A well-behaved dog is a true pleasure to have around anybody. An unruley disobedient do is an absolute nightmare and its own worse enemy.
A Day in the Life of a Behavourist
The small terraced house looked perfectly normal just like the many others I had visited in my years as a dog trainer and behavioural counsellor. Of course other than what your client tells you on the phone, what lies on the other side of the door can often come as a surprise, which can be hilarious, sad, or just plain bizarre.
On this appointment I had been asked to come and look at two Dobermans, a male and female that were apparently hyperactive, rushing about all over the place and knocking over the children and even the adult’s. I had been told they had low attention spans and could not concentrate or settle, they were also nervous and stressed.
I should have known this was not going to be an ordinary call, when from the hallway I spotted taking pride of place next to the television an enormous gleaming racing motorbike. My client proudly announced that he had raced this very machine in one of the Isle of Man TT races.
It fleetingly crossed my mind that I would probably have a difficult time convincing my wife to allow a motorbike of any description to take pride of place in our house.
These clients were an absolutely lovely couple, with two young children, a number of rather unusual pets and a few problems with the Dobermans. The dogs were in the kitchen and enthusiastically greeted me as I passed, barking, jumping and spinning round, we were separated by a child gate and I observed them for a couple of minutes on my way to the lounge.
Suddenly the male stopped spinning and ran over to his bed grabbed the blanket and twisted part of it into a tight ball and started sucking on it like a baby’s dummy. This is not uncommon in certain breeds and I had certainly seen quite a number of Dobies do this before.
The blanket and the sucking acts as a calming agent almost like a child’s comfort blanket, which soothes them when they are tired or stressed. In some cases it can become all consuming and turn it into OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) which may require treatment.
In the corner of the lounge near the motorbike not visible from the hallway was an enormous birdcage and sitting on top taking pride of place even over the motorbike a stunning and very large Brazilian Scarlet Macaw, with the largest bill I had ever seen on any parrot. It fixed me with a baleful stare and told me in no uncertain terms to “p*** off”. I thought that somewhat premature as it had not had the chance to get to know me yet.
My clients warned me not to get too close, apparently it did not take kindly to strangers. A vicious glint to its eye told me to believe them; it sat there glaring whilst cracking whole walnuts as easy as shelling peas. I just knew if it wanted to it could also remove fingers with consummate ease.
We got down to business and I asked the owners about the dogs and what were the main problems. Once I had confirmed all the relevant information I asked them to release the dogs from the kitchen.
They came hammering in the room and screeched to a halt when they saw the Parrot. At the same time the parrot leapt onto the floor and starting moving towards them in an exaggerated swagger it almost marched like a drill sergeant swinging it wings like arms. You could almost imagine it saying “left right left right”. However what it was actually saying or should I say screaming was “Sit” “Down” “Walkies” “Shut up” and “Get Out” in an exact replica of the owner’s voice. Terry my client said matter of factly, “the bloody parrot is always doing that!”
After I got the confused and terrified dogs out of the room and everything settled down, I asked if there was anything else they should be telling me. Madeline said, “Terry did you mention the snakes”?
“Ahhhhh” said Terry! “Yes that is a bit of a problem.” He proceeded to tell me he had three giant anacondas in a large vivarium at the end of the garden, he was very concerned the dogs would get in there, as the smallest was 14 feet long and could easily kill and eat the dogs. He wasn’t half as concerned as I was when he suggested he show me them.
I was shown into the vivarium which was a converted garage turned into what appeared to be a miniature rainforest. Incongruously someone had dumped a couple of pink baths into this beauty spot, and two of the snakes were coiled up in these. “Keep away from the one over there Stan,” pointing to a particularly large specimen “he is a nasty little so and so” said Terry, “it’s a trip to hospital if he gets hold of you. The others are OK though” and he proceeded to pull the closest one from a large tree branch and drape it over my shoulders.
I do not have a fear of many animals including snakes, which I used to keep as a child, but this thing had a head that appeared bigger than a crocodiles and seemed to be 100 foot long, the weight of it was enormous I almost staggered when he put it on me. Terry assured me it was only 15 foot. Who was I to argue? However when we were finished I was more than happy to leave his little patch of tropical rainforest.
After my escape from the vivarium, I sat down to business proper with the family, and laid out what must be done. The vivarium must be fenced and separated from where the dogs exercised in the garden, both for the safety of the dogs not to mention the children, and to assuage the constant worry that Terry had regarding the snakes killing the dogs, this worry and concern I was sure was being picked up by the dogs.
I then recommended lowering the Parrot cage so that it was not looking down at everyone, (Parrots are also pack orientated just like dogs) the height of the cage has an impact on the birds psyche and behaviour which has an effect on how they perceive their position, rank, and the world around them. There is an avian behaviourist in the UK that just specialises in parrots and parakeets and their unwanted behaviour.
I also recommended they keep the dogs away from the parrot. The constant screeching and threatening behaviour clearly unsettled them; not to mention the confusion that was caused when the parrot started issuing commands in the owner’s voice.
They were clearly terrified of this enormous bird, that was certainly not helping with there stress levels. I also got them to set some basic obedience commands on the dogs, such as sit, stay, down and wait, which allowed far more control in the house. It also allowed the dogs to focus and be praised for certain actions.
Up until now most of the owners dialogue with these two over-excited young dogs had been negative, they were so stressed out they could not think straight and constantly barged about in confusion. They had been yelled at and ordered about not only by the owners but by a psychotic parrot as well.
So by putting in place a training program that was based on praise and reward, helped boost their self esteem and confidence. I pointed out that if they were going to reprimand the dogs do so sparingly and never use the dog’s name when doing so.
Imagine if for 50% of the time of the time when people said your name you were chastised, it would not take long before you said like many dogs do “ look at my paw cos my face ain’t listening”
The last I heard of this happy but somewhat chaotic family they were all living in harmony with all their pets.
A Time for Reflection
The horrific attack by two Rottweiler’s on five-month-old Cadey-Lee Deacon, who subsequently died of her injuries, has led to an outcry to ban this breed and licence all dogs and dog owners.
This terrible tragedy strikes a chord in all right minded people. We ask ourselves how could it happen, and why did it happen. The press as expected moved into top gear reporting further attacks by Rottweiler’s and other breeds, including what was described as an Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
For those in the know, many of the so-called Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s are in fact American Pit Bull Terriers, banned in Britain under the 1991 dangerous dogs act. That ill thought out legislation came about as a knee jerk reaction by the Government, to the national press and the general public’s reaction to reports of dog attacks in the early 1990s.
Other dogs banned under the same bill are the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino, and the Fila Brasileiro. All these dogs were ordered to be muzzled in public, castrated or spayed and kept on a lead at all times. Effectively removing the breed from the UK when they all died off.
So how have we still got American Pit Bulls in the UK? Very simple really, they were not banned in Southern Ireland. There are no border controls regarding the movement of dogs between Eire and the UK mainland, therefore they are coming in and being sold through the back door.
It is important to note that, in the UK, dangerous dogs are classified by “type”, not by “breed label”. This means that whether a dog is considered dangerous, and therefore prohibited, will depend on a judgment about its physical characteristics, and whether they match the description of a prohibited 'type'.
A little known fact was that the 1991 Act was amended by the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997. The 1997 Act removed the mandatory destruction order provisions of the 1991 Act by giving the courts discretion on sentencing, and re-opened the Index of Exempted Dogs for those prohibited dogs which the courts consider would not pose a risk to the public. Only courts can direct that a dog can be placed on the list of exempted dogs.
So what went terribly wrong in the Cadey-Lee Deacon tragedy? I believe this was caused by a number of factors.
First of all these dogs were used and kept as guard dogs, they were left to patrol a flat roof area which formed part of public house called “The Rocket” in New Parks, a somewhat notorious estate in Leicester. These dogs were known to be aggressive and distrustful of strangers and were kept away from people.
Cadey-Lee’s parents were looking after the pub, whilst the Landlord was away on a holiday break, it was the Landlord and his partner that owned the dogs, therefore the dogs would be more nervous and excitable, given that the owners were not present, and others, perhaps not so well known were on the premises.
The parents did not leave the dogs with Cadey-Lee, apparently someone left a fire door open and they got access to the child through that. I doubt if these dogs attacked this baby to protect the premises. It is more likely that initially they were attracted by curiosity. The baby may have been whimpering or crying and that may have stimulated the dogs.
Their prey or predatory instinct may have then taken over, the sounds stimulating the part of the brain that deals with hunting and chase. They may have considered Cadey-Lee an injured animal or even toy or plaything. It was a tragedy waiting to happen.
So what could have been done to alter this awful train of events? First of all the Rottweiler is a natural guarding breed. Without early socialisation with both humans and dogs they can end up suspicious and in rare cases aggressive.
Puppy socialisation and ongoing obedience training is a must for all dogs not just Rottweiler’s, but especially when we own guarding breeds. The majority of Rottweiler’s that I treat are pussycats, wanting to play sometimes over boisterous but rarely aggressive. That is not to say I have not had to deal with aggression in these dogs. I have had to treat aggressive tendencies in almost every breed you could think of.
The critical periods up to 24 weeks and particularly the 7 to 14 week period, sets the behaviour pattern for the dog for life. Introducing pups to children, other dogs, traffic, household appliances, adults and babies, in a kind unthreatening way, in controlled circumstances is an absolute must. I cannot stress this enough, ignore this socialisation opportunity at your peril.
The majority of the cases I treat regarding aggression are related to poor socialisation at an early age. Nearly all of these cases are fear related, rather than a dominance issue. It has been suggested that 80% of all behavioural problems are caused because of the lack of handling, training, and early socialisation, during the early weeks and months of a puppy’s life.
Since this terrible tragedy, I have been inundated with calls from people with children or families with a dog that are expecting a baby. I understand their concerns and with all I have said preparation, socialisation, and anticipation is a must.
All dogs whatever breed or size have the potential to be dangerous and in some cases fatal. Let’s look at those three areas in turn:
If a new baby is due you must start at least three months before the birth to desensitise and prepare your dog for this new member of the family. If this is the first child or you have not had a baby since the arrival of the dog then early preparation is the key. I will not go into this in depth as this was covered in Dogs Monthly recently. You may wish to order this back copy.
If your dog does not know how to sit, stay, lie down, or come when called, then it must be taught to do so. If your dog already knows these commands but is unreliable, practice these obedience exercises until it is reliable.
Three months before the birth, you must do activities that mimic "baby activities". For example, buy a baby size doll, cradle it, rock it, and walk back and forth. Occasionally rewarding the dog with treats, petting or praise for remaining in a sitting position whilst this occurs The doll should also be wrapped in baby blankets and shown to the dog, which must learn to control itself and to refrain from moving. Because dogs respond with interest to strange sounds, it is a good idea to accustom your dog to the recorded sounds of a baby crying, whimpering, or making other normal "baby" sounds. Ideally, if the opportunity is available, expose your dog - in a controlled manner to ensure the infant’s safety - to real babies of friends or neighbours.
When mother and child come home, it is best if the mother greets the dog without the baby present. Another family member should hold the baby or, better still, put in another room while the mother and dog greet each other. This way, you can avoid reprimanding an excited dog that merely wants to greet the owner and that may jump at the baby in an attempt to get near the mother.
When changing or fussing the new baby then one parent should attend to the baby and the other to the dog. The dog should be in a sit/stay or down/stay and on a lead. Err on the side of caution when determining when your dog is ready to approach your baby, close enough to actually sniff and check the child out.
I have covered this in a number of my articles, which can be viewed, on my website and to some degree above, but to reiterate. Puppy socialisation classes are a necessity. Irrespective if you have other dogs or you are an experienced dog owner, you may well be experienced but your new puppy is not. Puppies learn meeting and greeting far better with pups of a similar age. Take the dog to the park, get children and adults to gently pet and treat your pup in a gentle non-threatening manner.
Avoid frightening or startling you new puppy, especially during the first fear period, which is from 8 to 10.5 weeks of age. This critical period is a real danger point and is instrumental in many fear related behavioural problems in later life; see critical periods on my website.
We know we should never ever leave a child alone with even the kindest and calmest dog, especially if that child is under five. We have more chance of negotiating with a terrorist than we have of convincing a child under five to leave a dog alone, not to poke that pencil through the dog’s eardrum, or a finger in their eye. Yet it still happens.
I believe no child under 12 years old should be left alone with a dog, irrespective of how placid or what breed. We know if our dogs are showing unwarranted or dangerous behaviour, yet sometimes we leave it until it becomes a learned behaviour, before we have it treated. It is then far more difficult to correct. Get it treated as it occurs, not when it becomes life threatening.
The tragedy of Cadey-Lee Deacon will be with us for some considerable time. It could have been avoided by some early common sense Preparation, Socialisation, and Anticipation. That is not to point a finger at Cadey-Lee’s family they have enough on their minds without that, but perhaps we can learn some lessons from this.
All dogs can be aggressive, all dogs can cause serious injuries, what we should never do is blame the breed. Punish the deed not the breed, these two Rottweiler have paid the ultimate price and were rightfully euthanised. It was the circumstances that lead up to this dreadful event that we should question, not whether a breed should be destroyed because of it.
Puppies have painfully sharp little piranha like teeth, almost like hypodermic needles, fortunately the jaw muscles are extremely under-developed. One of the main reasons why you should never play tug with a young puppy is you could dislocate the jaw and misalign or damage the teeth.
Nature has given them these underdeveloped muscles to enable pups to play-bite safely. Whilst very young and still with his brothers and sisters if he bites too hard in play he gets blasted with a ear piercing "yelp" which makes him immediately back off, he waits a while then starts to play again, but a strange thing has happened, the biting is a bit softer. The same thing when feeding from the mother, the pup uses too much pressure, she yelps and moves away the milk bar. He is then gentler the next time round and a valuable lesson has been learned.
This is nature’s way of inhibiting the force of their bite well before the jaw muscles start to form properly at around about 4.5 months, which also coincides with the time that the puppy teeth start dropping out and the new bigger more dangerous teeth start to come through. This is called the age of cutting.
This learning process is known as “Bite Inhibition” it is a vital and important lesson and is the only reason why your puppies are born with those hideous teeth. This is how your puppy learns to inhibit the force of his bite and to control his jaws. It is a vital that he also learns to inhibit biting us humans.
I see many new owners who are told to stop all play biting, however this could potentially have far-reaching and disastrous consequences. If the pup is trained immediately never to play-bite, he will never have the chance to learn control over his jaws. Therefore, your puppy must initially learn that all biting whatever the circumstances must be done softly. Then you can start to teach him never to bite at all.
This is how you should deal with this problem
1. Permit the puppy to play-bite by allowing your pup to softly chew on your hand. When he bites down a little harder than normal, "yelp" sharply and loudly, and turn your head away in rejection. Do not pull your hand away. Let the puppy move away from the sound and your hand, (pulling your hand away will only encourage him to lunge towards the moving object) As an appeasement after your yelp the pup may come up and lick your hand, accept this gesture. Then allow the play to resume, but this time hopefully with a softer bite. If the play gets a little rougher, "yelp" again, thus further confirming that any pressure is totally unacceptable. Repeat this exercise as often as possible, and like the New York police chief who had a zero tolerance to crime you do the same with any hard biting.
You will find within a few days that the biting turns into mouthing; you will have programmed your puppy into thinking that he must not exert any pressure whatsoever whilst mouthing because of your ultra sensitive reaction. Now you can teach him the “OFF” command to stop all mouthing.
The “OFF” Command
2. Put your dog on its 5 foot lead and the *Jingler. Take a treat, cheese, frankfurter, or puffed jerky is ideal, make the dog sit and hold the lead in your left hand and the treat in your right. Offer him the treat and gently say “Good take it" do this at least five times, then offer the dog the treat and do not say anything. When the dog goes to take the treat turn your head sharply to the right and bring your hand with the treat up to your chest giving a slight tug on the lead with your left hand making the Jingler tinkle and gently say "OFF". The Jingler really helps the dog focus.
What you are actually saying is, by using the word good this acts as a target word similar to a clicker and it acts as confirmation that the behaviour is correct. The “take it” is a permission command, you are effectively saying “this is my bone, I am prepared to share it but only when I give permission”, the permission is “take it”. You are also training control of the greatest resource possible “FOOD”
Repeat the "OFF" command until the dog turns his head away, Watch for the movement and the body language and as soon as he does this say "Good Dog, take it" in a praising tone then give him the treat. Keep repeating the exercise until the dog naturally turns his head away when you offer him a treat.
3. Keep the dog on a lead in the house (you must always be present when the lead is on). When he jumps up or tries to bite the children, you grab the lead and say "OFF” for the bite and “OFF SIT" for the jump, giving a slight corrective jerk on the lead at the same time. Do not praise the dog when he stops you are only praising the bite or the jump. Repeat exercise until he stops jumping up and biting.
If the above does not appear to be working as the puppy is so insistent and is continually biting you or your kid’s hands and feet then get some bitter apple and spray their hands and feet for a few days. However it must be bitter apple as it is the only chew or bite deterrent that really works. All the others I have tried are just a waste of money.
*The Jingler is a simple device I have personally developed, that uses sound therapy; it works by distracting your dog momentarily from what it is doing and makes it concentrate on you. The repetition of the jingle and either a change of direction or a command conditions your dog so that it associates the jingle with a movement or command; it aids concentration and confirms your training command. It can be used for many behaviours like lunging, jumping up, walking to heel and barking. It can also be used in some cases for both interdog and human based aggression.
Bone or Toy Guarding
I find this problem mainly in the gundog breeds dogs such as Labradors, Springer’s, and Golden Retrievers but have also come across it in Shar Pei's, Staffs and English Bull Terriers and most of the guarding breeds.
I think genetics and early learned responses, whilst still with the mother and siblings can have an affect on this behaviour. If we really think about it, object, toy, or bone guarding is a natural action and reaction to a situation where possession may mean survival. The problem we have is we perceive it as unacceptable or dangerous behaviour.
The way the situation is handled at the outset will have an enormous effect on the overall outcome, and in some cases determines the dog’s fate. Head on aggression and punishment in this scenario is both dangerous and pointless.
1. Remove the cause of the dog's guarding behaviour. If it's a specific type of bone or treat, then simply make sure that you do not stimulate this behaviour, by never giving those objects again.
2. Basic obedience training can help by teaching either: “Leave it” “Drop” or “Dead” and use various objects such as shoes, socks, tissue, this is always best started when the dog is a puppy. I also never play tug with my dogs accept in very special circumstances ie a timid or shy dog, as I believe this can also stimulate a guarding reaction.
3. Give you dog something you can carefully remove from a distance, for instance you could tie some string round an object or bone then when the time is right use the trigger words “Leave it” “Drop” or “Dead”. At the same time as removing the object with the string, immediately treat the dog. Puffed jerky, cheese or dried liver is ideal. Then give the object /bone back and repeat the exercise
4. Trade with him, a barter system of swapping objects can help in this case. He picks something up, you offer him a tasty favourite treat in return, then give the item back to him. Do not treat or praise him whilst he is growling or threatening, as this can be seen as praising.
