How to Discipline a Dog After Fighting? What to Do Next?

Last Updated on March, 2024

Dog fights are extremely common, much like the neverending rivalry between siblings.

But while sibling fights usually end after a couple hours of sulking and tears, dog fights have the potential to become severe and stay serious for a very long time.

Prevention is always better than the cure, but sometimes a dog fight is inevitable. You know what I’m talking about if you own more than one dog. 

Therefore, it is essential that you know how to discipline a dog after fighting, and this is EXACTLY what I’ll be teaching you here in this article.

Quick Summary

The most important thing to do if you run into a situation of dog fighting is to stop it immediately and remove your dog from the situation.

Express your disapproval when your dogs fight, but when they behave appropriately, it is equally important to show your dog that this is what’s expected of them with positive reinforcement.

If your pooch is constantly getting into fights with other dogs or even other animals, seek professional help. A professional dog trainer or behaviorist will assess the situation, determine the underlying cause of the aggressive behavior, and offer specialized guidance.

How to Discipline a Dog After a Fight?

2 small dog trying to fight

Dogs are very social animals, and all dogs interact with other dogs and other animals a ton. Unfortunately, this can lead to many squabbles and the occasional serious fights.

This can be nightmarish for a pet parent, but it doesn’t have to be! 

Here’s how to discipline a dog after fighting.

Put an End to the Fight

The most important thing to do if you run into a situation of fighting dogs is to stop the fight and remove your dog from the situation immediately.

You can learn the most effective way to stop a dog fight in just a bit!

Take your dog a safe distance away and ensure you remain calm. 

Dogs can sense your emotions and read your body language better than anyone else. Therefore, any anger or distress on your part can further escalate the already tense situation.

Do NOT hit, shout at, or physically punish the dogs involved. This will cause your dog anxiety and fear and worsen their bad behavior, so stay calm. Don’t overly fuss over the fighting dogs, either. This will help prevent the event from being ingrained in the dogs’ memories.

Ensure That Your Dog is Calm and Uninjured Above All Else

Once you have taken the two dogs out of the situation immediately, remain calm and check your dog for any injuries he may have sustained.

Check the inside of your dog’s mouth for bleeding, and carefully examine their fur. 

If your dog is bleeding, use a clean cloth to wipe away the blood until it stops flowing.

Take him to a veterinarian promptly for medical attention. It is not advised that you take matters into your own hands.

If your dog is injured, disciplining him can wait. Your dog’s health must be prioritized above all else.

Give Your Dog a Time Out

You can discipline your dog once you have ensured your pooch’s well-being. 

Again, note that you should NOT subject your pet to harsh corrections and physical punishment.

Instill discipline after the fight by saying a firm and disapproving “No” to your dog.

 Then, give your dogs a time out by placing them in separate rooms or crates until they cool down. Make sure there is some physical barrier between them.

Have this designated area be reserved for times when your pet is in disgrace so that you can help your dog learn that being sent there is NOT a good thing.

A disciplined dog breed sitting on a wooden bench

Figure Out the Cause of the Fight

If both the warring dogs belong to you, take the time to figure out why they were fighting. 

Were they fighting over a toy? Your attention? Over which one got to become the President of the United States?

Keep reading to find out all the actual reasons why dogs tend to fight.

If the cause of the fight is identified and taken away from the two dogs, it’ll help establish dominance and make it clear that the dog owners are the ones in charge.

It’ll also help the dogs understand that fighting will only result in losses to both of them.

Keep Your Dog on a Firm Routine

The key to establishing discipline that all dog owners need to get behind is following a strict order of doing things.

Structure all the essential parts of your dog’s days, from eating to sleeping to exercise. 

When dogs live according to a routine, they will be less likely to resort to aggressive behavior as they will know they won’t have to fight for resources they get every day, like clockwork.

Doing things together with other dogs will also improve your dog’s behavior, reducing the likelihood of jealousy developing. 

Provide Positive Reinforcement for Good Behavior

After a dog fight, the last thing on your mind will be to provide positive reinforcement- but this step is crucial to building a good relationship with your dog.

Express your disapproval when your dogs fight, but when they behave appropriately, it is equally important to show your dog that this is what’s expected of them.

Pet them, praise them, and treat them consistently to encourage good behavior.

Positive reinforcement is an immensely powerful tool for helping your dog learn behavior, so don’t underestimate it. (1)

A corgi dog breed is looking for treats kindly

Seek Professional Help if Fights Continue to Occur

Suppose your pooch is constantly getting into fights with other dogs or even other animals. In that case, there may be an underlying behavioral issue at play.

If you suspect this is the case and not even the previous steps help prevent the fighting, you should seek professional help. Start training your pet with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. 

They will assess the situation, determine the underlying cause of the aggressive behavior, and offer specialized guidance. 

They will conceive a behavior modification plan and teach you more actionable techniques for your dog’s behavior.

Why Do Dogs Fight?

2 dogs are fighting on a grass ground

Now that you know how to discipline a dog after fighting, it’s time to figure out the root causes behind certain dogs fighting.

Territorial Behavior

Dogs, like many other animals, are territorial animals. If there is a threat to their “territory,” they won’t hesitate to defend it and fight other dogs for it.

This “territory” may be their family members or owners. It may also include keeping their food and toys safe from a strange dog. 

Dominance Struggles

A little sprinkle of growling, snapping, and baring teeth is expected in any dog’s life. This dog behavior is typical when asserting their dominance over another dog.

