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Cocker Spaniels/1 year old male cocker spaniel aggression problems


QUESTION: Hi Delores,

I have a 1 year old cocker spaniel who isn't yet neutered. I would describe him as having a sensitive yet demanding personality. He has always hated separation and follows me around from room to room. He can be left alone in the kitchen with the door closed (this is also where he sleeps at night) without too much of a fuss though. I work at home so he is not closed away for long periods of time. He is free to come sleep near me, etc. throughout the day. He also get's a good amount of exercise per day. My issue with him is his skittishness/agression towards my boyfriend and to a lesser degree the woman who cleans my house and to people approaching when we are sitting at an outside cafe and he is on leash. He barks like a crazy man when my boyfriend enters the house (and when he or I leave the house) or when he get's up from the couch, or enters the room again after walking out. He also barks when I hug or kiss my boyfriend in front of him. My boyfriend is a bigger guy with a loud voice and like most men, his touch is heavier than mine and he plays with him more aggressively than I do. I don't think this helps the situation but the cleaning lady on the other hand is very mild mannered and he seems to get riled up by her being in "his" space as well. Also notable is he doesn't bark at my boyfriend when I'm not around.

When he barks at my boyfriend we have banged rolled up newspaper on something to make a loud noise  - it sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. I read in one of your earlier posts a suggestion to tie him up indoors and ignore him when the barking occurs. Would this be something to try?

We did work with a trainer for a while but he never showed his real aggression with him. The newspaper noise was his suggestion as was putting him in a time-out when he acts out. I am not comfortable physically touching him in these situations - he's growled when I've tried. It's like he get's in a frenzy.

Do you think neutering will help? A lot of what I've read suggests not but I figure it can't hurt.

Also - he has a really loving side as well. He is very good with dogs off leash in the park. On leash he is fine while walking but will bark if a dog approaches and we are stationary (sitting at a cafe, etc).


ANSWER: Dogs do behave/react differently on leash vs. off.

Let's deal with one thing at a time.  He obviously knows he's not "welcome" to bark at your boyfriend (but he's jealous or thinks he needs to protect you).

So let's start with your boyfriend and the cleaning lady.  I want you to try something first....when he begins his tirade, get down on his level..on the floor.. STARE into his eyes (think Clint Eastwood) and quietly say not lose eye contact...NO...keep it up until HE breaks eye contact.  You just won.  One word only "NO".  No chatting/no scolding.

In a pack if a youngster was annoying the alpha dog - first the alpha would give out a low warning growl and if that didn't stop it, the alpha would turn it's head and STARE the pup down.  This is sheer authority - so don't raise your voice but make your eyes and your voice be quietly threatening.  Do not physically move still.

This is a direct challenge and I need to know his response.  This works a huge amount of the time but I have other tricks up my sleeve for little boys who think they're Top Dog. :)

Your trainer was wrong.  Time out?  Are you kidding?  That made me laugh.

And yes, you should definitely get him neutered.  It's a big nothing for males and he'll be
home the same day.  There are health reasons to do this and it could be affecting his behavior
for sure.  Wise to never touch a dog when you're correcting.  Hitting or touching or yelling just escalates the tension.  Your boyfriend should stop the rough play and when he comes in..walk right past the eye contact, no greeting.  Tell me what happens.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you...Well, I tried what you suggested last night when my boyfriend came into the apartment - he walked in and ignored the dog but Charlie still went crazy. I got down on his level and tried to meet his eyes but he was running all over the place and not looking at me long enough. I was saying no -but he wasn't focusing on me!

Any other suggestions?

Meredith, do you have a short, light leash?  I'd like you to try this one more time
and this time, grab his leash and make him look at you.  Grab the leash directly under his collar. (Have leash on him-let him drag it around).

Have you boyfriend come in..ignore...and leave the room until you have a chance to interact with Charlie.  Just grab the leash right under his chin & wait a few seconds until he looks at you.

This will tell me a couple of things.  Is he better on leash?  Will he focus on you?

If not, we move on.  

Cocker Spaniels

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Delores Beck


Health, nutrition, training. Please note: I used to highly recommend Innova products but, unfortunately, as with Canidae, they have sold out to Proctor & Gamble. This guarantees lower quality to a dangerous point so I will no longer be advising anyone to buy it.


20 years of owning this breed.

Psychology, MA

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