How to Safely Break Up a Dog Fight

It’s a skill everyone hopes they’ll never need to use but should know, especially dog owners: how to safely break up a dog fight. Like humans, not all dogs simply get along. Even the most gentle mannered dogs are capable of a dangerous fight when provoked.

During a scuffle, a dog owner’s first instinct is to reach into the middle of the fight and try to grab their dog by the collar. This technique is not only ineffective, but also very dangerous. The odds of you being badly injured or bitten while reaching for a fighting dog’s collar are very high. Two furious animals in the middle of a serious fight are normally in survival mode. If they spot you at all, they likely won’t recognize you as the loving owner they are cognizant of. The moment you charge in and reach for their collars, they may respond out of a fight reflex and then bite, or they might perceive you as another threat or attacker.

While there are always dangers associated with breaking up fighting dogs, there is a way to do it that minimizes your own risk of injury.

Breaking Up a Dog Fight with Another Person

1. Each of you shall grab the back legs of the fighting dogs, and then pick them up like wheelbarrow. With the dogs’ legs up, they are pulled apart and kept from each other.
2. Do this by circling behind one pooch, grabbing his back legs, and then raising them up into the air. Without the use of his back legs, the dog will be forced to stand on his front legs and will not be able to continue fighting.
3. Separate the dogs as you back away slowly. Just hold their feet or legs continually as you carefully move in a smooth backward arc. That way, your pet won’t be able to reach around and bite you. Because the dog will only be using his front legs, he’d be kept from maneuvering with any agility.
4. The moment you have reached a safe distance, at least about 20 feet away, try holding the dog securely until he calms down. Turn him away so he doesn’t see the other dog, and try to change his state of mind using distraction.

Splitting up a Dog Fight While Alone

1. It’s extremely dangerous to pull two aggressive dogs apart when you’re all by yourself. However, if the situation asks for it, move forward carefully with the plan below.
2. Get a leash if you don’t have one with you. The dogs will surely continue on fighting as you look for a restraint, but you have to take the necessary steps to guarantee your own safety.
3. Try approaching one of the dogs, especially the aggressor, if you can determine which dog this is, and the moment you’re close enough, loop the leash around the dog’s belly, just in front of his back legs. Try slipping the free end of the leash through its looped handle, and then pull it taut. Immediately back away, as you pull the dog, till you get to something you can fasten and secure the pooch to, perhaps a fence post or a telephone pole.
4. After this, move towards the second pooch from behind, grab him by the hind legs, and then pull him away using the same method above. Drag the dog using the wheelbarrow method at least 20 feet away from his opponent, and find a way to restrain him until help arrives.

Remember that breaking up a dog fight is very, very dangerous, can easily result in a bite, and should only be done using the method above. Before reaching into a dog fight, always try other things first, like distracting the dogs or making a loud, sharp noise to get their attention. Do not panic or scream, as this could simply agitate the fighting dogs further.

To see an excellent video of these methods being performed, click here:

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When I adopted my shepherd mix, Molly, from a local shelter 12 years ago, I had no idea the impact she would have on my life. Through Molly, I've learned to be more patient, experienced unconditional love, been alerted to the mailman and every squirrel within a block radius of the house, and ingested enough fur to build 3 or 4 more dogs! When I lost Molly to cancer just a few months ago, I adopted Olive, a 13 week old Golden Retriever. Together, we smile at least a hundred times a day!


  1. I left my gate to my yard open while I was planting tomatoes. My 70 lb labradoodle laying on the grass. A peaceful afternoon ended when a pit bull entered and attacked. It went for the neck. If my doodle didn’t have long fur he would be dead. I grabbed the pittie by the neck, dragged both dogs into the front yard, and thank heaven a neighbor helped pull the pittie off. It didn’t bite either of us, and acted like nothing had happened while I took the doodle inside.

    $400 later and staples in the neck, my 11 y/o doodle and I were both traumatized by the experience. Reading about what to do has not helped much, but I will say that if that happened again I would not hesitate to take a baseball bat rather than risk injury to myself or my dog. I now have bats in the back yard and am ordering pepper spray.

    The owner of the pittie? An elderly couple that adopted the dog from a Petco adoption event. So elderly that they had to drive the 200 feet from their house to ours to get their dog. Why do people adopt dogs they cannot handle? They don’t even have an enclosed yard and are in their eighties. I am so angry about this!

