What to Do if My Dog Bites Another Dog?
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When dogs fight, it is not necessarily to do harm, but only to ensure dominance. Whatever the cause, it is always very unpleasant to witness a fight between two or more dogs, especially if your beloved dog is one of the participants. The best way to solve the problem in such cases is to learn to read the language of animals and anticipate attacks. Any signs of tension between the dogs should be resolved immediately.
In the following AnimalWised article, you will learn what to do if your dog has bitten another dog.
Why does my dog bite other dogs?
There are many reasons why a dog may attack other dogs, and the first step before intervening is to determine the cause of the behavior so that it can be prevented and worked on if necessary. Keep in mind, however, that not all attacks are necessarily due to an aggression problem.
Below, we explain some of the most common reasons why a dog might bite another:
- Play: Dogs play with each other by chasing and biting each other. Even if they do not intend to hurt each other, an overly abrupt or overly excited play dynamic can cause one of the dogs to injure the other. In this case, the injury (if any) is minor and the dog involved will most likely complain or stop playing immediately.
- Fear or insecurity: One of the most common reasons why a dog bites another dog is because it is afraid or feels insecure in its presence. The likelihood of an attack increases if the dog in question is leashed, does not know how to communicate effectively, or has no way to leave the situation that is causing stress. This is especially the case with animals that have not been properly socialized, have had traumatic experiences, or have been raised through punishment.
- Resource guarding: this type of aggression occurs when a limited resource appears that is valuable to two or more dogs. This may be a piece of meat, a snack, or a ball. If the animals are unable to communicate effectively and establish an order for accessing the resource, a fight may break out.
- Communication problems: Dogs have their own very complex language that includes facial expressions, body movements and sounds. Socialized animals raised in a comfortable environment know how to communicate effectively using these signals, and they do so with other dogs as well as with us. When an animal is uncomfortable in the presence of another individual, it uses this language to indicate that it should move away or stop its behavior. However, if the other dog does not understand the signals, the dog has no choice but to bite them to make themselves understood, thus reinforcing this behavior.
- Aggression due to pain or illness: A disease, pain or certain genes are also possible causes of aggressive behavior that should be investigated. For this purpose, and in case of suspicion of pathology, it is best to contact a veterinarian who will examine the animal and perform the appropriate tests.
- Territoriality: Some dogs exhibit confrontational behavior only when another animal enters their home. Territoriality and social group defense is a trait of some individuals that is determined by various factors, such as their genetics or learning.
- Intrasexual aggression: in intrasexual aggression, the dog attacks only another individual of its own sex. This type of aggression is more common in adult males than females, although it can occur in both sexes.
Although dogs are social creatures, that does not necessarily mean they get along with every member of their species. Sometimes conflicts can arise, especially when two or more dogs are introduced. Read this other article for tips on how to properly introduce two dogs.
What to do if my dog bites another dog?
On many occasions, encounters between two dogs are limited to a series of growls, marks, and quick and sudden movements that they use as a means of communication. These fights may occur, for example, when one or both animals are stressed or overstimulated, or when valuable resources are at stake. Usually, one of the two dogs eventually leaves the area and ends the conflict.
However, under certain circumstances, a real fight may occur between two or more dogs. If your dog attacks and bites another dog before you have time to intervene, you need to know how to act quickly and accurately to prevent the situation from escalating.
Here are some tips to help you know what to do if your dog bites another dog:
- Stay calm: This may seem complicated in a dog fight, but it is important to stay calm in order to think clearly. You should not yell at or hit the dogs to try to separate them, as this will only add stress to the animals and make the situation worse.
- Try to get your dog's attention: If the conflict is not serious, a distraction may be enough to make your dog give up the fight. Try calling your dog in a happy voice, jingling a toy or running in front of them to encourage them to chase you. If they approach you, do not punish them for fighting.
- Deal with the attacker: In the case where your dog started the attack, but does not let go of the other animal, you should act immediately on your dog. It is very likely that the other dog will leave immediately if your dog lets go.
