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Scary Possession Aggression? Need some advice!

gtexan
July 15th, 2007, 08:21 PM
My wife and I recently moved to a much larger house with a huge 1/3 acre fenced in back yard and access to a lake, and so decided it was time to add a new member to our family! We had both grown up with dogs our whole life, but as we've lived in apartments for the last 5 years, we decided we would wait until we had a yard and room to run before getting a new one. We also have 2 cats aged 2 (male) and 1 (female), so we anted to give them at least 3 months in the new house before bringing in a new puppy.

Our waiting time was over, so this past weekend we made a trip out to our local SPCA, and instantly fell in love with a smallish little cocker spaniel boy aged 1 year. We took him for a walk at the shelter, played fetch with him, and tested his interaction with the other dogs and the kittens they had up for adoption as well (we have 2 cats). He passed every test with flying colors, and we just knew he was the dog for us.

We took him home, bought him a bunch of toys, and played with him outside for at least a few hours. He soon grew tired, so we brought him inside. He is a very cuddly dog, who loves to lick your face and have his back, face, etc petted. Nothing seemed to bother him as long as you were givng him attention, and he loved it all.

We gave him a rawhide and another squeeky toy, and after a few hours, he was ready to play again. We both sat on the floor and took turns throwing his toy and letting him bring it back to us.

This was when the trouble started.

For what seems like a completely non-provoked reason, one time my wife went to take the toy to throw again, as we had done every other time, and he seemed to "snap." He growled and lunged at her neck. In the process he actually broke her necklace and definately scared her a lot. he's not a big dog (only 20 lbs), but the action was terrifying. I've had dogs with possession aggression (growling when you get too close to their toys), but this seemed different. He went from tongue out, happily playing, to attack dog. Not just growling, but lunging like you sometimes see when dogs that dont like each other get too close.

I was a little wary of him, but decided it was probably a one time thing, and that he was just not used to her yet (i had been playing most of the day with him). So we decided to give him a few minutes of playing by himself (he chose to sit in my lap) and test him again. I gently took one of his toys away form him, and he eagerly waited for him to throw it. Things seemed back to normal. And then, out of nowhere again, he lunged at me too. I went to take his toy to throw, and he did the exact same behavior towards me that he did towards my wife.

I should say that while he did lunge at both of us, he never bit either one. He was sitting in my lap when he went for me, and thus I know he was in range and could have if he wanted. It was more like a nasty, snarling attack that he instantly knew he should not do. He snarled, growled, went at me but stopped short. Never any actual contact. Despite this, the action was still terrifying.

Instead of backing up, I stood up and yelled "no" firmly but not loudly. He seemed to know he had done something wrong, and instantly rolled over and acted submissive.

We were both a little scared at this point, and decided not to play with him with his toys. We still gave him attention, but didn't interact with him and his toys the rest of the evening.

As I said prevoiusly, we have 2 young cats who we are very nervous about meeting a new dog. While we also dont' have children at the moment, they are definately in our plans within the next 5 years. As such, we were (hopefully understandably) very nervous about what to do with this dog. Never having witnessed a dog display this kind of "unpredictable" behavior, we decided it was too risky to introduce him to our cats (what if he actually did attempt to hurt them).

As such, we brought him back to the shelter this morning with tears in our eyes. We assumed that he would have more luck in a house where he was maybe the only dog, and where the owners could teach their dominance or alpha status to him. We were afraid that even if we could assert our dominance over him, we would not be able to teach our cats to treat him the same way, and definately not a child.


This morning before we brought him back to the SPCA I played with him for at least an hour or two more, and he was again the sweetest dog I have ever encountered. All he wanted to do was love and be loved in return. He let me play fetch with him the entire time, and I once again startetd taking his toy and throwing it. No problems at all again, but I couldn't help but be extremely wary that whatever set him off the first time might return. It was unnerving.

Since dropping him off, we've both been a wreck. Even though he only stayed with us for one night, we both fell in love with him. He really was the sweetest dog, and we both can't drop the feeling that we may have reacted out of ignorance rather than logic.

Is this a behavior that is very normal in dogs? Can it be trained? Can their behavior become more predictable? (I know all animals have a bit of unpredictability, but at least enough for us too trust?)

I think the attachment that we developed will pass as I know the SPCA shelter, and know that he will be placed with a great family if he isn't able to live with us. But at the same time, what if he could make the change?

Did we do the right thing? We aren't willing to risk the health (physical or mental) of our little cats, or ourselves for that matter), if this isn't the right situation for him. Please help!

jesse's mommy
July 16th, 2007, 05:24 AM
Do you want an honest answer as if you did the right thing or not? No you did not. After one night you gave the dog back? The dog is only one and can still be trained. It's still a puppy and anyone can tell you, a puppy is A LOT OF WORK. The dog snapped because it was trying to establish it's place in the pack order. It's up to you to train the dog and make it clear where its order is. No, you did not do the right thing. You didn't even give this dog a chance and personally, I wouldn't advise getting another dog.

