Easy-to-see signs are the
core components of Play that you've seen in How to Play with Your Dog. Particularly look out for these three Play signals:
Reciprocation (role reversal)
When you subsequently watch the video for the third time (yes!), notice how
both the Doberman and the Shepherd:
use their body language for a lot of signaling to
communicate their continuing intent of Play
show fairness, eg they clearly self-handicap their bite force frequently
reverse dominant and submissive roles (eg lying down)
VIDEO Dog fight?
Particularly with dogs of similar strength,
dog play can often look and sound like a dog fight. Then the above play signals of the core components of Play allow us to determine whether we have a dog fight or not. If one of the dogs does not show these play signals (one is enough), then we have a dog fight - and we may choose to intervene as discussed below.
The person who shot the above video did not intervene either. Presumably not to show us a bloody "dog fight" (I assume he used the keyword only to get more viewing hits), but because he seems to know that the Doberman and the Shepherd mix are really just playing!
Clearly visible also is the Doberman's body language
at the end when the owner calls it a day because thunder rolls in: The Doberman needs to shake off his rough 'Play mindset' to be able to focus again on reality (that the Pack leader called off the play) - while the Shepherd mix doesn't feel the need to shake off anything, she was rather relaxed all the time! This is typical for Belgian Shepherds - more than for German Shepherds.
So, a lot that appears to us human onlookers to be a
dog fight actually is nothing but the natural way for dogs to play. Most dogs (including tiny toy breeds!) like to play rough at times: They employ a lot of barking, growling, nipping, pushing, pulling, wrestling, and conquering. They learned this during Litter Socialization when they were 'fighting' for their mum's best spot and attention. What to do when dogs fight
The above makes clear: First,
remain calm and quietly watch for a few seconds. If there is a lot of signaling with accentuated body language involved, and both dogs clearly limit themselves and alternate their roles during play, then what you see is play, not a dog fight. Don't even think to intervene!
Because it would be detrimental to your dog's development and to your dog-human relationship if you broke up
dog play. Don't spoil the party just because you can't join it.
after a few seconds you are sure:
that one of the dogs permanently tries to get away but the other dog(s) don't let him/her get away
or that one of the dogs doesn't appear to limit its bite force
or that the dogs don't swap dominant and submissive roles every few seconds
or that your dog appears fearful (for your own dog you will hopefully know the respective
dog body language, for other dog(s) you may not always)
then it is humane to consider intervention in the canine controversy.
This is to prevent harm to one of the dogs - often more psychological harm than physical harm. You don't want for either of the dogs to end up with a trauma: dog fight traumas, like human abuse traumas, are hard to heal!
How to stop a dog fight
If you deem intervention necessary or appropriate, first recall these factors:
If one of the dogs is of the Pitbull class (Pit bull terrier, Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, or Bulldog) or a Presa Canario, Cane Corso, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, Presa Mallorquin, Tosa Inu, or Wolf Hybrid (or a similar dog breed/mix), you stand little chance to break up the dog fight without significant injury to yourself!
You can picture yourself as a hero while you watch action movies or conquer the last seat on a packed bus, but better don't aim to be the hero during a dog fight involving these breeds. Because Pitbulls & Co have it that they do not let go (you or your dog). They
bite and hold and pursue. More on dog bite styles and dog fight styles in the next Periodical.
If you don't believe your insignificant chance to stop a dog fight involving these breeds, you may want to study
this major Pitbull site. Thereafter you may not want to intervene at all, regardless whether you deem it appropriate or even necessary - because you wouldn't be the first person to be mauled by a dog! If the other dog is considerably smaller than your dog, and if you have
behavior-trained your own dog?!? (because obedience-trained dogs rarely leave a dog fight on command!), then you stand a good chance to stop the dog fight without significant injury to yourself or to your dog:
Walk away and
call your dog to you (and, as always, then provide a GREAT experience). Now the other dog owner will hopefully be able to hold on to his/her smallish dog - and even if the owner is not present, a considerably smaller dog will rarely follow a large dog for more than a couple of meters ("to save face"). However, if one or more of the other dogs are of similar size and strength to your dog (and if the other dog owner is not helpful or not present!?), then - regardless how well-trained your
own dog is - the other dog is likely to come after yours when you call (behavior-trained) or pull (obedience-trained) your dog away.
Thus, in this case you may need to (
and want to?) break up the dog fight in the customary sense of the word.
Now what's that supposed to mean?
How to break up a dog fight
After your first-few-seconds of calm watching (however calm you can be when your dog is in a fight!?), and after recalling the three factors above, now you can consider practical steps how to break up the dog fight, eg:
how physically fit and dog-fight experienced are you?
are other people present to help?
do all involved dogs wear a collar?
do you have at hand a
leash that becomes a 'dog parking lot' with a single quick hand movement? do you have an umbrella, handbag or other bag?
do you have a blanket, scarf, hair-band, bandana, coat or suit at hand?
do you have a garden hose, tree-branch, bicycle or other equipment?
do you have a
break stick, panic alarm, or taser with you? do you carry
citronella spray or pepper spray?
