My Cocker Spaniel Lost His Courage
My Cocker Spaniel Is Scared Of Everything!
I got a spaniel from an animal rescue shelter back in February who was rescued from a puppy mill. He's 5 years old and it took him quite a while to adjust to being with us.
After getting acclimatised, he still tends to be shy at times.
He seems to be afraid of my best friend/room-mate - he runs away from him and doesn't listen to him.
He hides behind me whenever he gets near me or him. I'd hate to think he'd done something to him, but I know that's not the case.
He tends to be scared of everything, and I mean everything, from the TV, to his food bin, and he absolutely hates the vacuum! I don't know what to do to get him over it.
As he's 5 years old, I feel there is no hope.
Does anyone have any solid advice to how I can help him regain his courage and walk tall?
Reply from Pauline (Web Owner)
First of all, can I just say how wonderful it is that you've taken on a rescue dog! You've saved a little life there and I'm sure he loves you for it.
Your dog may have been ill-treated or frightened by a man when he was in the puppy mill, or his previous home, and he's associating that experience with your best friend.
I don't suppose you'll ever find out what's causing your dog's current problems. However, you're right to want to try and resolve them.
It's not easy rehabilitating dogs bred in puppy farms but it can (and should) be done. It's a case of slowly acclimatising your dog to the things around him, including your best friend.
Let's try this first. Have your best friend sit in the room and then bring your dog in. Your friend should not look at, or speak, to your dog. He should just sit very still and quiet and completely ignore your Cocker Spaniel - perhaps he can pretend to read a book?
After a few quiet minutes, ask your friend to drop a couple of small training treats onto the floor, near your dog (slowly - no sudden moves please). Hopefully, your dog will move towards the treats and eat them.
Ask your friend to do this a couple of times.
If all goes well, eventually, your dog will learn that nice things happen when your friend is around.
If your dog goes 'nuts' or tries to back away, have your friend move to the far side of the room, which should help to settle your dog down.
After a few more treats, your dog may approach your friend - it may take a while, but eventually he may come over and sniff your friend to say hello.
Keep on dropping the treats. If it looks like your dog is gaining courage, allow the dog take a treat from your friend's hand. Keep the hand low so as not to startle your dog and don't move towards him or look at him.
You don't really know what happened to traumatize your dog so much. Take your time - it's not going to happen overnight.
As for the other things that he's frightened of, you could try leaving his food bin (for example) on the floor in the middle of the room. Leave it open - see if that temps your dog.
Let him get used to it being there - ignore it, pretend it's not there. He may get used to it all on his own.
As for the vacuum, well there will be some things that your dog may never get used to - not matter what you try.
My Cocker Spaniel, Max, is a complete scaredy-dog when it comes out (which, by the way, is not as often as it should be!).
You can only try your best. Good luck, and please let us know how you get on!