(Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
Female Cocker Spaniel Becomes Aggressive After Giving Birth
My female cocker spaniel had a litter of puppies.
She will not let me in to help her at all during the time she is giving birth and afterwards, I have to trick her out of the bathroom to be able to attend to the puppies.
She doesn't seem to mind that I touch them but as long as she is not around. I am not sure how to approach this problem or if there is a way I can fix it. She is a really good dog but has this issue. This is her second litter and she behaved, in the same way, the first time around.
I also see this aggression issue when I try to brush her ears or cut her nails. She gets very mad and has bitten me so when I have to do these things I muzzle her - which, of course, she doesn't like.
I am not sure what to do with her.
Reply from Pauline (Web Owner)
I agree with what Sylla says in her post. Giving birth is a natural process, so unless your cocker spaniel is having problems, she should be left to get on with having her puppies on her own.
As far as aggression is concerned, that may well be a problem that should be addressed by a qualified canine behavioural therapist. Aggression problems can very often be aggravated by 'amateur' therapists - however very well-intended.
However, if you want to try and remedy this problem yourself, you need to step back from your dog and consider all of the times when she's been aggressive towards you.
Becoming aggressive towards someone handling her puppies (or even getting too close) soon after her giving birth is fairly normal behaviour - I wouldn't be too concerned.
However, a display of aggression when being groomed is not acceptable.
I don't mean to offend, but is it possible that you're being a little too rough with her? Some dogs are particularly sensitive (mine being one of them - Max is quite a woos!) and need to be handled with extra care and very, very, gentle.
Your cocker's aggression sounds like fear aggression.
Here's how I would try and remedy it.
Try taking her for a long walk to tire her out. When you return, give her a drink and a biscuit and sit quietly with her. Have her brushes in front of you so that she can see them. Don't do anything at this stage, simply sit quietly.
After a few minutes, pick up the slicker brush and let her sniff it. Give her a treat and stroke her.
Next, gently stroke her with the brush, don't brush her as you normally would, simply stroke her.
If she's quiet, continue stroking her with the brush for a few more minutes and praise her quietly.
Next, do the same with her ears - slowly and gently.
At this stage, you may not be doing the job that needs to be done (ie removing the dead coat and tats) but you will be rebuilding the bond between you and your dog, and you'll be showing her that she's got nothing to be afraid of.
Do this every day, for a week. If after a couple of days you think she would allow you to brush her body (properly) with the slicker brush or a comb, then do so.
Slowly build up her confidence until you are able to brush her ears. Brush them gently and then try to comb them in sections, one small bit at a time.
Leave trimming your dog nails until you've addressed the brushing issue - if necessary, take her to the vet or a groomer to have her nails clipped a couple of times.
If you feel that your dog is just too aggressive, don't risk any of the above, instead, consult a professional dog behaviourist.
The last thing I would want is for you to get bitten!
Good luck and let us know how you get on.
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