Remember, if one of the fighting dogs is a Pitbull,
Mr Pitbull says none of the above will work - except: the break stick (if you can and dare to get it between the dog's molar teeth?), the taser (if you get a licence and/or a good shot?), and possibly (sometimes) a strong pepper spray (if you don't get it in your own eyes!).
What the heck is a break stick??
How to use a break stick
Note in particular the following points from this Rambo III trailer:
The aggressor in the "dog fight" wears a collar (hurray!)
The owner has a leash at hand (helpful!)
The owner seems physically fit and dog-fight experienced (are you?)
The dog rather is a well-trained 'weakling' than an aggressive dog
Plus these points -
but only if your initial calm observation confirmed that you are dealing with a dog of the breeds mentioned above - which hold the bite:
Get the dog's body firmly between your legs and stand firmly
Pull the collar rather
up than pulling backwards Use your preferred hand to
twist the break stick between the dog's molar teeth while your other arm's elbow secures the dog's head just behind the back of the jawbone (ie do not put your hand under the dog's mouth like Rambo does). And keep
holding the break stick between the dog's molar teeth and your elbow just behind the back of the jawbone - or the dog's teeth may hold your own flesh next!
However, if your initial calm observation confirmed that you are dealing with any other breed or mix of dog - which continually reposition the bite! - then don't do anything that Rambo does above - or you'll likely contract severe bite wounds! How to control 'reflex biters'
In that case (thus incl. if the other dog is a German Shepherd), your best bet to safely
break up the dog fight is to do what Rambo in the above video doesn't want to be done to his 'puppy':
Approach the aggressor in a swift movement from behind
just the moment when the dog releases one of its many bites, and pull the dog's hind legs up in the air while walking backwards to a safe enclosure and while slowly rotating around your own axis! I don't think Doggy Dan has a video showing this, but I have seen it safely done by a (strong enough) man, and it was his only chance to prevent being bitten by an incessantly wriggling and exceptionally aggressive dog.
Why the only chance? Because he didn't have - and likely you won't have - a
taser, panic alarm or pepper spray at hand when the dog fight suddenly breaks out! - Few ladies (and men) hide these remedies in their slip when they take the dog to the beach. Mildly aggressive dogs?
If only mildly aggressive dogs are involved, I would advise
against the use of anything that harms the dog permanently, even if that's your only remedy at hand: eg the panic alarm destroys the dog's hearing (and probably your own as well), and the pepper spray destroys the dog's eyesight (and depending on wind direction possibly your own as well).
How do you know if the fighting dogs are mildly aggressive or very aggressive?
See step 1: initial calm and quiet
watching! An angry dog, a threatened dog, and a defensive dog soon releases the bite and pauses momentarily, and you see the dog reassessing its situation. That's the behavior of a mildly aggressive dog: (s)he seeks an exit of the dog fight. - More on dog bite styles and dog fight styles in the next Periodical. Dealing with very aggressive dogs
Conversely, if very aggressive dogs are involved (and you dare to, and you have the strength?), you may aim to
limit the more aggressive dog's breathing by putting a strong stick or pen (or whatever you've got) under the collar and twisting it, then leashing the dog to a lamp post or tree. The less oxygen, the weaker the dog within a mere seconds (but also more upset now - hence why this is only relevant for very aggressive dogs anyway)!
Otherwise, as indicated above,
except with the breeds mentioned earlier, with a very aggressive dog best seems to be to pull up in the air the biting dog's rear legs the instant the dog releases a bite - and then slowly but steadily swing the dog around yourself while you walk backwards into a safe enclosure where the dog can be contained.
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As a general rule: Any action and tool you use is much more effective when you are able to
use it at the very start of definite signals of aggression (not to be confused with Play behavior!). Once a dog fight is full-fledged, both the application and the effectiveness of any tool/action may become questionable, depending on your circumstances.
Therefore, best is to
avoid dog fights altogether where possible: walk over onto the other side of the road, seek brief eye contact with respectful head nod, turn away/around, perform the Collar Freeze, perform SSCD, ... anything that can ease the tension before it escalates into a dog fight!
Checklist * (see note at the bottom)
There's always a chance that
dog play turns into a dog fight. Essential is that we can differentiate between a dog fight and dog play: see above
how. Three prominent
Play signals from the core components of Play:
Reciprocation (role reversal)
Also, helpful is that we know
why dogs fight: 1. Stress 2. Incomplete socialization 3. Pack leader claims What to do when dogs fight:
remain calm and quietly watch for a few seconds. If you see the Play signals,
don't intervene. Prerequisites to consider intervention: see above.
stop the dog fight without getting involved yourself: see above. How to
break up a dog fight (you get involved!): consider your options (incl what you have available) - see the long list above. Watch the Rambo III trailer above to learn how to use a
break stick - but consider my notes! Know the limitations of a
taser, panic alarm, pepper spray, etc Make sure you can differentiate between 'reflex biters' and dogs that bite, hold, and pursue: see above (and in more detail in the next Periodical)
Know the difference between
mildly aggressive and very aggressive dogs, and adapt your actions appropriately: see above.
==> Next edition: Related: Dog fight styles and bite styles! <==
Can you give back a bit today?