouth during an intense fight. Then try to back away slowly.[15]
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    • Another option is to carry a citronella spray for dogs. This startling smell is sometimes enough to break up a dog fight.[16]

[Edit]Introducing New Dogs to Your Home

  1. Get dogs of the opposite sex to discourage fighting. In a pack in the wild, males and females would form separate groups. Therefore, in a home, they’re less likely to fight than 2 males or 2 females. When looking for dogs, think about picking one of the opposite sex to bring into your home.[17]
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    • If you have more than 2 dogs, try keeping the males and females even.
  2. Gather up beds, food bowls, and toys in your home before bringing the dog home. If the new dog tries to take one of these toys, your current pups may get aggressive over them. It’s best to start them out in a home free of these territorial possessions.[18]
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    • You can give them back in a week or two, but provide new toys for the dog you’re bringing home.
    • In the meantime, let your current dogs play with their toys in a separate room.
    • If possible, bring the dog’s smell home first. That is, take a shirt or towel and rub it all over the new dog. Put it in your home in the area the dog will be sleeping and let your other dog or dogs smell it all over to get used to the scent.[19]
  3. Allow the dogs to meet in a neutral location outside your home. Pick a place such as a park or someone else’s backyard for your dogs to meet. That way, your current dog won’t feel compelled to protect its territory.[20]
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    • However, don’t take your current dog with you when you go to pick up your new one. You won’t be able to manage them both properly in the car.
    • If you have more than 1 dog at home, have them each meet the new dog this way. Take them out one-by-one to meet the dog in a neutral location. That way, the new dog has a chance to get used to each one.[21]
  4. Leash both dogs and have someone else handle one of them. It’s best to keep both dogs on a leash so that if a fight does break out, you can easily separate them. Have someone else handle one dog by holding on to its leash while you hold on to the other dog’s leash. It will be impossible to pull them apart if it’s just you handling both of them.[22]
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    • Make sure you each keep a close eye on the dog you’re handling. Look for signs of aggression, such as snarling, growling, or raised hackles, and if you see these signs, pull them apart.[23]
  5. Walk along together with the other dog for a short period. Instead of just bringing them face to face, come up alongside the person handling the other dog. Just walk together for a little ways and let the dogs start getting used to each other.[24]
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    • They may ignore each other, and that’s fine.
  6. Let the dogs sniff each other briefly. After 5 minutes or so, stop and let the dogs touch noses and introduce themselves to each other. Make sure to keep the leash tight so they can’t suddenly lunge at each other. Keep this interaction brief, as you don’t want them to start getting aggressive.[25]
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    • If they start to seem aggressive, pull them apart and try again in a few minutes.
  7. Mix play or walking with short interactions until the dogs are calm. Keep alternating between short interactions where the dogs sniff each other and play, obedience training, or walking side-by-side. That way, the dogs can get to know each other, but they won’t have much time to get aggressive before you’re distracting them with something fun again.[26]
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    • If the dogs seem aggressive, pull them apart and try a short introduction again in a bit, though keep them a little farther apart from each other so they can’t touch.[27]
    • Once the dogs seem less excited and calm, you can likely take them home together.
  8. Put your current dog(s) away while you show the new dog around your home. Place your current dogs in one room and shut the door. With the new dog on a leash, lead it around your home so it can see where the food, water, and beds are. Show it where the outside door is and then take it outside to see where to go to the bathroom.[28]
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  9. Keep your dogs separated for a few days. Put the new dog in a smaller room while giving your current dog or dogs the run of your home. That way, they can get acclimated to each other’s smells through the door or baby gate. Plus, a smaller territory will help your new dog feel less overwhelmed at first.[29]
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    • When you do allow them together, supervise them until you’re sure they won’t be aggressive. If you need to go out or if you’re going to bed, put them in separate areas or crates so they can’t fight. If they show signs of aggression or get overzealous while playing, keep them apart for 5-10 minutes before letting them try again.[30]

[Edit]Tips

  • Learn the difference between play fighting and real fighting. If your dog is play fighting, they’ll bounce around and take turns biting. Their mouths will stay open, rather than trying to close down. If the dogs are truly fighting, they’ll growl, snarl, raise their hackles, and try to bite down at the same time as the other dog.

[Edit]Warnings

  • Never try to get between 2 fighting dogs, as they can redirect on you. You could end up severely injured.

[Edit]References

  1. http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/6-ways-to-prevent-feeding-time-from-turning-into-a-food-fight
  2. http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/6-ways-to-prevent-feeding-time-from-turning-into-a-food-fight
  3. http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/6-ways-to-prevent-feeding-time-from-turning-into-a-food-fight
  4. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/mine-mine-mine-tips-to-preventing-resource-guarding/
  5. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/food-guarding
  6. http://www.washingtonpashelter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Stopping-and-Avoiding-a-Dog-Fight.pdf
  7. http://www.washingtonpashelter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Stopping-and-Avoiding-a-Dog-Fight.pdf
  8. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Efficacy-of-dog-appeasing-pheromone-in-reducing-and-Tod-Brander/51eae95f7eeb7a08357334162b8005312db99310
  9. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/mine-mine-mine-tips-to-preventing-resource-guarding/
  10. http://www.washingtonpashelter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Stopping-and-Avoiding-a-Dog-Fight.pdf
  11. https://sheltermedicine.vetmed.ufl.edu/files/2015/02/breaking-up-dog-fight.pdf
  12. https://www.rspcaqld.org.au/blog/trending-now/off-leash-dogs
  13. https://www.rspcaqld.org.au/blog/trending-now/off-leash-dogs
  14. https://www.rspcaqld.org.au/blog/trending-now/off-leash-dogs
  15. https://www.lanecounty.org/government/county_departments/public_works/general_services/animal_services/tips_for_pit_bull_owners
  16. https://sheltermedicine.vetmed.ufl.edu/files/2015/02/breaking-up-dog-fight.pdf
  17. https://www.texvetpets.org/article/why-do-dogs-fight/
  18. https://www.luckydoganimalrescue.org/articles/tips-introducing-new-dog-your-household-pack
  19. https://www.luckydoganimalrescue.org/articles/tips-introducing-new-dog-your-household-pack
  20. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/blog/introducing-new-dog-home-resident-dogs/
  21. https://www.luckydoganimalrescue.org/articles/tips-introducing-new-dog-your-household-pack
  22. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/blog/introducing-new-dog-home-resident-dogs/
  23. https://www.luckydoganimalrescue.org/articles/tips-introducing-new-dog-your-household-pack
  24. https://www.luckydoganimalrescue.org/articles/tips-introducing-new-dog-your-household-pack
  25. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/blog/introducing-new-dog-home-resident-dogs/
  26. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/blog/introducing-new-dog-home-resident-dogs/
  27. https://www.luckydoganimalrescue.org/articles/tips-introducing-new-dog-your-household-pack
  28. https://www.luckydoganimalrescue.org/articles/tips-introducing-new-dog-your-household-pack
  29. https://www.luckydoganimalrescue.org/articles/tips-introducing-new-dog-your-household-pack
  30. https://www.luckydoganimalrescue.org/articles/tips-introducing-new-dog-your-household-pack
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