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Spaniel Rage

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by Philippa, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. Philippa

    Philippa New Member Registered

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    Hello,

    Me and my partner rehomed our cocker spaniel Lucy when she was 7 months old. She is now 18months old. The family who originally owned her, had a young family and Lucy had become possessive over objects and would bite, something which the family couldn’t risk with young children. We think they hadn’t had a dog before as she wasn’t trained at all in anything, not even properly toilet trained.

    Within the first week we took her to the vets to be checked over, where spaniel rage was mentioned to us for the first time. The vet explained that this came from breeding many years ago, generally with pure colour dogs and breeders had got this out of spaniels in recent years. Lucy is pure black.

    The first night we had her, the remote was on the floor nowhere near Lucy but when my partner went to pick it up she went for him. She continued going for him, he walked off but she followed and continued to go for him. This was the case over random things for the first few weeks. We noticed that Lucy is a very tactile dog and even now likes to chew/ mouth things.

    Following advice, when Lucy has an item she shouldn’t have, we trade her for a high end treat - we wouldn’t have previously been able to do this (the first week we had her she had a treat and she wouldn’t even let us in the same room as her without grizzling - we can now stroke her while she as a bone no problems). Sometimes she still grizzles a bit when we’re trading but she never bites anymore. She also wants to please us now so if she does anything wrong she sculks around and tries to lick us to say sorry. Also if you tell Lucy no before she picks something up she leaves it no problem. She’s really well behaved in other aspects of her life - she sits and waits for her breakfast and dinner, comes back for her lead in the park and sleeps through the night on her own bed.

    Overall, she has really come a long way with lots of hard work, however when she is really tired she can still get extremely aggressive over anything she has fallen asleep next to. To which she growls and bites. It is a totally different dog and it’s almost as if she doesn’t recognise who you are and her eyes look as if they’re glazed over (people who haven’t seen this side of her can’t believe it and they get quite a shock when they do). The most recent incident we had - she fell asleep on our bed and when we came to go to bed she wouldn’t get down. She protected the bed by growling and showing her teeth (she normally sleeps in her basket on the floor). When my partner went near her she attacked him biting his hand and drawing blood. We left the room and got her lead to which she responded. My partner put the lead on and took her for a walk in the garden and when she came in it was like she had snapped out of it and was sorry for what she had done. These incidents seem to only occur now when she’s overtired. The things she gets possessive over are so random. At home we manage it more easily with a stair gate and making sure we don’t leave anything lying around however at some point we will like to have a family (not anytime soon) and we’re very conscious that the way Lucy is we wouldn’t trust a baby around her. It’s the unpredictability that concerns us most, sometimes she’ll go weeks without any problems but then will have a few difficulties in a short space of time. She is absolutely brilliant and friendly with other dogs, children and humans however I would be worried if she was overtired and a child was about. We would never give up on her and we’re thinking of getting a behaviourist to help us but before we do that we want to check if it’s worth it? Is this spaniel rage? Is it curable?

    Thank you for reading :)
     
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  2. Violet Turner

    Violet Turner Well-Known Member Registered

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  3. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    @JudyN has a lot of experience with resource guarding. I think you are wise to be cautious though. You do have time on your side though, even after a baby arrives, he or she will not be mobile for some time. I would suggest muzzle training Lucy but you can still get hurt from a muzzled dog. It would be a bit safer though. Make the muzzle a positive thing by introducing it slowly, squeezy cheese or meat paste can help.
     
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  4. Philippa

    Philippa New Member Registered

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    Thank you both!
     
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  5. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    Judy will have more good advice later.
     
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  6. Violet Turner

    Violet Turner Well-Known Member Registered

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    In my old career I saw this I think twice but it’s very rare. I would recommend a muzzle like @JoanneF said, and make the adjustment slowly very slowly. A behaviourist is probably a good idea, Victoria Stilwell does a dog behaviourist scheme it may help you.

    Does she have separation anxiety? Has she had a bad experience recently? Does she usually get along with you?
    Just ask away if you need to know anything else.
     
  7. Philippa

    Philippa New Member Registered

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    Yes we think she had separation anxiety, she will whimper at the door if she knows we’re out the front - on two occasions working herself up so much she was sick. No bad experiences lately, but we believe the 7 months she was with the old family, they may have tried to take things off her/ ignored the behaviour completely. Yes other than these incidents she gets along with us, licking our faces in the morning and cuddling up to us every time she can
     
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  8. Violet Turner

    Violet Turner Well-Known Member Registered

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    Right so it could be that she gets aggressive when she thinks you may be leaving what do you think?
     
