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Fighting Between Dogs

In most neighborhoods, many dogs belonging to unrelated human groups must share the same territory. This is the equivalent of many competing "packs." Dog fights can result if neighborhood rivals come face to face. A dog fight can occur between dogs of either sex, whether they are neutered or not. These may erupt spontaneously between dogs, particularly when both are males. Inter-male aggression (aggression between adult male dogs) is common and can result in savage fights. Whether leash laws are in effect in your area or not, the leash should be considered a lifeline between you and your pet. If dogs are leashed, the owners can separate the antagonists. If the aggressor is unleashed and, even worse, unsupervised, there is a high risk of injury to a leashed dog and its owner. Free-roaming groups of dogs frequently revert to ancestral pack behavior, posing potential danger to people, children and pets. Be suspicious of any dog roaming freely in your area, even if it is familiar and your dog has had friendly encounters with it in the past. Any dog or group of dogs should be considered a potential threat. Consider carrying a loud noise-maker, such as an air horn, to deter overlyconfident dogs. A small can of aerosol hairspray or a water pistol filled with dilute lemon juice directed at a menacing dog's face can be equally effective. Fighting can occur between neighborhood dogs and between dogs from the same household. If you witness a dog fight, consider your own safety first. Do not insert a hand or foot directly between the 2 rivals because the dogs' natural reaction may be to redirect their attack against you. You are at risk of injury even if the fight erupts between your own pets. If you must intercede, avoid using your hands. If possible, hose down the aggressor with water, or throw something else at it to distract it. Proceed with extreme caution. If aggressive interactions are an increasing problem between your own pet dogs, identify the situations that most predictably result in a conflict. Is either dog guarding nearby food? A favorite toy? A favorite resting place? Does aggression occur during periods of excitement, such as before or during a walk? Is the outburst preceded by one dog's assuming a position of dominance over the other? Consider the sexual status and age of your pets. Once you have identified the common denominators, or the lack of these, consult your veterinarian. S/he can help to identify the type of aggression displayed by your pets.