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My dog has a horrible life...

(46 Posts)
curiousgeorgie Mon 23-Jun-14 21:42:12

We have a 7 year old blue roan cocker spaniel, and we completely love him. He's been problematic from the start, he has absolutely endless energy and even if you ran around the park with him for hours or DH (who was training for the marathon) took him out on every run, he would still get home and be climbing the walls.

When I had DD1 he lived for her. He slept under her cot, growled at visitors and one time (I started a thread about it) bit someone who tried to touch her while out.

This was totally unacceptable behaviour obviously and we got a police dog handler out who helped us to 'restructure the pack order' and help the situation. We also got him neutered and upped his walks from 2 long (plus garden) to 3.

We had DD2 and he seemed to go mad. We thought he needed more exercise to introduced doggy day care and tried to be firmer about the rules the dog handler had put in place, which had relaxed as he got used to DD1.

We've moved to a new house, and he is seriously a complete Houdini. Adding trellis, fences, etc... He jumped over the back while in the garden (almost 6 feet!!) and I had to drive the streets to find him, eventually in someone's garden (!!!) and he growled and snarled at me while I tried to retrieve him from under thorns and bushes... It was awful as they had children and I was seriously worried as he's never really been like this.

It's like he's 2 dogs. Right now (she's up late due to a family thing) my DD1 age 3 is playing with him under supervision and he's totally relaxed and wagging his tail, he lives for a ball being thrown and she's prepared to do it 100 times...

But fast forward to tomorrow and he'll get this look in his eye and I feel like I can't trust that he won't bite her.

He loves DD2 (1 on Wednesday) because she's constantly dropping food everywhere but otherwise totally ignores him) but I'm petrified for the day she tries to catch him or grab him.

The escaping has got out of control... He can (somehow!!) easily escape our garden so he can no longer have free reign.. Which is awful, as he lives for the garden. I tie him on a long line around a tree in the centre so he can reach all corners but he still acts like he's a caged animal. He's pulling ridiculously on walks. He's become aggressive at doggy day care and they're not happy to have him.

In daily life, DD2 is trying to walk, so I'm constantly telling him to go to the kitchen or shitting him out of the living room because I feel like I can't trust him. I feel exhausted, my baby is difficult enough as it is without the added occasional growls.

He has bitten me but he did have an infection, and I'm sure on that thread I downplayed his behaviour, but I need to be honest because this can't go on.

Getting rid of him isn't an option. He's our family and we love him, but he seems so unhappy that it breaks my heart to look at him on a line in the garden.

It's like he's never relaxed. He can never lay down and settle, he's constantly panting and looking to grab something to chew. He's immensely clever and learned every 'trick' going within two second at dog school.

But his life is rubbish. No free run of the garden because of escaping. Growling at children. Never settling.

It's so hard and he's my first baby and I feel like I'm totally letting him down somehow.

Please advise... Sorry it's long!!

curiousgeorgie Mon 23-Jun-14 21:44:13

So many typos!! Sorry blush

FuckyNell Mon 23-Jun-14 21:48:11

Here's an article about cocker rage

Haven't read all of it so not sure it's that helpful but I have heard it discussed before.

FuckyNell Mon 23-Jun-14 21:48:42

I mean, I think there's debate it exists or not

muttynutty Mon 23-Jun-14 21:54:15

You are not letting him down. But you do need help to make the situation better for all of you. Contact APDT trainer or APBC. They will suggest a vet check and then put you on the right track to improve the situation.

(I doubt it is cocker rage)

Lilcamper Mon 23-Jun-14 22:01:16

Agree with mutty it has bugger all to do with pack structure as dogs aren't pack animals and even if they were pack structure isn't cross species.

Possibly what your 'trainer' taught you has added to the problems.

curiousgeorgie Mon 23-Jun-14 22:09:47

He went to dog school as a puppy, and learnt all the normal things like recall, sit, stay etc.

The police dog handler said no being on the bed, no sofa, introduced a choke chain (which we hated so got rid of pretty quickly) and generally rules like that..