Hunter's_owner
July 16th, 2007, 07:10 AM
I fully agree with Jesse's mommy.
The dog is still a puppy and probably wasn't socialized too much, so taking in a puppy involves such training. Puppies are a lot of work, and it will take more than one afternoon of training.

kigndano
July 16th, 2007, 07:21 AM
possisive behavior is exactly what was said - a sign of dominance.

one thing you can do is to TAKE the toy-- if he snaps DO NOT BACK YOUR HAND UP!!

grab the toy and put your hand in front of it -- you have to claim everything -- to show that it is yours and you are giving it to him -- not that he is giving it to you when he brings it back!

i have been working with my pup for over a month now, and he now waits in his crate -- even when i open the door! -- until i say come; then he is allowed to eat. he sits down to get his leash on and off, he sit/stays at doorways when i ask him to -- it just takes time!

i am still having problems as well, but i know it will be a lot of work. it is frustrating at times, and sometimes you feel bad correcting the dog but it HAS to be done

badger
July 16th, 2007, 07:39 AM
I think you went about this with the best of intentions, waited until you had the space, sought out a rescue dog, watched how he interacted with other dogs and cats, and took him home. When everything seemed to be perfect, your expectations shot even higher...until he went for the jewelry ;) .
All shelter dogs have a history. The majority have been abandoned, and who knows what went on before that. I suspect your guy had no training at all; some fool probably picked him up at a pet store on a whim and then dumped him when they realised how much work a puppy can be.
But even if you had picked him up from a blue-ribbon breeder, there would be work to do.
As JM says, he was trying to find his place in the pack, using the only tools he had, and it is your job to show him where his place is through consistent training and kindness. I'm sorry you didn't post earlier; there are loads of dog people here to help you through the early stages, people who have transformed animals with far more serious issues into loving pets.
I'm not surprised your hearts are heavy, because you really didn't give this guy - or, importantly, yourselves - a chance. I don't know what your status is with the SPCA at this point, but if it was me, I'd see if I could negotiate getting him back. Be honest with them.
All is not lost. You just need to see this as an ongoing process, not a picture-perfect end-in-itself.

gtexan
July 16th, 2007, 07:59 AM
Thanks for your honest replies. We definiately need people to be as honest as possible if we're going to to get the situation correct!

To jesses mom, who advised that we handled the situation incorrectly and even went so far as to advise against getting another dog at all, I must say I'm a little disapointed to hear your advice. We have grown up with dogs all our lives, have dealt with many frustrating problems, have been patient and caring dog owners. This was the first time we thought that our lives were actually in danger. Having a dog go for your neck in a manner like this was scary. Maybe it wouldn't be for you, but for us it was. We've never experienced something like that before.

I understand where you are coming with in giving your advice to never get a dog, but if thats the kind of advice I'm going to get here--make 1 mistake and you're banned from having dogs forever--then maybe I posted in the wrong forum. Do you know how many homeless dogs are out there? And do you know how many owners can live up to your expectations? Clearly there is a discrepancy between the two. Now Im not saying that every owner should be laissez-fair because at least they are better than the alternative of euthanasia. But don't you think that if I took the time to detail the story to you and specifically show I intend to make every effort to correct a fault if I indeed acted too swiftly that a homeless dog would be better in my care than in the pound?

If we thought this could be trained, we would have spent the time to train it. Thats why Im posting here. When we made our decision, its because we thought this was the personality of the dog. I believe that dogs do have personalities, some more aggressive than others, and having known that poor cocker spaniel breeding in the past has lead to genetically aggressive behavior, I thought thats what I might be witnessing. I don't know if genetically bred behavior can be trained, so thats part of the reason why I posted.

Anyway, thanks again for the honest replies. If you honestly belieive this was the wrong choice, I want to hear that.

The only thing Im a little concerned with in the replies is that I don't know if I accurately described the reaction. I have dealt with dogs with object guarding related agression who take their toys into the corners and growl if you come near.

This wasn't like that. He took the toy, sat in my lap, and then went for my throat in a seemingly random manner. 9 times out of 10 I took the toy and he was happy. Then 1 time he snapped. And it wasn't a quick snap at my hand. It was a snarling lunge at my neck. I wasn't sure how we could work on training this, as Im scared to elicit the behavior. What if he actually did bite me? Im not scared of dog bites anywhere else but there.

If I can get a consensus that this can be corrected, however, I will correct it. The dog was that sweet. In the remaining 99% of the time we interacted with him, he never responded with anything other than 100% affection.

Again, Im sorry if I reacted to swiftly. The reason we did was so he would be available for another family, and to prevent both he and us from becoming too attached. Im trying to look at it as if I prevented him from sleeping in a shelter for 1 night, even though I now know I probably did something wrong.

I have a meeting with the shelter this morning around 12 noon (EST), so any advice you can give me before then will be great.

Is this type of behavior really something that can be trained, or does it sound at all like the inbred aggression sometimes seen in improperly bred cocker spaniels? If its the latter, is that trainable as well?

Im really thankful for the replies. We really want to make this situation right, and for that reason, we're posting here and looking for help. Thanks again

gtexan
July 16th, 2007, 08:00 AM
double post.

kigndano
July 16th, 2007, 08:03 AM
if his behavoir was as sporadic as you say then he may just have psychological/temperament problems from his breeding line.

im pretty sure that THESE types of problems (the ones from the breeding line) are not something you can train away, and usually get worse with age.

someone please correct me if im mistaken, i dont want to give poor advice here.

ancientgirl
July 16th, 2007, 08:21 AM
I don't currently have a dog, but I've been in households with dogs before. I think you should have given the puppy a chance. Sure, you got nervous because he went for your neck, but those are things you need to work on. He needs to be shown he's not in charge.

