Cocker Spaniel Aggressive At Night
by Steven King
Why Is My Cocker Spaniel Aggressive At Night?
I have an 11-year-old, male, neutered, Golden English Cocker Spaniel. During the morning, my cocker spaniel is wonderful - he's pleased to see me and is very happy.
During the day, I play with him and take him for walks, but at night, he changes. He won't come near me and if I stroke him, he growls, and then spans, not aggressively.
To punish him, I send him to his basket/bed.
The family then ignore him for the rest of the evening.
We love him dearly, but we can't understand why this is happening. Please help.
Reply from Pauline (Website Owner)
I've seen the same thing in my Cocker, Max.
If the aggression is always at night, it could be a sign of decreased serotonin levels.
If, as you say, your cocker spaniel is normally well-behaved during the day, that would fit, as the brain's serotonin levels are highest in the morning and, through the course of the day, the levels decrease and are at their lowest at night-time and can result in general 'grumpiness' or aggression.
If this is the case, it can be addressed by increasing your pet's exercise, perhaps a couple of diet changes and there are also a few preparations that you can use to increase serotonin levels.
I also recommend extra obedience training - you can never give dogs enough, and if you make it fun, your pet will enjoy it too!
Increase your Cocker's exercise and training, by all means, but I suggest you involve your vet with the latter two. Explain the situation and ask him if reduced serotonin levels could be the problem. He'll probably check him out just to make sure he's otherwise okay, and if it is a serotonin problem, he'll be able to prescribe something that will help alleviate the problem and perhaps recommend a change to his diet.
In the meanwhile, I recommend you keep him away from kids at night, crating would be an option, and if he normally sleeps on your bed, I'd probably stop that until you've spoken with the vet.
If it turns out to be a behavioural problem (and I don't think it is) I wouldn't try to remedy this aggression yourself. Find a good, qualified dog behavioural therapist - it will probably cost you, but the alternative is much worse.
Hope this helps Steven and good luck!
PS: You are right to let your dog know that aggression is not good behaviour, however, I don't recommend sending him to his bed as punishment. This will confuse him - when it's time for him to go into his bed, he'll come to associate it with being punished.
Instead, why not try excluding him from the room (and the family, as you do already)?