- Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 


Fighting dogs - to step in or not to step in?

January 18th, 2009, 04:22 PM
We adopted a dog about one month ago from a shelter and she loves playing with other dogs. Sometimes she gets into fights with other dogs after playing happily with them for 10 or 20 minutes. How do I know if I should step in or not? Some owners want them to fight it out others immediately step in. She seems to target smaller dogs but not always. Any advice? She's a pointer/cattle dog cross we think.

January 18th, 2009, 04:36 PM
Is it a REAL fight, i.e. your dog is actually trying to INJURE the other dog, or is it just loud, toothy, raucous play fighting?

When our dogs play fight, there are terrifying displays of bared teeth, growling, snarling, barking,'s quite rough...but if you watch closely, you'll see that 99% of it is ritualistic displays, not real agression. For example, the "bites" at the cheek are not bites at all, but open-mouthed/minimal-contact "bump"...but if you're not looking it would be easy to think it's a real bite. Personally, I don't intervene in this play.

If your dog is really being agressive, then yes, absoutely you should remove your dog, and take it a step further and train your dog NOT to behave that way, or at least keep it away from other dogs who might get hurt.

If your dog is just playing, you need to respect other owners' comfort levels...not all of them can handle rough play, and some may have concerns about their pet getting hurt (perhaps they're arthritic and rough play could make them sore). In that case, I'd appologize, remove the dog, and arrange for play dates with dogs who can keep up with yours and whose owners aren't so squeamish about rough play.

January 18th, 2009, 05:22 PM
Well put Bendyfoot :)

I work in a dog daycare facility, and spend most of my job in playgroups with up to 15 dogs at once. After doing this for almost a year now, I've really learned to recognize the signs of what the difference is between playing/fighting. Dogs that like to play rough can often make people uneasy, as there will be lots of teeth/growling/wrestling/etc. As bendy said, it's mostly ritualistic and for show - any contact that happens between teeth is usually harmless. My dogs play with a lot of play nipping/snarling.. which looks pretty scary at times, lol.

Some dogs will start off playing, but if one of the two is a bit rough, it can escalate into an argument. When this happens, I always step in to prevent it from turning into a real fight. Once you get to know your dogs body language, it becomes easier to tell when things are getting too intense. With my two dogs, the first sign is the fur on their shoulders (called the hackles) will rise. Nova will put her ears back, and start snapping the air to defend herself.

At the park, I usually step in before anything escalates. It really depends on the comfort level of the owners, and more importantly I find, how much you know the other dogs. People often do mistake signs, but I think it is important to step in for the safety of the dogs. I've seen both ends of this, people either interrupting dogs playing fine, or letting it go too far and ending up in injury. I usually think it is better safe than sorry when it comes to dogs fighting... it only takes a moment for serious damage to occur. Once you get to know your dog better, it will become easier to read their signs of when to intervene :)

January 19th, 2009, 08:51 AM
OMG those faces are PRICELESS!!!:laughing::laughing::laughing: