How to Prevent & Stop Dog Fights

By: Christine New, DVM

TVMA Member
Dallas, Texas

Published March 2015

Injuries from dog fights are a common cause for veterinary visits. Injuries can range from minor to life-threatening. If your dog has been involved in a fight, always seek a veterinary exam, even if injuries seem minor. Bite wounds and lacerations have the potential to become infected and can be difficult to find under hair. Wounds that appear to only be simple puncture wounds can have deep damage and cause tearing of tissues under the skin.

Why Do Dogs Fight?

Dogs may fight for a number of reasons. Even dogs that live together or are related can and will fight. Unfortunately, some fighting dogs will not stop fighting until an injury occurs that results in one dog backing off. However, some triggers are easily identified and can be avoided. Multiple dogs of the same sex that live in the same house (all female or all male) may be at a higher risk of fighting. This is due to a constant desire to maintain a hierarchy. In the wild, there is a separate hierarchy structure for males and females within a pack, so a male and a female together in the same home are potentially more likely to maintain harmony as they are both maintaining their own separate “top dog” statuses. The risk for fights is not lower between related dogs as compared to dogs that are not related; family members may fight each other once the younger pups have reached adolescence. The risk for fighting is increased in dogs that are not spayed and neutered.

Food and toys are common triggers for fights. We all want what we don’t have, dogs included. Many dogs are inherently possessive and aggressive of their possessions, like chew bones, food and squeaky toys. Never feed two dogs next to each other. As one dog finishes his food, he may decide to eat the other’s food or may even protect the bowl of food without eating. It is much safer to feed multiple dogs on opposite sides of the room or even in different rooms. If your dog is possessive about food, it can be beneficial to not leave food bowls on the ground. When the meal is finished, immediately take up the bowls, wash and store them out of the dogs reach until the next meal.

Bones and chew toys are other highly desired items. Most dogs will hoard and become extremely possessive of bones and chew toys. It can even be dangerous for people to take bones from some dogs. If you own a dog that displays possessive behavior, all bones and chew toys should be removed from the home. If you ever need to remove a bone or toy from a dog’s possession, never use your hand. Attempt to distract the dog with another toy, treat or food item thrown in the other direction. You can also try to change the mindset of a dog by holding up a leash and saying, “Let’s go for a walk/outside/to the car” or whatever excites the dog. Then take the dog to another room or restrain on a leash when picking up the toy.

Some environments are more likely to trigger fights, such as dog parks, family vacations or even boarding in close quarters. At a dog park, there are many dogs that are strangers to each other. While in this environment, they are running, chasing and excited. It is easy for a group of dogs to start running together, forming a “pack mentality” that can promote aggression. Dogs at the dog park do not have a hierarchy established, and if multiple dogs are running for the same Frisbee or ball, the excitement can easily get out of hand. Additionally, some dogs are protective of their owners, and a dog park can be a threatening place, making one feel that he or she must keep everyone away from “his” or “her” owner. If your dog park tends to be crowded, consider going at off-hours or other non-crowded times.

Family vacations mean a lot of people and potentially multiple dogs that are unfamiliar with each other in the same house. This is probably the leading cause of dog-fight injuries during holidays. When many new people and dogs come into a dog’s house, the dog that normally resides in the home can become threatened and possessive, even if he or she is normally a very docile dog. New dogs can mean new threats to “his” or “her” toys and food. Likewise, the visitor dog may try to dominate their new surroundings.

Just as family vacations can be stressful for people, they can create a stressful environment for dogs, which is something dog owners should be aware of. When visiting, always remember that your pet may need some downtime in his or her own room or kennel. Be mindful of what your pet considers to be “theirs,” and remove these items before company arrives. Feed unfamiliar dogs separately.

How to Stop a Dog Fight

Never use your body to stop a fight! When dogs are fighting, instinct and drive have taken over. You can be easily bitten if you try to pull two dogs apart or separate them with your body. Never kick at a dog because their common reaction may be to turn and bite your foot.

