While it's an offence under The Dangerous Dogs Act to have a dog that's out of control in the UK, the number of reported attacks has risen in recent years.
It isn't just humans that can fall victim to an attack, with many owners reporting incidents of dog-dog aggression when exercising their four-legged friend.
Why do dogs attack other dogs?
Well-socialised dogs do not usually show signs of aggression, but any dog can react if they feel threatened or trapped. While they will usually try to move away from confrontation, this may not be the case if they feel they have no other option.
If a dog is poorly socialised and feels uncomfortable around other dogs, there are signs of stress you can look out for. If these are ignored, behaviours may escalate.
What are the signs a dog is going to attack?
Reading a dog's body language can make all the difference when a situation is escalating. The following behaviours can indicate aggression:
- Baring teeth
- Raising fur on their back
- Holding their held level with the body
It's important to bear in mind that growling is not always aggressive. In many cases it communicates discomfort, which will only escalate to a bite if the behaviour is ignored. Some dogs may also use calming signals, such as turning away, yawning or licking their lips.
What to do if a dog attacks your dog
If another dog shows signs of aggression, or moves in to bite or attack your dog, it's essential that you stay calm. You can try distracting the attacking dog with a loud noise like a clap, and ask the owner of the other dog to call them away. When dealing with an aggressive dog do not engage in eye contact. These steps can be used to break up a dog fight safely.
My dog was bitten by another dog: What are my rights in the UK?
If your dog has been bitten by another dog, you have a right in the UK to recover the cost of any veterinary treatment from the owner of the dog that attacked your own dog.
You will need to speak with the owner, to find out if they have third party liability or pet insurance, and exchange details before leaving the area where the incident occurred.
How to report a dog attack
To report the incident you'll need to collect the owner's contact details, a photo of their dog, and evidence of any injuries your dog has sustained. After this, you can contact 101 and speak to your local council's dog warden.
Dealing with a dog attack can be stressful and emotional, so it's often advisable to speak with any witnesses in the area. They will be able to help confirm details that might be required at a later stage.
My dog was bitten by another dog: How long will it take for the bite to heal?
If your dog has been bitten by another dog, you should seek veterinary advice immediately. The wound should be washed thoroughly, even if the skin didn't break. Here's what to do about dog bites.
Depending on the severity of the bite, they may advise antibiotics to prevent infection. A wound can take many days to heal, so careful monitoring and regular check-ups are very important.
What should you do if your dog attacks another dog?
It can be shocking to see your dog instigate an attack, especially if they haven't shown signs of dog aggression before. Distracting them with a toy, a loud noise or water may help if they don't respond to your vocal commands in the moment.
Putting a leash or a piece of material over the dog may help to separate the two dogs, leaving enough time for you to get your dog back on their lead and under control.
If your dog bites another dog, you will be required to give your details, and any information regarding the insurance you hold. After the event, you may need to consider a vet examination to rule out any underlying pain your dog could be experiencing, in addition to contacting an accredited behaviourist. They will be able to advise and guide you on working with your dog going forward.
How to avoid a dog attack
Socialisation is the first step in preventing dog aggression of any kind. If you suspect another dog has not been properly socialised, and believe they're showing signs of aggression from a distance, call your dog away and leave the area.
Keeping your dog on lead can also help prevent dog attacks, and remember you can always ask a fellow walker to call their dog back to them if you feel uncomfortable. Walks with your canine companion should be safe and enjoyable for everyone, four-legged and two.