A well-trained, well-socialised dog will not normally be actively aggressive towards other dogs. But any dog can become aggressive if they are afraid and feel there is no other way out of the situation.
No matter how well-behaved your dog is you can never guarantee everyone's dog will be the same.
It can be really distressing if your dog is attacked by another dog. Obviously your main concern is the welfare of your furry friend, but there are a few important things you need to do if your dog is attacked.
What are the signs a dog might attack?
Dogs very rarely attack out of the blue. There are clear signs of aggression that other dogs are likely to display, including:
- Baring teeth
If another dog shows aggression towards your dog, the best thing you can do is walk away with your pet and try to put a visual barrier like a gate, fence or car between your dog and the aggressive dog. Don't let your dog start snapping back as this will make the situation worse.
It's worth looking out for signs a dog is uncomfortable too, as not all dogs will show all of the above signs before they go to bite. If a dog is uncomfortable, they may show signs like the following:
- Licking their lips
- Showing the whites of their eyes ("whale eye")
- Turning their face away
- Trying to move or turn away from the other dog
- Standing crouched or walking low to the ground.
If you catch these sings in either dog it's best to move away at this stage and give them some room before things escalate.
What to do if your dog is attacked by another dog
- Try not to panic. If you panic, you make your dog (and the dog attacking) worse. Try to stay calm and focused.
- Don't try to separate them yourself. It might be hard, but if you try to pull your dog out of harms way you could end up with some nasty injuries, too. You could also injure your dog further if the attacking dog hasn't let go.
- Try to distract the attacking dog. Hopefully, the other dog's owner will also be doing this, but see if you can distract it with a loud noise like a clap. If there is one to hand, you can gently put a solid visual barrier, such as a folded lawn chair, coat or blanket in between the dogs.
- Call your dog away. you may be able to call your dog away from the attack. the owner of the other dog may be able to do the same.
- Report the attack. If your dog has been attacked and injured, you can report it to the police by calling 101, or report it to your local council's dog warden.
- Collect details. Get the owner's contact details and a photo of the other dog (if you can) and note or photograph any injuries your dog got during the attack. If you can, check if the other owner has third party or pet insurance for their dog as this may cover you for any veterinary care required. You may also want the contact details of any witnesses.
- Take your dog to the vet. Even if your dog's injuries don't look serious, take them to the vet straight away to get checked over. Many bite injuries are a lot worse than they look due to damage to the muscles and tissue underneath the skin and the bacteria carried in dogs' mouths.
What to do if your dog attacks another dog
It's easy to feel powerless or embarrassed if your dog is the one doing the attacking, but here are a couple of things you can do to help.
- Stay calm. If you become agitated, this may make your dog feel more worried.
- Distract your dog from a distance. Try to avoid shouting at or making direct eye contact with the attacking dog as this can make them more aggressive. Call them away if you can, or use a loud noise or their favourite toy to distract them. If you have a leash or a large coat you can throw this over your dog to help you distract them for long enough for the other dog to get away, and then get them under control. Hopefully the owner of the other dog will also be trying to remove their dog from the situation.
- Get them back on the lead. Be careful when you do this as they may be highly stressed and you don't want to get bitten yourself. Remain calm and try to take them somewhere where they can't see the other dog they attacked to cool off.
If your dog attacks another dog, you need to take precautions for next time. If this was a one-off thing, it's likely something scared your dog - possibly the size or the way the other dog approached yours. Work with your vet to make sure there's no medical reason for the sudden aggression. If this is ruled out, it may be helpful to work with an accredited behaviourist. They can help to make sure your dog is able to cope with all the situations it might find itself in without resorting to aggression.
If your dog is always aggressive towards other dogs, they may need to wear a basket muzzle in public and you might need to adjust the times you walk them so as not to meet as many other dogs.
How to avoid your dog being attacked by other dogs
- Keep your dog on a lead in unfamiliar places. This way you always know where they are, especially if their recall isn't the best.
- Socialise your dog and train them. A well socialised dog is less likely to attack or be aggressive towards other dogs. If your dog has good recall then you can help them avoid potentially dangerous situations.
- Be aware of other dogs. Never let your dog go bounding up to an unfamiliar dog - you don't know how they will react. When you see unfamiliar dogs, it's best to keep your dog close to you.
- Keep an eye out for signs of aggression. If you start to see your or another dog behaving aggressively (even if it's not towards your dog) get away from the situation immediately.