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Bully for You!, Issue #002 -- Paws-i-tive Press, How Would You Break Up a Dog Fight? & More
October 19, 2006

Bully for You!

Volume 2     October 2006

In This Issue:

Paws-i-tive Press: Neville and Dogster
Cool Action Item for Bully Lovers
How Would You Break Up a Dog Fight? Get a Plan!
Quote of the Month: Vicki Hearne

Paws-i-tive Press

Neville – Forsaken by his family and his country (Canada), this American Pit Bull Terrier found a home and a job in the U. S.

Last year, an animal control officer found Neville wandering along the Canadian countryside abandoned by his owners who did not want to go to the expense or bother of complying with Ontario’s new breed specific laws which would have required them to neuter him and keep him muzzled when in public.

These same laws also make it nearly impossible for bull breed dogs in Ontario to find adoptive homes when they are abandoned. So the vast majority are put down shortly after arriving at the shelter.

Fortunately for Neville, Bullies in Need, a Canadian based rescue took him on as their cause and found him a foster home in the United States. From there, he caught the attention of Law Dogs USA.

This is an innovative program that works exclusively with exceptional, homeless APBTs and Amstaffs who show traits desirable in explosive and drug detection work. The dogs are pre-screened and given preliminary training before being sent to the police academy.

Today, K-9 Neville lives and works with Washington State Trooper David Dixon. Together they patrol the Washington ferry docks searching vehicles that are being loaded onto the ferry for guns and explosives. And, they grace the Law Dogs website's welcome page.

The Toronto Star quoted Law Dogs founder Diane Jessup as saying, “Thanks to Ontario, Canada for kicking out such an awesome dog. Neville is now protecting Homeland Security for America. I say the joke is on them”. So do I.

Dogster – For the Love of Dog

The American Pit Bull Terrier is currently the 8th most popular breed on based on uploaded photos from registered users. Wanna join the bull dog bandwagon? Go here to create a free account and share your pit bull pride with world.

Cool Action Item for Bully Lovers

Hey, we all do what we can. Not everyone is set up to rescue, volunteer in a shelter or donate money. But, here’s something anyone with a phone or email account can do. Why not take a moment and contact your local pit-friendly shelter or rescue and let them know about the Law Dogs program mentioned in Neville’s story?

The program only accepts pit bulls from shelters and organized rescue groups. If an organization has a dog they think might qualify, the first step is to pre-screen the dog for desirable traits. Here are the instructions for pre-screening a dog for the program along with information about how to donate a dog that tests well.

Dogs that are well suited for this type of work are often the very same dogs that deteriorate behaviorally in a shelter due to their high energy level and drive. Of course, the process is very selective and not every dog that tests well is taken into the program. But, those that do make it go on to live happy productive lives and become ambassadors for the breed we all love so much.

How Would You Break Up a Dog Fight?
Now's the Time to Get a Plan!

You may never need to know this. Hopefully, you won’t. But, if you ever find yourself in the presence of two dogs locked on to each other in a serious conflict, it can be the most helpless feeling in the world if you don’t know what to do. And, caught off guard, the things that humans often instinctively do in a panic—scream, throw things in the dogs’ direction, etc—only make matters worse.

It should be said that there is no 100% safe way to intervene effectively in a dog fight. There is always a risk that you will be bitten (usually accidentally) and pulling a dog out of another dog’s mouth carries the risk of injury for the "under dog". But, doing nothing is even riskier. The ideal time to intervene is before a fight even starts. But, the topic of prevention deserves its own article which I’ll tackle next month.

For now, let’s just focus on what you can do if the worst happens. There are several techniques that people have used to separate two dogs that are fighting. They each have advantages and disadvantages. The one you will most likely use will be dictated in part by your comfort level and by whether you are alone or have someone to help you. Here’s a review.

The Wheelbarrow Technique This is probably the best known and most widely touted method. Ideally, there will be two people—one for each dog. It involves each person grabbing the dogs’ hind legs lifting them off the ground and moving them wheelbarrow fashion in an arc away from each other.

Advantages: It is effective and since you are handling the dog at a respectable distance from its mouth, there is a relatively low risk of getting bit. Disadvantages: It requires two people to execute. It can be awkward to execute with very large dogs.

There is a one person version that is a lot trickier. It involves using the technique on the first dog to “wheel” it while it still has the other dog in its grip, towards a stationary object like a fence post and tie it out. Once you have the first dog tied to something, you deal with the second dog in a similar manner. This is a lot riskier and harder to do.

