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How to handle conflicts between dogs – Marin Independent Journal

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Pets — especially dogs — are extremely popular in Marin. In fact, when I think about my own neighborhood block, every home has at least one dog. (Yay for dogs!) Unfortunately, this preponderance of dogs also means that occasionally they get into altercations with each other.
Seeing your dog involved in a fight, whether they were the one attacked or the attacker, is traumatic for both dogs and humans. When faced with this high-stress, scary situation, it’s hard to keep a cool head. Here are a few things to remember.
Avoid situations that might lead to altercations:
• Keep your dog on leash as much as possible (and certainly in on-leash-only places).
• If your dog is reactive to other dogs, avoid locations with many dogs. Dog parks, in particular, are not appropriate for some dogs. And forcing your dog to go to one sets them up for failure.
• If your dog has a history of aggression toward other dogs, use a muzzle.
If a dog is approaching your dog in an aggressive manner:
• Don’t be embarrassed to yell at the dog or scream for help.
• Throw treats at the attacking dog to distract them.
• Pick small dogs up and if possible, place them on top of a car, or something else high up. Large dogs can kill small ones with one strong shake. If you’re holding the dog in your arms, the attacking dog may bite you in an attempt to get at your dog.
If your dog gets into a fight with another dog:
• Use the leash or harness to pull the dog away. However, if the attacking dog has the other in what’s called a “bite-grip,” doing this may cause more injury. Instead, lift the hind legs of the attacking dog. Keep your hands away from their mouths to avoid getting bitten.
• If possible, wedge something between the two dogs such as a backpack or a board. If near a hose, spray the attacking dog.
Once the fight is broken up:
• If any people are hurt, call 911.
• If your dog is seriously injured, immediately take them to the nearest veterinarian or pet emergency hospital.
• If your dog isn’t severely injured and your car is nearby, secure your dog and return to exchange information with the other person. Even if you don’t think your dog is injured, exchange information. Take photos of the other person, their dog, their car and the street or trail you’re on.
• To file a complaint, contact Marin Humane at 415-883-4621. An animal services officer will investigate.
And remember to help your dog after the altercation.  “Hormones spike during a conflict, and dogs can take a long time to calm down,” Virginia Grainger, shelter behavior manager at Marin Humane says. “It’s like getting into a car accident; your heart rate spikes, you get shaky and scared, and probably avoid driving for several days.
“After a dog fight, set up ‘rehab’ sessions for your dog. Have them take a short walk with a calm, stable dog they know and like, or just a dog you know that is calm. It’s even better if you can find a dog who looks like the dog from the fight,” Grainger adds.
Need behavior help? Contact our behavior and training department at marinhumane.org/oh-behave. And to delve more deeply into this topic, consider attending our seminar with Michael Shikashio, a world-renowned expert in dog aggression, at Marin Humane on Jan. 15 and 16. Details and registration at training.marinhumane.org/oh-behave/events/seminars-events/details/908-Michael-Shikashio-8757.
Lisa Bloch is the marketing and communications director for Marin Humane, which contributes Tails of Marin articles and welcomes animal-related questions and stories about the people and animals in our community. Go to marinhumane.orgFacebook.com/marinhumane or email lbloch@marinhumane.org. 
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