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Working Cocker Spaniel


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Hi. I wonder if anyone can give me some advice on our 4 year old Cocker. He is a very happy dog, loves everyone, but has started growling. This is weird because he comes to you to be greeted, with wagging tail, then growls. It is getting worse, and mainly at my grown up Daughter. We are not sure how to deal with this, as have tried ignoring it, then telling him off, but seems to not be working. Any advice would be great.
The first step with any change in behaviour is a vet visit - it would be a good idea to have blood checks done, including thyroid. I'd also recommend a good look in his ears in case they are causing him pain.

In the meantime, watch your body language around him. When he comes to you, avoid leaning over him and putting your hand over his head. Instead, just speak to him in a friendly voice (as of course you do) and only pet him if he clearly wants it. After a few seconds, stop petting, and only start again if he shows he wants you to. Someone (@JoanneF ?) may be able to link to a video to demonstrate what this looks like.

If he does growl, please, never tell him off. Next time, he may suppress the growl, and then when he's had enough, he may resort to snapping or biting. The growl is a communication - 'please don't, I'm feeling uncomfortable' - and should be respected. Try to avoid the situation where he does growl, but if it happens, just calmly move away and give him the space he seems to need.
Sorry, I don't have a video but @JudyN describes it well - it's called the Five Second Rule, where you pet for five seconds then stop (some dogs won't tolerate even that, you do need to judge). It's a very repetitive thing, if he asks for more, you pet for another five seconds and stop again. Then continue only for so long as he keeps asking. The idea is that as he learns he can make the contact finish, he gets more confident, knowing he won't have to 'put up' with petting he doesn't enjoy.

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