The Proper Use of a Breaking Stick
(By Bob Stevens - Reprinted)
This article is for the beginner because there seems to be enough beginners getting Bulldogs these days to merit the article. Some newcomers do not know how to separate their dogs when accidents happen. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who has one or more Bulldogs, must surely expect some accidents. I've been involved with Pit Bulls since the mid seventies. I just spent around four hundred dollars in vet bills when my dog got loose despite my precautions. Even today there are some people who will try and break up a dog fight by hitting the dogs with a 2x4 or trying to pull the dogs apart or even throwing scalding water on them. All these people do is harm the dogs. The proper way to separate a pit bull from another dog - be it another pit or a cur dog, is by using a breaking (sometimes called a parting) stick. A breaking stick is easy to make. You can taper the end of a hardwood hammer by spoke shaving it down. The stick should be approximately one foot long and tapered - not to a thin point (then it would break easily) - but so that the tip can be inserted in the dog's mouth. A lot of people customize their sticks. I have some that are custom carved with just the right taper and angle. But they are not necessary. Some law enforcement agencies consider a breaking stick evidence of dog fighting, which is unfortunate because every kennel, show kennels included, need them.
A lot of newcomers have breaking sticks but don't know how to properly use them. Most people who obtain a breaking stick because they know they need one, are not shown how to use it, and have some misconceptions of a breaking stick. They try to pry the dog's mouth off. Wrong. Generally that can't be done and sometimes they end up breaking or yanking out a tooth.
To break a pit bull off with a breaking stick straddle the dog so he can't maneuver away and inset the stick in the dog's mouth just behind the canine teeth. This is an area where the stick should slide in naturally. Exert steady pressure inward - do not shove it in. Sometimes you can work it in a bit , but work it, don't pry. To work it do not exert pressure up - exert pressure down on the lower jaw (weak because of jaw hinge). You can work the stick a little side to side - but carefully, you don't want pop a tooth. Above all don't pry up and down hard. Also grab the loose skin at the scruff of his neck. The dog will feel an obstruction and sooner or later he will try and adjust his bite to get a better bite. You must be ready. In that moment when you feel him give a little lunge (to adjust his bite) immediately pull up with the hold you have on his neck. Leave the stick in his mouth until you are clear. You are using leverage. Lifting up on his neck you take away his power and you need less strength to handle the dog. As you pull up and to the side on his head, spin away as you reach under the dog with the other arm and support his body underneath. By facing the dog away you divert his attention and the dog is more controllable. Also the other dog will be easier to catch if you have help or run away if it is a cur dog. The biggest key to it all however - is patience - and to be calm. When you insert your breaking stick, your Bulldog will probably not release right away. You must wait. If the other dog is a cur dog and screaming - the dog is hollering mostly out of fear. Unless the dog is very small, it is hard to kill a dog right away. Look at it this way - ask a vet how many dogs get run over by cars - really shipwrecked - and they live. What would definitely kill a human, they survive. Dogs are pretty hardy critters. Left alone, I realize, the pit bull would kill the cur dog. But unless he has a deep bite on the throat of a small dog or if he is into the stomach (rare) - that cur dog will probably not be killed by his one hold while you are breaking him off. Do not be intimidated by the screams of the cur dog, afraid you'll be sued, etc. Take your time, you'll save the dog alot quicker that way. If your Bulldog is on a cur dog, now, there are some considerations to keep in mind. One is the cur dog, once loose, may bite you out of fear. In many cases the dog is in a state of panic and will snap at anything close. So be fast when you do handle. Quick "pick up" and "get out" of Dallas. Now - when you turn away like that, a real aggressive cur dog may attack you! But if it comes down to that, I say that's too much, turn your Bulldog back on him. It would be real rare for that to happen, generally the cur dog is going to head for the hills. If the cur dog's owner is there of course you want him to handle his dog. Most of these people will panic, afraid their dog is getting killed. You must speak with a calm, but firm voice. Let them know their dog will be okay if they cooperate. Repeat what you say because people in a state of fear don't hear.
The best thing to do of course is to avoid accidents in the first place. The most common accident happens when a dog slips his collar or breaks his hookup and gets loose. I do not hook my dogs to the ring on the collar, even a heavy duty one. Had too many sad experiences. Given time these dogs wear out anything. What I have is two "O" rings and I put his collar through them. If one were to break (and Morochito, his daughter Velvet and her son Victory have broken "O" rings), the other one backs it up.
When a pit bull gets loose on a yard (the most common incident) and runs into another pit on a chain, it is best if you have someone to help with the other dog, of course. Sooner or later, however, you'll probably have to separate two dogs yourself. To do this, pull back the dog that is loose until the dog on the chain is at the very end of the chain. Use your breaking stick to break off the loose dog, and hold him back as you wait. Keep the stick in his mouth so he can't get another hold, if you can. Wait for the dog on the chain to shift holds (this can take quite awhile - again, you must be patient). But you must also be ready to move instantly. As soon as the chained dog shifts holds, turn quickly away with the loose dog.
Even if the damage to your dog(s) is minimal as a result of a kennel or street accident, always thoroughly cleanse and medicate the wounds. I learned the hard way. Too many times, for minor wounds, I put my dog back on the chain with no medication and he healed fine. But it only took once - minor wounds on his neck area hear his collar - I just put him back on his chain. I had to go out of town and when I came back I was very, very busy. I had forgotten about the minor wounds and I didn't pay sufficient attention to them. I hate to admit it - most dogmen wouldn't - but it happened. A week later I noticed infection had set in - he had a bad skin reaction to what was very minor. It ended up costing $400 to clear it up. I never did that again. Anyway, always keep your breaking stick - best to have several located in convenient, relevant places - where you can get to them immediately. If you get awakened in the midle of the night and a dog got loose, you must be able to quickly put your hand on the breaking stick. Never take your dog for a walk without a breaking stick. Even if you have a pet that has never acted aggressively at all toward other dogs, have a breaking stick available any time that dog is not confined or not on his chain. For those it may benefit, I hope I've helped in the proper use of a breaking stick.