5. To punish object guarding either verbally or physically will probably only serve to remind him that he was right not to give up the object and will probably lead to you being bitten and he/she being rehomed or worse still put down. Remember growling is a warning, a threat that he is not happy with a situation, if overtly challenged then he may feel it necessary to back it up with an attack.
This can only be taken as general advice and cannot replace a behaviourist who is experienced in aggression, and these types of behaviour. Object guarding in isolation may in some cases be easily cured, but coupled with other aggressive or dominant tendencies may point to a much more serious problem. The tips above will at least get you started in the right direction, but further coaching from a professional may be necessary and judicial.
Car Aversion and Anxiety
Anxiety and Sickness in cars is actually quite common, despite popular belief these behaviours are generally not caused through motion sickness or balance problems. It is my belief that this debilitating problem is caused through anxiety and fear.
I believe that carsickness and anxiety cases are initially caused on that first journey when the puppy is taken from the litter to your home. We tend to get our puppies right at the start of the first fear period, which is between eight to ten and a half weeks.
This has to be one of the most traumatic times in a dog’s life, when it is separated from its littermates and its birth mother. Suddenly on it’s own without the comfort of those it knows the most.
The first thing we do is put it in a car and drive often dozens if not hundreds of miles. Therefore is it any surprise that future car journeys can induce fear and stress, sometimes resulting in the dog being sick or anxious. And occasionally, causing other problems-such as just getting the dog into the car in the first place.
Case History 1
I have had a recent spate of cases where dogs are refusing to approach or get into the car, especially with large dogs that are almost impossible to manhandle. Take the case of Glanton, a beautiful looking Irish Wolfhound, owned by Michael and Sarah More-Molyneux who live and run the stunningly beautiful Loseley House near Guildford, which is open to the public.
Built between 1562 and 1568. This house was a favourite of Elizabeth the 1st of England, the grounds are also the Venue for the Richmond dog show, one of the largest dog shows in Europe
Glanton was not exactly enamoured with cars, in fact he had steadfastly refused to even approach one since that first journey, given he was now 16 months old and enormous, he was proving to be a real handful and incredibly strong.
I first gently approached the back of Sarah’s car with the tailgate already open. I ended up being dragged some hundred yards down the road by a dog that was having none of it. I weigh 15 stone and still struggled to hold him. Sarah weighs probably eight and half stone, so how she coped I will never know.
After being dragged down the road I decided it was time to change tack and asked Sarah to get into the back of her car with some very special treats. I used venison heart and venison tongue, available as a special treat from one of the leading dog food suppliers. For some reason dogs go mad for it.
If all else fails try these as a lure and a treat. I had tested them out earlier on Glanton and he was already a fan.
I managed to manoeuvre him to within 10 yards of the back of the car and with Sarah encouraging, ran with him on a lead to the rear of the vehicle. Glanton sailed in and was immediately rewarded with the venison treats.
We repeated this until I could let Glanton go and with Sarah’s excellent encouragement he began jumping in on his own.
To reinforce this over the next few weeks I asked Sarah to only feed Glanton in the car, but not to start the engine until he appeared comfortable. Treats were liberally spread in the back of the car, which he found each time he got in. At the time of going to press he was happily eating in the vehicle and the car had been started and moved around the estate and he had been on short forays to the nearest village.
As a footnote he appears more nervous when Sarah drives. Of course it was Sarah who initially picked him up from the breeder during that dreaded first fear period at eight to ten and a half weeks when so many phobias can arise.
I feel confident that Glanton will overcome most of his car anxiety and phobias. He will never be totally confident in a vehicle but he is vastly improved, and at least they can now travel with Glanton and take him to places like the Vets.
Case History 2
Paddy is a very large and very heavy Male Newfoundland with the Worlds longest tongue that could slime you at ten paces. Paddy had been prescribed numerous medical remedies and had visited a well known behaviourist, unfortunately to no avail. His owner Louise was at her wits end, it took four people to try and manhandle him into her car; he would then immediately jump out.
Paddy is a somewhat nervous dog, after discussing Paddy with Louise his owner it became apparent that he was frightened during his second fear period at about 12 months of age, by a large man who loomed over him. He now barks at all strangers and especially men.
He had never ever jumped into a car since his first journey at that magical fear period at 8 weeks. We also take our dogs to the Vet, and the first thing the Vet does is stick a needle in them for their initial vaccination.
Is it any wonder they often end up with a lifelong fear of the surgery? Try taking them a few times so that the nurses can treat and fuss them, before having that first vaccination, they should hopefully not see the visit in such a negative light after that.
Paddy really did not like the car one bit, but he did love Louise and more importantly other dogs. I had four of my dogs with me, the one Paddy really took a shine too was Guinness, my 6 month old working Cocker. I really should have named him Billy Whizz he is seriously fast and I may enter him for gundog competitions in the future.
After doing a number of exercises, including getting Paddy to walk to heel and stop barking at people, by using the Jingler, a technique I devised and developed that uses sound therapy. We opened the back of the dreaded car.
Paddy looked very stressed and nervous. But instead of putting Paddy in I put Louise and Guinness in. Then Louise cuddled and treated Guinness with the Venison, which we had introduced to Paddy earlier. Initially he refused to take treats but came round after gentle handling.
Paddy, I could see, was feeling a bit left out, so I put a little rope slip lead over his head and we set off at a trot to the back of the car with Louise encouraging him.
I was expecting that Paddy would come to a screeching halt, but instead he sailed in the back and promptly sat on both Louise and Guinness. To be honest he did not take the Venison at that time, but he did not look overly stressed, and more importantly he did not jump back out. In fact I had to encourage him back out.
We repeated this until I could let Paddy go and with lots of encouragement from Louise and Guinness he lumbered up to and into the car. I think it was quite an emotional moment for all, including Louise’s parents who were there to observe, as they looked after Paddy if Louise was away, and of course the car was a serious bone of contention (pun intended) for them as well.
For those who are having serious difficulty than I would suggest attempting the above however try not to force or push the dog into the car this only makes it worse.
