Dog Park Altercations

How To Prevent Dog Park Altercations

A guide from the experts about knowing what to look for and what to do if a dog fight occurs. 

Why do Dog Fights Happen?

Sherry Woodard, CPDT, Best Friends Animal Behavior Consultant

Aggression is a normal canine behavior. In the wild, dogs use aggressive behavior to hunt for food, defend themselves, and guard their territory. Typically well-socialized dogs will work out disagreements without a fight.

Dominance Aggression

A perceived challenge to the dog’s social status or control of a social interaction.


Fear-Motivated Aggression

▪Defensive reaction when a dog believes he is in danger.

▪Exposing a fearful dog to a hectic environment of a dog park will worsen his problems.

▪Under-socialized fearful dogs that lack confidence.


Possessive, Territorial or Protective Aggression

When a dog his possessions, territory or his family/pack. Dogs will guard almost anything that is important to them.

*Working on “trade” commands can alleviate this type of aggression*

Redirected Aggression

If a dog is agitated or in an aggressive state, he may redirect his aggression onto someone else (i.e. you).

 Knowing What to Look For

Dogs are communicative animals. Knowing what to look for will greatly help you to prevent fights from occurring.




Examples of Dog Behavior to Look For

“Whale Eye”


    Frightened/Threatened Dog Posture


Dominant Aggressive

Big Dogs vs. Little Dogs at the Park

Cesar MilanMarty Becker DVMASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist 

▪Any size dog can be aggressive. Big dogs, however, cause more damage due to their size.

▪“Red Zone” dogs – dogs with larger size and strength: Mastiff, Cane Corso, Pit Bull Terrier, Rottweiler… any large dog can cause more damage.

▪Occasionally (although rarely), if in an aroused state, a large dog may view a smaller dog as prey. This may lead them to attack the smaller dog.

▪Small dogs tend to be more “indulged.” A small dog that is being a pest is not as dangerous as a large dog. Owners let small dogs get away with more misbehavior.

▪Because of this, smaller dogs may not necessarily have the proper socialization skills which may lead to disagreements between dogs at the park.

▪Rather than relying on obedience training, owners of small dogs find it easier to push or pull their dogs. This may make little dogs more sensitive to the touch,  which could lead to issues at the dog park.

▪Allow your little dog to experience the world and learn dog behavior on the ground, and not from your arms.

 Inappropriate vs. Appropriate Dog Play

Appropriate Dog Play

Inappropriate Dog Play

Dog Park Etiquette

Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS

Images provided by: (click link for more informational images)

Avoid letting your dog overwhelm dogs entering the park. Watch how the other dogs respond and look for signs of fear/anxiety.

If your dog is being a pest, call him and engage him in more appropriate play with you.

Overly rough play is a leading cause of negative behavior at the park. Call your dog over and engage him in replacement behaviors before he gets too rowdy.

Dogs should avoid hogging the entire park. Give dogs that are playing ample room to interact.

 One of the main reasons dogs get into trouble at the park is that people are standing around not paying attention.


Prevention and What to Do If a Fight Occurs

Dr. Ian Dunbar, DVM and ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist    

Being alert and knowing what behaviors to look for is the best way to prevent a fight. If a dog fight occurs, however, professionals suggest the following:

▪Prevent dog fights by actively watching dogs during play and engaging in preventing unwanted dog behavior.

▪If you notice your dog is getting tense, end play by telling him to “come.”


▪Never put your hands near the front of your dog while it is fighting.

▪DO NOT grab your dog by the collar. Your dog can redirect his aggression and may bite you.

▪Make sudden, loud sounds (clap, yell and stomp your feet. Bang metal bowls).

▪Put something in between the dogs – plywood, baby gate, trash can etc.

If the above do not work you may have to take a more direct, physical approach:

▪For larger dogs, lift his back end off the ground moving backwards (think of a wheelbarrow) and turn him away from his enemy. Do not give the dogs another chance to play.


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