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What Can Happen to Your Dog After a Dog Fight and How to Overcome it | Pupford

December 27th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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It’s never fun to think about the possibility of our dogs getting into a fight. But despite our best efforts, sometimes dog fights do happen, and being prepared for what can happen in the aftermath can help your dog recover better physically and mentally.

Today we’re going to talk about the various things that can happen in the wake of a dog fight and how you can help your pup get through it. We know it’s not the most “fun” topic we’ve covered, but it’s important for your sake as much as your dog’s.

Let’s take a look at some scenarios that could follow a dog fight. Along the way, we’ll provide steps to take and tips for overcoming these challenges.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN AFTER A DOG FIGHT

dogs can get hurt both physically and emotionally after a fight

1. PHYSICAL INJURY

In the immediate aftermath of a dog fight, physical injuries are the top concern. Dogs can experience puncture wounds, cuts, scrapes, soft tissue injuries, facial/eye injuries, broken bones, or punctured lungs.

Once your dog is in a calm enough state, immediately assess them for significant injury and seek emergency medical care if you spot anything serious.

But even if they seem to be doing okay, it’s best to contact your vet anyway for an exam. Some injuries are difficult to spot unless you know what to look for – plus it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

We recommend taking a dog first aid course to prepare for the possibility of a medical emergency at any point in your dog’s life – but especially in situations like after an attack or fight. And learn how to break up a dog fight safely, here.

2. CHANGE IN MOOD AND BEHAVIOR

Right after the fight ends, your dog may be shaken up and/or on edge because of adrenaline surges.

But once that fades, it’s still possible that your dog won’t go back to “normal” right away. In some cases, dogs continue to struggle with mood, behavior, and their mental health.

It’s normal for there to be an adjustment period, however, you want to keep your eyes open for a few red flags:

  • Significant change in appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Whimpering or excessive crying
  • Pawing or licking at an area repeatedly
  • Aggression
  • Not interacting with toys or family members
  • Spending excessive time in their crate/bed or in other rooms
  • Extreme skittishness
Pawing or licking at an area repeatedly can be a red flag after a fight

These can potentially be signs of physical pain from a fight injury, or a change in their mental health status due to stress from the incident.

In addition to watching for signs of physical pain, we recommend learning about dog body language so you can pick up on additional signs of stress, discomfort, or unhappiness in your dog.

If your dog does not seem to be in physical pain or significant mental distress, you can help them adjust back to their typical mood and behavior by:

  • Provide comforting touch and bonding time if they are not avoiding it
  • Allow unlimited access to a “safe space,” like their crate or a bed
  • Avoid additional stressors like new visitors or outings
  • Build confidence through training sessions that focus on basic cues to set your dog up for a lot of wins
  • Provide enrichment toys and engaging dog chews for mental stimulation and a serotonin boost
  • Stick to their normal routine as much as possible for predictability

Your dog’s mood and behavior should return to baseline in a few days, but if it doesn’t, let your vet and/or a trainer know to see if further evaluation is necessary.

Related Reading: How to Help a Traumatized Dog

3. GENERAL FEAR AND/OR ANXIETY

Dogs involved in a fight can often develop fears or anxiety that didn’t exist previously. Familiarize yourself with the signs of stress in dogs to know what to look out for so you can identify if this happens to your dog.

The most common signs of stress to look out for include:

  • Licking their lips or paws
  • Stiff tail or body
  • Pinned back ears
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Panting
  • Whining
  • Tucked in tail

A lot of times, the fear and anxiety will be related to the environment in which the fight happened, like the location or around a dog of a similar size/breed.

If that’s the case, you can help your dog overcome the fear by utilizing counterconditioning and desensitization training, where you slowly expose them to the fear-inducing environment a little at a time until they are able to withstand full exposure without becoming stressed.

With a lot of patience, and even more positive reinforcement, it’s definitely possible to help your dog overcome their fear of other dogs or certain locations associated with a fight.

4. PTSD AND AVOIDANCE OF OTHER DOGS

dogs can develop ptsd after a fight

In rare cases, the effects of a dog fight can be so significant that they cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is a severe anxiety disorder that interferes with your dog’s everyday life – while rare, it can be triggered by a dog fight.

According to the American Kennel Club, signs of PTSD in dogs include:

  • Panic
  • Panting
  • Fearfulness
  • Clinging to you
  • Aggressive reactions
  • Depression
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Complete avoidance of triggers (in this case, other dogs)

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to contact both a certified dog trainer/behavior specialist and your vet – in some severe cases, medication may be necessary until a behavioral program can be completed.

Working together with a team of professionals while giving your dog comfort at home will create the holistic support system your dog needs to overcome a condition as severe as PTSD.

MORE TIPS FOR HELPING YOUR DOG OVERCOME A DOG FIGHT

tips for helping your dog overcome aftermaths of a fight

No matter the circumstance of your dog’s fight or how they’re acting in the aftermath, you’ll want to provide support and comfort to help your dog overcome it, while implementing necessary behavioral plans to help prevent it from happening again – here are some more tips for doing so:

  • Remember it’s not your fault. Dog fights, unfortunately, happen. It is not a reflection of you as a parent, and often not of your dog either. Usually it’s a combination of factors, environment, and timing that lead to a fight. All you can do is help set your dog up for success in future interactions, but not beat yourself up over it.
  • Limit your dog’s interaction with unfamiliar dogs for a while. Give your dog time to adjust without being possibly triggered by other dogs. Keep them away from the environment where the fight happened for a while for the same reason.
  • Get help from professionals. Vets, certified dog trainers, and dog behavior specialists are all here to help. Don’t hold back in seeking their expertise because of fear of judgment or shame. Acting quickly when your dog needs help can make all the difference in avoiding long-term effects.
  • Create good memories with your dog. Once your dog is comfortable being around other dogs or in the location where the fight happened, form positive associations as much as possible. Play your dog’s favorite games, give them lots of treats, and show them that they are safe and can have fun!

In a perfect world, you would never need this advice. But unfortunately, dog fights do happen, even when we least expect them to.

But knowing what to do in the aftermath is key – you can help your dog safely and comfortably overcome the incident and get back to their happy selves!

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