reality bites: expert advice on dealing with dog fights
In this dog-eat-dog world, it’s inevitable that you’ll one day witness a scuffle between two of man’s best friends. Whether at the dog park or in your own living room, dog fights can be scary to witness, and the aftermath may leave you shaky and wondering what to do next.
Dogs are like children; they can fight over anything and everything. Even dogs who have lived together (mostly) peacefully for years can have their issues. Dogs use fighting to determine their pack position, so sometimes fights are about being top dog. Other times, dogs are fighting to protect their resources. Food, toys, and even your attention are resources that they feel need protecting, and if their invisible boundaries are crossed, the occasional scuffle will ensue.
Having witnessed my own dog in more than one fight, I know that your first instinct will be to interfere to separate the bickering duo. Try to resist this urge (easier said than done, I know!). Chances are, the pups will sort out their issues on their own in a matter of seconds, even if to you it feels like minutes.
If you think the fight is serious and no one seems to be backing down, now you need to resist your second instinct, which is to reach in and grab a dog’s collar to pull him out of the fray. You will get bitten this way. There are just no two ways about it. Never attempt to separate fighting dogs by entering the ruckus yourself.
Dogs who are fighting have an adrenaline rush like no other. This causes them to not notice the pain they are experiencing, and it will cause them to not care who they bite during their fight. You will be an unintended victim, and I can assure you, your bite WILL hurt.
Yelling and screaming may only serve to escalate the fight, so try to remain calm. You can try to startle the dogs out of their fight by making a very loud noise, such as slamming a door. Startling them with a water hose is also a nice way to stop fights. If these things don’t work, try separating the dogs by getting a physical barrier between them (an open umbrella, a blanket, a chair, etc.).
Once the fighters have returned to their corners, take a deep breath and try to relax. Give your pet a thorough once-over. If there are wounds present, you will need to call on your veterinarian for treatment. Even minor bites are at risk for infection. Unless your veterinarian is a stone’s throw away, you might need to do a little bit of basic first aid before you head out.
For superficial wounds:
Stop the bleeding with direct pressure. If your pet allows it, clean the wound with mild soap and lots of water for rinsing. Apply a light bandage and then head on over to the veterinary appointment.
For deep wounds (those showing fat, muscle, or bone):
Stop the bleeding with direct pressure. Do not attempt to clean these wounds. Protect the wound from further contamination by covering it with a wet compress from your first aid kit. Immobilize the area as well as you can and then proceed to your appointment.
Dog fights and bites are just part of the package for some dogs, but here’s hoping that the old adage “once bitten, twice shy” will apply to yours. Luckily, now you know just what to do if your little boxer is caught in a brawl.