Walking an Urban Dog — Part 3 — Dog Fights

Walking an Urban Dog — Part 3 — Dog Fights
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Part 3: When Fights Break Out in the Dog Run

What follows is taken from The Dog House NYC training manual for our dog-walkers. We hope it will help all people walking their dogs in New York City.

Dog Fights

Though we sometimes forget it, dogs are animals. And much as we may wish it weren’t so, they occasionally fight. Things dogs fight over frequently include: food; unneutered males; possession of a ball or toy; or territory (as in “this is my hole in the ground”). Dogs also fight because, like overstimulated children, they have played to the point of being too wound up.

It is usually possible to monitor dog interactions so that fights are prevented. A practiced ear can hear a change in dog pitch when dogs are getting riled up. And an experienced dog watcher can anticipate potential for conflict, such as those mentioned above, and steer her charges away.

But sometimes, not often, a fight breaks out in an instant and you need to be prepared. Be aware that, at the sound of a skirmish, dogs will come from far and wide to participate. Some primitive instinct tells them to be in on a ‘kill’. A bold dog might want to seek a piece of the action, but timid dogs are almost worse: they encircle the protagonists barking furiously, as if egging them on. If you hear or see a dog fight involving other dogs in other places, the first thing you do is get your own dog.

If your dog does get into a fight, try to stop it as soon as possible. It gets harder as other dogs get into it. If you are able to grab the back of your own dog’s collar, fine. Otherwise, pull your dog back by grabbing its hind legs and pulling it way. Some people discourage the method of grabbing by the collar because of the danger you will get in the middle, but I encourage it because it gives you the most control. Also, unfortunately, sometimes the other owner is slow to react and there will be times you will need your other hand free to grab the other dog’s collar, too. At the least, if you have your dog firmly by the collar, it is easier to call to the other owner, “Get your dog!” Whatever you do, don’t get in the middle of a fight.

After a fight, calm your dog, check for any wounds, and ask if the other dog is all right. Fights are upsetting. And they’re usually no one’s fault. Try to keep calm yourself, and if possible be reassuring to the other person as well. Exchange contact information with the other party.

Unlike people, dogs rarely hold grudges after a fight. If the other owner is willing, and the dogs have calmed down, it is often a good idea to let the dogs sniff each other and make friends again. Often the fight was over possession of something and the cause is now forgotten. That said, be sure to wait long enough for the dogs to be calm again. Sometimes, re-introducing the protagonists too early merely picks the altercation back up where it left off.

If There’s an Injury

If a dog has been hurt, and no specific blame can be assigned, dog run etiquette says both parties share the vet bill. However, if one dog caused injury to another without provocation, then the owner of the provocateur should pay for the injured dog.

Also, if by the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a human gets bitten, be sure to confirm the biting dog has a current rabies vaccination.

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