  2. I have had this problem in the past – 15 years ago – now Having 2 medium/large mixed breeds, I have had to intervene 3 times – first time physically which was risky and dangerous! Second and third time used my nog /head – with my previously owned dogs poured/doused them with water or hosed them to divide them. Now I have a hand-held fire extinguisher – used twice with great success and minimum risk to all!! Saves on a lot of potential Vet bills, as a deterent and saves me from injury – I just spay as must as it takes.

  3. Have 2 medium/large mixed breeds. Have had to intervene 3 times – first time physically which was risky and dangerous! Second and third time used my nog /head – previously with other dogs poured water or hosed them to divide them. Now I have a hand-held fire extinguisher – used twice with great success and minimum risk to all!!

  4. Have 2 medium/large dogs, I have had 3 occasions to intervene in a fight. The first one was a physical, but risky separation . The second and third I learnt to either throw water over the dogs, or have a fire extinguisher on hand to spray on the dogs until the desired effect – separation occurs.

  5. Great article but this should be included:
    The 180 degree turn.
    Basically, when you have the dogs back legs in your hands wheelbarrow them into a half circle ( so they lose their balance. I saw this on a show may have been from Cesar Milan.

    Unfortunately I’ve had to use this before… but it WORKS when separating large dogs.
    If you have two larger dogs, have someone else lift up the other dogs back legs and do the same. Go anywhere you can to get the dogs separated! have the other person hold the back legs of the other dog until you are away.
    You can buy this doggie mace on Amazon called “Halt” if you have a little dog I suggest you carry this around – JUST IN CASE.

    3. Like you’d lift a wheelbarrow, lift your dog’s back end so that her back legs come off of the ground. Then move backwards, away from the other dog. As soon as you’re a few steps away, do a 180-degree turn, spinning your dog around so that she’s facing the opposite direction and can no longer see other dog.

  6. The back legs thing is really dodgy. You are relying on the other person not being afraid, and if it is a big dog on a small dog, it is unlikely to have much effect since the larger dog can just grip the smaller dog completely and does not need 4 legs on the ground to do it. The best way is to avoid it altogether by alway muzzling a potentially damaging dog when taking it on long walks or walks where you want to un leash it, or their will be other un leashed dogs around.

    As an owner of a large powerful dog, I can say from experience, it as ALWAYS the small dog that attacks, and it is ALWAYS the larger dog that gets blamed. So I muzzle my girl and if someone is stupid enough to let their little razor toothed monster get anywhere near me, I will give it a swift kick. No dog fight required.

    • I do not agree – our big Pit Bull X and Dachshund X viciously attacked our little JRT……without ANY provocation. For some reason or other the Dax X does not like the JRT and the Pit X will always team up with him against the smaller dog. I think it is more a case of personalities and backgrounds – all 6 our dogs are rescues – the Dax is not only the latest (and definitely the last) dog to be brought into the configuration, but comes from an extremely disadvantaged background, to say the least and we realise he’s still going to need a lot of rehab & also intend getting in a behavioral expert to help.

    • That’s a load of bull. It’s not always the small dogs. Now I had a beagle get attacked by a massive ridgebback. Guess who had the lock on the dogs neck. Yep. The ridgebback. Wouldn’t let my poor pup go.
      So, sure maybe at times the small dogs insinuate the fight but not ALWAYS as you say.

  7. From personal experience with my own dogs, specifically 4 pitbuls, they are always on a strong chain when out in our yard or on a leash…always. If two get into a fight, you need a break stick to get them to let go once they’ve grabbed onto each other which only takes a second. All the while two people pulling them apart by taunt leash or chain. Grabbing the back legs might work, but ours/pit mixes wont let go of each other or another dog. No amount of punching/kicking affects them. You need to always have break sticks available just in case. You stick it into their mouth from the side all the way back as far as possible behind their teeth and when they open their mouth, pull the leashes of both dogs and far apart. It takes two-three people from my own experience. I had 3 males, 1 female…too much competition between the males even though they were all spayed/neutered. There are breaksticks for sale online. They wont hurt the dog if done properly. Just thought I’d add this for any pittie or pit mix dog owners or other breeds owners that have the strength/aggressiveness as a pittie who may not be aware.

  8. I can personally attest to the effectiveness of this method. I have used it to break up a vicious fight between two females hell-bent on killing each other (one a 165 lb. mastiff).