Heck, I've got cats, and every now and then while they are playing, they decide to bite, or scratch. I reprimand them and they understand what they did was wrong. I'm certainly not going to give them up for that, they don't know better, so its my job to teach them.

You have to look at animals like they are children. This puppy is young and he needs attention and guidance. Would you have been so apt to return him if he were a child that had done something wrong? I'm not trying to sound like a jerk, but that's the way I try to look at things. You have to look at him like a child, that has to be taught how to act and has to be shown what behavior is not acceptable, and that takes time.

Is there any way you can get him back? Perhaps if you spoke to to a trainer and told them what he did they can give you some pointers on how to correct that behavior.

LavenderRott
July 16th, 2007, 09:13 AM
Well - I don't always think like the rest of the members here - so here goes.

I completely understand your giving the dog back, I just hope that you told them why as this DOG should not be placed in a home with children. At 1, a cocker spaniel is not a puppy anymore, he is an adolescent and since he is showing some serious signs of temperment issues, should be placed with someone who has experience both with the breed and the issue.

Chances are, that if you are afraid of the dog, you are NOT going to be able to do the work necessary to overcome these problems. You are always going to be waiting for the next time the dog snaps and the dog is going to be able to read that in your body language.

Now - Cocker Spaniels are known to be ummmm, tempermentally challenged. No disrespect to anyone here who owns one, but having had one for a few years I can honestly say that I will never, ever own another one.

Do some research on different breeds. Find one that fits your lifestyle and check out some local rescue groups. As novice owners, your best bet would be to adopt from a rescue that fosters their dogs and knows how they behave.

gtexan
July 16th, 2007, 09:33 AM
Thanks for the replies again. This is what I was hoping to get initially. Some people with experience who are able to give both sides of the argument.

Ancientgirl- I know what you mean that pets should be treated as children. I view my cats as children, and thats part of the reason I was so quick to act on the dog.
Unfortunately (being the key word here) dogs are much easier to adopt than real children. As such, most reputable shelters give you at least a few days in which you can take your new family member home and make sure he/she is compatible with you and the rest of your family. Never having adopted a real child, I can only assume that they do this kind of matchmaking before ever placing the child. Anyway, the point Im trying to make is that unlike people, dogs in shelters have completely unknown lives. I have no idea what sort of breeder he came from originally (Im pretty sure he's 100% pure cocker spaniel by looks). If he is a product of a poor breeder and has a genetic disposition towards random aggressive behavior, then he isn't as compatible with me as I would have hoped.

If, on the other hand, his behavior sounds more like normal possession guarding and can be easily trained away, then I am ready to take that step and do whatever I can to get him back.

I made the decision too quickly, assuming that what I was witnessing wasn't normal object guarding, but a more serious sign of personality issue that wouldn't make him the right dog for me.

Thats why Im posting here, and so far I've heard two contradicting points:
1) This behavior is very common and can be trained away
2) This behavior sounds like a typic cocker spaniel problem, and as such, he may not be the right choice for you

I know I won't get a pure consensus, but any further opinions will be considered and greatly appreciated. thanks!

clm
July 16th, 2007, 09:37 AM
Thanks for your honest replies. We definiately need people to be as honest as possible if we're going to to get the situation correct!

To jesses mom, who advised that we handled the situation incorrectly and even went so far as to advise against getting another dog at all, I must say I'm a little disapointed to hear your advice. We have grown up with dogs all our lives, have dealt with many frustrating problems, have been patient and caring dog owners. This was the first time we thought that our lives were actually in danger.
Lives in danger from a 20lb cocker ? Please. Having a dog go for your neck in a manner like this was scary. Maybe it wouldn't be for you, but for us it was. We've never experienced something like that before. So your solution to not having dealt with something before is not to deal with it at all basically

I understand where you are coming with in giving your advice to never get a dog, but if thats the kind of advice I'm going to get here--make 1 mistake and you're banned from having dogs forever--then maybe I posted in the wrong forum. Do you know how many homeless dogs are out there? And do you know how many owners can live up to your expectations? Lots of homeless dogs....but YOU need to be prepared to consult a trainer if you have issues with the dog you adopt, you DON'T return it because it has issues you've never dealt with.
Clearly there is a discrepancy between the two. Now Im not saying that every owner should be laissez-fair because at least they are better than the alternative of euthanasia. But don't you think that if I took the time to detail the story to you and specifically show I intend to make every effort to correct a fault if I indeed acted too swiftly that a homeless dog would be better in my care than in the pound?

If we thought this could be trained, we would have spent the time to train it. Thats why Im posting here. When we made our decision, its because we thought this was the personality of the dog. I believe that dogs do have personalities, some more aggressive than others, and having known that poor cocker spaniel breeding in the past has lead to genetically aggressive behavior, I thought thats what I might be witnessing. I don't know if genetically bred behavior can be trained, so thats part of the reason why I posted.Oh I see, so you are a trainer are you, and you know this dog didn't have an issue that could be corrected. You need a trainer to work with this dog and more importantly work with you to know how to become the alpha to this dog, period.

Anyway, thanks again for the honest replies. If you honestly belieive this was the wrong choice, I want to hear that.

