Champdogs Information Exchange
Ive got a bit of a question to anyone who can give some advice.Weve got 2,5 year old english springer spaniel.Hes a great dog, a bit spoilt i must say but we love him to bits.whats been happening with him in a last two months i think is that whenever we try to for example check his paws or teeth or get a closer look at him he starts growling at us.its not a very bad growl as he shakes at the same time which tells us hes scared.we might have scold him previously for eating cat food and then he growled as well so i have to admit i thought that best way not to show him im scared and im in charge would be giving him a slap and keeping outside for like a 5 mins as a punishment.We dontslap him now only tell him to go away.i hate seeing him like this and i dont know what makes him act like that.he just developed that kind of a crazy behaviour.we dont think he would try to bite us as my husband put his hands into his mouth and he didnt do anything plus he shakes that he even wees himself sometimes.
i was wondering that maybe us having a baby in a couple of weeks might have triggered it and maybe its cos he senses something and is a bit jelaous i dont know.but we did get a cat over a year ago and hes not jelous of him.
if anyone can give me some tips on how to work it out and try to make him see we only want wants best for him and make him stop?
thank you in advance.
good luck with your pets:-)
05.05.06 16:58 GMT
I'm of the mind that with a baby on the way and this being repeated definate pattern behaviour you really MUST consult someone 'on the ground' who can come and visit you and see this behaviour for themselves.
I'm sure you have had lots of PM's advising this as with a baby on the way and the aggression (be it fear aggression or otherwise) escalating, internet advice will be only guesswork.
Do, do look into a trained and registered behaviourist and if you need any help in finding one come back to the boards and ask because its essential you get to the bottom of this VERY quickly and at least start a remedial programme if one is possible before a small child enters your life.
06.05.06 06:27 GMT
06.05.06 06:29 GMT
It sounds as if generally you've got off on the wrong foot with your lad.
Many owners do resort to slapping dogs because they don't know what else to do. Thing is, it's our responsibility as humans to understand dogs and help them understand us. Examining paws, mouth etc can be easy if the dog is trained with praise, food rewards etc. There need be no slapping or telling off :) and it's so much more pleasant for dog and owner too - less stress! :P
Often too, what can happen is if you tell a dog off for growling, it will stop growling, but you haven't got to the bottom of the actual emotion (for example was the dog afraid/anxious/feeling unwell/being uninhibited, etc).
If the dog stops growling, it may then start to bite totally without warning if it is still uncomfortable - and this is what it has been "trained" to do. So in a way, it's actually not a bad thing that your dog is still growling :)
I agree that internet advice would be guesswork and also, it's hard to show someone how to work positively and effectively with their dog over the net :)
I'd suggest you get in contact with: www.apdt.co.uk (some are behaviourists) www.apbc.org.uk or lastly, www.ukrcb.co.uk
You'll also probably need to take him for a vet check up as some behavioural problems can be caused by medical problems ... do ensure the person you get to help you uses reward based methods especially in this instance, as otherwise things may well get worse.
If you feel you can't cope, or can't be consistent with good positive training, I'd actually suggest contacting a good rescue. With a baby coming you haven't got much time to devote to helping your dog. He does sound very stressed and mixed up.
Also you may like to get in touch with: www.itsaspringthing.co.uk which is a forum for owners of spaniels :)
As suggested by wylanbriar and Lindsay a behaviourist is needed, it is very upsetting to read that he shakes and wee's himself, his training to date has been completely wrong. Spaniels are a very sensitive breed and the hard handed approache does not work with these dogs and can leave them emotionally scared when trained this way as a pup.
You have a lot of hard work to put things right, at 2.5 years with the same owner it will be difficult to undo as he will be used to your methods.
There are trainers who will take your dog to re-train but of course it costs money to do so.
