Are you worried your pooch is showing signs of Cocker Spaniel rage syndrome? Or is it simply bad dog behaviour? Learn how to tell if your pet's aggressive 'episodes' are actual signs of this very rare, but very scary, form of canine aggression.
Cocker Spaniel rage syndrome is not as common as you may think - in fact, it's quite rare!
Cockers aren't normally aggressive dogs, but when they do behave badly, their aggressive behaviour is often misdiagnosed as 'Cocker Rage' or 'Sudden Onset Aggression'.
We know that the Cocker Spaniel's temperament is very gentle and loving, but there have been some recorded cases of Cocker Spaniel rage within the breed.
It's important to understand, however, that rage syndrome in Cocker Spaniels is the exception rather than the norm.
When it happens, it's more likely to be seen in males, and in show breed dogs rather than working Cockers and the condition is almost always reported in solid coloured dogs (golden/black etc) rather than in parti-colours
Cocker rage can be described as an unexpected, unexplained aggressive dog behaviour; a sudden, vicious attack, for no apparent reason, towards the owner or whoever is near the dog at the time.
Although not clinically proven, some research has shown that the condition may be hereditary, but there have been suggestions that it could also be a form of epilepsy.
If you're worried it's going to happen to your pet, please don't. It really is a very rare condition. However, if it is going to manifest itself, it will usually do so before your dog becomes an adult, often around 8 months old.
There is a distinct, visible difference between an episode of Cocker Spaniel rage and a display of dog aggression.
Cocker Spaniel rage offers no pattern of predictable behaviour, unlike aggressive dog behaviour (such as resource guarding, dominance, etc.) which can be easily re-created.
For example, if you try to remove a bone from, say, a resource guarder (and I strongly recommend you don't try this!) but if you did, you would probably trigger an aggressive reaction from the dog.
You cannot re-create Cocker rage. It just happens.
Serious aggression in dogs is often incorrectly diagnosed as rage syndrome and it sometimes results in the dog being put to sleep when the problem could have been easily resolved with good training.
This is a crying shame.
Although conclusive scientific evidence has yet to be offered, there are several theories regarding the cause of Cocker Spaniel rage:
The bottom line is that there are many theories offered, but no-one really knows for certain what causes Cocker Spaniel rage syndrome.
If your Cocker Spaniel is showing signs of aggressive dog behaviour, it's probably going to be another form of aggression, such as dominance aggression, resource guarding, (guarding toys or food) and territorial related behaviours.
For example, your dog becomes aggressive when someone gets too near his food bowl while he's eating, (dog food aggression), or if he growls when he's asked to get down from the sofa he may be trying to challenge your status.
Or it could simply be down to general bad behaviour.
Sorry for repeating this, but rage is very rare in Cocker Spaniels, however, if you suspect your dog is showing signs of Cocker rage, I strongly recommend you speak to your vet as soon as possible and explain your concerns.
Try to note down all the symptoms and events that lead you to believe your dog has Cocker rage. List everything that happened before, during and after an alleged rage episode to give your vet a better understanding. Even better if you can get it on video, but that's not going to be easy.
He may be able to diagnose it himself, or he may refer you to someone who specializes in animal or canine neurology.
On the positive side, he may confirm that the problem is simply a training issue and recommend a dog behavioural therapist in your local area.
If it's bad news and your vet confirms your Cocker has sudden onset aggression, it may be possible to treat the condition with medication such as anti-epileptics.
Unfortunately, all dogs respond differently to treatment and medication may ultimately prove ineffective.
Because of the unpredictable nature of this condition, and for the sake of safety, sadly the only other alternative is euthanasia.
In the meanwhile, careful breeding by responsible Cocker breeders will eventually help to remove this problem from the Cocker Spaniel breed.