  9. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    Can you point us to that? I know she has a trainer accreditation scheme but the gold standard behaviourist organisations in the UK are COAPE and the APBC. OP be aware though that canine behaviour is an unregulated profession which basically means that my 90 year old neighbour who has never owned a dog in her life could if she wished set herself up in business as a behaviourist.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
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  10. Philippa

    Philippa New Member Registered

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    No she just gets more clingy if she thinks we’re going out, I think it’s definitely when she’s overtired and has fallen asleep next to something. Reading that article above - so much of it rings true with Lucy! Being woken suddenly or being woken when she’s so tired!
     
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  11. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    WELL DONE for all you have achieved with her so far! As JoanneF said, I also have a possessive dog but thankfully as he matured he stopped guarding anything other than food items.

    A behaviourist on Victoria Stillwell's Positively forum who I respect has this to say about Cocker rage (she's given me permission to quote her):

    It could well be that in her former home, Lucy was punished for growling and not getting the care she really needed. So do make sure that she is getting all the stimulation she needs.

    To go through a few things in your post:

    I would stop stroking her when she has a bone. She may look as if she's fine, but remember that her bursts of aggression have come with little warning. She may be feeling stressed so, when she has food, I'd leave her to it, to be on the safe side.

    If she grizzles over trading, I would either use much higher value treats or use other methods.If she's grizzling there's still a degree of confrontation, which you want to avoid. It may also reinforce the value of whatever she has (trading never worked with Jasper - he went ballistic when I offered him a lamb steak in exchange for a plastic measuring spoon, I'm sure he thought that if I wanted it that much he's really have to work to keep it....). What I did was work on a really good recall in the house and when he had something I'd call him in a happy voice from the other end of the house. Sometimes he was suspicious and I'd play a few games or something before manoevering so I could shut him behind a stairgate and go and get what he had.

    I also taught 'bring it to me'. The good thing about that was that if he brought it to me I knew he wouldn't be guardy - if he wouldn't bring it to me, I knew it was a good idea not to tell him to leave it and take it from him... In general, it's better if you can just leave her with whatever she has even if she chews it. It does teach you to be tidy! But if you can call her to you and distract her before removing the object, all the better - in the long run 'having' things won't seem so important to her as she doesn't realise you don't want her to have them!

    When you think she's saying 'sorry' for doing something she shouldn't, she probably doesn't see it like that at all - to her mind, you did something she didn't like, trying to take something off her that was HERS because she HAD it (to dogs, possession is 10 10ths of the law), then it all got horrible and you got grumpy, and now she's trying to appease you. That doesn't mean she thinks she did something wrong.

    I would work on asking her to get off the bed as a training exercise. You might want to start doing this with somewhere less 'special', like a sofa - train her to get on, and get off, giving a better reward for 'off' than 'on'. This might then work when she's sleeping on the bed (remember you're not 'ordering' her off the bed - it should sound as if there's this wonderful trick she can do to get an awesome reward). If not, go to the other end of the house, open and close the fridge door, and call her in your happy voice.

    This may sound as if you're appeasing her at every turn, giving in when you can't tell her what to do. But this approach is what results in a happy and obedient dog, because she's not always thinking that you want to part her from this wonderful whatever-she-has or get her of the lovely comfy bed.

    Obviously, try to manage her so when she does get tired she is somewhere safe. This might involve introducing her to a crate, particularly with a mind to the future when you want to start to have a family. If you ever have problems outside the house then introduce her to a muzzle, but I'm not sure if it would be helpful in the house - you really don't want her to have to wear it 24/7.

    As for the future, when you want children... All I can say is that my dog isn't 100% safe at 8 years old. We had a recent incident when my mum left her handbag with a ham sandwich inside it on the floor, and the house ended up on lockdown while we worked out how to separate him from it... My children are grown up and I'm not sure how things would pan out if they should produce a baby while we still have Jasper. Mind you, he's not that keen on children anyway.

    By all means consult a behaviourist, but I would run a mile if they say anything about dominance, status, and confrontational results because IMO they are likely to make things worse rather than better. In the meantime, work on the management, help her to relax when she has something near her, and do what you do to make her think that giving you things is wonderful. Jasper used to guard socks but after a lot of work, he would nick them at every opportunity to bring them to me in exchage for a treat (even snatching them out of my hand so he can give them back again). And even if he presents me with a grubby dishcloth he swiped from the worktop, I still thank him as if it's the best present ever and give him a treat! If, when you want to start a family... that's a bridge you'll have to cross then, but at least you'll have done everything you can to make her the best dog she can be.
     
  12. Josie

    Josie Administrator Administrator Registered

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    Hi @Philippa - I apologise if this story isn’t quite what you want to hear and upsets you but when I read your post I couldn’t not comment as it sounds so similar to a story my mum told me about a chap she works with. I think it’s important to be aware of.

