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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

A harmless, playful skirmish among dogs, can quickly become a serious matter. How you can recognize the difference between a so-called playfully fight and a serious dog fight and how to behave correctly in such a situation, you can read everything about it in this exciting article.

Dog game

Watching dogs play and frolic can not only be extremely entertaining, but dog owners literally “open their hearts” when they see their pets frolicking around.

In some cases it can be really wild. There the teeth are bared, growled, barked, bitten into the flew, bickered, snaped and romped about. It is understandable that some owners let themselves be easily disconcerted by this and think that the dogs are seriously fighting with each other.

But this is mostly harmless scuffle. How you can recognize a game you can find out here: Dog game 

When does it get serious?

If one or the other dog gets too excited, for example, if his signals are misinterpreted by his playing partner, the game may be overturned and a fight may occur. But even when resources are defended, stress is present or a dog is afraid or in pain, such fights can occur. 

Mostly these are so-called show fights. The aim of this show fight is not to hurt or even kill the other dog, which would unfortunately be the case in a serious fight. More often these fights occur with dogs of the same sex.

But how can I recognize the difference?

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Show fight

These are, as already mentioned, show fights, which have the goal to defend themselves, but without wanting to hurt the other. These fights are mostly ritualized and with loud arguments. The mimic is besides clearly recognizable with both dogs. It usually looks bad, but does not usually last long. In the worst case, smaller injuries can occur.

Here it should be tried to win distance and calmness, because rarely but nevertheless a show fight can tip over and change into a serious fight.

Serious fight

Here it suddenly becomes very quiet. Loud utterances are stopped, facial expressions and threats are no longer shown or are shown only very briefly and hardly recognizable. Dogs that seriously compete with each other hardly waste energy with the demonstration of sounds.   

The serious fight runs therefore silently and has the goal to hurt the opponent seriously and/or to kill him. 

Even though this kind of fight is much less frequent, you should know it anyway.


The consequences of a serious fight can be devastating. From small scratches to life-threatening wounds, anything can happen. Even the psyche of the dog can be affected after such an attack in the short or long term.

If your pet has any physical wounds after a fight with another dog, is restricted in his movement or seems severely traumatized, you should visit a veterinary clinic as soon as possible. Even small wounds can have catastrophic consequences. There is also the danger of internal bleeding.  

If you notice any changes in the behaviour or character of your faithful friend, it is recommended to contact a dog trainer.

What else you should consider in case of a bite wound you can read here: Dog bite consequences and prevention

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How do I behave correctly in an emergency?

If a dog gets into a serious fight, your self-protection is the first priority!

The danger of becoming a victim of a bite wound is high. It is important to know that you can never separate the two dogs on your own, you need a second person who also knows what to do.

In case of an emergency the dogs have to be put out of their minds to let go of each other for a second. In the moment of the inattention, speed is required from the owners by pulling the dogs away from each other in opposite directions. However, this should be communicated in advance, because it is not enough to pull only one dog away.

Therefore both people should hold the dogs around their hips, lift their hind legs up and pull them away at the same time. Attention: This can lead to hip injuries and other consequences. It is important to weigh up the pros and cons. In an emergency, an injury is less serious than death. 

But how can I get dogs fighting with each other off balance? An input from the outside can draw the attention of both dogs to something else for a moment.

  • Loud noises: For example, a horn can upset both dogs for a short moment. Even a squeaky ball can distract them for a moment.
  • Water: If you have drinking water for your dog, pour it on the dogs.
  • Clothing: A jacket or similar can also be useful by throwing it over the dogs’ heads. The sudden darkness can cause a moment of shock.

Here it must be clearly stated that these procedures are only intended for the absolute emergency and aim to save a dog’s life. Under no circumstances should you fall back on these or similar methods in other situations, because they can have psychological consequences (like all aversive methods).

After Dog fight

If the dogs are separated, it is important to keep them as far away from each other as possible and to protect them. Because a new attack cannot be excluded.

After all the excitement it is necessary to keep calm. The dogs should be searched for injuries. The owners should exchange their contact details with each other, even if no wounds have been discovered for the time being. If a veterinary clinic has to be visited at a later date, possible damage payments can be claimed.

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A harmless tussle or bloody seriousness? Unfortunately, in some cases it is not easy to distinguish between them when dogs fight with each other. Fortunately our dogs give us information about this in their vocalizations. But always remember never to separate scuffling dogs alone.