Once you have managed to get the dog into the back of the car, you need to desensitise him. With the engine switched off feed the dog it’s meals in there, you can sit in with him during this time, after a day or so feed the dog with the engine running then run the car round the block a day or two after that
If the dog is carsick, calculate how long it takes for the dog to become sick and find a place to exercise the dog that you can drive to it before he becomes physically sick.
If possible have someone in the car that can feed titbits to the dog if they will take them. (Dogs will not eat if stressed). But do not sympathise with the dog as this will only fuel the fear, keep him distracted by titbits, toys or play during the journey to the park or wherever you are going. Then do all the things you normally do play ball, run, hide etc. You don’t have to stay long just long enough for the dog to enjoy itself. On the journey home do the same things, distracting the dog from the journey itself.
If possible repeat several times a day. Once the dog is happy and even eager to go in the car then lengthen the journey to approaching the time when the dog was normally sick, then gradually increase the journey to 35/40 minute.
If there are no signs of distress or anxiety, then you probably have the problem sorted.
Repetition is the key to these types of problems, overcoming the dog’s initial stress and fear little by little, until it takes away the original concern that was causing the sickness/anxiety.
You can also use a Dap Diffuser in the house and a Dap Spray in the car, and sometimes natural ginger can help. Dr Bach’s rescue remedy may also help, along with scullcap and valerian. Always discuss any treatments, whether herbal or otherwise, with your vet.
Dogs have a natural liking for enclosed sleeping places - think of how often your dog chooses to sleep under the table, against a wall or behind the settee! In the wild your dog would seek out a cosy safe den to sleep and rest up, that is all a crate is. Although their resemblance to cages or prison, puts many people off. If they are properly used and introduced, they can be a helpful aid to training and toileting and a comfort and a bolthole when the dog is feeling stressed.
Once your dog is happy in the crate he can be left there to prevent soiling and chewing when you are out for a short time, he can be restrained when the kids play noisy, energetic games which are not improved by his joining in, and he has a secure familiar bed which can be taken in the car and on holiday if needed.
A dog which is thrust unprepared into a crate and left is going to associate the crate with a most unpleasant experience and be very unhappy. A dog which is carefully introduced to a crate usually finds it a pleasant and secure place to be, so it is worth spending some time over the introduction process.
How to Crate Train your Dog
The crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up, turn round and stretch out when lying down. If he is a puppy, allow for growth. Cover the crate with a blanket or sheet so it is dark, den like and cosy.
To begin with you will need to leave the crate set up all the time. Later you may prefer not to, and some crates fold flat for easy storage when not in use.
When left in the crate your dog should have a toy or chew bone to keep him occupied when awake, soft bedding to sleep on, (I prefer Vet Bed or the equivalent) and a drink of water. Get a coop cup it clips or screws on the inside of the crate then you don’t get spills.
Initially feed the dog in the crate every day, with the door open. This is an easy way to get him to like it!
Set the crate up in a quiet corner, and put the dog's bed into it. At this stage, leave the door pinned open so that the dog is never fastened in by mistake and never gets stressed.
Soon the dog should happily use the crate voluntarily. When you reach this stage, (NOT BEFORE) wait until he goes in for a sleep, then close the door. Stay in the room, and let him out as he starts to wake up.
When your dog is used to this routine, leave him for a minute after he wakes up, with you still in the room. Gradually (over about a week) increase the time you do this. If your dog gets distressed, reassure him briefly but firmly and shorten the time on the next attempt. Don't make a big fuss - sweet nothings and lots of attention can make him think you're praising him for being distressed, and he'll do it all the more. Aim for the "nursing sister" approach when she comes to give you a big injection, sympathetic but business like!
When you can leave the dog like this, leave the room for a few minutes but stay in the house. Again, gradually increase the time you are out of sight until you can put the dog into his crate when you go shopping.
Your dog should never be left in a crate for more than 3 or 4 hours, except overnight, and never regularly crated during the day.
Critical Periods In Your Puppy's Psychological Growth
0 to 7 Weeks
Neonatal, Transition, Awareness, and Canine Socialisation.
Puppy is with mother and littermates up to seven weeks. During this period, your puppy learns about social interaction, play, and inhibiting aggression from its mother and littermates. Puppies must stay with their mother and littermates through this critical period. As the puppies learn the most important lesson in their lives--they learn to accept discipline. It is at this time that they also learn not to toilet in the nest.
7 to 16 Weeks
Human Socialisation Period. The best time to take a puppy home is 7 weeks then you have nine whole weeks to work with the dog over this incredibly important period. The puppy now has the brain waves of an adult dog, but his attention span is short. This period is when the most rapid learning occurs. Learning at this age is permanent so this is a perfect time to start training, but make it fun. This is also the time to introduce the puppy to things that will play an important part in his life. Different people, places, animals, hoovers, washing machines and unusual sounds, in a positive, non-threatening way.
8 to 10 / 11 Weeks
Fear Imprint Period. Whilst the Pup is going through human socialisation is will also go through an important fear/hazard avoidance period. Avoid frightening the puppy during this period. Any traumatic, frightening or painful experience will have a more lasting effect on the puppy than if it occurred at any other time in its life. This is the period that if you do not handle it correctly will give your dog a lasting fear of traffic and other frightening noises. Never ever praise or sympathise with your pup when it is showing fear. This only serves to confirm the fear.
13 to 16 Weeks
Seniority Classification Period. Puppy starts to cut teeth and apron strings! Puppy begins testing its position in the family unit. You must discourage all biting; the dog should have started to learn and understand bite inhibition by this time! It is important that you are a strong and consistent leader. The period between 0 and 16 weeks is the most important period in your dogÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s life. He will learn more during that short space of time than at any other time in his life. Other windows of opportunity for learning will open during your dogÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s life. However, what you see at 16 weeks without extensive training and behavioural modification is about what you are going to get as an adult. Therefore, work hard on giving your pet the best start in life.
4 to 8 Months
Play Instinct Period. Flight Instinct Period. Puppy may wander and ignore you. It is very important that you keep the puppy on a leash at this time! The way that you handle your pup at this time determines if he will come to you when called. At about 4-1/2 months, your puppy loses his milk teeth and gets his adult teeth. That's when he begins serious chewing! A dog's teeth don't set in his jaw until between 6 /10 months. During this time, the puppy has a physical need to exercise his mouth by chewing. Training must continue through this period or all your good work may revert back to stage one. Occasionally the puppy will start to urinate in the house again if this happens, just go back to basic toilet training.