  9. good suggestions. a broken leg or dislocated hip from wheel-barrowing a dog is definitely far lesser an evil than ruptured eyeballs, torn carotids or bellies that could maim or kill a dog.

    i usually keep a harness on my dogs even when they are wearing their collars. this has come in handy when my beagle got into a fight with a bigger dog. i just got behind him, grabbed his harness and lifted him straight up into the air spinning around so the other dog lost line of sight. the other dog was confused long enough for me to shut the door on him.

    might not work in every situation but in this one it did and having the harness didnt put my arm or hand directly into the fray

  10. What a load of rubbish! I cannot believe someone has been allowed to print this. The person that wrote this has clearly never tried to break up a fight between two male 8 stone German Shepherds, believe me grabbing their back legs or trying to loop a lead around their waste is the most ridiculous suggestion I have ever heard!!

    In my experience there is a two step process, Shout your ass off in the loudest deepest possible voice you can muster, this doesn’t work try your boot, seems cruel but leaving powerful dogs to properly fight will cause far more damage than a swift appropriately forced boot. But to be honest if you cannot control your dog verbally then you shouldn’t have a big dog capable of doing damage, if you have a tiny dog, what are talking about just throw some water at it!!!

    But for goodness sake DO NOT grab your dogs back legs, in fight mode the chance of you dislocating your dogs hips or breaking a leg are high, and unless you’re a cowboy, id avoid the idiotic lead suggestion!

    • James,

      You are spot on. That was a load of crap! I’ve broken up numerous dog fights with the deep, sharp yell… never even had to get to the boot.

    • I appreciated all the comments on this article. I think you have to know your dogs and assess the situation in seconds. On a walk, I recommend carrying a stun gun – just the noise is enough to send an attacking dog running away. I’ve been bitten trying to break up a dog fight between my own dogs. Three hand surgeries and a dead dog. This is serious stuff, and I wish I’d been wiser about my decisions.

      • Nicki, I also carry a stun gun to the dog park. It stops a fight as soon as it starts and the good thing is it will stop the fight when the dogs are a long way away, no need to get close to fighting dogs. :-0

  11. These methods do not work!! I tried it three times on our pit/basset mix that fights with any other dog that comes near him. I Tried it again yesterday when he went after our cattle dog. I had both his hind legs over his head and kinking his tail and he still would not let go. He held her for over 45 min then finally I got a 2×4 and it him in the side of the face and he shook his head and let her go. I think I may have broken his tail but it did not faze him, even hitting him with the board, he just sat down and watched me take the injured dog into the house. When I came back out to check on him he was bouncing around wanting to play!!

    • Try putting your fingers over the dogs nostrils. It’s very dangerous but it won’t be able to breath and it’ll let go.

    • Carol, if your dog is attacking other dogs it needs to be put in a fence when let outside or if it stays outside….so that other animals are out of harms way.

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  13. As it turned out I posted this on Facebook yesterday and a friend with two pit bulls (or pit mixes) had their dogs get in a fight this morning. They had been in a fight last week and my friend was bitten pretty badly on the hand trying to break them up. This morning they used this wheelbarrow method and broke up the fight in seconds.

    • It was really clear that the dogs front legs will be forced back to the ground, hence making them concentrate on staying upright and taking some of the focus off of the other dog.

  14. I cannot thank you enough for this tip I hadn’t heard before. I personally knew someone who lost the tip of their finger trying to break up a dog fight the wrong way. I truly hope I never need this information but I am so thankful for it if I do. I’m currently running the mantra “back legs” in my head so it will come to me quickly if such a terrible thing happens.

  15. I really believe some of you dog lovers are complete morons… if a person feels threatened by a dog then they should have some means of protection from the animal… remember the word ANIMAL.. because that’s just what a dog is, an animal! If I or one of my kids or wife were attacked by a dog you can bet i will use whatever means are necessary to dispose of the dog!!! A human life is far more important than some dog! For those of you putting down those who say “shoot at the ground” or “use a cattle prod” well i hope you are attacked and bitten by a vicious dog… maybe then you’ll see how much your stupidity is showing through your comments!!! Btw i do love animals.. all animals, but the second they turn on a human they should immediately be put down!!!!!!

    • Dude it wouldn’t be my dogs you needed to worry about, you’d have far more to worry about with me taking your knee caps to wear as ear rings.

      • Think you are the moron…. It’s about two dogs in a fight! The article doesn’t have anything to do with a dog attacking someone.

        • In some states if a dog is agressive towards a person or another animal the person who owns the other animal has a right to shoot another persons dog. And in some places it is illegal to have a dog outside without a leash. Making laws like these may not seem right to others, but it cuts down on the possibilty of fights or attacks taking place.

    • You realize that you are a species of ANIMAL… Humans are so egocentric.
      Difference between us and them is that we can decide to be an ignorant idiot, where dogs are taught to be mean.
      I’ve rehabilitated fighting dogs in to friendly dogs hundreds of times. People though, sometimes you can’t get the ignorant out of people.

