Dog Whisperer

sdcno1 11 May 2012 16

I have an 8 year old male cocker spaniel that has random aggressive tendencies towards small kids and strangers.

I need to do something about it and I am hoping that the RiotACT community will be able to share any experiences and recommendations with local dog behaviour services.

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16 Responses to Dog Whisperer
shauno shauno 4:16 pm 13 May 12

When I was a kid we had a dear hound thing. It looked a bit like a Wolf hound and was very fast like a grey hound so could catch rabbits. But he only took notice of my Dad and when Dad went away once he got up on our lounge and would not budge even growled at Mum when we tried to get him off the lounge. As Dad was away he assumed the leader role.

Siren Siren 3:11 pm 13 May 12

I had a desexed male cocker spaniel pure breed (a long time ago). At about 7 years, he became overly protective of me – bit a friend while we were running around the yard, then bit my Granddad (again in the yard) and had a go at my Dad and Brothers in the house. Sadly he was put to sleep – before he bit anyone else.

Has anything major changed in your household? If not, -like everyone else has said, a vet check is a worthwhile first step.

Good luck & I hope you can re-train yours – it’s heart-breaking having to resort to the green dream.

welkin31 welkin31 8:38 am 13 May 12

I would run some simple and quick tests on your dog before going to the Vet – keep it playful.
See if his hearing is up to scratch – wait till he is resting then make some quiet noises that you think a dog should hear and watch his reactions.
How is his eyesight ? Normal do you think.
Check his ears for signs of soreness – do they need a clean out ?
Check his fangs – put your hand over his muzzle lift his top lips up – check teeth, run your fingers over gums – then you can easy push his bottom jaw down with tip of one finger. He will soon let you know if there is anything annoying him like an abcess.
Then I would handle – poke – prod the dog all over – include feet & legs – as I said – keep it playful – throw him a ball – look for signs of soreness – they tell you quick enough.
At least you then go to the Vet knowing a bit more about the dear old fella.
The thought of muzzling an 8 yo Spaniel – ROFL.
Perhaps as he gets older visitors, strangers and kids need to respect him a bit more.
Good luck.

MrMan MrMan 9:13 pm 12 May 12

Many behaviour problems exhibited by dogs are linked to their sense of pack hierarchy. We had a dog some years ago who, after joining our family from the RSPCA, showed a great level of aggression to strangers. The advice provided to us was that because we had not properly constructed the family hierarchy she had placed herself in the position of Alpha female and the aggression was a result of her trying to protect her pack. Perhaps you need to look at ways to restore your dominance over the dog. Things like sitting one couches, going through doorways first and eating before you can give the dog a false sense of superiority. Best of luck 🙂

aydee aydee 8:17 pm 12 May 12

My few cents.. (And I’ll use words in capitalization to make a point. Not to shout. They emphasis is there to make you pay attention.. 😛 )

First.. A muzzle.. It sounds horrible. But the first thing to consider is that you are protecting other people from your dog (no matter how much you love your dog).

Now the following advice is a “I’m not an expert”. I’m basing this off what advice I got from my sis-in-law who used to be a wild-animal trainer. (wolves etc)

Next. Consider the dog in why he might behave like that. Is the dog maybe perceiving the person as a threat to itself or YOU? Remember. Dogs can be protective.

Now a good way to deal with aggression when the dog is on a lead is not to become stressed. Yes. It’s hard. Your dog arcs up and you don’t want him to. But calm down. You don’t get angry. You haul the dog BEHIND you. YOU are pack leader. Do not let the dog get in front of you. You may have to be quite aggressive in doing so (Not violent. Don’t hurt the dog. But let the dog definitely know that YOU are in charge).

The important thing is, as pack leader, you choose when to fight, when to run and when you are friends. This is why you must not get stressed out. You must not panic. You must calmly “say” to your dog (through your actions) “I am the leader. And there is no threat”.

*IF* (the asterisks added for further emphasis), your dog is really battling to be in-front and violent, then it’s time for you to put the dog into submission. This is going to sound odd, but it comes back to a ‘pack behaviour’ thing. Force the dog onto it’s back, hold it down by it’s throat and SHOUT AS LOUD AS YOU CAN into it’s face.

That last thing sounds horrible. It really is ‘last ditch’. This is the equivalent of a pack leader saying “You have challenged me. If you challenge me again, I will kill you”.

To make things easier in pinning a dog to the ground, try to spread the front legs a little with elbow and other free hand. This will mostly immobilize a dog.

At the end of the day, this may not work. It will work for some dogs. Not for others. But you have to remember that dogs are body-language animals and often quite physical. They don’t speak English, so you have to learn to “speak dog”.

Good luck…


Watson Watson 5:26 pm 12 May 12

I personally would steer clear of companies like Bark Busters myself. They seem to often employ a ‘ones strategy fits all’ policy. I used DogTech once for my dog and found them completely useless. In hindsight I think they were trying to make me stick to a Nothing In LIfe is Free (NILF) strategy, but didn’t explain it to me nor how it would fix the specific problem I had with the dog. And it didn’t make any difference to my dog who already accepted my authority. I learnt 100 times more from Google on the topic since I got a new dog than I learnt from them back then.