6 to 14 Months
Second Fear Imprint Period or Fear of New Situations Period. Dog again shows fear of new situations and even familiar situations. Dog may be reluctant to approach someone or something new. It is important that you are patient and act very matter of fact in these situations. Never force the dog to face the situation. DO NOT pet the frightened puppy or talk in soothing tones. The puppy will interpret such responses as praise for being frightened. Training will help improve the dog's confidence. This fear period is normally more marked in male dogs.
1 to 4 Years
Maturity Period. You may encounter some increased aggression and renewed testing for position and authority, however if you have spent lots of time with your dog and trained consistently and regularly, then this should not present itself as a problem - in fact you may hardly notice this change, it is just something to keep in mind. Continue to train your dog during this period. It is possible that your dog may have another fear period between 12 - 16 months of age.
Regardless of your reason for acquiring a puppy, you'll have to win it over. You, not your dog, will have to create a safe and secure environment with ongoing training if your pup is to develop into a well-mannered family member instead of a thug or a burden.
Dogs are animals, not human beings. They are instinctively pack animals. In every pack there is at least one sometimes more than one leader, who tends to make most of the decisions. Usually the pack will have at least one alpha male and an alpha female. All the other members of the pack form a hierarchy in which everyone has a place. Your dog is not a wolf, and though we have tended to think Alpha is important position, new thinking and study has somewhat disproved this idea.
That is not to say you should not show leadership in a fair and equable way In your home, you and your family become your dog's family, as do any other dogs you may have. It is therefore your responsibility to establish yourself in a position of authority and trust. If you fail to do this, your dog may question your requests and authority. Many people assume that they are automatically the lead figure just because they are humans, are you really the leader? Does your dog know it and respect your wishes and commands?
Being the leader does not mean you have to be big and aggressive. Nor does it mean that there has to be a battle of strength or wills, after which you emerge the victor. Anyone can be the leader. It is an attitude an air of authority. It is the basis for mutual respect, and provides the building blocks of communication between you and your dog. It never means punishment or overt aggression.
A nine letter swear word?
Dominance: It would be easy to imagine that the word dates back to dawn of civilisation, surely there has always been conflict where dominance and subjugation have existed. Strangely enough dominance is a relatively new idea in biology, first mooted early last century by the Norwegian researcher Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe, who coined the term “pecking order” following his studies on chickens. The simple premise was that chicken A can peck all the other chickens but chicken Y can only peck X. and poor old X is effectively bottom of the heap.
In the 1930s, other researchers coined the term “alpha male” (and its converse, the “beta male”;) to describe the leader of a wolf pack the dominant male or female. The problem is biologists have never come close to agreeing on what dominance means. Therefore until an in depth study is carried out it will all be conjecture and theories, which leads me neatly onto recent theories. As trainers and behaviourists we have a habit of latching onto the latest buzz theorems, the latest ideas and study, and then to postulate that these theories are actual scientific fact, which the very word “Theory” discounts.
The latest bandwagon that some of these trainers and behaviourists have jumped on is that dominance does not exist, it is all a figment of our imagination and dogs cannot strive for dominance as they are conspecific, therefore can only relate to their own kind. In fact if these theorists that follow this argument look up the word conspecific they will see it has been hijacked “an organism belonging to the same species as another organism” Where in that explanation does it say that animals cannot view other animals as similar? It is a bald statement not open to conjecture, belonging to the same species you cannot hypothesise more from that as it would be speculative guesswork.
This is from www.reference.com an online encyclopaedia: “Dominance in the context of biology and anthropology is the state of having high social status relative to other individuals, who react submissively to dominant individuals. The opposite of dominance is submissiveness.” “Dominance hierarchies are found in many animals, including primates such as human beings”. If we accept the antonym of dominance is submission, we are all aware that many dogs demonstrate clear submissive tendencies, then how can we possibly suggest that no dog demonstrates dominance or dominant behaviour.
There is a word in music “enharmonic” that means changing the name without altering the pitch, in other words that two separate notations stand for the same sound. For example, the enharmonic spelling of F-sharp is G-flat. Both are exactly the same note but are named differently. I believe that is what is happening with the word dominance.
Patricia McConnell PhD the author of an excellent book “The Other End of The Leash” states that in some training and behavioural circles all talk of dominance is classed as politically incorrect and that these people are ardently opposed to anyone using the word in the context of dogs.
She goes on to say that at a professional seminar the word became so loaded that Wayne Hunthausen and herself started to call it “ the concept formerly referred to as dominance” complete with its own Prince type icon.
How we can dismiss the fact that both dogs and ourselves are derived from animals that live in a controlled and carefully organised social system, and that within that system there are leaders and there are followers. Status is important to dogs, in fact to most canids that live in packs. I will accept that dogs do not pack up to live and hunt the same as wolves. They lost that requirement when they filled an ecological niche and predated off the detritus of mankind, becoming domesticated in the process.
That is not to say they do not enjoy the social meeting and greeting with others of their own kind, and in that social coming together are clear indications of status and rank. I have three dogs at present, they have distinct personalities and a clear pecking order within their own little pack, however I am also to some extent included in that pack. I make sure that I control the situation by laying down guidelines and rules; does that make me dominant or submissive or neither to that pack?
Donna Brander BSc(Hons), Honorary Fellow(R(D)SVS) states
“One of the most important issues to a dog is the stability of the pack. Without leadership, the stability of the pack is threatened. It is also of great benefit to be the leader. The leader gets to eat first, has the best places to sleep, has reproductive privileges and, in general, has all the best “stuff”. The leadership status is not a gender issue. Both males and females can and do achieve a high status within the pack”.
Scientist’s, behaviourists, and biologists, are now questioning the validity of the pack rule theory in two main areas. First, because it does not seem to occur in the wild, the strong dominance hierarchy that has been described for wolves may be a by-product of captivity. If true, it implies that social behaviour even in wolves may be a product more of
environmental circumstances and contingencies than actual instinctive directives. Second, because feral dogs do not exhibit the classic wolf-pack structure.