I wish you all the best with your forthcoming baby and I hope that you will put the time in to correct your boys behaviour. It will take may months of praise and reward training to put things right. Good luck! :-)
thanks for all your advice,just to straighten few things up.Hes not been brought up in any way u think he has from a pup as we havent been slapping him!it was on maybe two occasions as i said when he ate cat food and once when he was actually growling.He was never like that before.I could check him all over and he never shook or was growling or scared in any of the ways.We always give him loads of praise,kisses and cuddles simply because we know its right and cos we love him so much.So i dont think its been over two years of bad training as mentioned.Like i said i think it started around two months ago maybe less but only then he was punished in that way.All the other times he was just told off.And because we hated that we gave him a slap, and it basicly was breaking my heart seeing him like this it didnt happen again,he was only told to stop that behaviour.
Hi Angel UK
Is there the possibility that your boy may have had a sore paw (i.e. had a thorn in it?) the first time you tried to check his paws. I say this because if he is feeling pain this is often a way that dogs communicate to let you know that something is wrong.
I think we all have made mistakes with our dogs in the past and anybody who says they haven't isn't being entirely honest with themselves. I know I certainly have!!!
You could try going right back to the start and teaching him that you putting your hands over him is a good experience. That is, feed him treats and praise him when you are doing it. Its always best to start this when the dog is relaxed and that might be when he is lying on the floor of an evening after having had his exercise. Just run your hands over his sides softly and gently - praising all the time and giving him little treats of high value (real tasty morsels). Then slowly increase the area you are running your hands over; then his legs; then his feet; then looking gently in his mouth being very relaxed and praising softly all the time. You could also try getting in touch with a local TTouch practitioner. This may help him overcome his stress at having his paws and teeth looked at.
I would just like to add that it is common for dogs not to like these areas being touched as they are quite sensitive to a dog. All of the above advice is given obviously without seeing the dog and believing that you have a trusting relationship with him and there is no chance of aggression which could damage your relationship.
If you feel in the least bit apprehensive please seek the help of a good behaviourist - someone who uses kind, reward based methods. They will be able to make up a behaviour modification plan for you and give you help and support if you need it.
I wish you all the best. I have a working cocker spaniel and I am very familiar with working springer spaniels too. What, if any, plans have you made for when the baby arrives? It would be a good idea to bring car seat, buggy etc., into the house so that he can have a good old sniff prior to the baby's arrival. The more you do now when you have the chance, the less stress you'll have when you have baby. I'm not for one minute suggesting that you will do this but I know a lot of people that are very precious about their dogs being near their babys when they arrive. The more the dog sees your new arrival as a part of the family as soon as possible the less problems you will have. I only ever really see problems when the parents become a bit frightened that the dog will do something to the child. Under supervision and with praise and treats the dog will accept the baby very quickly.
06.05.06 20:14 GMT
06.05.06 20:17 GMT
hi Annie.thanks for all your kind words.no theres no soreness on maxs paws.He doesnt do it all the time either,theres lots of times he lets me check them and lift his lips and see outside teeth and i always praise him by telling how good boy he is and that its all ok.i remember though when his top cushions on the paws were hurt last.his skin peeled of from running on concrete.he didnt like it then and later when it healed he had few times that he was same when i tried to look if they r ok.other occasion when he growled a bit at me was when i called him for a cuddle,he came and put his head on my knees i stroked him and tapped on knee to jump with front paws so i could cuddle him and he was looking at me scared wit his eyes,and when i got closer with my head to him thats when he growled.so i said no thats not nice and left him be.It feels for me and my husband like he is trying to be his own "person" and if he doesnt like something thats his way of telling us.Like it might be late stage of teenager behaviour if u know what i mean.im not sure.
about the baby.yes i think hell be fine as wwe do have nursery door open a lot and he can go and sniff all the bits in there.plus i had a friend coming with her new baby(shes got 3 boxers and 2 other breeds) and he was perfectly fine on all ocassions with little hannah.only sniffing and when she was crying he was actually looking at me like trying to say if im gonna do something about it.She even was on the floor asleep in a car seat and all hes done was go around and sniff.so i think it shouldnt be that bad.im going to make sure we still pay loads of attention to him.Which is impossible not to do anyway as he is my baby already and i need my daily lot of kisses and hugs.