    The guy my mum works with had a spaniel, who his wife and himself loved dearly. The spaniel was very much part of the family and had always been a gentle dog.

    Then one day she completely changed in behaviour and bit him. I believe they took her to the vets because this was very out of character and spaniel rage was mentioned.

    They continued on with life as normal and then one day the spaniel turned on him again. This time she caused some very serious damage to him and he was hospitalised.

    After the incident the spaniel went back to normal as if nothing had happened. Unfortunately due to the injuries caused the spaniel had to be put to sleep. The family were devastated.

    I’m not telling you this to scare you or tell you that Lucy has spaniel rage. Or even to give up on her. Just to understand that it can be a real problem and should be taken seriously.

    Is there any way the vet can do a test to determine this or not?

    I’m very much hoping for you it’s something that can be resolved
     
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  13. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    .

    this is an excellent book on "Springer rage" & the author, Meisterfeld, explains the behavioral-history that can incubate or exacerbate the issue -
    particularly a pattern of radical punishment that unexpectedly pops-up, inflicted on a dog who's accustomed to being overindulged. In short, the dog plunges from living on a pedestal to briefly experiencing harsh retribution... & then they're back on the pedestal. :confused: That sort of shocking transition could make anyone crazy.

    https://www.amazon.com/Jelly-Bean-versus-Jekyll-Hyde/dp/0960129251/

    Note that used copies are listed for as little as 10-cents, but shipping will be added on. ;)
    This book not only describes the heritable & behavioral roots of the problem, but lists ways to reduce it & teach the dog to trust U again.

    'Mine!' is another good book - highly recommended, for B-Mod of resource guarding -
    https://www.amazon.com/Mine-Practical-Guide-Resource-Guarding/dp/0970562942/

    again, used copies are available. :)

    - terry

    .
     
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  14. Violet Turner

    Violet Turner Well-Known Member Registered

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    Its in dog monthly magazine from Tesco's. What i recommend is that you speak to your vet and see if there is any tests she can do to make sure its not medical then you can see if its behavioural.
     
  15. Philippa

    Philippa New Member Registered

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    Thank you for all your advice!

    At some point its definitely been 'learned behaviour'/ behaviour which hasn't been dealt with - as since we've had her she has improved considerably. Most of the time we can get items off her with a trade. The main problem is the aggression/ 'flipping' when she is overtired and she has fallen asleep next to something.

    We have tried the distraction method but we've found that once we've removed the item and let her back in the room she goes looking for it. She has also gone for us once she cannot find the item. We'll continue to work on this and like you suggested play with her for a bit before letting her back into the room where the item was.

    She 'brings' us items such as her toys (if she steals another dogs ball down the park she will bring it back to us as she knows she'll get a treat) but we've never managed to get her to move/ come to us when she has something she knows we don't want her to have. We'll work on this as well, she never used to bring the other dogs ball back and we spent the whole time chasing her but now she does.

    Is there any cure for this? Or will she always have this tendency despite training?
     
  16. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    @JudyN is the best person to advise how much it can be trained out of her. I would worry that it might always be a risk, albeit a small one, so you would need to micromanage her environment for the rest of her life but Judy has more direct experience of living with this than the rest of us. She will be along soon!
     
  17. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    Well... I can only really go on my own dog and more than one behaviourist have said that he is 'complicated' (that's the polite word:D) :eek: I would say she may always have this tendency but you may be able to manage her well enough to feel confident. Often, now, I don't know how Jasper will react in certain situations becuse I've managed him for so long that the situation hasn't cropped up for a few years. It helps that he only guards food though, and once he's eaten it the situation is resolved.

    Key for you may be stopping her thinking that you want anything she has. I've just remembered that often, when I recalled J away from whatever it was he had, assuming it wasn't dangerous or valuable, I'd then let him go back to it to allay his suspicions.

    Remember, she has shown a lot of improvement already and she is still young, so there is a chance that you will be able to practically eradicate the problem altogether. But I don't know if she could ever be thought to be 100% safe around a child when there are toys around.
     
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  18. poptart

    poptart Member Registered

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  19. Violet Turner

    Violet Turner Well-Known Member Registered

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    Was you a dog trainer? If so where did you train or was you self trained?
     
  20. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    No, I'm not a dog trainer... but when Jasper developed some pretty serious issues I read, and read, and read, spoke to trainers, asked for advice on dog forums, and had a couple of behaviourists. What I recommend is what has worked from us, what has been advised by others whose advice I came to respect, and what makes sense in terms of the way I think dogs' - or at least Jasper's - brain works.

    I wouldn't want anyone to take what I say as gospel - they need to look at their own dog, and adapt what I say to them.
     

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