Cocker Spaniel Aggression
We have a 5-month old cocker spaniel - we have had him for about a month and a half. Our last dog was also a cocker and lived to be 12. He was such a sweet dog.
This little guy is extremely smart but growls if you go to pet him, try to move him, and when he eats. He is mainly like this with me and seldom does it when my husband is around.
He also growls at my daughters.
I have tried feeding him, time outs, rewarding good behaviour, etc. Does this mean he is going to be an aggressive dog? Or is it common puppy behaviour?
Thanks for your time!
Reply from Pauline (Web Owner)
When a dog growls at you, he's trying to communicate with you. It's his way of letting you know that he's in pain, is frightened (fear aggression), is guarding his food or toys (resource guarding), or his growling may be territorial.
Growling is a warning, so it's important to take note of it.
It's a warning that a bite may follow. You may receive a couple of additional warnings before the bite, such as a snarl and/or a snap.
I don't recommend that you discipline your puppy for growling as this may only serve to cut out the warnings; he may go straight to bite mode. A simple loud and firm 'NO' should suffice just to let him know that it's not acceptable and then walk away from him so that the situation doesn't escalate.
In order to deal with growling, you first need to try to understand exactly why your dog is growling at you. Give yourself some time to consider the circumstances. What were you doing at the time? For example:
- Were you too near his food?
- Are the children being too boisterous or too rough? Could he be a little afraid of them?
- Has he ever been hit?
- Is your dog in pain?
Only once you understand the reason for his growling can you begin to deal with it.
If you suspect your dog's in pain, take him to see his vet.
If you believe your dog is resource guarding his food (and, from what you've said it does sound like it) try the advice given in our two articles on Food Aggression In Dogs
and How To Prevent Dog Food Aggression
Children can and do get excited, especially around cute little puppies. If the children are too rough with your dog I recommend you set them some basic ground rules when they are playing with the puppy.
I'm sure you don't punish your dog by hitting him, so I won't go there but I would strongly recommend that you read this article on the Alpha Dog
and try to implement the advice given.
If you can't stop the growling quickly, you need professional help from a qualified dog behaviourist.