The only thing Im a little concerned with in the replies is that I don't know if I accurately described the reaction. I have dealt with dogs with object guarding related agression who take their toys into the corners and growl if you come near.

This wasn't like that. He took the toy, sat in my lap, and then went for my throat in a seemingly random manner. 9 times out of 10 I took the toy and he was happy. Then 1 time he snapped. And it wasn't a quick snap at my hand. It was a snarling lunge at my neck. I wasn't sure how we could work on training this, as Im scared to elicit the behavior. What if he actually did bite me? Im not scared of dog bites anywhere else but there.
I'm wondering how on earth you would ever handle the snarling biting and lunging of playful puppy who didn't know any better either, some dogs growl and snarl while playing, sounds sinister, but it's not. Chances are it was going for your necklace if you had one on.

If I can get a consensus that this can be corrected, however, I will correct it. The dog was that sweet. In the remaining 99% of the time we interacted with him, he never responded with anything other than 100% affection.
Only a trainer can tell you by seeing both you and the dog together.

Again, Im sorry if I reacted to swiftly. The reason we did was so he would be available for another family, and to prevent both he and us from becoming too attached. Im trying to look at it as if I prevented him from sleeping in a shelter for 1 night, even though I now know I probably did something wrong.

I have a meeting with the shelter this morning around 12 noon (EST), so any advice you can give me before then will be great.

Is this type of behavior really something that can be trained, or does it sound at all like the inbred aggression sometimes seen in improperly bred cocker spaniels? If its the latter, is that trainable as well?

Im really thankful for the replies. We really want to make this situation right, and for that reason, we're posting here and looking for help. Thanks again

Sorry, you can probably tell, I'm with Jesse's mom on this one. If you adopt a shelter dog or buy a dog from a breeder, you need to be prepared to deal with whatever issues it might have. If you decide to adopt this poor dog again, then get yourself a trainer to come to your house and work on any issues this dog has.

Cindy

gtexan
July 16th, 2007, 09:41 AM
I want to add a few things that may help people make their decisions on the behavior. I'll put them in bulleted form to prevent my going into long typer mode as I always seem to do! :sorry:

OK:

-The dog is very sweet. He rode the entire car ride up and back in my lap. He licks my face. He lets me pet his face, his ears, his belly. He cuddles in your lap. He is excited to come over to you when you call him.

-Normally, the dog is not possessive of his toys. I played fetch with him for over 2 hours. Every time (except for those 2 mentioned) I took the toy away, he was ready for me to throw it again.

-I do not know if the dog is possessive over his food. While I gave him some food, he never seemed very interested.

-Both times that he attacked, the toy was taken after he had settled onto the ground to chew on it. Once the toy was taken from the side, and other was when a hand reached in from behind him. When the toy was taken while he was looking, it didn't appear to bother him. Similarly, however, other times when the toy was taken from behind while he was sitting it also didn't seem to bother him. So the behavior isnt completely "random" but it certainly didn't seem completely regular either.

Object guarding or genetic cocker spaniel aggression? Please help me clarify

ancientgirl
July 16th, 2007, 09:46 AM
I lived with my aunt for 4 years, and her daughter and husband also lived with her as well, they had a cocker. I have to say, that dog was all over the place. He was a sweetie, but VERY energetic! He was stolen from their yard after they moved to their own home, and they adopted a Dachsund, who is the sweetest most laid back little dog.

I wish you luck on your search on your search, and don't get too discouraged about this board. I'm fairly new and I have to say, there are a wonderful bunch of people here who really want the best for animals. I hope you give it a chance here.

LavenderRott
July 16th, 2007, 09:46 AM
Dogs who have resource guarding issues (possession aggression) usually constantly and consistanly guard their objects.

I have to wonder - would those who think you made the wrong decision still feel that this was the wrong decision if you had adopted a larger dog? If you had a lab that lunged for your wife's throat - I wonder if they still think you should keep and train the pup?

CLM - FYI - ANY BREED OF DOG IS CAPABLE OF KILLING OR SERIOUSLY INJURING SOMEONE. It is a very dangerous thing to think that a dog is harmless because of his size. One the list of dogs that have been involved in fatal attacks in the last 20 years - a pomeranian cross, a west highland white, a jack russel, and a dachshund. And no, they didn't all kill infants. If memory serves, all but the pomx killed adults.

gtexan
July 16th, 2007, 09:56 AM
No offense, but why are so many people so condescending on here? Im looking for a little help, not a guilt ridden diatribe. I had no idea I would be treated with such rude responses. Even if you disagree with everything I've posted, I would at least expect a little respect and politeness in the response. I would think people who preach on treating pets as children would treat real people with at least some respect.

Insulting me for actually being afraid of a dog attacking me, no matter the size? Real mature. Liek it or not, when you are sitting on the ground and a dog goes for your neck, I am frightened. This thread isn't about you. If you aren't scared, so be it. But it scared me. I don't care how big the dog is, but if he has sharp teeth and can fit a tennis ball in his mouth, it can damage my neck if he did decide to bite.

Secondly, there is a difference between a puppy growling and playing and a 1 year old dog lunging at my neck. And no, I had no jewelry on at the time, either.

