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Suddden (negative) change in my Spaniel's behaviour. Please can you help?

(11 Posts)
MarmiteMakesMeHappy Sun 17-Apr-16 10:51:01

I think this is going to be long - sorry. I'm really hoping the wiser dog owners can help me with this as it is really upsetting the whole family

We have had our Spinger X Cocker for a year now - we got her at 8 weeks. She has always been very gentle and sweet natured and we did puppy training and socialising from day one. We walk in a few local parks every day and she always plays nicely with other dogs and is friendly and happy around people. She is affectionate, cuddly and in tune with our moods - sensing when a cuddle is needed and delivering. Our DC love her and she loves them back.

However she has suddenly started showing a really nasty side around a couple of dogs (not all) and especially around one particular dog who she has played with all her life. A friend of ours has a spaniel of a similar age who is very submissive and gentle (even more so than ours) and the two dogs have run and played together several times a week for their entire lives. The last few times they have played together, our dog has taken the normal growling to the next level and become snappy and aggressive. She won't leave the other dog alone and I have had to pull her off. Yesterday, i had agreed to look after the other dog for my friend for the day - something we have done a few times with no problem - and it was a nightmare. Our dog was in her face the whole time, growling and snapping at her. Friends dog would lick ours and she would react with an open mouth grab of the other dogs scruff. She wasn't sinking her teeth into her or anything but was snappy, growly and horrible. I felt so sorry for the other dog but so sad and confused about why our dog was doing this. In the end I had to keep them in separate rooms.

To coincide with this, her recall has also in the last few weeks dwindled from fairly good, to appalling, and she also growled at me (for the first time ever) a couple of days ago when I made her get off the sofa.

I have no idea why this is suddenly happening and want to do the right thing to nip it in the bud, but I have no idea what is causing it or how to treat. Googling offers so many different suggestions that I don't know where to start.

Things that may be mitigating factors (but may be completely irrelevant) are:

We stopped crating her a couple of months ago. She had been crated at night time but got to the point where she would sleep in her basket and loved sleeping in our room. So we have let her. She sometimes goes from bed to bed at night - our room, the DC etc and I find her snuggled up with DD most mornings. I don't know if this 'freedom' has gone to her head?

She had her first season at Christmas and it was LONG. The whole of January and a bit beyond. She then developed a phantom pregnancy at the beginning of March and she is still in the midst of that. We took her to be spayed last week and the vet couldn't do it as she is still engorged and producing milk! I am guessing that this would play havoc with her hormones but could it cause this behaviour?

Sorry for the long post and thank you if you got this far. I'd be so grateful for any advice as this has upset us all so much. We had a short walk this morning and I am taking her out for a longer one later and am dreading it. Both because she won't come back when I call her and she may be aggressive to another dog. I don't want to have a dog that I have to keep on a lead as she gets no joy from lead walking and neither do I - but I want to feel confident in her behaviour again.

ChairRider4 Sun 17-Apr-16 11:12:28

Some may also be teenage testiness especially the recall side

SickRose Sun 17-Apr-16 11:34:45

I'm definitely not an expert as I've only had male dogs so I can't offer much advice but I would expect the phantom pregnancy is the root here. I have an animal care qualification and I remember learning about phantom pregnancies being able to cause health and behaviour problems due to the hormone changes like you said. But hopefully the behaviour will improve once that had passed. Also, I have a puppy coming up to a year old and his recall is starting to falter a bit and I'm hoping he's just going through his teenage years. Sorry I'm not able to put your mind at rest but at least you have been able to see a potential cause and it isn't all out of the blue.

JemTheAngel Sun 17-Apr-16 12:29:26

We have a working cocker. He's male but he's just over 18 months old and his recall definitely dipped off for a while. Seems better again now except for selective spaniel deafness when he smells something interesting. In terms of other behaviour, it does sound hormonal doesn't it. Perhaps see what the vets think, but it does sound like it should settle down.

TawnyGrisette Sun 17-Apr-16 13:04:48

You need to get her checked over by a vet to make sure that there isn't a medical reason for her snappiness. Pain can make animals (and people) behave in defensive and aggressive ways.

georgedawes Sun 17-Apr-16 14:43:15

Sounds like the phantom to me. My dog is super friendly but went ballistic at our cat when it went near her. Very unexpected! She was also very clingy and whiny and off her food. The vet said the best way to get her out of it was to reduce her food and up her exercise as much as possible. This did work and since being spayed she is completely back to her old self.

MarmiteMakesMeHappy Sun 17-Apr-16 16:13:38

Thanks so much for the replies. I don't think she's in pain as she is fine when it's just us at home.

I'm looking at her now and her abdomen and teats are really engorged still so I think she's having one hell of a false pregnancy.

I really REALLY hope it's down to that but even if it is - presumably spaying he her isn't going to be like waving a magic wand and i do slightly worry that she is now 'learning' bad behaviour sad

Would love to hear from anyone with a butch that had a false preg and noticed behavioural changes.

georgedawes Sun 17-Apr-16 16:43:02

As above I did. I too was worried it'd be ongoing but she is fine now. You do need to minimise the opportunity for her to practice the behaviour though, so I'd keep her away from other dogs for the time being. Concentrate on getting her through the phantom, then spayed. Reduce food/up exercise as much as possible, if it doesn't work the vet can prescribe drugs. The advice to me was to try and get her through it asap as it can sort of feed itself as it were. If she is mothering toys take them away.

SickRose Sun 17-Apr-16 17:47:40

Just asked my VN friend about this and she said that pregnant females can get slightly aggressive around other dogs if they are trying to play etc as they are trying to minimise risk to pups. Phantom pregnancy can cause a bitch to display the behaviour too. She said that they will generally move out of this once pups are born/ out of phantom pregnancy. So it's just a waiting game and trying to reduce opportunities for the behaviour to express. Your vet has probably already recommended different ways to move her out of the phantom pregnancy and as mentioned reducing the food intake a bit will help. I also remember the use of cones to stop her self nursing. I think i read something about using either hot or cold packs (sorry can't remember which) on her to stop lactation. Hopefully it won't last much longer!

MarmiteMakesMeHappy Sun 17-Apr-16 20:11:11

Rose. Thanks for taking the time to ask your VN friend. Our bet had initially suggested trying to wait the false pregnancy out, but I think I will talk to him again tomorrow.

MarmiteMakesMeHappy Sun 17-Apr-16 20:11:38


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