I’m Lost, Please Find Me!

Take Paws Rescue recently had a foster dog go missing. Thankfully, it was my first time dealing with a missing dog. Ash had been in my care and then was moved to a female only foster home, because he is afraid of men. Then he was almost adopted! Ash has apparantly been abused, and he is still learning to trust. Like Ash, many dogs go missing right after being sent to a new foster or adoptive home. They slip the leash, jump the fence, or bolt out of an open door. They don’t know where they are, and they have not bonded with their new people. If they are naturally fearful or unsocialized, they can be relatively difficult to capture.

Ash found his way out of the backyard fence of his new foster home and it took a day and half to find and catch him. Many of our wonderful rescue dogs are brought into the shelters as strays. It happens. Unfortunately, about one in four pets will be lost at some point during their lifetime. Sadly, many of them never make it back home.The best thing that you can do to assure that your beloved pets are returned home if lost is to make sure that they are wearing ID tags and that they are microchipped back to you.

Always attach a tag to your dogs collar with your phone number and or address on it. An ID tag is your pet’s only visible means of identification, and not everyone who finds a dog will know about microchips, or will take the time to visit a vet or shelter to have a found dog scanned. But tags and collars can easily slip off, so a microchip is the best way to ensure that a pet can be linked back to its owner. Microchips are tiny, about the size of a grain of rice. They are quickly implanted beneath the skin. I have seen it done about 40 times, and most dogs don’t even notice it going in. Once implanted, you pay a small fee, usually about $20, to register your pet online and provide up to date contact information. A microchip contains a unique identification number that is linked to a database. When a lost pet is found, it can be scanned for a microchip at any animal shelter or veterinary clinic and will be linked back to whoever registered it.

No matter what company your microchip is registered to, you can register and update for  FREE at www.foundanimals.org. Make sure to update your information if it changes. 

 

What to do if your pet is lost:

 SEARCH

When dogs become lost, they quickly revert to a sort of feral dog mode; their first instinct is to survive and find a safe place to eat. Place food, water, and your dog’s crate in the area where the dog went missing, then they won’t feel the need to wander far. Leave out high value human food like chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, or hot dogs instead of dog food; it’s more enticing for dogs.

Organize a team of friends, family and neighbors to begin a detailed physical search of the place the animal was last seen, both on foot and by car, carrying leashes or slip leads, high value treats, and handouts with contact information. It is important to tell EVERYONE searching to NOT call out to, approach, or chase the dog.  A lost dog is in fight or flight mode. The greatest risk to a shy or frightened lost dog is that he will be chased into traffic and killed.

Often the search will begin at home. If at all practical, leave doors open, so that the dog can return home. Make sure someone is home at all times in case the dog comes back on their own. Search in and around the house, in the bushes, under decks and under raised houses in case the dog is hiding.

Search during the daylight as much possible. Intensify the search between 5 am and 8 am and 6 pm and 9 pm. Dogs may hide during the day, but come out at dusk and dawn.  If you are searching at night, be aware of your surroundings and bring a companion. Consider your safety first. Be sure to ask permission before going onto private property, and use extra care near busy roads or in isolated areas.

Other than searching the area, what can be done to help find the dog? 

  • Contact your microchip company to report your dog lost and make sure that they have accurate, up to date contact information for you.
  • Notify local animal control, or government agencies responsible for dealing with lost and found pets. Dial 411 to get phone numbers for animal control in your community.
  • Visit in person any shelters where your pet might turn up as soon and as often as possible. Just contacting shelters by phone or e-mail is not enough. Do not assume you will be contacted because you left your information; they are often very busy and dealing with a lot of dogs.

GET ONLINE

POSTERS AND FLYERS

Posting flyers is one of the most effective methods of getting the word out about a lost or found pet. Make bright, highly visible neon posters and print your flyers on colored paper. Yellow is easiest to see from a distance. Keep it simple. Use a few descriptive words and contact info and very large lettering. You want people to be able to read it at a glance. Add “DO NOT CHASE” on your flyers and signs. Consider the demographics in your area, maybe post flyers in Spanish. Insert your printed flyer into a page protector with open edge down, seal and attach with clear packaging tape to a bright colored poster board. To secure flyers to a utility pole, just wrap clear wide shipping tape to encircle the pole and to weatherproof it. Post these at major intersections and at main streets leading into and out of the area the dog has been sighted or was lost from.