Thirdly, I am well aware that in almost every situation, I would be able to become alpha to the dog. I know that my wife would be able to accomplish this as well. But what about my cats? What about if I have real children in the future? What about when my family back home comes to visit? Will the dog respect them?

Finally, Im tired of being defensive. Thank you to kingdano, badger, ancient girl, lavender, and whoever else was kind enough to give me a polite response. I might not agree with everything you posted, but I enjoyed reading it and I thank you for taking the time and courtesy to speak to me as an equal.

To the rest of you lot, I suggest you learn the difference between people and dogs. While it may be ok for you to talk to your dogs in this manner in order to establish your position as alpha in your home, I do not find your condescending tone to be helping me. I do not appreciate being talked down to, and my guess is that most other human beings don't either.

Your responses are causing me to become so defensive that it almost poisoning the image of this dog in my mind. He really was a sweet dog, and I think his problem can be fixed. But I REFUSE to make that decision based on guilt. And thats what you seem to be attempting to make me do

clm
July 16th, 2007, 10:03 AM
Dogs who have resource guarding issues (possession aggression) usually constantly and consistanly guard their objects.

I have to wonder - would those who think you made the wrong decision still feel that this was the wrong decision if you had adopted a larger dog? If you had a lab that lunged for your wife's throat - I wonder if they still think you should keep and train the pup?

CLM - FYI - ANY BREED OF DOG IS CAPABLE OF KILLING OR SERIOUSLY INJURING SOMEONE. It is a very dangerous thing to think that a dog is harmless because of his size. One the list of dogs that have been involved in fatal attacks in the last 20 years - a pomeranian cross, a west highland white, a jack russel, and a dachshund. And no, they didn't all kill infants. If memory serves, all but the pomx killed adults.

Sorry Lavendar Rott, I don't buy it. If an adult can't stop a 20lb dog from killing them, they shouldn't have a dog, or a cat or a rabbit IMO. A dog that size would be capable of killing a child or infant. Point being, if they can't handle a dog that size and aren't willing to get professional help, then don't adopt a dog. That's my opinion and I'll stick to it.

Cindy

gtexan
July 16th, 2007, 10:07 AM
Sorry Lavendar Rott, I don't buy it. If an adult can't stop a 20lb dog from killing them, they shouldn't have a dog, or a cat or a rabbit IMO. A dog that size would be capable of killing a child or infant. Point being, if they can't handle a dog that size and aren't willing to get professional help, then don't adopt a dog. That's my opinion and I'll stick to it.

Cindy


I dont know if you are choosing to ignore my posts or are just mean. If you would have taken the time to read, I explained.
Yes, I am willing to take the time to assert myself as alpha
Yes, i am willing to take the time to do the same for my wife.

But what if you cannot train a dog to respect strangers and you cannot train a dog to respect cats when you aren't around. Am I honestly afraid that a 20 lb dog will kill me? no Am I afraid it could hurt me? yes Could it hurt a stranger? yes could it kill one of my other pets? yes

clm
July 16th, 2007, 10:12 AM
You need to consult a trainer to get all those questions answered. Something you should have been prepared to do when you first adopted the dog....I'm sorry if I'm sounding mean, I don't mean to be.

Cindy

LavenderRott
July 16th, 2007, 10:19 AM
Sorry Lavendar Rott, I don't buy it. If an adult can't stop a 20lb dog from killing them, they shouldn't have a dog, or a cat or a rabbit IMO. A dog that size would be capable of killing a child or infant. Point being, if they can't handle a dog that size and aren't willing to get professional help, then don't adopt a dog. That's my opinion and I'll stick to it.

Cindy

And that attitude is the one that passes Breed Specific Legislation as opposed to actual dangerous dog laws. Until EVERY dog owner understands that their dog, under the right (or wrong) circumstances is more then capable of doing serious damage to another animal or a human being there will be dog bites.

So - I should never own a dog because I got bit by a cocker spaniel?!? The dog had lived in my home for years before he attempted to bite me when I tried to get MY sandwich out of HIS mouth.

I agree with the OP. This dog will not thrive in a home where he is not trusted. Can you honestly say that you could retrain a dog that went for your throat? Would you keep it around to see if it connects the next time?

And again - if this was a larger dog would your advice be the same?

clm
July 16th, 2007, 10:24 AM
And that attitude is the one that passes Breed Specific Legislation as opposed to actual dangerous dog laws. Until EVERY dog owner understands that their dog, under the right (or wrong) circumstances is more then capable of doing serious damage to another animal or a human being there will be dog bites.

So - I should never own a dog because I got bit by a cocker spaniel?!? The dog had lived in my home for years before he attempted to bite me when I tried to get MY sandwich out of HIS mouth.

I agree with the OP. This dog will not thrive in a home where he is not trusted. Can you honestly say that you could retrain a dog that went for your throat? Would you keep it around to see if it connects the next time?

And again - if this was a larger dog would your advice be the same?

Lavendar Rott, we're each entitled to our own opinion, but don't try to hang breed specific bans on me please, take a pill.
Yes my advice would be the same if it were a larger dog. If you're not willing to seek profesional help whether buying or adopting a dog, then don't. Some dogs are going to have issues, you deal with them, you don't send them back.


