This article is from the American Pit Bull Terriers Breed FAQ, by Michael Bur with numerous contributions by others.
I'm going to preface this tutorial with a little information on my
background in order to establish a little credibility. I hope! Don't
worry, I'll keep it short and to the point.
In the early 1970s I worked as a trainer/agitator for the Aztek
kennels in El Paso Texas followed by various other kennels over the
course of about 15 years. I know, no big deal, right? Well, a lot
of my work revolved around training dogs to be aggressive towards
humans via the avenue of "Protection Work". "Compound dogs" for car
lots to "Sentry dogs" for the military. It afforded me exposure to all
kinds of breeds and personalities in the canine world. Concurrent to
this I had a fascination with the American Pit Bull Terrier. Okay, the
stage is set. You now know why I was exposed to conditions that were
just right for accidental fights, especially when the dogs were new
to protection work.
Over the years I've seen so many kennel fights I couldn't possibly
count them. In the early years I saw just about every technique known
to man used to stop a dog fight. Some of them are as follows:
. lifting and spreading the rear legs
. water dousing
. electrical shocks
. beating the dog with whatever was handy
. praying to god
And so on, and so on ........
In the late 1970s through the late 1980s I lived down the street from
one of the most famous APBT breeders of all time, the late Howard Heinzl.
Those of you familiar with the breed will immediately recognize his name.
It was he who first showed me the use of a "Breaking Stick". Other folks
call it a "Parting Stick". If you're around the breed long enough you
will eventually witness an accidental fight and it was one of these
occasions where I was introduced to the "Breaking Stick". I was visiting
Howard one day when one of his bitches, (in heat), got out of her kennel,
ran over to one of the other bitches on Howard's yard and YEEHA, they
started to fight. Howard calmly walked into the house, came out with
what looked like a contoured door stop and tossed it to me. I said,
"what the heck is this thing?" He had one too. He said "it's a breaking
stick" and that I should quit talking and get my ass over to where the two
bitches were trying to kill each other. With a 5 second tutorial from
Howard I was able to help him break the dogs apart in about 10 or 15
seconds and that, my friends, is considered slow! I became a believer
in breaking sticks from that point on.
There comes a time in the life of every dog, be it a small terrier
or the powerful APBT, when it will get into some sort of a scrap.
Those of you who frequent dog shows for the APBT will no doubt
eventually be witness to dogs getting loose and starting a fight.
So, what happens when they are serious? Well, each dog will bite
the other, take hold and start to shake its head punishingly.
It is so serious that in most cases nothing you do will cause the
dog/bitch to give up that precious hold! Nothing! Choking, shocking,
etc...It just doesn't matter!
Known by both names. It is a very hard piece of wood or some
other material suitable for the purpose of spreading a dog's
jaws apart. It is usually about 5 to 8 inches in length,
wedge shaped and contoured to prevent injury to the dog's
lips. Its width is about 1 to 2 inches.
Okay, imagine two dogs engaged in serious combat and each
one has a very good hold on the other. Now, I'm assuming
there are two of you and you are both right handed.
STEP 1) Walk over to the dogs and as simultaneous as possible
step over, straddle and then lock your legs around the
dog's hips just in front of the hind quarters. Make sure
your legs are locked securely around the dog.
STEP 2) With your free/left hand grab a handful of skin from the
back/nap of the neck and pull upward as if you are a mother
canine picking up a young puppy. A strong grip on the skin
is needed here. We are accomplishing two things, one
is to neutralize the mobility of the dog by locking
our legs around it's hips and the other is to neutralize
mobility of the front torso by way of a skin hold on the
back of the dog's neck.
Before I continue with STEP 3, let's review what has now happened.
Not wanting to let go, the dogs are still holding on to each other and
each handler has his dog in a tight leg squeeze just in front of the
stifle/hind quarters while at the same time holding the dogs front
section by way of skin on the back of the dog's neck.
Sidebar: When looking in your dog's mouth notice a gap where the
teeth do not meet. This 'pre molar' area is why the breaking stick is
STEP 3) Each handler inserts his breaking stick in the pre molar
area where the gap is found. Sometimes you need to work the
stick just a bit if your dog is biting real hard. The
stick should be inserted from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches into the
STEP 4) Now, as if you're twisting the throttle of a motor cycle,
so too you must twist the breaking stick. This is the action
that spreads the dog's jaws far enough apart so that you can
now pull back with the other hand. Viola, the dog is off!
I like to also use my legs for those big dogs when pulling
It is that simple.
Now, I have a few comments about the mechanics of a dog fight. The
first is that ALL dogs use their hind quarters for both leverage and
mobility and it is the most important place to start when stopping a
fight. Once you remove the back end from the equation you've stopped
75% of a fight. It's amazing, most of the time you'll see the
dogs quit shaking and moving as soon as they feel their hind quarters
locked by your legs. They almost freeze! Once their movement is under
control it's super easy to grab the neck and insert the stick.
Holding the neck with your free hand helps prevent a dog from biting
you while stopping the fight. I've broken lots of accidental fights
and all those times I have never been bitten by an APBT. But, I have
been biten by other breeds because of the way they fight.
My final comment is that with a little practice you can stop a
serious dog fight in about 5 seconds, on the average. It's so easy
you can't believe it, straddle/grab/break and you're finished! No
unnecessary damage due to pulling, beating or whatever else one
So, the next time you're playing with your dog, open the mouth
and you'll see the GAP I mentioned. Then, when you get your 'stick',
just play tug-o-war or have the dog grab something and try your
breaking stick then.