      • Dogs don’t need to be taught to fight, it is part of pack behavior. The dog’s social interaction, from eating to mating is determined by status within the pack. A dog will fight another when they feel their status is threatened, to take the status of the dog above them. They will also defend against threats from outside the pack. In your home you are the pack leader, so if you have two or more dogs of the same gender you may have to break up a fight or two. I am dealing with a three year old border collie who turned aggressive towards a same aged ( litter mate) puppy we brought into our home six weeks after him. After a period of about two years of blissful cohabitation and play, he is again attacking his old nemesis and just recently picked a fight with an older dog. None of these dogs were taught to fight. They did so instinctively. They are not playing at all, and can get dangerous for everyone involved. I, my wife and daughter have scars on our hands to prove it.

    • Perhaps remember that most barking or “aggressive” dogs, do so out of fear or nervousness. I agree with the previous comment…this was about 2 dogs fighting not an attack on a person. Maybe we should take your advice with human behavior though. We have complex thought processes and ability to understand yet we hurt each other. Should every scuffle be approached with lethal force immediately?!

    • Jimmy, are you a dog owner? If you were and your dog was protecting your family while in a fight, would you put it down for doing so? You should really think about what you are writing before posting it bud!

    • Rest assured, if I or a loved one was attacked by a human, I would use whatever means required to eliminate the threat. And that includes my dog. You arrogant excuse of a human being… do you really think human life is more important then an animal. And why is that, because you have thumbs? Rest assured, I would not hesitate to shoot you, if you attacked my dog.

    • Dear Jimmy
      1. Why the name calling?
      2. If you’re not a dog lover, why are you reading this article?
      3. The article is about breaking up two dogs fighting. It says nothing about an animal attacking you or your family.
      4. You are angry. Get therapy!
      Deb Moron Dog Lover
      Ps…you’re an ass wipe! Lol

    • What a typical arrogant human attitude! I think there’s only one moron here. Dogs have no concept of the ‘importance’ we place on ourselves as a species! That is purely our arrogant belief system. They have no concept of the ‘importance’ of a ‘human’!!!!!!!!! We are NOTHING but another animal to a dog. When they are in a pure primal state of mind when fighting and we try to intervene, they do not bite us ‘on purpose’ or think to themselves ‘OMG I’ve bitten a human’!!!!! I think the human race sometimes needs to be reminded that we are just animals too sharing this planet with other animals. And for your information two of the most important species on this planet from an ecological point of view are sharks and bees. Without either of these – especially bees, we will cease to exist and funnily enough these humans that are far more ‘important’ and supposedly intelligent are destroying both those species!!!!!!!

    • Can you read? You’re the MORON… this article has nothing to do with animal attacks. You’re a disgrace. Maybe I should type slower so you can keep up….. G…O…. Away! People need a license to drive, have to register to vote… Maybe this country should require the same to have kids…. SMH Let’s hope your kids get some brains from your wife.

    • I have had to break up a number of fights between dogs. Both my own and others that have come into my yard. Dogs are territorial. What doesn’t belong there to them they will try to remove. I have had also dogs come into the yard and they all played nicely and had a wonderful day. Usually it tends to lean towards menstrual cycles, domination of another, or flat out from playing to fighting due to a certain or non certain perceived aggressive act or over excitable noises made by the ” Parent ” of the dogs. I have used all kinds of methods I have read about and none are 100% guaranteed to work mostly due to each dog is different. One might take balance as a way to just hold tighter because it doesn’t want to fall and become the vulnerable one leaving it helpless against the other. Another might force it’s attention else where just by a command or a noise that it knows. Even a squeaky toy has been known to break up a fight. I know it’s hard but you have to remain calm and very assertive when breaking up a Dog fight. Whether alone or with help. Get the one away from the other and remove either one out of sight from the other when you can. This does not mean they won’t go at each other again when they have the chance. They will interact once again but you have to also make sure both know that those actions are not going to be tolerated by you. And if it doesn’t stop maybe the one dog needs a family that only wants a 1 dog home. Some dogs like children will not get along with other dogs of any age and need to be by themselves to receive all the attention. Like I said before Dogs are just just children mostly and are very different when it comes to fighting. Some listen and some don’t. Doesn’t mean they are ” Bad ” just means they have to be removed from the place they are at and placed some where they will be happier and more at peace with their environment. Breaking them up takes a lot of energy and calmness on our part but as ” Parents ” we need to understand that they need positive reinforcement to understand that it will not be tolerated.