OscarWinningActress Mon 23-Jun-14 22:11:15

What does your vet say? There are medications they can prescribe...similar to things given to very hyperactive children. Not sure if that's a possibility?

Is he from working lines? I know a few people that have working cockers that do trial work....I think working dogs really need to have 'jobs' to do or else they get a bit neurotic. A friend of mine sent her dog away for a few months to a trainer. A bit like a Swiss-finishing school for dogs, from what I understand. He came back and was like a robot. I have no idea what this process involves but I suppose it may be analogous to 'breaking' a horse? Have you tried a dog walker. Ideally someone that could take the dog for long runs on leash or through field and stream? I have a Springer that runs in the woods with me every morning ...she pretty much sleeps for the rest of the day after that.

I grew up with a cocker that had 'issues'. She was lovely with us but could not be trusted with visiting adults or children. Years later, my parents got another cocker that eventually had to be put to sleep (as a puppy!) because it exhibited severe symptoms of rage. The vet told us that she'd seen many problems with temperament in spaniels because of overbreeding so that may be something to ask about.

Having an active dog and toddlers is hard work. It sounds like you're trying really hard to do the best for him flowers.

curiousgeorgie Mon 23-Jun-14 22:16:51

We have a dog walker who takes him
to the country park twice a week but it makes no difference when he gets home... It's like he can't be worn out. He's up and down all night. He wakes my baby up all the time by chewing and shaking. It's really out of control.

Out vet said he had no medical issues... They did blood tests and checked him over, but that was a while ago.

Floralnomad Mon 23-Jun-14 22:18:08

Sometimes more exercise feeds the problem ,it may be better to introduce more brain training instead of just running around .

Awks Mon 23-Jun-14 22:19:50

Has he been neutered? Ours couldnt jump to escape when he'd been done. I know you say you wont consider rehoming him but maybe its not about you, but what's best of him and maybe family with 2 kids isnt best for him. Maybe he needs to be on the moors or somewhere where there arent any children. Hate to say that but you cant say its not an option, because it should be.

SpicyPear Mon 23-Jun-14 22:25:56

I would strongly recommend and APBC behaviourist in this situation. It doesn't sound like a training issue, but rather that he is in quite a bad way emotionally. A properly qualified behaviourist should be able to, with you input, identify the cause and give you a program to being to address it.

Pack theory has been thoroughly debunked and no amount of going through doors first or not sleeping on beds will help your dog. Punitive methods like choke chains may even make it worse. Please find someone who will help you a dress this in a humane and effective way.

curiousgeorgie Mon 23-Jun-14 22:30:31

Awks.. He's part of our family. And he's been aggressive. I could never rehome him, and I wouldn't want to. But I am trying to help him.

curiousgeorgie Mon 23-Jun-14 22:31:47

SpicyPear - that's so sad sad he's been with us since 7 weeks old... The idea that he's emotionally hurting is devastating.

tealady Mon 23-Jun-14 22:55:57

Is there anyway you could find time to do something with him (eg agility)or flyball. Sounds like his intelligence needs directing.
If its really not possible to secure the whole garden could you at least make a safe part for him to be free?

SpicyPear Mon 23-Jun-14 23:03:00

Of course it's impossible to tell from a post online but the shaking, panting, pacing and chewing suggest high levels of stress. An APBC member will ask for a vet referral to try to ensure that it's not down to a medical issue, visit you and ask for a detailed history to help identify what is going on.

Good luck OP.

TheCatsBollocks Tue 24-Jun-14 06:57:29

It's not cocker rage.

ThisFenceIsComfy Tue 24-Jun-14 07:10:29

He does sound stressed out. Maybe a combination of two little kids and a new home have made him feel a bit insecure. I definitely second more "brain games" and get a dog behavioural expert in

affafantoosh Tue 24-Jun-14 07:46:53

As others have said, you need to take the following steps:

Make vet appointment (a good behaviourist will only see your dog on veterinary referral anyway so this is essential). While you're there pick up an Adaptil collar.