Record an outgoing message on the voice mail of the number posted. “If you are calling to report a sighting of our lost dog, please give the time, location and direction the dog was moving and your phone number. Thank you.”

After a sighting, spread lots of posters and flyers in the area.

Flyers can be more detailed than posters and can include a photograph. Have good quality photographs of your pets. If they ever become lost, this photograph could be invaluable. Flyers can be handed out to neighbors, mailmen, joggers and dog walkers, and staff at local veterinary offices and businesses nearby. People who find pets will often take them to a veterinarian to be scanned for a microchip rather than turn the pet into a shelter. Ask if you can post on indoor bulletin boards at the vet, animal shelter, library, or any other public place that allows this.

See https://search.petfbi.org/flyer.html for a good flyer template.

MISSING DOG BEHAVIOR

Pets can become lost in unfamiliar surroundings (from a car accident, while on vacation, or from the vet, pet sitter, or groomer). Newly adopted dogs and foster dogs must be watched carefully. They have not yet bonded with their new family and they are unfamiliar with their new territory. If lost, they are at a disadvantage. However, they are usually quite predictable in their behaviors, often staying close to the spot where they went missing.

Typical missing dog behaviors can be broken down into general categories. Knowing which category your dog best fits can help you find him or her.

An explorer gets out repeatedly and generally knows their territory. This dog appears confident, often follows the same route and urinates at intervals along the way. The good news is, this dog will avoid people and will usually return home by the end of the day.
An outgoing dog is friendly and may follow people or get into their cars. These dogs are well adjusted and confident. They usually don’t stay missing for long; they’re easy to catch. They’ll walk up to strangers, and if they’re wearing ID, they’ll usually be returned home quickly.

These two types of friendly dogs are relatively easy to catch. However, even well-socialized dogs may instinctively go into “feral mode” after finding themselves lost. In this state of mind, dogs perceive all humans as threats and may flee even from people they know.

  • Search yard, house, call by name
  • Call out “Treat!” or “Go home!
  • Leave out food, water, and crate, and the dog’s bedding or clothing with your scent where the dog was last seen
  • If lost from home, leave doors open where the dog is used to going in and out of the house
  • Recruit neighbors and friends to search by car and on foot
  • Tell people DO NOT CHASE
  • If you have another dog, take it with you to search
  • Carry a leash, high value treats, and  flyers with a description of the dog and contact info
A runner dog is running scared and does not know where he is. A runner may be set off by loud noises, like fireworks. A runner is in great danger of being hit by a car. Ash, the missing foster dog, was a runner. He is afraid of men. He ran when familiar people spotted him. He repeatedly ran across a busy road, and was lucky that a car did not hit him.
A shy dog may be a loved pet with a naturally fearful temperament, or may be a dog that was not well socialized to humans as a puppy. Dogs who were abandoned or lost as puppies, or who were raised in puppy mills and hoarding situations can be the most difficult to recover. They will run off in a panic when startled, or when faced with a stressful situation. They can run for miles before slowing down. They will avoid human contact, running from anyone who tries to approach. They will become more fearful if chased and may growl or bite if cornered, so use caution when approaching.

  • Do NOT call the dog’s name
  • Write “Do Not Chase” on your signs and handouts.
  • Be slow and calm – if the dog is spotted, sit quietly and avoid direct eye contact
  • Lure dog with food, just drop food bits and walk away a bit to see if it will follow
  • If the dog won’t come to you, it may be necessary to use a humane trap to recover a runner or a shy dog. You may be able to borrow one from your local shelter or animal control. (More on traps below)
  • When searching carry a slip lead that can go over the dog’s head quickly

 

When there is a sighting, but the dog is not caught, it is important to get high value food and water set out in the area to keep the dog from roaming further. You can even try to set up a portable grill and cook hamburgers or hotdogs. The smell might entice the dog near. Leaving out scent articles like the dog’s bed, toys, even dirty articles of clothing (from the person most bonded with the dog) also may help keep the dog nearby. When a hunter loses a dog while hunting, they will often leave their coat out on the ground at the place they last saw their dog, and find that the dog is lying on it when they return to the spot later.

