What can be done?
(Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
Aggressive Cocker Spaniel - What Can Be Done?
We have really enjoyed our Cocker Spaniel, Zeus, when it's just Jonnie and I. Unfortunately, he has nipped one child in the face (scratched her near the eye) and has lunged at the face of every child who has visited our home in the last three months.
Today the child was just sitting on the couch, and he growled and lunged at her - the attack was completely unprovoked.
He never does this with adults or if I am in the room. However, it has reached the point where I cannot leave the room if one of Jonnie's friends is visiting.
I have attempted training to discourage this activity, but it never happens when I'm in the room.
Normally, he is a wonderful dog - he's quiet (no barking), is mostly house trained and loves long walks.
If we never wanted company or to travel, we would be very happy.
I am very scared that Zeus will bite a child badly and will need to be put down. I am also worried about Jonnie getting bitten.
I think he needs to be re-homed with a family with no children.
Reply from Pauline (Web Owner)
I'm so sorry to hear that Zeus is behaving like this. Aggressive dog behavior is always very worrying, especially when there's children around.
I must point out that I'm not qualified to advise you on what to do here. It's really difficult for me to help you because I don't know much about your circumstances or your dog (other than what you've already explained) to be able to advise you.
I think you're right to be worried as this situation is very serious, but I think you have a couple of options. You could speak to your vet who'll be able to refer you to a canine behaviorist or you can begin to explore the possibility of re-homing him as you suggest.
But, in the meanwhile, you could try re-training him. Take him through his paces again and work on all the obedience commands. Give him plenty of exercise, make sure he understands all your house rules and that you and your family (and any visitors to the house) are the alpha male and that his position is below that. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, I recommend you read this article.
In the meanwhile, I would muzzle Zeus whenever you have visitors and when you take him out near children. You can buy a soft muzzle which is more comfortable than the leather or plastic grid types.
Whatever you decide to do Kim, I wish you and Jonnie (and Zeus) the best of luck and I'm sorry I couldn't help you more.
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