Find an APBC behaviourist locally. There is a search function on the APBC website.

In the interim it is vital that nobody punishes or verbally "tells off" this dog.

Nobody can really tell you more from this thread. You need a professional in to assess him. I will suggest that for many of these dogs excessive exercise isn't helpful (it's almost as if they become fitter and just need even more). These dogs often need mental stimulation to be tired and content, so feeding them from food toys instead of bowls, clicker training, scent work and allowing time to sniff on walks can contribute to calmer behaviour. In this case on the basis of the aggression only you must get proper help though.

I am afraid that police handlers traditionally used really terrible techniques based on outdated ideas about dog behaviour. Thankfully there seems to be a real sea change now with many having a much better understanding of dog behaviour and motivation, but there are still many "retired police dog handlers" making money from giving essentially harmful advice. It is sadly an unregulated industry.

Good luck - once you have seen a behaviourist you will be in a much better position.

SnakeyMcBadass Tue 24-Jun-14 08:07:18

I have a cocker/springer cross who exhibits signs of anxiety and stress. This sounds weird, but have you thought about cutting back his physical exercise? My boy is so much calmer since I halved his physical exercise and upped his mental stimulation. He now gets around an hour of off lead walking a day. We play fetch in the garden and do a few minutes of training here and there. His absolute favourite thing is for me to hide tiny cubes of cheese around the garden. He'll spend a good half an hour searching and researching the garden to make sure he hasn't missed any. I was over exercising him, heightening his adrenaline levels and keeping him at a ridiculous level of fitness for a non working dog. He is happier, calmer and less 'aaarrrghhhh!', and we're a happier household.

ender Tue 24-Jun-14 08:55:25

Agree with Snakey, had the same experience with my rescue GSD. The more off lead walks he had the worse he got, also used to do laps of the garden getting more and more excited and be restless and pacing when in the house.
So much calmer now we've cut walks down. Also we don't let him run about the garden now, just there for supervised play/training, or sunbathing as long as he stays calm.
Some dogs get really hyped up with too much exercise.

ResponsibleAdult Tue 24-Jun-14 09:08:51

Your dog isn't having a miserable life. You are a concerned owner. I agree, all sensible advice. Our cocker is useless and was actually arrested and given an ASBO by park police blush

We approached a retired police dog handler for training who said we had to not feed the dog for two days prior to training, needless to say we didn't go.

You must escape proof the garden, chicken wire for gaps and bricks for holes then he can have free roaming outside. Ours have their photos on the dog warden database blush blush

Don't let the dog near the baby with food, it could go horribly wrong and your dog would have to be PTS.

Agree, reduce the exercise, one of my dogs loves running, I thought I was giving her a good piece of exercise. It took me several weeks to work out that rather than flaking out on return it hyped her up and she would then play fight with the cocker (who is a useless runner) for another hour.

Just keep trying different approaches. Good luck

MissMilbanke Tue 24-Jun-14 09:13:34

Ive got a cocker too and I know that you can't tire them out. Ever.

The only way to exhaust them is mentally - so training, training and training. Get them to work, they are working dogs after all its what they live for.

Reduce the hours time spent trampling across field and you may find it helps.

Staywithme Tue 24-Jun-14 09:19:05

Snakey and Ender, I had the same issue with a little Cairn Terrier that comes for day care. Her owners were saying they couldn't tire her out so I used to take her out a couple of times a day and she'd play all day with the other dogs, but bark constantly. I discovered that by curtailing her exercise she calmed down and is far happier, as are the humans in her life. smile

WilliamShatner Tue 24-Jun-14 09:39:33

Dogs need mental stimulation as well as physical.

I've just ordered this book

My first ex's mother had a golden cocker spaniel. The dog looked cute and fluffy but she hated everyone except for my ex's mum. We used to go round every Sunday to dinner and the dog would spend the whole time emitting a low pitched growl. I'm confident around dogs but if looked or spoke to her she would bare her teeth!

It was bizarre as she was the cutest, softest looking dog ever!

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