Cocker Spaniel Bit My Husband

by Margie
(Portland,Or./US)

Mic The Happy Boy

Mic The Happy Boy

I have a 14 month old Parti-black and white Cocker Spaniel. I bought Mic a year an a half after our Britney Spaniel/Black and Tan Terrier died at 17 and a half.

Mic was 4 months old and I got him from a good local breeder. It became obvious after a month or so that he had Cherry eye. He went in for surgery and it was discovered that he had several tumors behind his eyes. These were all removed, cherry eye fixed.

Later he was "altered".

Because he had been almost blind he seemed to be a little aggressive to anyone but me. He came to love my husband. He was not sure of everyone else. It became important that he be trained so we went through many, many months of training.

Specialists telling me that Mic would always be "special" because of his limited sight. He did very well in his training however, and the trainers, kids, etc. loved Mic. However last night he was chewing on a hard plastic case that he found and broke it in half. My husband went to take it and he bit him on the hand twice and drew blood. He had never done anything like this before. Mic doesn't even have all of his teeth so this was a real blow to my husband who really loves Mic. Mic "waits" for "Dad" at the gate each day when he comes home from work and is so happy and excited to see him. This has put a damper on their relationship.

I am not sure what went wrong. Are we being too lax in his training since he graduated? Or is it like a teenager who wants something they're not supposed to have so will fight to keep it?

I am not sure but I know this situation has to be fixed right away as I don't want to see this relationship broken or worry that it might happen with the children now, or other adults he seems to love.

We put Mic on the enclosed porch for awhile by himself to think about things. Later we let him in and he tried to "make up" with my husband, but my husband who himself has recently had medical problems told Mic to go out of the room which he did. I know he is sad, sighing, and laying down with his head down. Can you give me an idea or two of how to remedy this situation. I would greatly appreciate it.

Reply from Pauline (Web Owner)

Hello Margie,

I'm so sorry you seem to be having problems with Mic and I imagine you're husband is feeling very hurt at the moment.

Now, I must point out that I'm not an animal behaviorist and not really qualified to answer your question, and I do recommend you speak to a professional. Your vet may be able to refer you to someone local to you.

It's very difficult for me to comment because I don't know your dog or your circumstances, but I'll try to offer you a few pointers because I understand how hurt you must both be feeling.

You're right to want to address the situation immediately, because it's really important that Mic's biting doesn't escalate and become habitual and difficult to break, although I suspect it may have been a one-off.

Even if it was a one-off, you need to understand exactly what triggered it so that you can make sure it doesn't happen again.

You don't say what kind of training you gave him, so I'm assuming it was obedience training.

I'm also assuming Mic doesn't show any aggression around his food and doesn't normally guard his toys, so we can't put it down to resource guarding.

You say you got Mic from a good breeder, and that he was four months old. Do you know how much early socialization he received? Did you carry on with socializing him?

There's only a short window where puppies are really receptive to any training. It could be he's a little 'nervous' because of a lack of exposure to everyday sights and sounds.

There are many nervous (read under-socialized) Cocker Spaniels who will bite when feeling 'threatened'. You and I know you'd never hurt your dog, but your dog doesn't and if someone comes up to them unexpectedly, and he's surprised/frightened, he may feel he has no other option but to bite.

It's possible that his poor sight is also part of the problem and that he doesn't realize someone's near him until they're almost on top of him. If this could be the case, why not 'announce' your arrival each time you want to approach or pet your dog? For example, if you're going to put his collar on, say the word 'collar' and then put it on. Use a different word for each 'activity'. If you practice this regularly it won't be long before he understands what each word means and he'll know when someone is about to approach him and won't be 'taken by surprise'. (If that was the case).

I would reinforce Mic's training whenever you get the opportunity, for example, make him sit before you feed him, put on his collar or lead, play with him, etc. etc. and I recommend you read this article on the alpha male (if you've not already) to make sure you Cocker understands that you and your husband are the alpha male and female and that his position is below you.

I'd especially reinforce the leave or drop command and use this when you want to take something from your dog.

Alternatively, offer him a tasty treat (as a trade) and when he takes it, you can safely pick up whatever it was that he had.

I'd keep him away from children and off your furniture (keep him at ground level) for a while until things settle down.

I'm sorry Margie, but I don't really know what else to say other than this, but I hope it's been helpful.

Good luck, and please, let me know how you get on.

Kind regards,
Pauline

PS: Don't worry, I don't think your dog is sad. When dogs let out a long sigh, it means they're relaxed, calm and in a submissive state.

(We do the same ourselves when we flop down into any armchair with a cup of coffee!)

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Cocker Spaniel Biting
by: Anonymous

Poor little guy. It sounds like he's been through the mill. I think Pauline's right. I think he probably got a surprise, especially if he's not normally aggressive, and bit your husband as an automatic reaction, and without thought.

I'm sure he didn't mean to.

I hope everything has settled down now and that he and your husband are okay now.

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