However once again Patricia McConnell in her book “the other end of the leash” says: “Recently there's been some confusion in the world of dog training about the role that status and hierarchy have in dog behaviour. Some people argue that wolf like pack hierarchies have no relevance to dogs, because our house dogs probably derived from scavenging village dogs who didn’t live in packs like wolves”
“Because the social relationship of scavenging village dogs appears to be different from the social structure of wolf packs, some trainers argue that social status and hierarchy are irrelevant to our own pet dogs. But that seems counterintuitive, given what we know about how our own dogs behave, and lacks understanding of how behaviour and the environment interact”
The first question we have to consider is whether the dog is a pack animal. According to ethnologists Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, it isn’t. They studied a group of feral dogs that lived in and around a village on the Island of Pemba. They had all the means of survival readily available, food from the village dumps, water, and shelter so there was no reason for them to form a pack. They lived semi-solitary lives or in small groups, probably mum and her offspring. We know dogs are social animals as are we, which is why we can live together under the same roof. So on the basis of Coppinger’s research, as we provide our dog with sufficient food, water is always available, they have five star accommodations, exercise is provided and their health cared for, therefore should we not be asking ourselves “why would they need to form a pack with us”?
The Coppingers theories are interesting informing and enlightening. They suggest that village dogs do not have a hierarchical structure, that they live an almost semi solitary existence. Therefore as modern day dog probably derived from village dogs that are seen on Pemba, then the idea of a hierarchical system does not exist as it does in wild canids that hunt as a pack.
I believe this has some fundamental flaws, on the dump at chake chake, where these village dogs had better resources, then hierarchical and resource disputes broke out far more often, dominance status and rank allowed the top dogs to get the richest pickings and I believe that is where his theory starts to show some anomalies.
That is not to say that the book was not brilliant, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I believe it to be a very important book with valid theories and observations. It does not follow that I have to agree with all the Coppingers assumptions and beliefs.
Barry Eaton has also written an interesting book called Dominance “Fact or Fiction” which is very readable and makes some interesting points but unfortunately did nothing to convince me that dogs have nothing in their psyche that could be related to the “Dominance” or “Status”.
Our domestic dogs are always competing for resources, we in some cases are the resource, and hierarchical disputes do break out. I am more than aware that the word dominance is used to explain almost every behavioural problem in our pets, and that includes aggression. Yet in reality the dominant dog has no need for aggression, an air of authority and quiet confidence emanates from this type of dog, whereas the submissive fearful dog is more likely to shown signs of aggression and to bite.
To some extent I sympathise with those, claiming the word dominance should no longer be used, that it is defunct and outdated and irrelevant, but sympathising does not mean that I agree with their arguments or their logic, which I believe to be seriously flawed.
Advances in our learning and scientific studies have shown that our previous knowledge base did not give us the full picture, and was based on studies that were at best incomplete and at worst totally incorrect in their findings. The new wave of positive reinforcement style training and behavioural modification is proving to be far more effective and kinder than the methods previously used. The advent of clicker training has proved a revelation to many of today’s obedience and behavioural trainers. The style of training that insisted that the dog should be subservient and that reward or treat based training is bribery is fortunately now dying out in many areas, though their is still places and organisations that believe it is the only way to train.
But please let’s not allow political correctness to creep into dog behaviour or training lets be realistic and look at what we have in front of us, sometimes a joy, other times pushy and dare I say sometimes “dominant”. Irrespective we love them all even with their strange and irritating idiosyncrasies.
We work very hard training our dogs to fit into our lifestyle and our family unit, we think we have done great, then just as we are congratulating ourselves on a job well done the growl starts, it may be as we pass the bed, food bowl, or pigs ear, or even as we remove a toy or tissue.
This is a common problem, often called food guarding, or resource guarding. In reality it is a natural innate tendency for dogs to protect what they perceive as theirs. Possession to a dog is 9/10ths of the law, some dogs will resource guard anything, and that includes us.
This happened to me recently. Kai my white German Shepherd, they are also known as the Swiss Shepherds, was about 13 months old, lovely temperament nice nature, growled as I walked past his food bowl. To say I was shocked would be putting it mildly. I have never owned a resource guarder or possessive aggressive as I sometimes like to call them. I have treated dozens, but never owned one.
Kai is a rescue who had five homes in the first 8 months of his life before my daughter who was dog walking him thought that he should join our extended family. Five homes, not exactly the best of starts. He had a bit of baggage but nothing that a bit of TLC and positive reinforcement could not put right.
Unfortunately, I had no impact or influence on his previous owners, or what they did or believed with regard to feeding, possessions and training. The myths and beliefs that surround this common problem are many fold. There is the " let him know who is boss brigade" and "If he had done that to me I would have belted him".
Others that will tell you he is dominant. Dominance and dominant behaviour is a somewhat outdated term in modern canine behaviour therapy. It is too easy and simplistic to label everything as a bid for power and control. The term suggests that the dog is personally threatening you in a bid for top dog slot. Which I assure you is not the case with possession aggression.
Jean Donaldson a US based behaviourist has written a book called "Mine! a practical guide to resource guarding in dogs" that is a practical how-to guide on resource guarding/aggression - food bowl, object, bed, crate, owner, guarding. Though written primarily for trainers with the owner seen as the third party, it is still an excellent book; in it she lists a number of myths and untruths.
- Resource guarding is the result of giving a dog too many privileges
- Resource guarding behaviour is abnormal
- Resource guarding is driven largely by genetics therefore cannot be altered
- Resource guarding is a symptom of dominant and naturally aggressive behaviour
These beliefs/myths probably get more people bitten every year than probably any other single behavioural problem I encounter. The belief that the dog is being disloyal and biting the hand that feeds it is unfortunately commonplace; once again anthropomorphism raises its ugly head. This problem is also one of the key reasons why some dogs are euthanised.
Back to young Kai. When he growled, (just a low almost subliminal rumble, but a subtle threat no less). I did not react or even look at him nor chastise him in any way. To challenge him at that time would have suggested that the growl wasn’t sufficient to warn me off, so let’s up the anti and perhaps a snarl or a snap would be in order. I am of the belief that violence begets violence, therefore why challenge if there is no need to.
I waited until his next feed time; I feed my dogs twice a day therefore it was that evening. Instead of using one bowl, this time I used two. I prepared his food as normal in one bowl, and then got him to sit and wait. I then put the empty bowl down. The look of confusion on his face was classic, he looked round the bowl nudged it to see if his food was underneath then sort of semi collapsed and just looked at me totally bemused. It was at that time; taking a long handled wooden spoon, I tossed a small portion of his food into the bowl. The reason for the spoon was if he were to grab at anything, he would grab the spoon and not my fingers. I proceeded to feed the whole meal in spoonfuls, what I was telling him was that by me getting access to his bowl was a condition of him being fed. I continued with this method for three days. Sometimes this may take much longer depending on the severity of the guarding.
