Are My Dogs Fighting Or Playing? Our Guide To Telling The Difference (Plus How To Stop A Dog Fight)
Are you wondering if your dogs are play fighting or actually fighting? Learn how to tell the difference between fun and fighting.
We have all been in that situation where our beloved pooches are playing and bounding about and then before we know it, it gets out of hand and they are fighting, barking and growling.
Here’s what you need to know if you find yourself in this position again…
If your 2 dogs are wrestling and it seems a little rough to you, with all the snarling, growling, body slams, and bounding, should you intervene? The truth is, this situation is probably normal dog play.
Did you know that from about 2 weeks old, as soon as a puppy’s eyes open, they will spend most of their hours wrestling with one another?
This is crucial for their social development as it teaches them good dog manners and stops them from always biting down hard on other dogs when playing. It’s also great exercise.
Here’s how to tell the difference between fun and a fight…
Dog behaviours that mean it’s all fun and games
- The dogs will bow to one another. Their front end will be down and their back end in the air. In some cases, the dog who is trying to start the play fight will slap his front legs on the ground several times before the other dog get involved.
- Bounding, bouncing and exaggerated movements - the dogs are playing the fool and acting silly.
- Their mouths are open and almost grinning.
- Continuous, loud snarling and growling that also sounds exaggerated. This play growling can sometimes sound scary, but watch out for body language to tell if it’s fun or a fight.
- The dogs will often make themselves appear vulnerable by throwing themselves on the ground and exposing their tummies.
- The dogs will take turns chasing each other.
- The precious pooches will keep coming back for more. Tiring each other out until they have to take a break.
Dog behaviours that mean it is NOT a game
- The dogs’ bodies will stiffen up. Hackles will raise (raised hair on their upper back) - however, this is sometimes hard to see if your dog has long hair.
- Their mouths will be closed, with a curled lip and low warning growl and snarl. No more big silly smiles.
- The movements are efficient and quick - there is NO bounding or taking turns.
- Their ears will be pinned flat.
- If the dogs start to fight, then the loser tends to get away soon after. They will not ‘come back for more’ play fighting.
- The dog who is trying to get away will have her tail between her legs, her body language looks scared. She is NOT having fun but trying to get away from a bad situation.
How to stop a dog fight
Do not get physically involved in the middle of two fighting dogs or try to grab their colllars. If you put your hand near the fight, you can get injured.
Do not think that your precious pooch will not bite you when she is involved in a fight. Your dog will bite anything in its way.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Stay calm - You need to remain calm. Avoid any yelling. Take a deep breath and focus. Advise others to do the same.
- Clear the scene - Remove any other dogs or children from the scene. Only the dogs' owners should help. Others should stay clear.
- Spray the dogs down - Spray water from a hose in your garden and try to aim for the nose and eyes of the more aggressive dog. A bucket of water will also work or a spray bottle. In some cases, vinegar or citronella spray in the face will help for a brief second as dogs do not like the smell.
- Use noise as a distraction - Use a car horn or an air horn but do not shout and scream at the dogs. A loud noise from a horn should break up the fight.
- Use objects to intervene - Throw a large blanket over the dogs to break their focus and break them up. You can also use a chair, umbrella or laundry basket - just make sure your hands stay clear of their mouths.
What to do after a dog fight
As soon as the fighting dogs are separated, then you need to keep it that way. Put them in separate rooms if the fight happened at your house. Or leave the park if it happened in a public place.
Check your dog for any injuries, contact your vet if you find any, even if it appears to be minor.
Stop the fight before it happens
If you notice that two dogs are acting overly aroused and showing signs of aggression or if one dog is dominating the other too much (such as rolling or pinning them down) during their playtime, then you should intervene.
Stop the behaviour and separate the dogs.
Let the dogs cool off before they see one another again.
Yours in cuddle-worthy pet insurance,