My two dogs got into a terrible fight today and I was bit trying to intervene. This is the first time this has happened. When you worked with dogs what did you do to diffuse fights and stay safe?
Oh boy! First of all, let me say I’m sorry. Being in the middle of a dog fight can be a VERY stressful experience and it’s no fun for anyone involved, especially when a bite occurs. I’ve never been bitten during a scuffle but I did get my leg chomped on by a not-so-friendly bull terrier once and it SUCKS. To this day, I still get a little uneasy around that breed.
Anyhoo! The easiest and safest way to break up a dog fight is to dump a bucket of water on them, say their dog bowl. Dog fights can escalate so quickly though, and especially if you’re alone, water might not be an option. Make a loud noise if possible, like clapping or slamming your hand on a wall. If that doesn’t work: do NOT keep doing it. If they’ve done and gone beyond the point that a loud noise won’t startle them out of what’s called their “hind” mind (the purely reactive part of their personality) then it won’t help to keep making noise (it can make it worse).
Whatever you do, don’t reach for the dog’s head. I know it’s instinctual to do this but it’s the worst place for your hand to be in a dog fight. Grab them by the hind legs like a wheelbarrow and pull them away. And if it’s gravely serious blood-spilling-lockjaw-stuff and no water is available: shove a thumb up one of their assholes. Only use this method as a last resort though.
The most important thing is to stay calm. Dogs react to the stress level of the people around them, and they do it blindly when in a heightened state like fighting. Most dogs aren’t out to kill each other when they scuffle. It helps to think of dog fights in terms of arguments. One of them is right, and one of them is wrong and they’ll go until whoever admits they were wrong. This usually amounts to no more than a couple of superficial punctures that, as long as they get treated, will heal up in no time. It’s not ideal, obviously, but the main reason I bring it up is because it can help when trying to remain calm.
Once they’re separated, give them some time apart until they settle down. I good thing to watch for shaking their body (like they would when shaking of water), relaxed muscles in the face, and yawning. All of these behaviors indicate a dog that is ready to move on. If they tense up again upon reintroduction: more time apart until you can figure out what is causing the disagreement. Sometimes you don’t know too! Used to get a boxer at the daycare I worked at who didn’t like German Shepherds. Just straight up would stalk them around the room, looking for an opportunity to take them down. As far as the owner knew, he had suffered no past trauma at the paws of German Shepherds so the only conclusion was to split the dogs into a pro-German Shepherd group and a sans-German Shepherd group where he could go play for hours and not be a dick. He was a great dog aside from that.
Anyway, I hope this helps.