Cindy

LavenderRott
July 16th, 2007, 10:33 AM
Sorry - One and a half MILLION dogs are euthanized in the U.S. every single day. Over a MILLION of these dogs have NO issues other then they have no home. Do I think that it is ok for a first time dog owner to return a dog that lunged at them to the shelter - you bet I do.

This dog needs an EXPERIENCED owner to deal with these issues - not a novice owner that has reason to fear the dog.

clm
July 16th, 2007, 10:36 AM
Then we agree to disagree.

Cindy

gtexan
July 16th, 2007, 11:13 AM
Heres an update on how everything has gone so far.

I've called 2 trainers (I actually had called 1 yesterday)

The first trainer told me aggression is in fact something easily trainable. That a dog who shows object, food, or other types of aggression (if young enough, and 1 year was young enough) would be trainable. When I asked him about the specific cocker spaniel aggression problem, he told me that the dog's reaction seemed to be similar to reported cocker spaniel problems, and that genetically bred forms of behavioral problems are sometimes impossible to train. That genetically bred issues can be random, without warning, and require special care. Dogs like these are best trained by avoiding behaviors that seem to instigate the behavior.

The other trainer told me that while nothing could be discounted, the behavior didn't appear to be consistent with most cocker spaniel genetic problems. She said that most cocker problems that occur as a result of poor breeding display as handling issues. She said that they do not like to be touched, pet, or picked up, and will become aggressive as a reaction to these behaviors. She said that my personal experience and the reaction of the dog to me sounded more like a defensive/aggressive behavior that resulted from a traumatic experience in the dogs puppyhood. She wasnt sure if this was trainable, but thought it would be with time.

I also spoke with the shelter at length. They understood my reasoning, and agreed that a new pet should come with excitement, not distrust. She told me that since she believes the dog to be pure bred, that she was in the process of contacting a cocker spaniel rescue organization in our area. She said that they know the animals better than anyone, and that they would be able to place him in a foster home with someone experienced in identifying and training problems common to the breed.

She agreed that he was an exceptionally sweet dog, and told me that she did the object guarding/food guarding/dog aggression tests with him personally and noted nothing. She said that some animals develop behaviors in unforseen ways, and display behaviors in differnet environments completely differently.

I told her that I wanted what was best for the dog, as well as for my family, and to please keep me updated. If they find that there isn't a quick option for him at the rescue, I told her to please contact me. I also told her that if it was possible, we'd like to speak with their trainer and attempt to replicate the behavior in his presence at the shelter. That way he would be able to visualize it first hand and make a determination.

Im sorry I've caused such a commotion around here. It seems that many people here are completely oblivious to intent, and for that I have no response. Obviously I wouldn't have come to this forum if I knew I was certain 1 way or the other. As I said before, I wanted what was best for this dog. And I didn't think that introducing him into a household that was fearful of him was giving him the best life possible. If it turns out that we can make it work, so be it. Im willing to try. But if the shelter decides he's better off with a professional who can train the behavior away before replacing him with another family, that would be fine with me too.

ancientgirl
July 16th, 2007, 11:23 AM
I think you've done all you could. At least you tried. Some people would have just dropped him back off and forgotten about it. Your fear is understandable and you do have two other pets, a wife and a future child to think of. Perhaps next time look for a different breed type and maybe a pet younger than a year. Perhaps this puppy did have some emotional baggage, who knows.

I hope this hasn't discouraged you from posting here in the future. It's hard to put yourself in another's place, and sometimes people don't do that and people have strong opinions when it comes to children and animals.

I really do hope you find your puppy soon.:fingerscr

kigndano
July 16th, 2007, 11:36 AM
my last piece of advice here is to obviously (and im sure youve thought of this) be careful when attempting to recreate the behavior. i dont even know if this is something you should try to bring out of the dog; maybe just deal with the outbursts when they happen. (the method should obviously come from a professional) but just trying to instigate this behavior almost seems counter-productive to me.

LavenderRott
July 16th, 2007, 11:41 AM
Good!! Glad to hear that the shelter is taking what you said seriously and is willing to go the extra mile for this dog. I agree that this issue is most likely something that can be managed at the least or trained out of this dog - but it isn't something that can be fixed overnight and often, there are setbacks to go with the breakthroughs. This dog is MUCH better off in the hands of someone with experience.

I think we have members here with just about every breed of dog commonly found in North America. While we all love our breed (s) - we are very likely to give you both the pros and the cons of our breed.

Stick around, post a bunch!

gtexan
July 16th, 2007, 11:42 AM
my last piece of advice here is to obviously (and im sure youve thought of this) be careful when attempting to recreate the behavior. i dont even know if this is something you should try to bring out of the dog; maybe just deal with the outbursts when they happen. (the method should obviously come from a professional) but just trying to instigate this behavior almost seems counter-productive to me.

Thanks for the advice, I think that makes a lot of sense. I thought the best way to prevent the behavior was through "exposure therapy" but it might take things the opposite way. I think talking to a trainer specifically would be the best bet. Thanks!

otter
July 16th, 2007, 11:58 AM
gtexan - i've been following your thread and i'm so sorry your adoption experience was such a challenge.

I just wanted to say "Welcome" to pets.ca it's great that you were willing to seek out advice for this difficult issue, there can be a wealth of info available on this forum. I hope you weren't scared away by some strong opinions, you have to take advice with a bit of sugar sometimes (sometimes the advice is good but it can come with a sour undertone:laughing: ). Everyone here has the best of intentions and emotions can sometimes run high. Keep in mind, people, just like dogs, each have their own baggage that influences their behaviour and ability to communicate. Everyone wants the best for pets!

