Cocker spaniel aggression

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Katchester28
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Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2018 3:58 am

Cocker spaniel aggression

Post by Katchester28 » Wed Oct 31, 2018 3:58 am

Warning long post

We have a six year old male cocker spaniel who we have been having problems with. Just a bit of background with him he was our first dog and we got him from being a pup. We didn't get him from a breeder ( realise now that it wasn't right) we got him from a couple that didn't want him not long after getting him didn't see parents or anything. The ad said 9 1/2 weeks old but he looked like 6 weeks (again stupidly didn't realise at the time). We fell in love and brought him home but he was very poorly everything he ate would just come out with bloody diarrhea and he was very lethargic we weren't sure if he would make it through the night. Took him to the vet and found out he had ecoli. As he got older he was a lovely dog but was a nervous dog. He would bite us when we tried to wash him which we thought was him trying to be pack leader so would shout at him ( we realise this was not the case now). As time went on he started to guard things that he valued such as handbags and bags full of shopping. Again we approached this in the wrong way and he would often get more aggressive. Later on we got some advice and we basically managed it as he would eventually come off the bag if we spoke in a calm nice voice seemed to work not always though but we just kind of ignored it he didn't do it that much. Then we moved house and my dad got another spaniel (bad timing now that we think about it as he still had problems). He was ok with the new pup but didnt really bond with her. My brother was in a bad car accident in which his girlfriend was badly injured so he was very depressed in his room a lot and the dog was with him a lot. He then began to guard in the room. It didn't seem like a specific thing he would just growl as you walked in. Although sometimes it was a specific thing. Things escalated elsewhere where he would growl or attacked when we stroked him on the sofa. Things got really bad to a point where we couldn't go to places in the house as he would be guarding trying to go for us if we got close. We had a behaviourist in who said he needed more training as we weren't in charge of him. We understood what she was saying but at this point his behaviour was too unpredictable to even train him properly. So we tried to use treats and he did seem to get better especially as my brother got better too. We had him neutered before the new pup went into season as we didn't want pups. After being neutered he was so much better we were able to cuddle him again without him attacking us it was great. Things were much better compared to how it was he was ok with the pup too even though they just kind of accept each other. He still has problems with guarding and my brothers room. The behaviourist told us to put a gate on the landing to stop him getting to the room but this made him more inclined to want to be in there. He is that desperate he will push past just to get there and will cry to be let in there. Doesn't help that other members of the family in the past have got angry shouting trying to put sticks and things near his face to try and pull him out the room ( I know bad idea as he just got more aggressive). I think he is scared that he will be taken away from it. We have now tried lots of positive approaches with him and he is better but still has problems with the room and guarding. We are at a loss. We have tried the training but he is very food fussy and just becomes uninterested and walks away/doesnt listen its tough. He chooses when he listens basically. Clearly we have messed up with him big time and that's how he's got like this but we have no idea how to change things for the better. He is good 80% of the time it's just the guarding.

JudyN
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Re: Cocker spaniel aggression

Post by JudyN » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:30 am

Just a few questions off the top of my head (I'm supposed to be working but I didn't want tor read & run!):

Is it specifically guarding the room that you need help with, or guarding in general, as well as the room?

Does it make a difference if your brother is in the room or not? Where does your dog lie in the room - does he settle on your brother's bed, or does he have his own bed?

Is he crate trained?

Are there any foods or toys (e.g. squeaky toys) that he really likes?

Also, could you give a full run-down of his daily routine - walks, training, games, how long he's left alone for, and so on. And what food (brand and variety) do you feed him?
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

Katchester28
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2018 3:58 am

Re: Cocker spaniel aggression

Post by Katchester28 » Wed Oct 31, 2018 6:48 am

JudyN wrote:
Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:30 am
Just a few questions off the top of my head (I'm supposed to be working but I didn't want tor read & run!):

Is it specifically guarding the room that you need help with, or guarding in general, as well as the room?

Does it make a difference if your brother is in the room or not? Where does your dog lie in the room - does he settle on your brother's bed, or does he have his own bed?

Is he crate trained?

Are there any foods or toys (e.g. squeaky toys) that he really likes?

Also, could you give a full run-down of his daily routine - walks, training, games, how long he's left alone for, and so on. And what food (brand and variety) do you feed him?


