Tails of Seattle: A pets blog
How to stop a dogfight, Part 2
Dr. Jenna Arnaiz, an emergency-room vet at Seattle Veterinary Specialists in Kirkland, discusses how to stop a dogfight in the second in a series of posts on the subject from local behaviorists and veterinarians.
A family comes rushing into the ER. One dog may be walking with simple lacerations, and one dog may be limping on a limb with significant soft-tissue injuries.
The next victim is unable to walk, is in shock but responsive, with a spinal cord injury; the following victim is nonresponsive, barely breathing on its own, with significant head trauma.
These are only a few glimpses into the possible outcomes of a dog vs. dog fight or attack.
What do you do when dogs quarrel? Is there anything you can do to stop it? What can you do once it has started, and what do you do after?
Dogs fight for many reasons.
A few of the more common fight-triggering stimuli between dogs within the same household may be positioning for owner attention, food, during excited play or over a found item, or anxious times (family member leaving the house).
Less common triggers include one dog becoming weak or injured, shared furniture, changes in the home environment, loud noises or sharing walkways.
Territorial conflicts and fights for dominance are more common between dogs from separate households; however, the injuries associated with dogs from the same household tend to be more severe.
Once a fight has begun, keep bystanders (people, children and other dogs) away from the scene.
Several steps may be taken to try to break up the fight:
-- Call the dog off with a commanding voice. Anecdotally, some dogs may respond in the early signs of an impending fight. However, I've seen or heard of very few dogs that have stopped fighting with only voice command once engaged in a fight.
-- Using a leash, pull the dogs apart, if possible. A good leash to use with any dog with aggressive tendencies would be a head collar or trailing leash.
-- Aversive citronella sprays or water through a hose.
-- Physical barrier such as a board or throwing a blanket on one or both of the dogs in attempts to separate them.
During a dogfight, at no time should a person attempt to pull the dogs apart by reaching into a fight, holding onto the body of a dog or attempting to grab a collar. To do these things puts a person at great physical risk for dog bites or injury from the leashes and/or collars themselves.
Once the fight is over, people still need to be on alert and handle the animals with caution and care to avoid being bitten by a dog in pain or fear.
After a fight, dogs should ideally be seen by a veterinarian, particularly any dog in pain or a dog with obvious wounds or injuries. Some injuries are more hidden, and signs of these injuries may take even up to several days to become more apparent.
Dr. Jenna Arnaiz
Arnaiz graduated from Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2003. She completed a small-animal internship in medicine and surgery at WSU in 2004. In 2004, she provided voluntary veterinary services to the animals and people of Rarotonga, Cook Island. Since then, she has been in small-animal private and emergency practices and has focused her continuing education on cardiology and surgery.
Do you have a question about veterinary health or pet behavior? Ask now! We'll pose some of your questions to a local trainer in an upcoming post.
Read earlier Q&A columns here.