It is understandable that your reaction would be to stop the fight by doing whatever it takes. However, physically intervening in a dog fight puts you at risk for getting bitten. Dog bites can result in legal action as well as the costs associated with treating a bite wound at a human ER or urgent care clinic. Complications from bite wounds can lead to severe pain and infection and permanent tissue damage, sometimes even requiring plastic surgery.

Instead of using your body to stop the fight, use a broom or chair or spray water on the dogs with a water hose to separate the dogs and stop the fight. Try making a loud noise such as slamming a door. However, don’t yell at the dogs; your excitement can add to the dogs’ excitement and escalate the fight. After the dogs are separated, keep them separate for several hours in different rooms and always seek veterinary care.

How to Prevent a Dog Fight

  • Always spay and neuter your dogs.
  • Feed multiple dogs in a home separately.
  • Keep dogs leashed when outside.
  • Avoid dog parks if you have a dog that has a possessive demeanor. Also, remember that not everyone at a dog park has the same consideration, and even a docile dog can become involved in a fight.
  • Keep especially desired toys out of reach.
  • If possible, when adding a new dog to your family, choose the opposite sex of the existing dog.
  • Be mindful of visiting family and dogs, and allow all dogs some individual alone time.

If fights are becoming more frequent, a consultation with a veterinary behaviorist may be in order. Speak with your family veterinarian about options for a referral to a specialist. Remember that with basic obedience training, dogs learn to listen to owners better, and while aggression is building prior to a fight, the owner may be able to stop it by giving alternate commands, changing the dog’s focus. Behavior training takes commitment and time and should always be tailored to each individual family and pet.

Dr. Christine New practices veterinary medicine at the Hillside Veterinary Clinic in Dallas.

49 Responses

  1. Robby says:

    We have 8 year old chihuahua mix, 11 year old corgi, 6 month old corgi and 7 month old village dog. All females. Problem dog is corgi puppy. She is bossy and all people are hers. She plays great with village dog. Then will get mad in a split second and attack her. Older dog has leg troubles so we carry her in and out of house. We put corgi puppy in a kennel when we do this because she becomes feral when we pick the other dog up. Second we put older dog down there is no more trouble. Older two are spayed. Going to spay village dog but wanted one litter of pups from corgi first. She is cuddly and sweet otherwise. All going to or have gone to obedience classes.

    • Adrienne says:

      It sounds like a very stressful situation. Both of you love your dogs and neither want to give your dogs away. I completely understand especially the attachment you have with your dog. I would suggest seeking out a trainer that can help you both work on your dogs to live with each other. They don’t have to be friends but they can learn to respect each other’s space.

    • Andra says:

      She may benefit greatly from pack leader training. Quite often dog fighting stems from a pack position issue. Once this is addressed, the difference is like night and day. If you’re unsure on what to do, there’s a very helpful guide on this if you Google: ‘123 Recall Method’ – I’ve seen so many people give up on their dogs because of fighting and aggression issues. It’s sad because it can be easily fixed. I know your post was a few months ago, but hope it worked out for you.

      • Xtine says:

        You may have to keep them separate. Tedious but it will help. One stays locked. One plays and you rotate.

      • Stephani says:

        Your right. . I’m searching for anything to help. … My female passed recently and she was my 8yr old males best friend and also the leader of the pack… She always would break up any fuss … Between him and my male puppy who has just became two and matured and now the 8 yr old is constantly picking fights. … But I love them all equally.. I would do anything to have us all back to normal. They live each other too.. . So heart breaking.

  2. Kenny Brown says:

    Hi we have a 5yr old English staffy de sexed male and a French bulldog female 1yr old not desexed over the last couple of months they have been fighting aggressively and now it is happening More often
    I have no clue what I should do we feed them seperate we have taken away all toys and these fights still keep happening
    Can you please give me some advice before there is a serious vet bill

  3. Charlotte says:

    I have an English Bull Dog my daughter rescued a mutt which is part pit bull when they see each other it’s a fight of grand proportion. Nothing stops them and the English Bull dogs is 2 years older than the rescue. Neither dog fights with their companion dogs but we live in the same house. It’s so bad thinking of getting rid of the rescue ti a shelter. The English Bull Dog was a gift from my deceased husband that died this past March & I love him. My daughter says I have to get rid of mine and keep her rescue. It’s my home. SCARED

