==> Why dog bite styles and dog fight styles are important?

Because with a dog fight, we better know our options! :-)

> Note: The prior Periodical How to Stop a Dog Fight is a must-read before this one <

Dog Fight Styles and Dog Bite Styles

Once you have seen a few dog fights - not dog play (see the prior Periodical for clear differences) - you will have noticed that different dogs may use different dog fight techniques or dog fight styles, right?

Dog fight styles and dog bite styles

  1. A few dogs hardly bite at all, they use primarily their body. Judokas. Often wrestlers.
  2. Other dogs hardly use their body, but their mouth moves wildly and bites everywhere. Genuine aggressor.
  3. And other dogs use their body until they get one "good bite". Strategists.
  4. Most dogs release the bite quickly.
  5. Only a few "strategists" will hold the bite - these dogs either pull or shake their head.
  6. Some dogs remain almost on the spot and bite only what they can reach from there. Confident boss.
  7. Most dogs retreat to a safer distance after biting.
  8. Other dogs make a few steps after the opponent or victim to bite it again. Boxer (not only the breed).
  9. And other dogs will literally run after and pursue the opponent or victim. Hunter.

Did you notice?

Why helpful?

multiple dog fightObviously it is VERY helpful in order to break up a dog fight that we know which kind of dog(s) we are dealing with. Because we better make sure to adapt our strategy and measures to stop the dog fight, so that we avoid getting bitten ourselves!

Well, at least I myself am not keen to get bitten. So let's assume here you aren't either. ;-)

This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

Determining factors

The problem however is: Dog fight styles and dog bite styles aren't totally breed-dependent.

When we see a dog fight of say, our German Shepherd and a Boxer, we can't simply assume that the boxer won't come after our dog (9) when we call our dog away (possible if behavior-trained) or pull our dog away (necessary if obedience-trained)! An individual Boxer may well pursue our GSD, while another Boxer does not.

Thus, next to dog breed, the individual dog's upbringing seems to have major impact on the dog's fight and bite style too. For example, I've seen some Pitbulls of type 3-5-6-7 as per my loose classification above - although most Pitbulls seem to be rather of type 3-5-9: Pitbulls typically pursue the opponent or victim that got a chance to get away.

However, the good point is: Many (but not all) dogs seem to have their breed-specific fight and bite style shining through. Plus, as you know from the prior Periodical, we will always first 'calmly' watch an ongoing dog fight for a few seconds - while considering our options - before we even think about intervention!

dog fightSure, our dog may get hurt in these few seconds, but frankly, it's much more likely that both our dog and we ourselves get much more hurt when we hastily intervene wrongly. The goal with stopping a dog fight should always be, well, to stop it - not to unconsciously behave in a way that motivates the other dog to "seek its chance" and pursue us and bite again! :-(

Dog bite style differences

By far the most critical difference between dog bite styles, in terms of us to remain safe, is that:

  • Dogs of the Pitbull class typically make a single bite and hold and pull or shake - and they pursue if the opponent or victim manages to get away (3-5-9)
  • Most other dogs make one quick bite and release - and they retreat (3-4-7), or if in an aggressive (stressed) state they bite wildly, nonetheless they release and retreat after biting (2-4-7)

In case you forgot, dogs typically grouped in the Pitbull class: Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and Bulldog.

Also note that - while they don't hold the bite (5) - the following dog breeds typically do not retreat (7) but go after the opponent or victim (9): Presa Canario, Cane Corso, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, Presa Mallorquin, Tosa Inu, Wolf Hybrid, and similar dog breeds/mixes.

These dogs are probably the most dangerous dogs in a fight, because they instantly inflict multiple bite wounds (with or without pulling or shaking their head), and they pursue their opponent or victim. In other words: These two groups of dogs leave you little chance. :-(

However, while it is very helpful to take a good look at the dog breeds involved in a dog fight that you are facing, keep in mind that genetics is only one factor determining dog behavior. And although genetics is likely to be the key factor in a dog fight, the other major factor determining dog behavior is the upbringing and training - but this you can't know for a dog that is not your own!

This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

dog fightThere are of course several different approaches and hence different terms used as regards dog bite classification - see for example Cara Shannon's dog bite project site. But I couldn't find a single combined discussion of dog bite and dog fight styles, although of course in real-life situations they must be looked at together because dogs use them together.

Cara Shannon differentiates between:

  • (front teeth) bite and retreat*
  • (molar teeth) pressure bite and retreat*
  • (molar teeth) pressure bite and hold
  • (molar teeth) pressure bite and hold and shake

* In our terminology here: release the bite

It would also make sense to differentiate between:

  • snap: quick front teeth bite and release, in the heat of the moment
  • snatch: quick front teeth bite and pull
  • pressure bite (molar teeth) and release
  • pressure bite and hold
  • pressure bite and hold and shake

Why helpful?

Why at all differentiate between dog bite styles?

