How to protect your pet from an aggressive dog

Experts say dog-on-dog attacks happen more often than you think.

On Monday, we reported two smaller dogs were attacked by two large dogs in the Lanikai area. The smaller dogs suffered critical injuries.

“It’s pretty common,” said dog trainer Wendy Mah. “People don’t talk about it. If it happened to you, you’re not going to go, ‘Oh my dog just attacked another dog.’ So people keep it quiet.”

Mah works with pet owners to fix aggressive behaviors in dogs big or small, of any breed. She says dogs are similar to humans — not all get along.

“We as humans have the ability to say, ‘Okay, we’re not getting along so well. I’ll see ya.’ The dog doesn’t have that option. They’re usually stuck in an area,” Mah said.

Veterinarian Joseph Edhlund at Gentle Vets Pet Hospital in Hawaii Kai says he treats pets for dog bites several times a week, and observes another troubling problem: severe attacks between dogs.

“We see probably two maulings a month, which would give us 25 maulings a year,” Edhlund said. “Most of the time, we can fix them to the point where they’re doing okay. Some are beyond hope. Broken backs, major lung injuries. Psychologically, they’ll always be a bit damaged. I was just chatting with someone, who said, ‘Yeah, my dog was attacked. Now ever since, I go to pet him and he flinches, and he’s shy because of the attack.'”

How can owners protect their pets from aggressive dogs? One: never let your guard down.

“Whether you have a big or little dog, you should always be aware of what’s going on and conscious of what’s happening around you,” warned Mah.

“The real advice is to not allow the situation to develop in the first place if at all possible,” added Edhlund.

Picking up your dog and moving him or her out of an aggressive dog’s eyesight can prevent an attack.

But sometimes, dog attacks can happen before the owner can react. If this happens, make a lot of commotion.

“If you scream and stomp your feet and act bizarre, the dog might think whoa, little odd, I don’t think so, but then you stop the attack,” said Mah.

The Hawaiian Humane Society offers the following tips before you try to physically separate fighting dogs:

  • Make noise. Clap loudly, stomp your feet, or yell. If you have a whistle, use it to startle both dogs.
  • Spray the dogs with water.
  • Throwing a carbonated beverage in the dog’s face may work in stopping a fight in a minor case. Throwing a large blanket on them may work as well.
  • If you have something to separate the dogs, put it between them. This could be a boogie board, a piece of plywood, a trash can, or something similar.

If you need to intervene in a fight when the above does not work, do not grab the dog around the head. Once a dog is in an aggressive mode and no longer able to reach the target of attack, he or she will redirect the intensity to whatever is nearby and easy to get a hold of, which is often the person.

The safest thing to do when breaking up a dog fight is to grab the back legs of each dog and pull them separately. By pulling them this way, the animal is thrown off balance and is less apt to turn around and bite. If both owners are present or if there are two or more people, approach the dogs together and try to separate them at the same time.

Once you have separated the dogs, be sure to move the dogs far apart from each other.

Lastly, it’s important to stay calm. Step back, take a deep breath, reassess the situation and see what you need to do.

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