If the other dog is a more submissive dog, these little tiffs are not likely to escalate into a severe fight. The submissive dog is expected to bow his head, lie down, or lay his ears flat against his head, which would be the end of that. 

Problems may be on the horizon if two dominant dog breeds encounter each other, as they will both fight to assert dominance over the other dog.

Fear Aggression

When a dog feels threatened by something in its environment, it sparks “fear aggression” within them.

Dogs typically express fear and aggression through barking and growling. Still, it could lead to a full-scale fight between dogs, other pets, or nearby people.

The Socialization Problem

Another issue that can lead to fighting among dogs is how dog socialization classes train dogs to approach each other. 

In these classes, puppies and dogs are encouraged to approach other dogs with high energy and excitement and to immediately start playing.

Unfortunately, this does not always fly in dog parks.

You may have a severe fight if the other dog does not enjoy being approached this way.

It is good for your dog to be social- BUT it is equally essential to discipline your dog so that they ignore other dogs on a leash.

Here our guide to socialize your dog.

How to Tell if a Dog Fight is Serious Business?

2 dogs fighting inside a house

It can be difficult as a dog parent to tell when a “fight” is just some playful shenanigans or the actual deal.

Here are some signs in your dog’s body language that indicate a fight is serious.

  • The dogs’ mouths are closed, and they’re directing warning growls at each other.
  • Their bodies are stiff, and the hairs on their back are standing up.
  • Their ears lay pinned back at a flat angle.
  • Their movements convey agitation.
  • One dog (for example, the more submissive one) may be trying to retreat.

If a fight is just a playful tussle, you will be able to observe the following signs;

  • The dogs’ mouths are open, and they appear to be grinning.
  • The dogs bound around each other.
  • They keep coming closer for more fun.
  • The front part of their bodies will be low towards the ground, while their behind will be arched upwards.

What to Do and Not Do During a Dog Fight?

Do not let the heat of the moment make you do anything rash. Avoid putting yourself in the middle of the two dogs, as the chance of them attacking you is high.

Don’t try to use your hands to separate the fighting dogs, and don’t try to yank them away by the tail, either. Dogs dislike nothing more than being pulled by the tail, and even a calm pet would snap in such a case.

Avoid violent behavior towards the fighting dogs, and don’t bring your face too close to the fighters.

On the other hand,this is what you should be doing during a dog fight;

  • Use the wheelbarrow method, where dog owners grab their dogs by the back legs and pull them away. Once the dogs are separated, the owners can start walking away from the other culprit.
  • If there is no second person for you to do this with, identify the aggressor of the fight and use the wheelbarrow method on that dog.
  • Attempt to break off any firm grip they have on each other with the help of a break stick. Place the break stick near the back of their throats and twist to separate the two dogs. 
  • Once the grip is severed, pull your dogs apart by the collar and keep them away from each other.

Why You Should NOT Punish Your Dog After a Fight?

It is natural to want to discipline your dog after fighting, but to reiterate— punishing your dog is NOT the way to instill discipline. 

Punishing your dog is both ineffective and detrimental to your dog. This is because dogs do not understand the concept of punishment.

All they’ll feel is hurt, fear, and confusion at being treated harshly. 

This will put a wrench in your relationship and hinder his ability to learn new behaviors. The EXACT opposite of what you want to achieve. 

When disciplining your dog, your mantra should be, “Positive reinforcement is the way to go!”

a human warning a dog breed

How to Reintroduce Two Dogs After a Fight?

It is recommended that you keep the fighters apart from each other for at least 48 hours after the fight. 

Enlist a second person to help you with this. 

Reintroduce your dogs in a neutral location, ensuring they are collared and leashed. Avoid getting them to interact again at the site of their fight.

If you notice any signs of aggression, put more distance between them.

Slowly start walking along the same path towards the other dog until they are side to side. You should immediately increase the distance between them at the slightest sign of anger.

When both the dogs are walking together, you can stop and give them time to mingle. 

Repeat this process a few times over, and if there’s no more trouble, you and your dogs are good to go home. 

Once at home, you can have your dogs interact more while still leashed and under supervision. 

Only let them interact unsupervised when you are certain animosity has decreased to zero.

How to Prevent Dog Fights?

an image of 2 dogs fighting for something from far

If you catch your dog red-handed about to start a fight, a well-timed correction may be enough to stop him.

Be on the lookout for subtle signs such as growling, baring teeth, excessive eye contact, and the licking of lips that indicate your dog is squaring up for a fight.

Teach your dog discipline throughout by making him accustomed to obedience commands.

Then, when you notice your pet looking ready for a brawl, you can give him a verbal correction that will deter him. If your dog is the instigator, you can take him away from the area until he calms down.

Bottomline

Not knowing what to do with a dog post fight is scary, as you only want what’s best for your precious pet. 

The idea that you may have to deal with such awful situations may have even put you off getting your own pooch.

But, now that you know how to discipline a dog after fighting, NOTHING can stop you.

Best of luck to you and your pet navigating the wild waters of socializing!

FAQs

The recommended time for keeping dogs who have fought apart is 48 hours.

Yes, dogs have the ability to become friends again after a fight. With their angelic nature, they are capable of forgiving quickly and are not prone to holding grudges.

To tell if a dog fight is serious, look for signs such as closed mouths, agitated movements, raised hackles, and pinned back ears.

No, dogs should not be punished harshly for fighting. Positive reinforcement is a better option to teach size-appropriate behavior.

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Laura Vinzy
Laura Vinzy is one of our contributors. She is also a certified professional dog trainer & currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and her two rescue dogs.

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