Inverness
July 16th, 2007, 01:26 PM
I am sorry you have received quite a few rude replies after posting you story - I, personaly, find it fantastic that you took the time to try and find answers, and that you are still concerned about the faith of this little dog. Adopting a shelter dog can sometimes be like throwing a dice; you don't always know what to expect. I, as a rescue group owner, try and convince people that adopting a homeless dog is a wonderful thing. However, things can always happen, as with a dog you would buy straight from a breeder. And I understand your concern about this little dog's aggressive behaviour. I, for one, do not tolerate aggression much. Now I'd like to offer some insight on the dog behaviour you depicted.

There is a syndrome called "Cocker Rage Syndrome" that is prevalent in the Cocker Spaniel breed. It is well documented and could explain what happened with your adopted dog. Dogs with rage syndrome often should be euthanized because of the sudden appearance of their behaviour, which makes them too unpredictable to live around safely.

If you want to read up on the subject, here is a useful link: http://www.cockerspanielrage.org.uk/ .

I don't know if this applies to the dog indeed, but if you wanted to investigate a little, you could see with the shelter, a behaviorist and a vet and discuss this issue.

I also wanted to commend you for chosing to adopt a dog that needed a home. Behavioural issues can happen, and I hope you will not refuse to adopt again because of this. There are numerous sound dogs in shelters and I am sure you can get lucky.

Good luck !

bendyfoot
July 16th, 2007, 01:42 PM
Hey gtexan,
I just read through this whole post, and while I agree that it's admirable and wonderful and IDEAL to try to work with whatever behaviours you may get with a shelter dog, I also agree with LavenderRott...some behaviours (like lunging at someone's throat) are not to be taken lightly, should be evaluated/treated by a professional, and if YOU are not comfortable with the behaviours, then it is best for you and the dog to part ways, letting someone more qualified do the work. You had to make a hard decision, based on nasty behavioural issues...you did not tell us that you were having trouble potty training, or issues with mouthing or chewing or barking...it sounds to me like this dog poses a serious threat and has the potential to do great harm to someone (small or not-personally I have only ever been bitten by small dogs, and I don't think any aggressive behaviour directed at people should be taken lightly). Honestly, I think I would have done the same thing, including warning the humane society about the problem and your concerns about it going to another family. I've dealt with (and still have) a dog with garding issues, posessiveness, dog-aggression...and we have worked on it. But what you experienced is a whole other thing. I don't think that EVERY dog can be safely rehomed. Sometimes it is best to PTS (not that this is necessarily the case for this spaniel, but I think that it needs to be an option for agressive dogs). I think you did the right thing.

luckypenny
July 16th, 2007, 01:52 PM
-Both times that he attacked, the toy was taken after he had settled onto the ground to chew on it. Once the toy was taken from the side, and other was when a hand reached in from behind him. When the toy was taken while he was looking, it didn't appear to bother him. Similarly, however, other times when the toy was taken from behind while he was sitting it also didn't seem to bother him. So the behavior isnt completely "random" but it certainly didn't seem completely regular either.

Welcome to the forum, gtexan.

Am I correct if I understand you to say that he reacted negatively to when he didn't see a hand reach out from behind/from the side? This makes me wonder if either his peripheral vision and/or hearing is impaired. This could possibly be another explanation to the "aggressive/defensive" behavior the second trainer mentioned to you. Perhaps it would be a good idea if the shelter vet could examine this further, even if he doesn't return to your home. Often times, aggressive type behavior can be a result of medical problems.

gtexan
July 16th, 2007, 02:28 PM
Thank you all very much for your continued help. I really appreciate the sharp contrast of advice I've been receiving of late! As I said before, all advice is appreciated, but those that say it tastefully are doubly so!

Anyway, let me address a few things:

#1) This cocker spaniel is not, in my untrained opinion, suffering from any sort of "cocker rage" syndrome. I read a LOT about this before bringing the puppy back, and I am quite confident that what we saw was instigated behavior, rather than random rage attacks. The dog only displayed the behavior when removing toys was involved.

#2) I would be extremely upset if this dog was being considered for anything other than rehoming with someone with more knowledge an I. Heres why (this will address your point too, luckypenny)

1. The aggressive behavior never exhibited itself except when pulling away toys/chew bones.
2. The aggressive behavior only exhibited itself when toys/chew bones were pulled away after he had decided to lay down and chew on it
3. The aggressive behavior only exhibited itself when the toys/chew bones were pulled away from the side or behind the dog

I don't think he has a vision problem, as he played fetch extremely well for a number of hours. If he lost the ball, he was able to find it. Peripheral vision hasn't been looked into yet. I also dont think he has a hearing problem, as he would always come when called.

I spoke to another person for a while about this, and we came up with a potential theory. Obviously it will be impossible to prove, but please tell me what you think:

First the facts: The dog was surrendered by its owner, and the life it had prior to the surrender is unknown. The dog now is healthy, playful, and sweet 99% of the time. When a toy or chew toy is pulled away from him behind/from the side after he has laid down, he becomes very upset and "lunges" at your face. This is not playful fighting or snapping at your hand, but seems like something more.

