Cocker Spaniels/Depressed Dog


QUESTION: April 20, 2013 I adopted a 10 month cocker spaniel from a rescue shelter.  Sadie is a loving affectionate dog.  She will let you rub her all day long.  The rescue shelter informed me Sadie was pregnant when she was received.  The shelter had her spayed on 4/9/13 and terminated her pregnancy.  She has been very timid, shy and seems depressed.  Her eyes even look sad.  She does not interact with us at all.  She sleeps all day.  When we are not holding her tyring to show her affection she hides. She generally hides under the beds or behind plants.  Really wherever she can hide.  We are sad because we want her to be happy and interact with us.  She will walk around the house a little but when realizes you are looking at her or get excited to say something to her she runs away.  She does not greet us when we come home.  We have tried different toys (balls, ropes, etc.) to engage her but that has not worked.  She walks well and enjoys being outside.  In the mornings, we generally have to carry her outside because she will not come out of her crate.  She does not come when you call her name.  We have to close her in the laundry room to make her eat.  She will not eat walk to her food and eat willing.  Once in there she then eats everything.  I have recently started leaving the leash on her in the house in trying to get her to follow me around more.  The vet says she does not see anything physically wrong with her.  She has all of shots, negative for heatworms, etc.  Physically she is fine.  She does nothing but sleep all day.  

Do you think she is suffering from the loss of her puppies and being in the shelter?  My son and daughter love her and want her to interact with them.  Please HELP!!

ANSWER: Sadie sounds very fearful.  You instinctively did the right thing by putting a leash on her.
Can you tell me what happens when you do that?  I'm assuming you don't just "leave it on her" but have the leash in hand?  When you do this - no chatting - it's "where I go, you go".

How long a walk does she get daily?  Where does she sleep?

One thing I'd try immediately is stop trying to get her to interact.  She may see that as pressure so I'd just come home and go about your business.  Shelter dogs can take weeks & weeks to come out of their shell.

You mention she likes being held & does that happen?  Does she come to you?

One clue is her wanting to be alone when eating...that tells me a lot.  She feels safe then.

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QUESTION: Thanks Delores for the quick response!!! Sadie does not fight you in anyway when putting the leash on her.  She allows you to do that.  I put the leash on, put it in my hand and try to get her to follow me around.  I may go from my room to the kitchen or just walk around the house.  If she is sitting on the sofa or hiding under the bed when I want to do this, I have to initially kind of drag her along.  She will walk a little.  When I release the leash she takes off to be alone again. Sadie gets quite a few walks a day- about 4 walks between 15-30 mins.  She is take out first thing in the morning around 6:30am.  Sadie sleeps in a crate.  The crate was initially downstairs in our family room.  A co-worker suggested bringing her crate up with the family so I moved her upstairs. She currently sleeps in the crate in my bedroom.  A few times I have let her sleep on the sofa in the sitting area of my bedroom.  I did this in hopes of letting her know we care.  We initiate the contact in holding and petting her.  We will physically pick her up and hold her to bet her.  She rarely comes to us.  We are on the sofa sometimes she will jump up and sit right beside you.  Yes I think as of now she prefers being alone.

ANSWER: Erica, is there ANY way you can let her sleep with you?  The reason I ask is that anxious dogs need to bond with "the pack" and the pack sleeps together.  Moving her bed was an excellent idea.  Why is she crated?  Housebreaking issues?  I'd stop crating if at all possible.
I think that would help a lot because I have a strong suspicion she was in "puppy mill" conditions which is 24/7 crated.

When you put her leash on her...always give a yummy treat.  Get some of those tiny, very "smelly" liver ones :) that are soft.  Put her leash on her...put the treat two feet in front of her (after letting her smell it) so she has to get up to eat it.  Once up "Good Girl...let's go".

Can you tell me how old your kids are?

We have to take baby steps here and I'm really hoping you all have the patience.  This poor dog has obviously had a horrific time.  Cockers are incredibly "social" dogs and this poor little girl has been terrified.

Just for today/tomorrow...when you (or anyone) comes home...go say "Hi Sadie" and give her one of the yummy treats..even sit on the floor with her & pet..lie on the floor- this is an "invitation"......then WALK AWAY.  Let's see what happens. No's her decision.  And she does want to be with you.

And just so you know, my younger cocker was an emotional MESS when I rescued him.  Today he's a professional "greeter".  But it took time.  He was only two but had been tied up on a rope in a backyard 24/7.  It was all he knew.  If I even just took the garbage out he had a total meltdown until I came back.  My very best trainer (who is SO freaking strict) said "Let him sleep with you".  Which stunned me coming from him since he's horrified I let my boys on furniture but I just said "Mark, that ship has sailed..let's move on". :)

But one thing he's right not exacerbates the problem.  It kind of reinforces their anxiety.  And she's sensing your anxiety.

And what are you feeding her?  How often?  We can "use" mealtimes to do some therapy here.

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

QUESTION: Delores, I am a little hesitate on the sleeping with me in the bed.  I will try sleeping with her on the sofa in my sitting area of my bedroom.  Hopefully that will suffice and give the opportunity to bond.  I began crating her when we brought her home in order to get her house trained.  I believe she is house trained now.  She has not done anything in the house for about 2 weeks now.  We are starting to leave her out a little more during the day and on the weekends when we are home.  According to the shelter Sadie was an outside dog.  There were several other pets at the home.  The owners did not have time for her so they tied her to a tree and basically forgot about her.  They feed her that was about it.  No interaction with her.  

I will try the treats with the leash.  Just this morning she did not want to come out of crate for her morning walk.  She was shivering a little.  I placed the leash on her and had to slightly drag her out of the crate.  Once she was out she was fine.  We walked downstairs out the door.  She even walked back in on her own.  Sometimes she does not walk back in on her own.  

My kids are son-13 soon to be 14 in July and my daughter 11.

I totally agree we have to be patient and we really have been.  I think Sadie is no use to people interaction since she has never received it.  

We are feeding her Purina One.  This is the brand the Shelter Foster Mom said she was giving her.  Her food stays out all day.  We do this in hopes she will began to walk to eat freely on her own.  Currently because she does not do this on her own, we force her to eat twice a day.  We put her in the laundry room and close the door.  She generally eats then.   Since she will be 1 yr. old in June do you suggest another dog food?  I am open to doing therapy then or anytime.

We will try to the suggestions and let you know.  Thank you for help.  I look forward to letting you know she is making improvements.

Purina One is total garbage and let's make mealtime an "event" instead of leaving it out all day.  Free feeding isn't good under any circumstances.  Always fresh water available, of course.

Foods I suggest:  Innova - Blue Wilderness - Wellness CORE (no other Wellness). A little canned food on top will help too. time you feed her, let's try having you go inside with her.  Just sit down..say nothing..and let's see what happens.

I'm hoping ceasing to crate her & allowing her to sleep on your sofa might get you a less fearful reaction.  Does she go into her crate on her own?

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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