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Harris Hounds Guide to Dog fights

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

A dog fight is something that nobody wants to witness and certainly not have their own dog involved in. To help reduce the risk of this happening, Harris Hounds owner Chris explains what we need to know should this unfortunate incident occur.

A dog will continue to learn about good social behaviour into adulthood so it is important that dogs get to interact with their own species throughout life to maintain these social skills. A dog can really only learn how to act appropriately around other dogs if they can interact with them on and off the lead. Therefore, a dog must have a reliable recall to be able to have off lead social experiences*.

If you think your dog can be unpredictable, you'll need to deny those opportunities and reasons that your dog might have to fight. Try to encourage good behaviour with praise and treats and enlist the help of a canine behaviourist. They will work one to one with you and your dog to reduce the likelihood of any serious incidents.

The main causes of aggression towards unfamiliar dogs met out on walks are social incompetence, fear, pain, inter-male competition and the owner's behaviour may also be an influencing factor. The dog can pick up on your own body language as you tense up when you see another dog approaching and therefore give your dog cause for concern as well.

Spotting the warning signs

Submissive behaviour

These will be fairly obvious to the owner as most know how their dogs tend to react in situations. The dog will be generally be unhappy around strange dogs and may either run away, hide, freeze or use appeasement body language like rolling over onto its back and exposing its abdomen to make the other dog move away.

Defensive behaviour

On the other end of the scale the dog may go on the defensive and bark, curl its lip, bare teeth, raise hackles or stand side-on to the threat making themselves appear larger. This type of behaviour is called ritualised aggression as the dog retains a level of control over their behaviour to try to communicate a message to the other dog rather than cause harm.

Aggressive behaviour

If there is uncontrolled aggression, the dog stops moderating their behaviour completely and shows aggression whenever they see, or are near, another dog. The dog might attack to defend itself as if it were a life or death situation and bite without any control. Thankfully this is something that most owners never witness.

Types of dog fight injuries