Sunday, July 7, 2013

What should I do if a dog fight starts?

I always enjoy watching Snoopy fight the Red Baron. However, real dog fights are not a matter to be taken lightly.

The issue came back into my mind when I read a story on the news about a dog fight that happened in a Petco Store in Austin, TX. The local ABC TV affiliate in Austin has the story on their website at .

Appearently, this particular Petco is located in a higher crime area than the one at which I worked in Peachtree City, GA. The Petco in Austin felt it necessary to hire an off-duty law enforcement officer as a security guard. A fight broke out when a dog got away from its handler and attacked another dog. For some reason that is obscure and nebulous the off-duty law enforcement officer decided that the best way to handle the situation was to fire two shots from her handgun into the dog who was the aggressor. This all happened inside the store.

I realize that I may not have all the facts regarding this situation however, it appears to me at least ,from my reading of the story, that there are multiple things wrong here. Readers and friends, I have been around dogs for the vast majority of my life. I have seen many fights break out among dogs over the years. I have never used deadly force to break up a fight. There are too many less dangerous options.

It is particularly remarkable that the shots, in this case, were fired inside a store that was open and presumably had other customers inside. The officer did move folks out of the line of fire before killing the dog however that does not give me much comfort regarding the situation.

I am no physicist nor am I a firearms expert. However, my common sense and rudimentary knowledge of physics and firearms leads me to the conclusion that discharging a firearm under any circumstances in this type of environment was a very dangerous undertaking. Even with people outside the line of fire, the projectile fired from the weapon could have ricocheted off any number of surfaces and hurt someone or some other animal.

I am also perplexed about why the security guard was handling this situation in the first place. This store presumably has a dog trainer. I was the Dog Trainer at the store at which I worked. As part of my training to become a Petco Certified Dog Trainer I was taught the proper procedures to use in the unlikely event that a dog fight broke out in my store or in one of my classes. The store management and other staff knew that I was qualified to respond to urgent situations involving dogs in the store (a dog fight, a dog running loose in the store, etc.) . I was never armed and would not have shot the dog twice in any attempt to break up a fight.

Okay..... Now that you have a wonderful example of the absolute wrong way to handle a dog fight perhaps I should explain the proper way. It is not rocket science. Dogs are not all that complex.

The best way to address this is prevention.  When you are out in public with your little buddies, I strongly suggest that you adhere to a three foot rule regarding other unfamiliar dogs. I always maintain a three foot separation between my dogs and other unfamiliar dogs. Remember, if the other dog is unfamiliar to you, there is a great deal of important information regarding the other animal that you do not have.  If the other dog has not been properly socialized or is not up to date on vaccines an up close encounter with your animal could be dangerous and ill-advised. Some dogs have severe dog aggression issues sometimes these dogs are great with people but dangerous with other dogs. This can happen for a variety of reasons but, for our purposes here just realize that some dogs are great with people but very aggressive and perhaps ever territorial with other dogs.

No matter how careful we are however, sometimes things, beyond our immediate control, occur and we are confronted with a dog fight. Sometimes they are just little disagreements that can be broken up pretty easily and are more noise than actual fight. Other times however, they are very dangerous for the dogs and any people who attempt to break them up. So, you must understand how to do this properly.

First, as I have written before, dogs take their cues from you. Remain as calm as possible! If you yell at the dogs and are overly agitated the dogs sense this and it makes things worse.

Next do whatever you can to divert their attention from a distance. Make a noise. There are little air horn like devices sold for this purpose. In a pet store you could kick a shelving unit or something like that
to get their attention. If the fighting does not immediately stop try throwing a blanket or towel or something over or between the dogs. We would utilize the big dog beds for this purpose at the store.

If this still does not stop the fight, you can use water. We always had a bowl or two of water for the dogs in the training area. These can be dumped on the dogs. We also sold citronella spray. The dogs hate the smell of this stuff and it can be useful in redirecting their attention.

In the extremely unlikely event that the above measures fail, you will have to take more up close physical action. Please read this carefully. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU GRAB THE COLLAR OR THE FRONT OF THE DOGS THAT ARE FIGHTING. You don't want to be this close to the mouths and more importantly the teeth. If possible have a helper handle one dog while you handle the other. Grad the HIND legs. In order to prevent further injury to the dog grab the leg as close as possible to the dog's body. This will prevent it from twisting. Lift up kinda like you would lift a wheel barrow. Then spin the dogs away from each other. Get them as far away from each other as possible. And get them medical attention if needed.

Remember also, any breed can be aggressive and dangerous under certain circumstances. So, please be careful with your little buddy when meeting new dogs. I used to always cringe when I saw strangers in the store letting their dogs sniff each other on leash in the store. This is not a good idea. A great deal of problems can be averted by simply following the three foot rule.

Also learning about dog body language is helpful. I will be happy to teach you what I have learned over the years about reading a dog's body language. Many times situations can be averted if you just know the warning signs and entirely avoid dogs that are showing aggressive or stressful body language. I give these stressed or aggressive guys much more than three feet. It is beyond the scope of this blog to teach the body language. But if you are interested, please contact me and I will happy to teach you what I have learned.

Be safe out there with your little buddies!

Till Next Time


William Moore
William Moore Canine Training

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