After the three days, I could tell by his posture and body language that he was relaxed and comfortable with me near his bowl. I gradually decreased the distance between myself and the bowl on every spoonful until I was standing next to it. I then started to put a small amount of his food in the bowl before putting it down rather than spooning it in, then gradually increased the amount over a few days until I was putting all the food in at one go.
Once I had reached this stage, I started adding a very tasty tit-bit whilst he was eating, I usually use a chunk of cheese or frankfurter, I started this from a little distance away and gradually decreased the distance. What he learns during this exercise is your approach to the bowl is no threat, in fact quite the opposite it is positive as it means he is going to get something really special and tasty.
This is a positive reinforcement technique that requires no aggression, threats, or force; these rarely if ever work in the case of possession aggression. You must make sure your dog is relaxed at all times, if you hit a problem then you have gone to far to fast, go back a couple of stages and work back up to the area where the problem or behaviour was being displayed, take your time there is no need to rush, its not a race.
If I wanted to analyse why Kai growled in the first place I would only be guessing at the trigger. Without talking to all the previous owners to see what they had done then its pure conjecture, though I can imagine a number of possible scenarios. As an educated guess someone probably thought it was the right to take his bowl away whilst he was eating, just to show the dog that he could, this can often create a seed of doubt in the young dog’s mind that his food could be stolen, and he may therefore start to feel threatened or uncomfortable when you are in close proximity.
This seed of doubt could germinate with the onset of maturity and could blossom into full-blown food guarding. If I had lashed out or acted differently to the first threatening growl then things may have turned out very differently. As it happens Kai has never growled or showed any inclination to guard since.
If you are training a puppy not to guard then start training him not to touch the food until you give permission, to achieve this start with the pup on the lead. Put the food down as normal, then as the head goes to the bowl give a slight check on the lead and say "leave it", this may take a few checks. Make sure this check is really light and gentle, then as the dog looks to you for permission, immediately praise by using a trigger word such as "Good" or a Clicker and treat with a tasty tit-bit then say "take it" or "ok", this is the release command. Continue with this training until you can do this whilst off lead. The object of this exercise is to train him not to touch on command, once you have done this you can then stop him eating on command by using the "leave it". Once you have reached this stage then occasionally approach his bowl and put in a tasty treat, he should never have doubts that your proximity to his bowl is positive never negative.
Introducing A Second Dog
If the new dog is adult, try to select a dog that is to the best of your knowledge, accustomed to other dogs (i.e., one that is socialised). If possible, pick the opposite sex than the one you currently have. You should know your current dog well enough to know how well it gets along with other dogs. If it is a naturally submissive dog it probably does not matter too much whether the new dog tends toward submission or dominance.
However, if your current dog is a dominant dog, your best bet is to acquire a dog that tends towards the submissive and is smaller than your current dog. Size can be important, as your established dog may feel threatened by a newcomer that is a larger breed.
Introduce your established dog and the new addition in a neutral place, like a park or a garden that is new to both animals. It is better they meet outside then neither should feel cornered or enclosed. Both dogs should be on a leash. If your current dog is obedience trained, put him/her in a down/stay. Allow them to sniff one another and encourage play, discourage all aggression.
Should your new dog show anxiety or aggression, take the introduction slow and easy. Let the dog realise your existing dog is no threat, do not force the situation, Allow your established dog to come and sniff the new dog. The new dog should learn to trust the established dog by realising that he is not going to attack him, and your established dog learns that the new dog is acting either submissive or friendly to him. This fosters trust amongst the two animals. If the dogs want to play, let them. In fact, encourage them, and do not interfere unless you feel you must. If you are in a secure area, you can let both dogs off the lead at this time.
Bringing Them Home
When you get them home the first thing you must do is establish a spot for each dog that is initially physically separated from each other. In other words kennels, crates, or even different rooms. Never feed the dogs together, always feed the dogs if possible simultaneously, in those separated areas (if in different rooms, close the doors while the dogs eat). If you must free-feed, the dogs should be placed in their respective areas for the entire time each one's food is down; you can also use these areas for "time-outs" when the dogs are misbehaving.
The second thing that is required is that you must be sure to spend quality time with your established dog. You may even need to increase the frequency of normal activities you would have with your established dog. This should keep him from feeling misplaced by the newcomer.
Finally, be sure and do activities with both dogs. This encourages the dogs to do fun things together, as well as fostering pack cohesion and communication. Make sure that both dogs realise you control the household. They will need to work out their own hierarchy amongst themselves, but they must understand that you are a benevolent controller and that you are ultimately in charge of all that is good.
Sadly, out of the blue, certain breeds of dog display unpredictable outbursts of aggression known as ‘rage syndrome’ and ‘low threshold dominance aggression'.
These dogs will be perfectly civil with strangers and in the show ring, but then will suddenly attack family members for no apparent reason, their eyes becoming dilated and sometimes changing colour during and after an attack.
The dog will not respond to any attempts to stop it, often appearing confused afterwards, but will return to its usual self in time.
English Cocker Spaniels, especially the red and golden varieties, particularly suffer from rage syndrome, but it has also been reported in American Cocker Spaniels, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Dobermans, English Bull Terriers, English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs and St. Bernard’s.
Although “rage syndrome” has been widely and seriously studied since the 1930s, it cannot be accurately predicted and can only be diagnosed by EEG or genetic testing. Unfortunately, these tests are not conclusive, since the causes may be polygenic and therefore very difficult to pinpoint.
While it is very distressing to have a dog with this problem, owners should seek advice from a veterinary surgeon who may then refer their dog to a certified veterinary behaviourist for assessment.
“Rage syndrome” looks like an exaggerated form of status aggression. It’s triggered by the unexpected approach of people when the dog is in a half-asleep state. The dog snaps alert, growls and bites, even people it knows. Then it behaves as if it’s very sorry afterwards, as though it didn’t mean to do it.
Research has shown that rage syndrome is only associated with certain colours of cocker spaniels: red-golden and black, so that there is probably a strong genetic basis.
Because the different coloured lineages have been separated for a long time, champion dogs, which they were bred from, had this problem. Pure breeding inevitably increases genetic problems because it narrows the gene pool. Some almost have no genetic variation left, and then you can’t select out traits anymore. And unfortunately, there are dogs who have learned to get off on aggression – and often must be put down.