How to Break Up a Dog Fight

Below is a summary of the information covered in a Facebook live session.  You can see the video from 3/3/2020 with demonstrations on my personal Facebook page:

There are many different ways to break up a dog fight, and there are also preventative ways to hopefully stop one from starting, especially for the dog running at you.

One of the things that I did for my continuing education was I took an in-person defensive handling course with Michael Shikashio and Trish McMillan. They are both fantastic! I not only implement this skill that I learned there when working with aggression cases but also just going for a walk and making sure that my dog is safe. I make sure that I have the necessary resources to help if an off-leash comes towards my dog.

Dogs That Charge When You’re On a Walk

Use Treats

You can take treats and throw them in the direction of the dogs. This is in the hopes that the dog is like, “Oh! let me stop now and sniff the ground and try to find my treats.” That’s more likely to work for a dog that is not aggressively coming at you.

Carry a Spray Shield

The Spray Shield looks like a little can of mace, but it’s not going to do damage to the dog coming at you, It also won’t do any harm if it blows back into your face or your dog’s face. The spray can reach about 10 ft away. This smell gross! I can tell you it actually does work. I used it last summer when a dog was following us, and his body language showed that he was very unhappy with my dog and me. The dog turned and started walking in the direction of his home. I have this (spray shield) on me all the time when I go on walks. You can find this in the “Products We Recommend” blog.

Training Techniques 


Middle is when your dog goes between your legs and stays there so you can get better control and protects him a bit more.

Emergency Turn

I teach this to owners with dogs that are reactive towards other dogs. If an off-leashed dog approaches them, usually the owner’s leashed dog would bark and lunge. Instead, the emergency turn where the dog runs away, is taught in place of reactive behaviors.

Types of Fights and Techniques to Use

With any fight, do not try to grab the collars. Doing so will likely lead to your hands getting bit.

Fight Scenario # 1: When the dogs are snapping and letting go.


    1. Make a loud noise. Startling the dogs can cause a slight pause in the fight, giving you a chance to pull them apart easier. Dropping pots on the floor or using an Air Horn are great options.
    2. Spray Shield mentioned above.
    3.  Throw water. I’ve seen this work beautifully. Throwing the water on the dog’s heads can help. You can use a water dish nearby. Then, you can drop the bowl, and you can make an actual noise as well.
    4. Use a leash. You’re not taking that leash and hooking onto them. Instead, you are holding an end in each hand then looping the middle of the leash between the dogs.
    5. Hip pull. You’re going to go behind one of the dogs, take his hips, pull, and slide the dog away towards your side. Quickly move your hands and legs out of the way, so you do not suffer from a redirected bite.
    6. Small dogs. You can pick up your dog but be aware of the other dog jumping up to continue biting.  Putting your small dog on the other side of a fence, in someone’s truck bed, or even in a garbage can are all great options. Anything to create a barrier between the aggressor and your dog.


Fight Scenario #2: Dog latching onto another dog and not releasing


    1. Stop the head shake. Pulling away the dog that has latched on is a bad idea. Doing so will further tear the skin of the dog that is being attacked. To do this, straddle the dog that has latched on and grab the scruff of his neck. Be aware of the other dog’s mouth. He may be able to reach your hand to bite out of fear.
    2. Use water, air horn, or the spray shield. How to use these are explained above.
    3. Break Stick.  This tool is designed to fit behind canine teeth. Insert the break stick and turn it hard. Doing this will help to pry open their mouth enough so you can get the dog’s mouth off of the other dog. The break stick is used in conjunction with straddling and scruffing the biting dog. Barry’s Break sticks ( is where I order mine. I am confident that the money does not go towards dog fighting rings.

What to do after a fight.

    1. Take your dog to the vet, even if there are not tears or punctures to the skin. There may be underlying damage.
    2. Keep the dogs apart.  They are likely to re-engage in a fight due to high levels of stress.
    3. Contact a Certified Professional for help. You can use the locator at to find a professional near you. I am also able to assist with virtual lessons.

Q and A

Q: What do you do if you don’t have two people to break up the fight?

A: What you can do in that instance is you can take your leash and wrap it around the hips of one dog. Then, tether it somewhere, like to a door, fence, or tree. You can then straddle and scruff the second dog. When you get him to release, the tethered dog cannot come back to continue the fight.

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