Dog fights – prevention is key!
As vets one of the most traumatic and upsetting cases we see are dog attacks. The worst cases are of course random attacks on more vulnerable smaller dogs when out enjoying a walk or a play at the park. The danger of any type of inter-dog aggression cannot be underestimated and, in some cases, can result in a fatality or long term injuries.
There are a few key things that we have noticed when it comes to these cases that we feel may help save at least one readers dog from this terrible situation.
Firstly, while random attacks are an issue, it is important to be aware that the MAJORITY of dog attacks or fights happen in the home. This may come as a surprise which is why I wanted to discuss it further.
A lot of companions will get along very well, 99% of the time. In fact, companionship of another dog in the home can do wonders for a pet’s fitness and emotional comfort. Most people will have had several dogs for years and never had an issue with aggression however, all too often we hear terms like “it just came out of nowhere”, “she just suddenly turned on him for no good reason”. The truth is that there often are situations that we can put our pets in every day that could be slowly leading to a rise of tension between them. Perhaps you have fed them from the same bowl for 5 years and it has never been an issue before. Perhaps they usually sort out their favorite spots on the couch between them and you have never seen a quarrel over this. Being aware of the potential of these situations, however, could save your dogs life or at the least save you and your pets the stress of even minor bite wounds which take some time and management.
A couple of strategies – the key with all of them is that if they become habit and routine, they will create harmony without being disruptive. This is by no means an in depth discussion of canine behavior or training – just key things that we think more people should know. If you need help with implementing them, that’s where a good trainer can help you and your dog in person.
Strongly consider feeding all pets separately. Unfortunately, most people tell me this is “impossible”. I know what the morning and evening routine can be like – mayhem! The idea of spending even an extra minute on the sometimes annoying task of feeding the dogs can create dread. However, almost all dog fights we treat (and we treat a lot) have happened over a food bowl or a bone. So, a separate room or opposite sides of a closed door is ideal. Opposite ends of a room is better than adjacent bowls even if it is spreading out a generally messy area to several parts of the house! Also, when filling food bowls, always do so on a bench so your dog is not competing with you or their companion as you try to get it into the bowl before it is eaten! Ideally teach your pet to sit and wait while you put the food down and only go to the bowl when given a signal to do so (otherwise the bowl gets picked up again).
Greeting and cuddling your pets:
After food, the other most common cause of conflict is jealousy. When you get home, as excited as you are to see your pets, try to avoid a dramatic group embrace! Instead, take a moment for your pets to calm down before you greet them. Ideally establish a routine of them going to their respective beds or mats and waiting for you to approach them when you are ready to say hello. This will not only lead to less sloppy kisses but is also great for reducing separation anxiety. Furthermore the combination of excitement and competition can occasional turn into World War 3!
Beds and couches:
Your bed is the throne of the house! Ever noticed the lengths your dog will go to to get right in the centre of your bed at any opportunity? Again, if they have a strong desire or focus on your bed, couch or any other area, be aware that having the spot taken will cause them stress – even if this is not obvious. Routinely having your pets always rest in their own separate bed will avoid competitions for your bed or your lap.
A quick word on a few things to remember if a dog attack or fight occurs involving your dog.
I can’t tell you how many times, I have had to quickly take an injured dog from an owner for treatment so that the owner can then get to hospital for a serious bite wound!
DON’T GET YOURSELF BITTEN TRYING TO BREAK UP A FIGHT.
Real fights are very hard to break up, so as much as you desperately want to do so, you are probably not going to achieve it and will more likely become collateral damage. Bite wounds can lead to permanent nerve damage, joint infections and the requirement for surgery. If the dogs are on leads, by all means direct them away from each other but please strongly re-consider intervening in any other way that puts you at risk.
The best way to break up a fight is to avoid it in the first place.