We thought what might be happening is defensive rather than aggressive. Lets say as puppy this guy used to be something of a chewer, as all puppies are. lets say he didn't have many toys, and would thus get his parents shoes or furniture or anything not allowed, lay down, and start chewing. Now lets say his parents found out, and being bad owners, decided to punnish him too severely. Maybe even really hurting him. As a result, the dog now gets scared when something is pulled away unexpectedly. He reacts in a very negative, very "cornered animal" type way.

Ive seen abused animals react 2 ways in response to incidents that remind it of abuse:
1. Shy away with tail between legs
2. Become aggressive and defensive

What if this little dog is reacting in way #2, to what he perceives to be a conditioned stimulus of "you are going to be punished"?

Does any of this make sense?

ancientgirl
July 16th, 2007, 02:41 PM
First the facts: The dog was surrendered by its owner, and the life it had prior to the surrender is unknown. The dog now is healthy, playful, and sweet 99% of the time. When a toy or chew toy is pulled away from him behind/from the side after he has laid down, he becomes very upset and "lunges" at your face. This is not playful fighting or snapping at your hand, but seems like something more.

We thought what might be happening is defensive rather than aggressive. Lets say as puppy this guy used to be something of a chewer, as all puppies are. lets say he didn't have many toys, and would thus get his parents shoes or furniture or anything not allowed, lay down, and start chewing. Now lets say his parents found out, and being bad owners, decided to punnish him too severely. Maybe even really hurting him. As a result, the dog now gets scared when something is pulled away unexpectedly. He reacts in a very negative, very "cornered animal" type way.

Ive seen abused animals react 2 ways in response to incidents that remind it of abuse:
1. Shy away with tail between legs
2. Become aggressive and defensive

What if this little dog is reacting in way #2, to what he perceives to be a conditioned stimulus of "you are going to be punished"?

Does any of this make sense?

Again, I don't own a dog, but this seems to make perfect sense to me. I've been watching quite a bit of these dog training shows, and many people on these shows have these same problems, and most are due to the homes their pets were previously in.

This can happen to people who have been abused as well.

You may be on to something here. I suspect you may have been a victim of being made to pay for the proverbial broken dishes.

The dog may have experienced abuse in the past and thinks all people are the same. If this is the case, I suspect it may take some time for him to truly trust any new owner and know that he will not be treated in the same way he was before.

luckypenny
July 16th, 2007, 03:20 PM
I also dont think he has a hearing problem, as he would always come when called.

Hearing impairment doesn't necessarily mean unable to hear anything. Calling his name out loud, he may be able to hear. Coming up behind him, he may not. I once had a foster pup (who we later found out was hearing impaired) who would growl if I picked it up from the back or the side as it didn't hear me coming. :shrug: , your story just sounded too familiar.

As for defensive aggression...I don't know. Do you think that maybe he was just a little over-stimulated for his first day at your home? You mentioned playing with him for 2+ hours outdoors, then continued play indoors. I have an extremely active Lab who loves to play fetch but 20-30 minutes tops is enough for her. Add the summer heat to that and I'd be a little crabby too. Consider he has no idea where he is (he doesn't know he's home), doesn't know where he fits in the pack order (as far as he's concerned, you're not yet his pack), over-stimulation, the fact that you and your wife repeatedly took his toys away from him when he wanted to settle down with them, etc., etc., may have aggravated the situation. I'm not saying this is the case, it just sounds like it to me.

As for past abuse...when you bring a new dog into your home who has a past your not familiar with, you have to be prepared for anything, it doesn't matter what's written in his file or told to you. A dog can not always be properly temperament tested in a shelter environment, nor upon the first few days in his new home. It cans take several weeks before you see his true character. I believe this goes for most dogs; there is never any guarantee, regardless of the breed. We have a dog who we know was abused, under-socialized, and neglected. It's been almost a year and with lots of time, work, patience, and guidance from professionals, we are able to help him overcome his fears. I personally don't feel that 24 hours was giving him enough of a chance, but that was your decision to make based on what you are or are not capable of dealing with. I think it's a good idea that you're looking into the possible reasons for his behavior and that it was wise that you returned him if you and your wife feared him. :fingerscr that someone may be able to help him with his issues, whether it be medical and/or behavioral.

gtexan
July 16th, 2007, 03:24 PM
Good point about the hearing issue. We always used high pitch, loud voices to call him to us.
The only thing is that he was sitting in my lap both times he attacked. I dont think he could have been too isolated, but then again, I didn't witness it enough

As for the tiredness, thats a good point too. There were breaks in between the playing (2 hours of straight running would wear any person/dog/animal out!). It may have been a combination of a lot of things - new house, tired, poor hearing, poor peripheral vision, bad experience, etc.

lanwhite
August 31st, 2007, 07:21 AM
It's kind of hard to work with a dog you are afraid of or can't trust. It was right to give him back to the shelter just because of this. You shouldn't feel guilty for doing that, because it was best for both you and the dog. The dog is old enough to sense fear, and the response of a dog to someone who is afraid of him is likely to be even more aggressiveness. Certainly it would be difficult to establish Alpha status if you are afraid of him. Like what was said earlier, there are many, many dogs that have no problems at all except that they need a good home.