Be patient.

If you see the dog, stop. Slowly sit down on the ground. Assume a nonthreatening position. Keep the dog in sight using your peripheral vision. Don’t look at the dog straight on or make direct eye contact with the dog.
Move as little as possible. Make sure your phone is on vibrate or silent. Maybe toss a few high value treats on the ground around you. Have a crinkly bag with treats inside it (my dogs always run to the kitchen when they hear me opening anything that may be treats.) Start crinkling the bag and “accidentally” dropping the food onto the ground, then slowly pick up pieces that you dropped on the ground.

Now you are sitting or kneeling down and not considered a threat. It may take some time and patience, but the dog might approach you.  Be patient and speak softly or not at all. Never call a stray dog. Don’t look at it. Don’t walk towards the dog. When I sighted Ash, our missing foster dog, I was in my car. I got out and moved slowly towards him, happily calling his name. This was a mistake. He bolted and ran across traffic. If I had sat down, he might have come to me. He was in fight or flight mode.

Approaching the dog
should only be attempted by one person at a time and not until the dog is in a sitting position. If the dog is standing, it is very likely to run off when you start moving. Try to move closer while the dog is eating the treats, move very slowly and continue tossing treats while avoiding eye contact.

Here is what did work with Ash. Try to bring in a calm dog that the lost dog knows. We knew the area he was in after several sightings. Another of his foster mom’s arrived with her senior Golden, a dog that Ash got along very well with. Maddie was confident, calm, and relaxed. Bringing in a reactive, high-strung dog would have been a mistake. With the calm dog (Maddie), and the lost dog (Ash) in sight, start feeding treats to the calm dog. You want to show that other dogs do not find you threatening. Then you can toss high value treats to the lost dog. If the lost dog spooks, sit and remain where you are and give them a chance to come back. It took patience, and several tries, but eventually Ash approached.

Do not attempt to catch the dog until you are within arm’s reach. Use a slip leash or, if the dog is still wearing their collar, try to grab it. If the dog gets scared and backs away, give them a chance to relax and try again. Don’t rush, be patient. It took a day and a half of searching, and several instances of him approaching and retreating, but Ash was found and caught and is safe now.

Be safe; avoid dog bites. Lost dogs are scared and may turn and nip or bite out of fear when they are finally caught. A pair of thick, leather work gloves can help prevent a dog bite. Whenever possible, let the owner or foster handle the dog.  If that person is not there and you have sighted the dog, contact them ASAP. Put some food on the ground let the dog eat and wait for the owner/foster to arrive. Let the dog come to you. Sit on the ground with your back to the dog and gently throw out high value treats.

What happens if there is a bite? In most states any incident that breaks skin results in a 10 day rabies quarantine for the animal. If the dog’s rabies vaccination is not current or the status is unknown, then the quarantine must be done at an animal shelter or stray animal holding facility.  The shelter is extremely stressful and the close contact with other dogs puts the dog at high risk of getting sick. The costs of the quarantine, any medical treatment, and care for the dog will be transferred back to the owner.  If an owner cannot afford the reclaim fees, the dog is at high risk of being euthanized, because a dog who bites may be considered “aggressive”, even if they bite out of fear and are normally friendly. Aggressive dogs are not adoptable. It is very important to avoid bites, both for your own health and for your dog. Both shelters and rescues will hesitate to take on the additional risk of liability of a dog that has bitten.

To recover a scared, skittish dog, it’s often necessary to catch it in a trap.

How to use a trap to catch a lost pet

https://youtu.be/Shpvu9hg-ag

You may be able to borrow a dog trap, or you may need to purchase one.

 

A trap should be about the size of a dog crate, big enough to enclose the entire dog, standing.  The trap is triggered when the dog is lured far enough in to step on a pressure plate, releasing a mechanism that causes the door to slam shut without hurting them.

