Adopted Cocker Spaniel
by Peggy Munro
Nervous Cocker Spaniels Can Often Be Aggressive
I have taken in a 4-year old un-neutered Cocker named Conner. He is beautiful! He had one prior owner, a bi-lateral amputee man, a kidney dialysis patient where I work.
I was always asked to take Conner upon his passing, so for the last month that's what my son and I have been attempting.
Conner was very sheltered in a small apartment, taken to the vet regularly on a motorized wheelchair. Very protective of his owner, very smart dog, could do tricks and was crate trained.
Conner is even good with our male cat!
Conner had never rode in a car until 5 hours after his owner passed away and we took him to a strange new home. He bonded with my son right away. Six hours after being in our home Conner wouldn't let me near my son's room, growling and barking. (My son is thrilled about that!) Later that evening Conner was laying on my bed finally resting next to me, I moved my arm and he bit me.
One month later, he has settled down a lot but still has a couple of aggressive moments everyday, sometimes very vicious. Usually with me and I am never doing anything. I can't get near him if he has a toy or a treat but my son can. I use the same vet that Conner goes to and she said he will always be like this, it's all he knows.
Her only suggestion is to try some medication, that I can't afford, or put him down. His chart at the vets office has "caution" written all over it! I really don't want to give up on Conner, but I don't want to live with my guard up all the time either.
Should I get him neutered and see if that helps?
Is too late for him to go to obedience classes?
I have read all this info on the internet about how wonderful Cocker Spaniels are but I haven't found the first person that has a positive story. I sure would appreciate some advice.
Thank you, Peggy Munro in Indiana
Reply From Pauline (Web Owner)
What a wonderful person you are to take in Conner!
Cocker Spaniels can often be sensitive creatures and like most dogs if they become frightened or anxious, they will growl and bite. It's called 'fear aggression', and sometimes they will go straight into bite mode without warning and that's when it can get really dangerous because you don't get a chance to back off, you get bitten!
Cockers are also very loyal and will often 'guard' or 'protect' one member of the family, usually the one that feeds them or is with them for most of the time. I recommend that you and your son spend equal amounts of time with Conner if you can and share the feeding duties. It might be a good idea if you read this page on food aggression to help you understand how you can deal with it.
I am not a canine behavioral therapist, but I think Conner needs to see one, before this situation develops further. Conner may never be 'normal' without professional help.
However, there are things you can do in the meanwhile.
If you are to let Conner sleep on your or your son's bed, I would muzzle him overnight - you can never be too careful, especially as he's unpredictable.
I recommend you read this article about the alpha male in the dog world to help you understand how you should be behaving around your new pet and to help you show him his place in your family (his pack). You and your son should be the 'boss' of the pack and his place is beneath you both.
You mention obedience classes, and I think you're right. You can do this yourself if you can't afford the fees. You will find lots of help here if you need it. Take him to the point where he's responding to your instructions without any hesitation.
Give him plenty of exercise, lots of long walks for at least one hour each day. Help him to 'wind down' and keep him relaxed - a tired dog is a happy dog!
I sincerely hope this helps you and your son (and Conner too!) and that it doesn't come to the worst case scenario of having to have Conner put to sleep.
You will have an excellent chance of recovery for Conner if you can get the help of an experienced dog behavior therapist who can explain to you why Conner is behaving the way he is and exactly what you can do to help him.
Good luck and please let me know how you get on.
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