    • What the heck dont get rid of your dog. It was your dogs home first and it’s your home and it’s a gift from your dead husband. Tell your daughter to move out

    • Ruby Chimal says:

      I’m going through the same problem. I have a 3 year old English Bulldog (Male) and a 1 1/2 year old Brahma Bully(male and son to the EB) and they keep fighting and I get scared to death I’ve even seperated them but the bully will try to break through wall if he even here’s my EB. I think the only option I have left is to get them neutered because the only ones who can stop the fights and even have then together without them fighting is my dad and my husband. I’m scared that my bully will one day get to my EB and hurt him seriously or even kill him. I’m so upset about the fighting but this last fight my bully got so driven he ended up making his daddy bleed and hurting his sister who is also an EB. I just don’t qant them to fight anymore and most of all I want them safe. The last fight has brought me to tears and I felt like I was going to pass out and thank God my dad was there to stop them or I don’t know what would have happened.

      • Tracy says:

        Hi Ruby…we have the same issue with our two males, who are father and son. When the son was young, they lived each other madly, and that’s the only reason we kept the son. I wish I had neutered them both before the son hit puberty. I didn’t however, and now we have big problems. I’ve gotten both neutered now, but I know that it takes quite some time for hormone levels to really flatten out. It has not been a magic bullet and in fact, because we have to keep them separated completely, their aggression towards each other is even worse because someone’s always jealous. I think you just have to prepare to be very patient and understand that it’s going to take a lot of work and a considerable amount of time to retrain them. My vet gave me some good tips and I’ve been doing lots of research online. short of asking the dog whisperer to my house, I think that’s about all I can do, but it’s very hard to know that there’s not an easy fix for these types of issues. I hope things get better at your house!

  4. Kimberly says:

    I have a 10 month german shepherd. We used to go to the dog park. Smokey love other dog! But today we went to the dog park and my dog get really excited and barked(really loudly) which trigger some dog. I don’t know what to do, because the moment we entered and he barked and get so excited, the other “alpha” dog get and begin showing the teeth and barked to my dog! I would like my dog to be more calm and trick for my dog to meet other dog!

    Thank you

  5. Rhonda Farris says:

    I have 4 dog’s 3 girl and 1 boy two of my female for no reason will start fighting and sometimes will gang up on my other female I don’t want to give any of my dogs up please I need help

  6. Fatima Daabis says:

    Hello I have a female Rottweiler who has a year and half and a female cane Corso who has one year the are raised together since they were 3 months but after the Rottweiler got her first period she started to fight with the cane Corso with no reason just trying to dominate than after that they continue playing as if nothing happened
    So how can I handle this please

  7. Jessica says:

    Hello, I have a 9 year chihuahua named rocky whose lived with us since he was 5 months and we recently got a cockapoo whose 9 weeks old which we got a little over a week ago. Most of the time they are fine but we have the odd occasion when a fight will break out. We’ve got it down to treats, toys and sometimes procreation. However rocky will go for the younger one for a reason we don’t know. We are really worried about it and I’m hoping to find a solution before we have to get rid of the pup. Any ideas what could be happening

  8. Tammy says:

    I have 2 females chihuahua/mix older female is spayed and the younger one isn’t but they r mother/daughter but here recently they have been fighting the youngest one had just came out of heat but they never fight like this

  9. Ken says:

    What about dogs who have previously got along, and then suddenly start fighting? No idea what’s changed