The trap should be placed in an area the dog frequents for food. Leave food outside in the same area day after day until the dog gets used to feeding in that location. Then position your trap in that area. If a flat, level surface isn’t available, secure the trap to a wooden plank. Once a dog begins to get comfortable with feeding inside the trap, you can bait it and set it for a catch. Unset your trap at times when you are unavailable to monitor it. Do not move the trap. Changing trap locations can confuse the dog

The key to luring the dog into the trap is using really smelly food. Place the food inside and tie it open so it cannot close. The dog could be afraid to go into the trap. Make a routine of leaving a smelly bait trail leading into the trap. Drizzle juice from canned tuna leading into your trap so the dog will follow the scent trail. Leave bits of food just inside of the trap and then a larger amount at the end just beyond the trip plate.

If capturing a pet dog, try adding a favorite toy or blanket or clothing or pillowcases from family members.

The best time to set your trap is at dusk, when dogs feel most comfortable coming out to forage for food. The trap needs to be checked every two hours in the hot summer and cold winter months and every four hours in milder weather. You are likely to catch a variety of wildlife like raccoons or opossums. Please be careful when releasing wildlife.

This takes time and patience, sometimes it takes weeks. The dog needs to work up courage to go into the trap. It may not do so until it is extremely hungry.

Do not immediately open the trap once the dog is found inside. All of the doors to the trap need to be tied shut before moving the trap. Drop a blanket or cloth over the trap to keep the dog calm.

Be very gentle when moving the trap, keeping it level. Have someone help you transport the trap to a secure location where the dog cannot run off again.

If your dog has been missing for a long time, don’t give up! Dogs are survivors and are very resourceful.

 

 

 

 

Ash is very happy to be with us again, and he has made a lot of progress around my husband. It takes time and patience to undo the effects of abuse and neglect. Ash is now known to crawl up on my husband on the couch for cuddles. He is learning to trust men. It is an amazing thing to be a part of the healing process for these amazing animals, and I am incredibly grateful for my supportive husband and children.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Out of 46 dogs that have come to live at The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs thus far, we have had 4 with aggression issues and 2 that came and left within 24 hours because of aggression towards other dogs here. It happens. Sometimes a fostered or adopted rescue dog is overly aggressive towards other dogs in the home, or just towards unfamiliar dogs in public. I am by no means an expert in dog aggression, but I am determined to learn as much as I can so that I can help these dogs and keep them from hurting other dogs so that they do not end up being put down. Part of fostering dogs is rehabilitating them and training them so that they are ready for their forever homes, and I am learning more with each dog that we welcome into our home.

Every dog is different, and it isn’t only foster dogs that have issues. My first dog, Pen, a nearly 3-year-old Labrador Retriever, is a wonderful pack leader at home, but she becomes insecure and very protective of me around unknown dogs outside of our home. Two attempted fosters that were unfixed males came and left quickly because they picked a fight within my pack when I was a much less experienced foster. Four of our fosters have had fights while here and had to be separated from our other dogs until we could find a better placement for them. The human adults in the home have had minor scratches occur while breaking up fights, but we have never had a dog simply bite one of us. Incidentally, though dogs labeled pit bulls have a bed reputation for being aggressive, we have seen the aggression in a Chihuahua and a Beagle mix, a Labrador Retriever, a Catahoula, a Border Collie, and an Australian Shepherd. It’s not the breed or the size that matters. Most dogs are nice, and ANY dog can bite. Every year about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in America. We humans bear some of the responsibility for not knowing how to approach or interact with a dog in a safe and appropriate manner. By learning to read a dog’s body language, educating ourselves, and especially our children, and understanding how to respect a dog’s space, we can prevent most bite incidences.

There are many reasons why a dog may act aggressively: fear, stress, feeling that its space has been violated, protection of a person or other dog(s), or simple over-excitement. There could be a fight over resources (food, treats, toys) or for your attention. It could be a hierarchical dispute where one of your dogs wants to reinforce or challenge for their position in the pack.