Because the bite style or bite type determines the severity of the inflicted wound and it reflects the dog's conscious bite temptation or subconscious bite reflex (see the Periodical on Bite Inhibition). Thus it will determine the legal consequences of the dog's actions and the financial impact on you! :-|

Don't just think of: dog bite - injury.

Always consider the whole chain of events and its ramifications: dog bite - injury - pain - wound - can't work - income loss - law suit - animal control officers - neighbors - insurance premium - etc!

Dog fight style differences

[wpsharely id="4431"]

Again, in real-life situations that can affect us any day, the key difference between dog fight styles probably is:

  • Does the dog release and retreat after a bite?
  • Or does the dog hold the bite (possibly even while pulling or shaking its head) and pursue when the opponent or victim managed to escape from the bite?

dog fightDogs that hold the bite typically also pursue, they do not give up if the opponent or victim managed to escape from the bite. This is why dogs that hold the bite (5) bear an inherently greater risk to the public (and you if you intervene!) than dogs that release the bite and retreat to a safer distance (4-7) - which is ingrained in the genetics of most dogs. Gladly though, dogs of the category 3-5-9 are rather rare (typically only dogs of the Pitbull class).

Sadly though, dogs of the category 2-9 are more common: Dogs that are permanently stressed, because the dog owner's behavior doesn't give the dog a chance to "switch off" (see the Prime Secret about dogs). In a dog fight, these dogs bite wildly and multiple times.

This is very similar for dogs and people:

Stress --> Aggression --> (verbal) Attacks on innocent bystanders

Once again: Stress leads to aggression, and aggression directs itself indiscriminately! With people as well as with dogs. This is why a permanently stressed dog may no longer retreat after a bite, but instead bite again and again.

Typically this is the end result of a long series of dog (owner) behavior problems that could have (and should have!) been noticed and addressed earlier. A related great book is Ali Brown's Scaredy Dog! f.

Why helpful?

Because the dog fight style determines the number of inflicted wounds and it reflects the dog's conscious bite temptation and perseverance.

Applied to initial watching

So when, as advised, you initially 'calmly' watch an ongoing dog fight for a few seconds before you even consider to intervene, consciously watch out for all the factors shown in the prior Periodical How to Stop a Dog Fight, plus the above dog bite styles and dog fight styles.

This should keep you MUCH safer in case you consciously decide to intervene!


Checklist * (see note at the bottom)

  • To be able to effectively and safely break up a dog fight, it's helpful that we can instantly identify the dogs' fight style and bite style (see the list above)
  • The two key determining factors are breed and upbringing
  • Thus even when our dog is in a fight with a dog of recognizable breed, we must not rely on the breed's likely bite and fight style
  • To be safe, we must first 'calmly' watch the dog fight for a few seconds, to consciously notice all involved dogs' behavior
  • Only when we feel we've seen enough, we consider intervention
  • By far the most critical difference between dog bite and fight styles:

1. Most dogs release and retreat after one quick bite (3-4-7)

2. A few dogs however hold the bite (and pull or shake their head), and they pursue (3-5-9; mainly dogs of the Pitbull class)

3. And a few other dogs bite multiple times in quick succession, and they pursue too (2-4-9; mainly dogs of the breeds listed above)

  • Permanently stressed dogs (see above why) also fall in this last category - only that they don't necessarily pursue their opponent or victim beyond a few steps (2-4-8)
  • Groups 2 and 3 above bear the most risk in a dog fight, both for our dog and for us (if we decide to intervene)
  • This is another reason why our own behavior and dog training approach should ensure that at least our own dog is not stressed when meeting other dogs!
  • In addition to the Dog Training Toolkit f, Ali Brown's Scaredy Dog! f will help a lot.



==> Next edition: Preventing dog aggression Grrr! <==

Miguel at 28w Can you give back a bit today?



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  7 Site Comments, ZERO SPAM Add one


    Great dog bite analysis!


    Some fantastic advice here Tim, having already witnessed a dog fight just recently, I feel more confident now if it should ever happen to my boy.
    keep up the fantastic work, it's very much appreciated.


    Once again a very timely and informative periodical!
    I, for one, and grateful for this information. Having seen my dog in a fight, I know she will bite, shake and then let go. Is that the German Shepherd way? It was a reactive bite, as she was attacked by this other dog and bitten. I do not know if she would have chased after letting the other dog go because I told her to let go and he ran away while she was leashed. I would love to think that she was listening to me but maybe she would have chased! Its great to know the bite styles of different dogs, because I know my girl will protect herself and fight back. Having recently learned to show her alternatives, and having learned that she will listen, I am hoping that there will be no more issues. We seem to have an awful lot of loose dogs around here, and this information is gold! Thanks Tim, you are awesome!


      You should see this place here: More stray dogs than people it seems! Because the dogs here don't get altered, and so reproduce almost like rabbits. It annoys me too, because those dogs are scruffy/sick, and I don't want them to come close, sorry if that sounds inhumane/incanine.


    Thank you Tim! You are great! I am just learning Kiera's bite and fight styles and you're so helpful.

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