  10. Shannon Velasquez says:

    I had 3 Chihuahuas at one time. 1 boy and 2 girls. Our little boy dog passed away a few years ago, leaving my 2 girl pups together. They were a year apart in age. January 28, 2020, my little girl, Lola, got suddenly very ill and we had to let Lola go. It broke our hearts. My other girl, Chloe was very lonely. She would cry in her sleep. (Lola was the alpha girl) 4 days ago, March 1, 2020, I went to the Shelter and adopted a 1 yr old male Chihuahua, possibly mixed with a terrier. Rocco is a very sweet boy and has become very attached to me, aka “his momma”.
    We did a “Meet & Greet” with Chloe and Rocco and at the shelter, all went well between both of them. On this 4th day of transitioning, the 2 of them have had 2 fights. It STRESSES me out. I had been feeding the both of them in the same room but that will be changing from now on. When Chloe hears me reprimand Rocco, it seems to agitate her. And when I show affection to either one, they both get agitated. I get that I am Rocco’s safe person and he is protecting me. (I think)
    Chloe does not care to play with toys but is irritated when Rocco plays with toys.
    Any and All opinions, advice etc.. is highly appreciated.
    Thank you
    Shannon V

  11. Josh hicks says:

    I am having issues trying to keep my 3 year old terrier chihuahua mix and my Alaskan husky-German Shepard mix from fighting. Both are opposite sex, they usually get along and play but the past couple days both have got worse. Any advice will be helpful on what to do

  12. Harlee says:

    I have 4 dogs. All female, my oldest is a chow mix and is 10y fixed, a pit mix 3 1/2 years not fixed and 2 German Shepherd mixed not fixed. All of a sudden my pit and chow have been fighting to the point of blood being drawn. They’ve been together since my pit was 8 weeks old and it’s the pit who’s starting all the fights. I made an appointment to get her fixed. Do you think that will stop the fighting? My pit gets along great with the 2 German Shepherds and so doesn’t my chow. Could it be a dominance thing my pits doing?

  13. Carla Black says:

    Hi my German Shepherd girl 2 years old and husky dad 8 years old have just had a litter of 11 and we desperately want to keep 1 girl and 1 boy but my family seem to think that there will all fight but I thought that If there from the same pack they wouldn’t
    Please could someone give me some advice

    • Peyton King says:

      I have read and heard about liter mate syndrome. Which is basically the two dogs who are from the same litter will get attached to each other sometimes, and then they won’t form family connections with humans and stuff like that. Hopefully this helps you with your decision

  14. Killeen says:

    I have three dogs, two of which are pit bulls. They have been together for over a year and recently have begun fighting. What can I do to stop them from fighting every time they are together? I am having to take turns locking each one in a kennel while the other is out. However, while one is locked up the other will lay in front of the kennel and cry for the other to be released. Which has fooled me twice. What can I do?

  15. Karen Hilyard says:

    We have 3 dogs, a 7 year old female mini Schnauzer, a 4 year old male golden doodle and a 2 year female schnauzer. With the nicer weather we have started taking them on walks. My husband takes the 2 younger ones and I take the 7 year old. The 2 year old has suddenly started to attack the are older girl while out walking. She is put in a crate when we get home but at this point my husband doesn’t want to go on walks anymore. Why did this suddenly start happening? And, more importantly how do we stop it. Is not all going for walks together the answer?

  16. Dominic says:

    I am a Filipino i have two dogs both girl and every night they mocking at each other for a fight. But when i seperate them tha other one start howling and crying so i dont know what do to.

  17. Clara says:

    Hi, i have 2 German shepherd puppies. Male 4.5 months and female 5 months. They always fight most of the time but they sleep together nicely at night. They always get jealous at each other. If i put one inside the house and one outside the house, one of them will go crazy. They also went crazy if i only walk one dog. And when take both for a walk, they always fight because they all want to be in front of each other.

  18. Colvin says:

    I’ve had two pitbulls (one male and one female) for almost three yrs now. Theyve recently fought twice a month apart. Each time, I separated them after the fight to clean wounds and such but now the male doesnt want anything to do with the female. My question there a better way to handle the situation? Did I do it wrong and can they coexist in the same house now? Each time the female started it…shes 2 and hes 3 yrs old.

  19. Nicole Salse says:

    I have a 2 year old yorkie poo and a 6 month old shephard mix, really we dont know what she is as she was rescued as a puppy in a parking lot. Anyways, if one has a toy the other one wants it. Even if it’s just to take it and drop it. The fights have been getting worse. Constantly fighting. Both arent stayed which is our first thought.