The most common dog-to-dog aggressive behaviors are: 

Growling
Snarling/lifting the upper lip
Snapping
Aggressive barking
Lunging towards another dog
Biting 

These types of aggression occur more frequently in non-neutered male dogs once they reach sexual maturity, at 6 to 9 months, or social maturity, at 18 to 36 months. 
Inter-dog aggression also tends to be more of a problem between dogs of the same gender. Note that a female dog in heat or a nursing mother can become very defensive and aggressive around her pups.

Aggression between dogs or towards humans may be a learned behavior. A dog may become aggressive after experiencing abuse or neglect, a traumatic encounter with another dog, or simply because it was not properly socialized with other dogs as a puppy. Other reasons for aggression include fear, a stressful environment, or a painful underlying medical condition. You should always pay a visit to your veterinarian to rule out any underlying diseases or medical conditions that could be a contributing factor. If nothing is found to explain the behavior, you should consider turning to a trusted local animal behaviorist/trainer.

The dogs that I have seen aggression in have largely unknown pasts, but 2 of them had just been spayed after coming out of the shelter, so stress, hormonal changes, and medications may have played a role.

So, what can we do to prevent and or deal with aggressive dog behaviors?

Take responsibility for your dog or dogs

That means training and socializing them so that they get along with other dogs and other people. A dog that is at home and never exposed to strangers or other dogs cannot learn how to behave properly around strangers and other dogs. Organize supervised play dates for your dogs and teach them how to behave correctly.

Have your dogs spayed or neutered

This will keep male dogs from becoming aggressive in general, and trying to escape/ roaming around getting into trouble. It will prevent your female dog from becoming a defensive/aggressive nursing mother.

Be the pack leader

Dogs in the same pack fight when they do not have a strong pack leader, so it is very important that YOU establish rules, boundaries, and limitations for the entire pack. Your dogs should see any human, not just you, as having a higher position in the pack. A well-trained, well-socialized dog is trained to be submissive so that a human is able to take food or toys away from them without issue. This is easiest to do with puppies, but can also be done with adult dogs with proper training.

Train your dog to come when called

You can remove your dog from tense situations before they escalate too far. Start training your dog to come and to stay, and then practice often, especially around other dogs. Reward them with treats and or praise for coming to you.

Always leash your dog when you’re outside of your home and fenced yard

Even trained dogs sometimes can’t resist temptation.

Educate your children

Most children love dogs, and most dogs love children. Please teach your children how to stay safe and remain calm around dogs. High-energy children who are yelling and running around can make dogs anxious and over-excited. Teach children how to interact calmly and safely with dogs, both known and unknown. Children and inexperienced adults alike should never approach a strange dog. If a dog is alone, stay away from it. If the dog is accompanied, teach children to ask permission (from a distance) to pet a dog, and then  wait for the dog to come to them. If the dog sniffs them and stays, then they can pet it on front of the chest (not on the back or head). Teach children that dogs do not like having their ears or tails pulled, they do not like to be grabbed or picked up. Let your children know that if the dog walks away, it’s just not interested in interacting. Let it go. Redirect your child. Respect the dog’s wishes.

Always supervise small children with dogs

You should NEVER leave small children and dogs together unsupervised. Children should be told not to touch dogs while they are eating, not to mess with their food, and not to grab their toys unless the dog is fully trained and an adult is supervising at all times. Teach your dog and your children which toys are dog toys. Teach your children that if they lay on the floor with the family dog, they will be treated like puppies, and that might mean getting nipped. Children should stay up above the dog, and be in charge. They should not be in dog beds, on dogs, or inside of dog crates. That is the dog’s space, and they should respect that. Avoid playing aggressive games with your dogs, like tug-of-war, which isn’t good for their teeth anyway. Play fetch instead, rewarding your dog for dropping the toy in front of you. Teach your children to be in charge in a calm and self-assured manner.