They also seem to be a bit stuck in the whole dominance theory. Which has long been proven to be a load of nonsense.

That was all just to say, if you are going to see a trainer, spend the extra money to get an independent one who will not follow a fixed formula. Call them first for a chat to check them out and hear what they have to say. It is vital that you can communicate well with them because they will basically be training you, not the dog directly.

breda breda 4:08 pm 12 May 12

Yep, definitely do the vet thing first. Older dogs can get aches and pains that make them cranky, and they also can develop dementia. If there’s no medical problem, a spot of obedience training (so that you can always control the dog) would probably fix the problem. The ACT Companion Dog Club runs regular classes:

Meanwhile, you might want to consider using a muzzle when the dog is in an ‘at risk’ situation. There are several types available which allow the dog to pant and drink, but prevent biting.

Hope your old boy is OK!

Madam Cholet Madam Cholet 3:19 pm 12 May 12

Bark Busters. $400 for the life of your dog, and you can call them back as many times as is necessary. We sought help from them when our son arrived on the scene as the dog had some trouble adjusting to the ever changing scene…non-moving baby to crawling, walking, running, shoulting and being a general nuisance! It’s not unusual, but the answer is not to throw the dog outside. Our dog was 11 when we sought help. He’s going along alright and if we feel he’s not coping, we employ the strategies we have been taught which are really simple.

What they will tell you however is that you will not change the behaviour of the dog per se, but you wil gain the control that you need. If in doubt, always have your dog on a lead and/or use a muzzle. It’s not cruel if it’s in the best interests of the dog, i.e. not biting someone, especially a child and then getting put down for doing what they think is the right thing.

Bark Busters explained to us that our dog was just trying to be in charge of everything and feeling stressed about it. As soon as we relieved him of the stress by showing him that we are in charge he was pretty good.

The ultimate strategy I use if we are having other kids over is to send the dog to someone else’s house. If that’s not available then I lock him in a room. Just got to remember that it’s not cruel if you are saving them from themselves as long as you are not hurting them of course.

Good luck.

Watson Watson 2:52 pm 12 May 12

I second talking to a good vet first as it is possible that there is a physical reason for her aggression.

Once that is ruled out, try the behaviourists already recommended here or I can also recommend the RSPCA trainer. I once saw them for session with my old dog and felt confident that they knew what they were doing.

I-filed I-filed 1:39 pm 12 May 12

M0les said :

Not sure, but I’d start by talking to your vet.

I was at my vet’s when something similar happened – a woman brought in her dog in the back of her car, the dog had bitten her child’s friend.

The vet shot straight out the door to the car, had a 30-second conversation with the dog owner, brought the owner and her child and the friend into the surgery, went back out and put the dog down straight away in the back of the car, and had tears in his eyes when he came back into the surgery, sending the vet’s assistant out to remove the dog away from the owner’s sight.
It was that quick, that decisive – that necessary. Clearly a terribly difficult thing to do, but he was unbelievably prompt and definite.
I wonder whether any vets would respond in a different way – I suspect not. There would be a huge liability if a dog that was reported to a vet went on to kill or seriously injure a child.

jesse jesse 12:13 pm 12 May 12

Good on you for being a loving owner. The vet is definitely the first call. Lots of luck 🙂

poetix poetix 10:08 am 12 May 12

Cocker spaniels may suffer from a genetic disorder that can cause unprovoked aggression: (There are lots of other articles about this.)

You should buy a muzzle, because they are such cute looking dogs and bound to attract children. This is not a solution, but a stop-gap measure while you get help. However, the randomness of his behaviour is worrying. You can’t train better behaviour if it’s something that the dog really can’t control. So I would definitely speak to your vet about this problem, as has been said.

fabforty fabforty 9:20 am 12 May 12

EvanJames said :

M0les said :

Not sure, but I’d start by talking to your vet.

Wow, that was stunningly useless. The vet will know that dogs, like people, have certain behaviours.

Heike Hahner advertises and writes a lot in the regional media… a dog (and owner) whisperer, who apparently focusses on psychology to solve behavioural problems.

No, actually not useless. The randomness of this dog’s agressive behaviour could be due to something physical such as a small brain tumor or something spinal which comes and goes and is very painful. I think a visit to the vet is a great starting point. Although, obviously I hope I am wrong.

I also congratulate sdcno 1 for being a responsible dog owner and doing something to address the problem before something bad happens.

Please let us know how it turns out.

astrojax astrojax 6:35 am 12 May 12

ssssshhhh, dog…

give sitdropstay a call – he’s a marvel (and i suspect 3 parts dog…)

EvanJames EvanJames 12:28 am 12 May 12

M0les said :

Not sure, but I’d start by talking to your vet.

Wow, that was stunningly useless. The vet will know that dogs, like people, have certain behaviours.

Heike Hahner advertises and writes a lot in the regional media… a dog (and owner) whisperer, who apparently focusses on psychology to solve behavioural problems.

M0les M0les 10:24 pm 11 May 12

Not sure, but I’d start by talking to your vet.

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