i get the same question over and over again? help

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Joined:Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:06 am
Location:Staffordshire, UK
i get the same question over and over again? help

Post by ZaraD » Mon Mar 20, 2017 4:18 am

as a groomer i get a lot of people coming into my salon to ask about the Cocker spaniel and rage syndrome. i really need advice on rage so that i know i am giving the right answer. iv got a client at the moment who already owns a springer spaniel (show type) and is considering a Show type cocker spaniel but is worried about rage syndrome. she said that Cocker breeders have been telling her that it was a problem about 20yrs ago and was very rare and mainly in solid colors and that it was the result of badly bred cockers going to irresponsible owners who never exercised , trained or socialized the dog and only chose the breed because of a Disney movie. all the breeders she has spoken to have told her that rage syndrome is not a problem anymore as the good breeders bred it out? this is the same as what i told her that it is rare and was a result of bad breeding. but then dog trainers and vets she has spoken to have said rage syndrome never was a real condition it was more just what happens if you dont give enough exercise or train your cocker and that it never existed. she also heard horror stories from cocker owners who say there dog just attacked out of no where and must have had rage and then she mentioned the episode of its me or the dog with the black cocker spaniel benji. she also seems to believe and been told that american cockers were not affected as badly and rage was mainly in English cockers?

i have read all the things on this forum about rage but would like to know a few things?

1/ did rage syndrome exist or not? and is it still a problem or is it true its been bred out.

2/ is it true that american cockers were not as badly affected and English cockers?

3/ what would be your advice for someone considering a cocker spaniel but was worried about rage syndrome and that was the only worry about the breed?

if i could get a straight answer on this i would be very grateful as i get a lot of people asking me this about the cocker and they tend to have got mixed answers and i want to be able to give good advice?

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Re: i get the same question over and over again? help

Post by Nettle » Mon Mar 20, 2017 4:31 am

Rage syndrome was a label given to one of those mistakes people make when they don't understand what is going on with the dog.

It never existed as such - it was, as you say, a combination of a high-drive highly sensitive type of dog that wasn't getting its needs met. And was being put into situations where all it could do to get out of them was snap and snarl.

Nothing in dog behaviour comes from nowhere, out of the blue or with no warning, but we people are rubbish at reading what's n a dog's mind until we have been taught.

So really it was all about misunderstandng and miscommunication - rather like alpha, pack and dominance stuff. It won't escape the more mathematically minded of us that rage syndrome appeared at the same time as we were being encouraged to dominate our dogs. :wink: and be pack leader.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog


Joined:Sat Feb 04, 2017 10:06 am
Location:Staffordshire, UK

Re: i get the same question over and over again? help

Post by ZaraD » Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:01 am

thanks nettle. i think it doesn't help when some of the people who ask me are reading articles like this https://www.doglistener.co.uk/aggressio ... rage.shtml

and dont know what to believe?

Joined:Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:24 pm
Location:West Midlands

Re: i get the same question over and over again? help

Post by emmabeth » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:51 pm

They definitely don't need to read articles by that particular...... person.

Some incidences of 'rage' were serious and very rare neurological issues that would have required an MRI scan and probably a functional MRI scan which up until VERY recently we didn't have the abilyt to do on dogs and you still cannot do a functional MRI scan on a dog not trained to do it (because it rquires the dog to be awake and able to respond to cues whilst being scanned, a thing many PEOPLE cannot do. I have had an fMRI and its not easy!)..

The only other way to look at a dogs brain was once the dog was dead and even then only gross malformations of the brain would be obvious, subtle incorrect wiring would not be.

So differentiating dogs with actual genuine neurological issues or damage, from dogs with poor training, with maladaptive behavioural issues, to dogs taught to behave that way inadvertently, was almost impossible.

I would hazard a guess that 99% of cockers supposedly that had rage in fact had no such thing, but were such extreme resource guarders that they would guard imperceptibly small items, crumbs, smells etc, and do so from a distance that was frankly outrageous, and do so offensively, ie they would come OFF the item they were guarding, that was too small to see, when the victim was a long distance away.

I have met such cases and they are impossible to work with and they are entirely man-made, though some breeding causes a predisposition to this sort of thing (ie that strong desire to mark, to pick up and carry and to hold).

A neurological issue would involve a dog attacking with no warning and really classically, attacking a range of 'victims' that happened to be in their line of fire including inanimate objects, and this is quite markedly different from extreme resource guarding!

Most of hte cases labelled rage syndrome are not even extremely maladaptive resource guarding, they are simply a dog using aggressive behaviours because of poor temperament and poor training, and can be easily identified as such, and resolved by a good behaviourist.

So i really wouldn't worry bout this at all, but go for a breeder who knows her lines, knows the background of the dogs in her dogs ancestry, and who can show you her dogs interacting with people and behaving normally with regards to fetching and carrying and handing items over.

Then when you do get a puppy be super aware to teach a retrieve early on and NEVER EVER punish a pup for picking stuff up and carrying it about, it is THIS that causes so many resource guarding issues in spaniels (and in the rural british countryside, that is a problem I deal with almost daily!).
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

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