Teach your children and your dogs good manners and don’t encourage resource competition

Just as we teach our children to share and play nice, we have to teach our dogs to share and play nice. Dogs should be trained to sit and relax on verbal cues, with small food treats and praise as reward. We have to condition our dogs not to fear other dogs, by gradually exposing them to other dogs in public. Use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior. When your dog exhibits aggressive behavior, separate them from the other dog(s) and take a time out until calm is restored. You can carefully allow them to make up after a fight or near fight, but observe and supervise. Young dogs are like toddlers that can bite. Supervise.

Some dogs are dangerous to other dogs or humans while they are eating or because they are guarding certain possessions (such as food, treats, bowls, random found objects, toys, a dog bed or crate they are in…) Remove the possessions that are causing a problem when dogs are socializing together. Feed multiple dogs in separate crates or in separate rooms to avoid food aggression.

Observe your dog(s) and prevent aggression


This is a fearful dog, you can see what is called whale eyes

Observe how your dog normally interacts with other dogs. When dogs play, it often looks and sounds like they’re fighting. They will growl, snap their jaws, and bite one another roughly on the ears, and neck, on collars and on legs all while play fighting and having a great time. Carefully watch their bodies. If the body looks relaxed and they are wagging their tails, they’re generally just playing. If the bodies appear rigid and their tails are down, they may be getting ready to fight. If there is a high-pitched squeal, they may be playing so rough that they are accidentally hurting one another. Sometimes rough play becomes a fight, and the dogs need to be separated until they calm down a bit.

Dogs communicate to one another through their body language. You can spot aggression and stop a fight before it starts by observing body language and intervening at the instant that you see it about to escalate. Some dogs normally play rough with one another, others do not. Know your dog’s normal behaviors and then you can see out of the ordinary behaviors and warning signs. Know what to look for. A dog may come charging towards you, and if its body is relaxed, its tail is level and wagging, and there’s no tension in the body, relax, it is showing excitement, not aggression. It’s your job to learn the difference.

You can see the signs that aggressive behavior may be imminent by reading a dog’s 
body language.

Aggression:
Ears pinned back
Fur along their back may stand up 
Yawning - in this case, they are not tired - the dog is showing off its teeth as a 
warning. (On the other hand, a sneeze during playtime can be a sign that everything is cool.) 
Intense and direct eye contact is a clear sign to back off immediately. 

Watch the head, ears, tail, and back. The higher these are, the more dominant a dog is feeling, and the lower they are,the more submissive or uncertain. 

Look for tension in the dog's back and legs; the more tense a dog is, the higher its energy level. Watch out for staring and or blocking another dog’s entrance into a room. 

Fearful or submissive body postures:

Crouching
Tucking the tail under
Licking the lips
Backing away
Teeth together, with the ears pulled back along the head, eyes squinting
Body lowered and leaning away

Introduce new dogs to each other slowly

One big mistake people make when introducing new dogs is just tossing them all together and hoping for the best. All of the dogs should meet in neutral territory and, if possible, take a long walk together before coming into the yard and home. I have too many dogs to do this, so we meet in the yard. A new foster dog meets my dogs one by one, starting with the calmer and smaller dogs, and I observe each of them carefully. As soon as a dog starts to get stressed, I step in and interrupt before the situation escalates. My lab has to be last, and has to be harnessed and leashed, because I know that she gets overexcited, and I need to be able to control her to feel confident with a new dog (or person) in the yard. After everyone meets and plays outside, my husband and I enter the house, call in the dogs that live there, and then call in the new dog. We are allowing the dogs to first bond and play outside, then allowing our dogs and existing fosters to bring the new dog in and sort of show them around.

So, we do all of that, and at some point, one of the dogs becomes stressed and aggressive. What do we do?

 

Try to understand the underlying cause of aggression

A specific condition sometimes triggers aggression, even when the dogs involved normally get along well.  If you can figure it out, you can possibly avoid situations that may trigger aggressive behavior. My lab sometimes feels threatened by other dogs who are her size or larger than her and of a similar age. She is fine with older dogs, smaller dogs, and puppies. My beagle Henry is partially deaf and will howl if he gets startled. Two fosters, who had incidents of aggression, acted up only with certain dogs and not others. One became aggressive if growled at. We had one small unfixed male foster who came into the house and tried to pick a fight with a 90 lbs. Labrador we were fostering. Observe to try to understand triggers. We have learned that some fosters are afraid of men, some don’t trust children, some get overexcited by large vehicles. Each dog is different, but each is trying to tell us what they don’t like.

