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Dear Cesar,

I have read several articles in our local paper about people witnessing a dog fight and wanting to stop the dog fight but did not know how to stop a dog fight. I am impulsive when it comes to these things and it caused me to ask what is the best thing to do when witnessing a dog fight? Is there a way to break up a dog fight? Should I try to stop a dog fight? I love animals and react without thinking about my safety and have stepped in before when I have seen a dog fight – fortunately I did not get hurt. What is your suggestion for what to do when confronted by dog fighting?

Sheila Palmer
Schenectady, NY

Cesar’s advice on how to break up a dog fight

Dear Sheila,

First, do not get rid of your instincts. There is no knowledge behind instinctual intelligence so “not thinking” is actually a good thing. In my profession, I only use “thinking” when I have to explain something to the human. With dogs, it’s all about instinct and energy.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind. You can stop a dog fight by observing body language. This is what I do with aggressive cases – stop the bad dog behavior at the very instance you see it about to escalate. But if that’s not possible, during a dog fight, once there is one occurring, stay calm and observe who or which of the two dogs is at a higher level of intensity. That’s the dog I’m going to focus on. Then you need to step in to give that dog the right touch – this means the ribcage area. The reason is that this forces the dog to open his mouth and let go of his hold on the other dog during the dog fight. It’s about timing too, so look for the right moment and then act quickly.

You can use a loud, strong voice or grunt directly at him and pull up from the back of his neck and collar – not from the top, but from the back and pull up, otherwise he can interpret this as you getting into the fight as well, and this is when the dog can turn on the human and bite him because his level of intensity is so high, he doesn’t think “oh, that’s the human.” You’re just another dog in the fight and before you know it, the dog you’re trying to defend is coming after you.

Whether it’s a big dog or little dog, the technique and method is the same. Do not scream repeatedly unless you are calling for help. Sometimes people are not going to help, so don’t expect that everyone will have your ability or good will. Most importantly, be quick, stay mindfully aware, emotionally in tune, and remain calm and assertive.

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