Probably the guarding in general as although the room is the biggest problem he does still guard bags etc. There has also been occasions where he has bitten us without warning growl. It's difficult to work out as he guards bags which is easy to see when he is guarding them. In the room its difficult to work out if it is space or an item but seems to be space. As soon as you walk in or talk to him he growls straight away and the nearer you get he is really uncomfortable. He does sometimes lie on the bed but generally likes to lay on the floor. No he isn't crate trained he would probably be too scared as he got put in one at the vets and started to guard in it. He has a soft toy duck that he really likes doesn't make a noise but he likes to put his head on it and we have played tug with it which he enjoys. With regards to food it has always been difficult to find things that he likes and when he is given something new he does hesitate at first and then eats it. We spent ages trying to find a dry food he likes we have him on Aldi turkey and rice as he seems to enjoy it. Both our dogs have chicken with their dry food sometimes heart or liver as well. Feeding time can be difficult as when you give him food he sometimes eats it but sometimes just appears not to be bothered and wonders off. He has got better with it he used to be free fed but we are trying to stick to just feeding then taking the bowl away. Also the other dog is greedy so we have to try to keep her away from his food. He gets walked twice a day morning and afternoon. They get fed mid morning then at around 5 or 6 at night. We try to fit some play time in on a night time although if he gets into my brothers room it becomes difficult. There is 5 in the family so gets pretty busy. He isn't left alone that much if he is it's maybe 4 hours max. He has basic training of sit, stay, lay down etc. We ask him for a paw before giving any food or treats. It's mainly when my brother is in his room when he wants to be in during the day it doesn't bother him to be in

JudyN
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Re: Cocker spaniel aggression

Post by JudyN » Wed Oct 31, 2018 7:58 am

Thanks for you reply :D For general resource guarding, there's an article I wrote here which hopefully will help: viewtopic.php?f=20&t=18074 Though I'm not an expert so it's mostly based on my dog, who grew out of guarding anything other than food.

Is this the food you use? https://www.aldi.co.uk/langhams-turkey- ... 9237596900 It doesn't look great - there's a lot of filler (rice and barley), and not a lot of meat (meat meal can be low quality). I can't see anything in it that might be the equivalent of blue Smarties, but a higher quality food MIGHT help. If you want to investigate, you can put the details of your dog and your budget on the the All About Dog Food website and it will come up with suggestions and their quality ratings: https://www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk/ But of course that's no help if he won't eat it. You could consider a raw diet, which most dogs love (it's a lot easier than a lot of people think) - though you do have to be aware that the more he likes the food, the more likely he is to guard it (my dog only gets bones that he can eat within a couple of minutes, but he's a greedy dog wo we don't have to worry about him 'saving it for later' and then guarding it).

I would guess that your dog is very much in need of a 'safe refuge' in such a busy household. A crate could come in handy here - you could cover it with blankets to make it look like a snug den, and not close the door at all. He might still guard the crate, but you can probably live with that if you can enter the room the crate is in. If you choose one with soft fabric sides hopefully it won't remind him of the one at the vets.

As I say, I'm not an expert, and am a little wary of giving advice with a potentially aggressive dog. I'm uncertain whether it's best to ban your dog from your brother's room, or let him use it as a safe retreat from the world, which will help him relax. If you do set up a safe retreat, either in that room or something else, I would find food he really likes such as cheese, bits of roast chicken, sausage, black pudding etc. (I'm hoping there's something that will tempt him). Then, when he's settled there, I would go up as close as you can that he's comfortable with (so maybe standing outside the doorway to the room), throw him a treat, and walk away. Repeat, repeat, repeat, till he looks up happily when you appear in the doorway. Then you take one step into the room, throw the treat, and walk away. Gradually, over what may take days, weeks or months, you should be able to go into the room without a problem as long as you 'respect' his refuge.

If you need to get him out of there, your enemy is his suspicion - he wants to be there, he knows you want him to come out. So you can't let him know you want him to come out. Instead, work on a really good recall in the house (usung a different word to your normal recall cue), using cheese, sausage, new squeaky toy which is saved for the BEST games, starting from areas where he's happy to leave. Eventually, because you're never trying to get him to leave his refuge, he'll forget that he needs to defend it at all costs, and when he hears your recall, he won't be thinking 'No! No! No! I don't wanna!' but 'Yay, best treat/game EVER!'

Oh, and just reading over your reply, if he guards the room more when your brother is in it and less so when he isn't, then it would make sense for your brother to leave the room when you're working on this. It also raises the question of whether he's actually guarding your brother - does he ever seem to guard him in other places?

It will make an enormous difference if you can persuade the rest of the family not to use punishment, force, shouting, etc., and if you can make the house a bit calmer in general. Easier said than done, I know!
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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