  20. Paul walsh says:

    Hi I’ve got 2 female Staffies and they’ve started to fight more regular .one minute they are fine they sleep together and everything even sometimes just play fight but they’ve had 4 aggressive fights now and it’s hard to separate them when they lock on What’s the best way to separate them when this happens because they just seem to lose focus and won’t let go

  21. JJ says:

    I have 2 mini doxies, one is a 5 1/2 month old female, the other is a 2 month male. They are too young to be fixed, but they are fighting! What can i do?

  22. Amy Lloyd says:

    My 2 sister dogs can’t agree who is top dog since their parents died – previously the top dogs. This happened when they are 3 and before that they got on most of the time. Now as soon as they have access to each other they fight without stopping. We try break it up with varying success but have spent thousands on vet treatments. I tried to rehome the most aggressive one but she turned on the dog at her new home too. So she’s back and the other dog is being fostered temporarily with someone she knows well. We need to find a way to get them to get along again if it is possible. It’s very upsetting and unsettling and the rest. My only idea is separate fenced areas then muzzle and harness them if they may have contact. I don’t know much about dogs…HELP!

    • Nancy Brewer says:

      I have 3 males that fight all the time and I have to keep them separated I have 2 dogs that get along so I have to keep my 2 dogs in one bedroom and the 1 dog in the other one in the other bedroom and one of the 2 will come out and go over to the bedroom door and he goes crazy wanting to fight and I have to switch them out every 2 hours it really bothers me I don’t know what to do this as been going on for along time

  23. Xtine says:

    You may have to keep them separate. Tedious but it will help. One stays locked. One plays and you rotate.

  24. Sue says:

    I have a french bull dog female and a yorkie female. My Frenchie is fighting with my yorkie and it’s so quick and vicious I end up intervening. I am at the moment separating them but I would like for them to live in harmony could you please give me some advice it’s breaking my heart to see them hurting one another.

  25. amanda celar says:

    I have six dogs all rescues and we have lots of land for them to enjoy. They are all mutts. There was absolutely no problem with any of them because they sorted out their own hierarchy. However, there are 4 females and 2 males. one of the males is undisputed leader and they all respected him but unfortunately for the past 3 years since he has grown old and has developed arthritis he has lost the repect of the pack and they ignore him. The younger dog shows no sign of taking over and just ignore everyone he has a peaceful, non confrontational temperament and just minds his own business. We now have a huge problem with 2 of the females who suddenly when aged about 4 and having lived together most of their lives, developed an absolute hatred for each other and instantly attack each other on sight. This seems to have coincided with the males loss of status. I now accept they will never accept each other and they take it in turns to be out of their repective rooms. I therefore concluded this horrible situation arose from the top dogs demise?

  26. amanda celar says:

    I have six dogs all rescues and we have lots of land for them to enjoy. They are all mutts. There was absolutely no problem with any of them because they sorted out their own hierarchy. However, there are 4 females and 2 males. one of the males is the undisputed leader and they all respected him but unfortunately for the past 3 years since he has grown old and has developed arthritis he has lost the respect of the pack and they ignore him. The younger dog shows no sign of taking over and just ignore everyone he has a peaceful, non-confrontational temperament and just minds his own business. We now have a huge problem with 2 of the females who suddenly, when aged about 4 and, after living together most of their lives, developed an absolute hatred for each other and instantly attack each other on sight. This seems to have coincided with the male’s loss of status. I now accept they will never accept each other and they take it in turns to be out of their respective rooms. I, therefore, concluded this horrible situation arose from the top dog’s demise?

  27. Nancy says:

    Please help

  28. Nancy Brewer says:

    Do you have any sugesstions

  29. Nancy Brewer says:

    Please help

  30. Avril says:

    I have 3 female dogs. 2 are sisters we adopted from the shelter from when they were puppies and are about 8yrr old. Then my son brought back a puppy last yr like about 1 month old and now she is 1 yr old. The 2 sisters used to fight once in a while and when they fight its scary, they wouldnt back off even when we spray eater at them with a hose. We need to use a broom try to stop the fight and there would be blood everywhere. Now that the new puppy is 1 yr old, she started to behave like the 2 sisters too and usually fights with one of the sisters. These days i have to separate her from them and put her on a leash but one time when one of the other dog passed by her, the fought again really bad, I had to use a broom to push them away to stop the fight. It is so stressful i feel like goving awag the 1 yr old puppy but its not easy to find an adopter these days. Maybe have to make a gate and put one of them at the back of the hse. So stressful.