Hi Angel UK
It sounds to me as if you are treating the arrival of the new baby very sensibly. Well done!!! Maybe Max is a bit nervous about his feet being looked at if they were sore before. Doing all the things above will help him to relax again. One of my rescue dogs doesn't like certain areas being touched because he was abused before I got him. I never let anybody "grab" his collar to hold him. He doesn't need it. All I have to do is to motion with my hand where I want him to be and he will go. He is such a good boy. I never put him under stress!!!
Some dogs really don't like being cuddled or having faces close up to them as it can be seen as quite threatening. Best to read your boy's body language and his eyes. This will tell you how he is feeling. If he does growl it is because he feels threatened so best not to do that again and try something else instead by way of giving affection. Maybe he realises that something in his world is changing. Dogs are more intuitive than we give them credit for.
Good luck with your new arrival and your relationship with Max.
06.05.06 22:25 GMT
You slapped him so he is now scared of your hands. Hands should always be nice things around dogs so that you can groom/stroke/give treats. You will now need to work on gentle desensitisation by offering treats with one hand and whilst gently touching him with the other. Make sure the other hand approaches him slowly from underneath rather than over the top of him or he will think you are going to hit him again.
The only discipline ever necessary in most instances is verbal. Hitting never works and only serves to ruin relationships and can make the dog defensively aggressive. He is just protecting himself and it is a survival strategy.
Say sorry to him.
06.05.06 22:43 GMT
Hi have just read through that the slapping incidents were in the past and this behaviour has only recently started. So apologies if my last post sounded a bit harsh as it seems it may not be due to the slapping incidents - or at least not entirely. Present situations may be bringing on a remembering type situation but there is probably something else going on as well.
If you are expecting a baby you may smell different to the dog and this may confuse him. And yes if it is a sudden change in behaviour it does warrant a medical check by the vet.
You need to train him that being handled is a nice thing. Maybe you could brush him one a day and praise and reward him with treats when you do this - avoiding his 'sensitive' areas for a while until he becomes more relaxed. When you're feeding him little titbits from your hand he will come to associate you and your hands as good things. I have trained my puppy to 'touch' which might work with your dog. I hold a treat in my left hand and ask her to touch whilst moving my right hand towards her nose a bit - the aim is to get her to touch my right hand with her nose (no teeth!) You could also do it by rubbing a bit of treat on your right hand so it smells nice an then she'll sniff it - the second she touches with her nose she gets a treat. She now touches my hand wherever it is - it's taught her to be gentle with my hands (before she was chewing on them) and also to associate touching me with nice treats. Maybe this would work?
I love springers, they are mad, but lovely. He might need reassurance because you smell 'odd' due to all the new hormones. I don't think you should worry about the slapping incidents. Everyone has purposely or accidentally hurt their dog a few times (I know I've trodden on Po's paws a few times) and I wouldn't expect that to make her scared of my feet. Dogs in packs would quickly snap at another dog for bothering them. I'm not saying it's the right thing to do as a human, but it's happened and you want to make ammends so move on in the relationship with your dog and let him know that you love him and that you're trustworthy.
I was actually thinking about this last night and thought that you may smell different at the moment and you most certainly will look different so he's maybe feeling a little bit confused.
11.05.06 07:20 GMT
are you sure this is a true growl? My Springer can make what sounds like a growly noise when being petted but its quite the opposite and is a sound of pleasure just like a cat purring.
yep i am.its not like a growl from a mad dog or dog that doesnt know u and growls at u.its a growl though.
we had no growls from him lately though.he did it at night when we were going to sleep.we always call him to come for a cuddle before sleep.well sometimes he comes but with tail down like hes scared .he puts his nose under pillow and if u want to mess with him he does it.so i just leave him be.im not messing with him when he doesnt want it and hes fine.
like i said had no accidents lately.in a day time i do check his paws and teeth and keep praising him and hes fine.
hes in no pain as we play with him and do loads of different things and he never showed any signs.
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