Aggression to Intrusive Dogs
Aggressive Cocker Spaniel, But Only Around Boisterous Dogs!
I would be grateful for some advice regarding my 3-year old Cocker Spaniel, Fergal.
He is of the show type, although I do not show him, and he's neutered.
He has never really been interested in making friends with other dogs and prefers to interact with people.
He has attended socialization classes, but he's still a shy dog. Other dogs tend to race up to him and try to fondle him and basically act as bullies which I try to protect him from by body blocking the other dog. He is off lead when these events occur.
The owners of these other dogs don’t seem to see how rude their dogs are being and when asked to come get their dog they either call them but are ignored or shout ‘oh he’s friendly’ making me wonder what they think rude unsociable behavior is.
In the past my dog would sit and clearly turn his head to the side to indicate to the other dog that he was not interested in saying hello but still the dog would try to intimidate him by getting around my body block, but in the last couple of weeks my dog seems to have had enough and has growled and snapped at the intruding dogs and he is being labelled as aggressive by the other dogs owners.
How would you advise I go about helping my dog?
Thank you for your time and help.
Reply from Pauline (Web Owner)
Poor Fergal, it sounds like he's not have a good time right now!
Your Cocker may be 'sensitive' either because it's just the way he is, he wasn't properly socialized as a puppy, (socialization classes aren't enough) or he's had a bad experience with another dog in the past.
Either way, my advice is to take Fergal to his vet so that he or she may recommend a canine behavior therapist or a certified professional dog trainer, because any form of 'aggressive' behavior ought to be dealt with by a professional and I'm not a qualified trainer.
However, I'd like to offer my advice if it helps, and since you asked for it.
As you know, your dog's growling is a warning to the other dog that it should back off, and if it doesn't, Fergal's next move may be to bite. If it were my pet, I would muzzle him each time I took him to the park. I understand this doesn't seem fair when it's other dogs that are causing the problem, but what if he accidentally bites a child when he's frightened? I'm sure you wouldn't forgive yourself and I don't even want to think about what may happen to Fergal if he bit a child.
Is it all dogs who frighten your Cocker, or just some of the more unruly dogs? If it's unruly dogs, change parks or change your walk immediately to avoid them.
If it's all dogs, you obviously won't be able to avoid all of them, but I recommend you do the following:
Be his pack leader: be in control and let him take his lead from you.
Don't console your dog when he's afraid as this will only confirm to him that he was right to be afraid in the first place: it will reinforce his emotion and behavior.
Stay calm. Your dog will pick up on how you're feeling, so if you're anxious or nervous about another dog approaching, your pet may become even more afraid. (I know this isn't always easy, but please try).
Always keep him on a lead.
Try to stay as far away from other dogs as you can, even if that means changing the direction of your walk, and if someone approaches your pet, ask them not to and let them know that he isn't comfortable around other dogs or strangers.
All of the above will help to stop the emotion and growling behavior before it becomes habitual. Habits are much more difficult to break.
We need to let Fergal see that other dogs are nothing to be afraid of.
In the meanwhile, what about trying this?
If there's a smaller, calm dog that's often walked in the park, why not speak to the owner and explain that your dog is afraid of other dogs and ask if she'd be willing to help. If she agrees, arrange to meet the next day and bring a friend along. Have your friend hold your dog's lead and stand about 20 meters away while you walk over to greet the dog owner and to stroke the other dog. Let your dog see that there are no problems and there's nothing to be anxious about.
After a couple of minutes, ask your friend to walk your dog over to you, very slowly and no sudden moves. If he's calm, ask your friend to praise him. The minute you see your pet begin to get anxious, ask your friend to move back a little to the point where your dog feels comfortable.
When he's calm again, ask your friend to give him another treat and praise him. When you feel he might be ready, try moving forward again, step by step, and eventually close the gap between dogs. Please don't expect this to happen overnight, it may take a good few sessions and with many dogs, but if it removes his fear, it will be worth it.
I really need to stress that I'm not qualified to answer your questions, but I felt I had to offer something, but again, I ask you to please consider speaking to your vet, for both your sakes.
Good luck, and please let me know how you get on.