  31. Sheila Hume says:

    Hello, I have a 2 yr old Tiawanese rescue (our home for one year. She is wonderful, but has been picking fights with other dogs, not all, but it goes in cycles. She’s had about 20 fights with not bites. We are in the forest, so I don’t like to leash. How do I respond to a fight so she knows its not acceptable? Is there anything I can do to prevent it? Being upbeat seems to help!

  32. hollie says:

    I have just got a new pup, a 5 month old rescue who is a sweet loving girl. my current resident dog, he is 3 and usually very soppy caring, wouldn’t say boo to a goose kind of dog but he keeps going for the new puppy, I’ve never seen him be like this and I’ve had him since 8 weeks old. I did not expect him to be like this. help

  33. olivia acosta says:

    We have two female dachshunds that are 7 years apart. The first time the fought was when we took them camping and they had to share food and water. Ever since, they fight very often and only when there’a people around. We’ve tried a spray bottle and loud noises, but they don’t stop and will continue until we can get them separated. We really don’t know what to do and my parents think they need muzzles.

    • Maggie Dickerson says:

      I have three female two mixed breeds. The two mixed breeds in the last year go from best friends to enemies. They fought a lot back in the fall and finally things got better. In the last month the fights have came back. Normally when they fought the two would fight leave and then be friends. Now as soon as they see each other it’s a fight, especially for one. I don’t know what to do anymore in the last week they have fought multiple times. What do I do? I keep them separated for a while normally that helps now as soon as they see each other it’s starts. We just had one that started while we were asleep which is very new. Normally we would have to be awake and more should be happening versus at night in the dark which terrifies me.

      • Kim says:

        I have two dog, a sprocker who is 5 and a patterdale terrier who is 2, the sprocker is very calm and loving he doesn’t bark or cause a fuss, the patterdale was a rescue dog and is very anxious, which turns to violence. If the older dog makes a sudden movement, or makes a noise she attacks and I end up with a fight, due to the size difference it’s impossible to separate them. Water, blankets, loud nose brooms, chairs nothing. We literally have to pull them apart and I have ended up getting bitten in the crossfire. I love my dogs but the fighting is getting worse, it’s gone from once a while to at least every other day. It’s causing stress and anxiety to myself and my children. I’m at a loss with what I should do, I can’t rehome them because they are family, but I don’t see any training techniques working.

  34. Michelle says:

    I have a female dog that we separated from my two male dogs and now that her heat is done her heat cycle we put her back with the male dogs and now the two males are still growling and barking at each other getting ready to fight they’ve already fighting twice is this a normal thing or how do I get them to stop fighting they got along before I really need help

  35. Bob says:

    I have 2 female dogs both neutered 1 is a 13yo puggle and the other is a 7 y/o Pomeranian and they fight visously for no apparent reason. Why? What can I do to prevent this. The Pomeranian is a rescue dog been with us for 2 months now

  36. Wendy says:

    We have a 11 year old shitzu Bichon male (fixed) and then 5 years ago got a mixed rescue dog (weineramer, boxer, colie) 8 weeks when we got her. (Also fixed). Every once in a while (about every 3-6 months) our big dog will attack the small older one. Reason is unknown. No food around, no toys. Last time she punctured the little ones ear. How do we stop this from happening?

  37. Trinity says:

    We have a 1 year old female black lad, pit mix and a 13 year old Male German shepard mix. When we first got the famle they both got along, but after a while the female started going after our male. We thought it was just play fights leading to actual fight but when watching one day it’s just her trying to go for his throat. We have another female 10 yr old boxer and they get along great. I’m not sure what’s going on and really wanna fix it because both that female dog and the male dog are amazing dogs and I really dont want to give them up and most likely it would be the famle that we would give up because we had the male longer.

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