The Old Time Religion Back in the dark ages when dog fighting was legal, dog men needed a way to break up a fight at their discretion. Despite its shady beginnings, this method is effective and according to those who’ve used it probably the fastest way to put an end to a dog fight. Like the technique above, it involves two people and also a tool called a “breaking stick” or “parting stick”.

The stick in question is made from wood or a hard material about 9-10” long and wedge shaped on one end. It is designed to be inserted wedge first, in its flat position into a dog’s mouth from the side where there is a natural gap between the dog’s teeth. Once inserted, you twist the stick backward to a 90 degree angle and the dog’s mouth will open forcing it to release whatever is in its mouth.

The technique is that each person has a breaking stick. Each of you straddles one of the dogs from behind squeezing the hind quarters between your legs to immobilize the dog. Then grab your dog by the scruff and insert the stick and twist it back towards you as described above.

Advantages: It is fast and effective. Disadvantages: It requires two people and a piece of “equipment”. It requires more skill and physical confidence than the other techniques listed here. For those interested, breaking sticks can be purchased through Pit Bull Rescue Central.

Getting Hosed Sometimes, dogs can be distracted during a fight or startled enough to be separated from each other by a blast of water from a garden hose turned up full force. Unfortunately though, some dogs aren’t phased by this in the least.

One hint, even dogs who like water and don’t mind getting sprayed, don’t like having water in their ears. So, if the first blast doesn’t do the job, try aiming at the dog’s ear. If you can get enough water in the ear canal, the dog will usually stop to reflexively shake the water out. This can also be done at closer range with a bottle of water with a squirt top or carbonated water that’s been shaken.

Advantages: Can be done by one person. There is a lower bite risk since you are not grabbing a dog while it’s fighting. Disadvantages: It’s not as reliably effective as some other methods. It requires access to a water hose or bottle of water.

Putting Out the Fire Some people swear by fire extinguishers. The blast from pressurized gas and the noise usually startles the dogs and the carbon dioxide makes them disoriented. If you are doing this in an enclosed area, you will need to take care not to breathe the fumes yourself. An important note: never use a chemical or halon fire extinguisher for this purpose. It can permanently injure or blind a dog. What you want here, is a small CO2 fire extinguisher. Don’t aim it directly in a dog’s face at close range. Instead, stand back a little and aim to create a cloud around the dogs.

Advantages: Can be done by one person. It’s reported to be effective. Disadvantages: Requires access to proper equipment. Injury can occur from using the wrong equipment or using the right equipment improperly. There is always some risk of injury when using a highly pressurized substance.

Citronella and other small canister sprays Citronella products are considered very safe. The spray is used to curb undesirable behavior in dogs and cats and some products are marketed as deterrents to an approaching dog. The product’s effectiveness relies on the dog being distracted by the novel scent. It’s questionable whether it would be a sufficient distraction to a couple of dogs locked in the heat of battle. It’s worth a try, but you should have a back-up response in case it doesn’t work. The product is available at most pet supply stores.

I have heard some people say they have used pepper spray on strange dogs effectively—but never on their own dogs. The main concern with pepper spray is whether there is anything in the spray that would permanently injure a dog—particularly one that is not 100% healthy. I would not use pepper spray for this purpose without first talking to your vet.

Advantages: Can be done by one person. Canisters are easy to carry and fit in a purse or pocket. Disadvantages: Citronella may not be a strong enough deterrent to stop a fight. If you are considering pepper spray, talk to your vet and ask if he or she can recommend one.

These aren’t the only options. But, they are the best ones I know of. The important thing is to have a plan before disaster strikes. Think it through because when a fight breaks out, you won’t have time to think. Ideally, you have a “Plan A” and a “Plan B” in case your first strategy doesn’t work or you are without the help or equipment you need.

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Knowing how to stop a dog fight should be every dog owner’s concern--not just owners of bully breeds. If you live in a multi-dog household, take your dog out in public, have friends who visit you with their dogs or show your dog in conformation, obedience or sporting events chances are you will eventually find yourself in a situation where your planning will pay off. Having a planned response can give you the extra confidence you need to act decisively when it counts the most.

Quote of the Month for October

"It is true that Pit Bulls grab and hold on. But what they most often grab and refuse to let go of is your heart, not your arm."
~Vicki Hearne

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