Monday, March 2, 2009
Today there was a dog fight on Brangus Lane. This is not terribly unusual, and usually the fights are not serious. But there are a lot of dogs, and a lot of male dogs, and a few of these dogs are always contesting the dominance hierarchy.
Today a dog who used to live on Brangus Lane came back for a visit. He had been living in town for a year. He was in his yard when I came walking up followed by five dogs from the neighborhood. One of these dogs is a big yellow mutt who is normally not particularly aggressive. But for some reason, he and this "new" dog got in a fight.
The fight stopped when a human threw a book at one of the dogs and I kicked the other one. That was lucky! But what is the right way to stop a dog fight? I did a little research on the internet and found out that there is some consensus about what to do and what not to do.
First, yelling at the dogs doesn't help. In fact it can make the fight worse if the humans get upset. That tends to escalate the dogs' aggression.
It is not advisable to try to pull the dogs apart using their collars. Neither of these dogs were wearing collars, but putting your hands near the heads of the dogs may result in a bad bite, even from a dog you know. The dog is upset and not thinking straight and may accidentally bite you.
The method most recommended requires two people. Each person grabs the hind leg of a dog, raises the hindquarters of the dog into the air, and backs away from the other dog, making circles, so that the dog has to concentrate to keep his balance. That takes his mind off the fight. Don't let go, or the dogs may start fighting again. Put one dog in an enclosure first.
If you are alone when a fight happens, get a leash, loop it around the back leg of one dog, pull him away from the fight, and tie him to something or put him in a pen. Then get behind the other dog, and grab his hind leg, backing away in circles, as described above. This may take a long time, but it's the safest way to break up a fight when you're alone.
Let's hope it never comes to that! My observation is that dogs resolve most of their dominance issues well, without violence, if people don't interfere. If you see two dogs displaying dominance body language and posture, and possibly growling, don't start yelling. Usually the less dominant dog will back down. That's what you want! Let them settle it peacefully. Also I have observed that most dog fights are brief affairs where neither party is injured. Again, usually the dogs can work out their issues without "assistance" from humans, which usually makes things worse.
This is not to say that humans should never interfere when dogs fight. But assess the situation first; stay cool; and don't stick your hand into the fight!