Rescue Cocker Spaniel Aggressive With Toys

Butter Wouldn't Melt, Or Would It?

Butter Wouldn't Melt, Or Would It?

We have just got a rescue cocker spaniel, he is lovely in every way, however he is aggressive with toys and chews and will growl and snap at us even if we just look at him, could anyone please advise how to correct this behavior, thanks.

Reply from Pauline (Web Owner)

First of all, congratulations on rescuing a Cocker Spaniel - I hope you'll have many years of happiness together!

It can be very difficult to offer advice on dog aggression when you don't know the dog or family concerned, or their circumstances, but I'm going to give it a try.

I'm assuming your rescue dog is an adult and not a puppy and that you don't have any of his history from the rescue center. If you've not checked, I recommend you speak to them because the more information you have, the more you will understand about your dog's behavior.

If he's not yet bitten, you might like to try one or two exercises, however, if he has bitten you I recommend you call in a professional canine behaviorist.

If your dog is snapping and growling at you when you are around his toys, for now, I recommend you remove all of them and hide them - (when he's not around, for safety) - never try to take them from his mouth!

Because he's a rescue dog, I recommend you assume he's had no training whatsoever and take him through his obedience training paces. Start over again as if he's a puppy and make him 'work' for everything.

You can find all the basics of puppy training here.

Take him through each one until he responds immediately, without hesitation and reward him when he gets it right.

When he's responding to you obediently, particularly to the 'Leave It' and 'Drop It' commands, you can begin to introduce some toys and games.

However, there are some basic rules to play, as follows:

  • Allow your puppy to play freely with his 'pacifier' toys - chews, soft toys - but keep the interactive toys locked away (these are your toys!).

  • Don't let your puppy dictate when you play. You should always control when he plays (with interactive toys) and when it stops.

  • Before you see the first signs of boredom, stop play - always leave him wanting more.

  • When play has finished, remove the interactive toy and give him a chew or soft toy - don't let him wander off with one of 'your' toys.

  • Playing should be fun and light, however when giving an instruction during play, use a firm tone of voice to get his attention and co-operation.

  • Don't tease your dog with a toy and try not to get your puppy over-excited during play - an over-excited dog is not good! You want a calm, quiet dog.


  • NB: The only time when teasing is allowed is if your puppy is timid and shy as this will help bring him out of his shell and give him a little more confidence.

  • I don't recommend you play tug-of-war or play fighting with your dog just yet - it may lead to more aggression and can be especially dangerous in dogs that are already confident, dominant dogs.

I don't recommend you try to take a toy from an 'aggressive' dog. Use distraction, or trade with him for something he really wants. Don't make a big fuss of it.

If you practice the obedience training mentioned above and the recommendations on our puppy play page, you'll begin to see a difference.

Keep your dog well-exercised and watch him closely for food guarding. If he's guarding his toys, he may well begin guarding his food.

You also might like to read this article about the alpha male for background reading.

Bottom line - I think your dog probably needs to learn to trust you. He may have had good reason not to trust his previous owner. In time, and with love and kindness, he'll come to trust you and your family and will understand you mean him no harm.

I wish you and your Cocker the best of luck!

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Aggressive Cocker Spaniel Puppy
by: Anonymous

I would add this to the above advice.

If and when your puppy growls, give him some time out. Ignore him and don't play with him. You want him to learn that his behavior is not acceptable to you and your family and that if he behaves in this way he will be excluded.

I don't think it will be too long before it dawns on him that his behavior needs to change.

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