As vets we often see dogs with injuries caused by another dog in the household. We can patch up the results of the fight. But owners don’t think to ask how to stop dogs fighting at home in the first place. Often we treat the injury and then have to send the animal home into the same high-risk environment. Which isn’t good for the dog or you.
At Pet Medical we aim to address the underlying cause of these disagreements so that they are not repeated.
Why do dogs that know each other fight?
Fallout between family members usually manifests around 18 months to 3 years of age, when the dogs are socially mature.
Fights can occur between dogs that know each other well and see each other often. These fights usually occur when dogs are unclear of their role within the household. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Another dog in the same house may be ill or die. There may be a new pet (dog or cat), visitors (animal or human) in the house for a long period of time. New babies or even simply being over-excited or fearful can lead to aggressive behaviour.
Fighting may then occur between dogs while they try to figure out what the change of circumstance means for their ranks and roles within the family.
Breeds that were originally used for guarding or fighting are more likely to fight. Dogs with poor social skills can be targets. Older animals can become victims of aggression or become aggressors due to irritability and pain.
Stop dogs fighting before they start
Fights are often triggered by the presence of a valuable resource, like food, toys, a special place and attention. Dog owners can prevent fights by identifying and managing the triggers.
Excitement leads to arousal. Arousal may lead to aggression. So situations such as the owner returning home or a strange dog walking past may lead to a fight between family friends.
There are subtle body language signals such as body stiffness, staring, circling and hair raising which can warn you that all is not well. In most instances walking away will diffuse the aggression. But these situations are best avoided.
How to deal with a dog fight
Should a fight occur, never interfere with hands or limbs. Instead, to stop dogs fighting try using a broomstick or a blanket thrown over the fighting pair. This may startle them enough to stop the fight. Lifting one dog up may exacerbate the aggression, so don’t do that. Best to put them in separate rooms and not re-integrate them until both parties have completely calmed down.
Dog fight wounds need immediate veterinary attention. Dogs “grab and shake” when they fight so there can be a lot of damage to skin and muscles that can’t be seen from the surface. Dogs also have lots of nasty bacteria in their mouths and wounds from bites are likely to get infected.
Most importantly you need to work out what started the fight so this situation can be avoided in future.