- Do not pull on the dogs: A common mistake made when trying to separate a dog that is attacking another (i.e., has grabbed the other dog and is not letting go) is to grab both animals by the collar or paws and pull in opposite directions. This is a risk because we can cause a significant rip that will exacerbate the severity of the injuries.
- Withdraw from the situation and calm the dog: Having separated the dogs, you should move away from the area with your dog. Don't hit or punish your dog for what has just happened, this is counterproductive and could further aggravate the situation.
You also need to be extra careful about so-called distracted bites, since the dogs can bite you involuntarily in a moment of great stress or frustration.
Aggression in dogs may be due to guarding a territory, resources, or family member, fear, frustration, prey drive, or pain. Read this other article to learn more about the causes and solutions for a dog's aggressio toward other dogs.
What to do if my dog bites another dog?
Once both animals have been separated, it is time to assess the extent of the injuries. Both you and the handler of the other dog need to examine your dogs well, gently touching their bodies and remaining calm to reassure them at the same time. If your dog is very nervous and will not allow you to touch them, walk them a short distance away to a quiet area and give them some time to recover from the stress of the situation.
Once this is done, talk to the handler of the other dog to clarify the situation. Try to remain calm and understanding, as the other person will likely be frightened, and it is better to avoid an argument. If your dog has not caused any injuries to the other animal, or if they are superficial, it is very likely that the other guardian is simply asking you to pay for the veterinary expenses. However, it is also possible that they will decide to involve the police to file charges against you. In this case, you must cooperate with the police and provide them with the information they request.
The police will request both your records and those of the animal and will check, among other things, that there are no criminal records and that the dog has been properly vaccinated. In cases where your dog is considered "potentially dangerous," the police will also check to see if you have liability insurance. It will also check whether all related requirements were met at the time of the attack (for example, whether the animal was tethered or wearing a muzzle).
Usually, you will then have to pay a fine at least equal to the cost of counseling and veterinary treatment necessary until the injured dog is fully recovered. In some cases, you may also have to pay for further damages.
The police will probably tell you that your dog needs to undergo quarantine and behavioral testing if it has bitten other dogs multiple times, caused serious injury, or even caused the death of the other animal. This examination is done to assess the risk posed by the animal and to decide whether it is classified as a "PDD" (potentially dangerous dog), regardless of its breed. If the latter is the case, you should comply with the regulations for the ownership of potentially dangerous dogs.
Even if your dog is well socialized, another dog may pose enough of a threat to attack it. The dog will try to defend itself and may suffer a bite injury. Learn what to do if your dog has been bitten by another dog and has injuries
Will insurance pay if my dog bites another dog?
If your dog has bitten another dog, it is normal to wonder if any of your insurance companies will cover these costs. Owners of dogs that are considered potentially dangerous must now have liability insurance that covers personal injury or property damage that the animal causes to third parties.
Both homeowner's policies that include pets and policies that only insure dogs generally cover accidents caused by bites to third parties, both humans and other dogs. However, not all policies cover these costs, and some only cover a portion of veterinary expenses. Therefore, it is important that you carefully read the terms of the policy you choose before purchasing insurance.
Whether your dog has attacked another dog or you suspect it may do so, it is best to anticipate and avoid this situation. If the problem is that the dog has not been properly socialized, it is not too late to change that. We recommend that you see an ethologist or dog trainer to help you assess your dog's condition and establish a personalized action plan. This is especially critical if your dog attacks other dogs relatively frequently, as this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
Socialization is the process by which dogs learn to interact with other dogs, animals, and people. Through socialization, dogs learn to get along with other pets and to distinguish adults from children. A well-socialized dog is less likely to exhibit aggressive behavior or get into a fight. Learn how to effectively socialize your dog by reading this other article on puppy and adult dog socialization.
If you want to read similar articles to What to Do if My Dog Bites Another Dog?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.