Be Calm

Dogs are very sensitive to what their human is feeling and will react to our emotions with dog intensity. They know when you are nervous or stressed, and will react in turn. If we tense up, and get fearful of what our dog may do, that itself may  trigger an aggressive, protective reaction. Be calm and do not pull back on the leash. If you pull straight back, it may cause a lunge forward in response. Just hold on to the leash with a firm grip, and calmly, quickly walk past or away from the other dog; just ignore it and move along. And always, always walk your dog on a harness, not on a collar, which can increase their stress and is often easy to escape from.

Learn how to break up fights quickly and safely if they occur

Sometimes, roughhousing gets out of control or a dog gets triggered and starts a fight. If it is too late to redirect the dog’s attention, it’s important to step in before one of the dogs gets seriously hurt.

Do not get between fighting dogs, you will get bitten. If the dogs involved are very small, then you may be able to safely put yourself between them to block their view from each other and end the fight. If you’re wearing pants and adequate shoes, you may be able to push some dogs apart with your legs and feet. Place your foot on the ribcage and push away, without kicking. Use your judgement, small dogs bite hard too. If the dogs are already biting, don’t try this. 

If a dog is holding a bite on another dog, do not just try to pull them apart. You will cause an even greater injury to the dog by tearing his flesh. Act on the aggressor dog to get it to release its bite.

A dog fight is best broken up by two people using a method called the wheelbarrow, where each person approaches a dog from behind, grabs the dog’s rear feet and lifts them off the ground into a wheelbarrow position. Given a moment, the dogs should disengage and each person must pull their dog by his rear legs away from the other. Begin walking backwards. Keep your hands and arms away from their mouths. They may redirect their aggression at you. Do not release the dogs or the dog fight will begin again. Both people need to start turning in a circle, while they back away from the other dog. By circling the dog has to sidestep with its front feet or it will fall on its face. As long as you slowly continue to back away and circle, the dog cannot hurt you. One of the dogs must be dragged into an enclosure before the other dog is released.

It is not necessary to kick or hit the dogs; the goal is to separate them, not to hurt them.

Only one person? Call for help. Observe which of the dogs is at a higher level of intensity. If only one dog is the aggressor, do not act on the dog being attacked. Grab a leash. (Allow the fight to continue while doing this. Safety is more important than being 1st on the scene). No leash? You can use a belt or a tie as a leash stand in. ) Slide one end of the leash into the looped end and slip it under the aggressive dog’s belly, loop it around the rear legs and pull the dog out of the flight. Like the wheelbarrow, lift the dog and give a moment to allow the dogs to disengage – then quickly and calmly, move that dog away to safety. Tie one dog to an immovable object and remove the other dog to another location. The victim dog may take advantage of the fact that the aggressor is immobilized and try to bite again. The dog being restrained should be released so that it can protect itself. Step around to the rear of the attacking dog and use the wheelbarrow method to steer that dog in the opposite direction.

If your dog is on leash and he gets into a fight with a dog who isn’t leashed, drop the leash before you or the dog become tangled. If both dogs get into a fight on leash, both leashes should be dropped and use the wheelbarrow method rather than injuring the dogs by yanking them dogs apart by the leash, particularly if they are attached to the collar around the neck rather than a harness.

If one or more of the dogs becomes aggressive towards you, don’t turn and run, face the dog, stand still, and avoid eye contact. Remain calm. The dogs feed off of your energy. It is difficult, but panicking does not help. Stay calm.

Once separated, keep the dogs out of one another’s sight until everyone is calm and check them for injuries. See a vet. Some injuries may be internal.

You have learned something about your dogs after a fight, and it is your responsibility to prevent another fight. Seek help, separate the dogs as necessary, and be willing to work with a trainer. An aggressive dog taken to an animal shelter has a death sentence, and aggressive behaviors may be completely avoidable.