Our 8 month old English Springer Spaniel is growling at my husband and has snapped at him and our 11 year old daughter

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Customer: Our 8 month old English Springer Spaniel is growling at my husband and has snapped at him and our 11 year old daughter when I am around and when he (dog) is sitting close to me. I've been told and also have read that it's called "resource guardiing". Now that I know what it is, we're trying to have our daughter or my husband be the one feeding him. It hasn't helped. Over the weekend we had family come over and he seemed very suspicious of them and wouldn't warm up to my brother-in-law WHATSOEVER. I don't want our dog to become aggressive or untrustworthy around people. What confuses me even more is when I take him to doggie daycare a few times a week he loves it and all the ladies there LOVE him. What can we do?
Answered by Jane Lefler in 3 mins 9 years ago
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Jane Lefler
10+ years of experience
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24,492 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Service Dog Training, Dog Behavior, Cat Behavior, Pet Trainer

Hi JaCustomer,
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My name isXXXXX've professionally worked with animals for over 16 years dealing with both health and behavioral issues. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

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I need to ask for some additional information. Once I receive your responses, it will likely take 30-40 minutes to type my response. I hope you can be patient.

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Does it only happen when you are around?

Are you now worried when people get too close to you?

It sounds like you allow him on the furniture?

What obedience training has he had done?

Is he nutered yet?


Customer
No, we don't allow him on the furniture. He has been neutered and yes, I am afraid of what he's going to do to people when I'm around. We had 6 weeks of basic obedience training, but honestly, haven't built on it.

Jill,

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thanks for the additional information. It is helpful. Resource guarding usually only occurs when the dog has something such as a toy, food, bone, etc. You don't indicate that is the case, but just in case, at the end of this post, I will go ahead give you information on that as well.

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I need to point out that there are medical issues that can lead to aggression and that this breed has been known to have aggression issues. So I want to give you some links to sites that go over that.

http://www.petplace.com/dogs/medical-causes-of-aggression-in-dogs/page1.aspx

http://www.apdt.com/veterinary/assets/pdf/Dodman_MA10.pdf

http://www.essfta.org/english-springers/health-genetics-and-research-faq/springer-rage-syndrome/

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I think you are dealing with a dominant dog who feels they are the boss of the house. He may feel that you are his "female" and thus may give you privileges that he wouldn't give to your husband and children. In most cases, children are rarely seen as higher than an adult dog unless they are older kids.

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Many dominant dogs are described as well behaved until you try to get them to do something they do not want to do, and then they reprimand you either with a growl or bite if you don't heed the growl. Things like taking away something they want, making them move when they don't want to, waking them up, etc can cause them to reprimand (bite) you. If he considers you "HIS" property, he might reprimand them for getting too close.

This is where your being worried about what he will do comes in. He picks up on how you feel. If you are worried, he figures it is the people and will be more aggressive toward them. So being worried can make the situation worse. To help keep this out of the equation, you can have him wear a basket style muzzle. It allows him to breath normally and also eat and drink as well. This will allow you to stop worrying if he will bite someone.

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I'm glad you are not allowing him on the furniture. Dogs that are allowed on furniture (even if put on the furniture) tend to feel that since they are elevated to your level or higher if on your lap, they mentally feel elevated as well in the pack order and thus are the boss. I'm glad you haven't allowed this. You should also not allow him to sit on your feet as that is also a dominant gesture.

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There are ways to regain the dominant position in the house as well. The best way is to start obedience training. While a formal training class is great, you can start obedience training without a formal class. Before you can get into classes, I am including links to a couple of other sites that teach some good methods of training. Be sure and read both.

http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-articles/teaching-your-dog-to-sit

http://www.luckydogs.info/pdf/Teaching-the-basic-commands.pdf

The following site is helpful. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.

http://www.schutzhund-training.com/training_theory.html

Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It basically states that the dog does not get affection, treats, food, even walks without working for them. The work is as simple as making him sit before feeding him or petting him. It is outlined below.

http://www.pets.ca/articles/article-dog_nilf.htm

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Both your husband and child should also be involved in the obedience training so the dog sees them as the bosses as well and will listen to them as well. You will also want to keep a leash on him at all times initially to grab if he should disobey. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well your dog does with training. Dogs like knowing what is expected of them and they love the little paper thin slices of hotdogs that I use for treats while training. Give this a try and see how it works for you.

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So any time the dog growls or shows any signs of aggression such as raised hair on the shoulder, baring the teeth or stiff legged walk, you will need to give him a corrections of a short tug and firm low toned NO. When ever he is not displaying the aggression toward them, you will be rewarding him with treat and calm affection. They should also give him treats when he is not showing signs of aggression. This will show him that you will not allow his aggression any longer and that he gets a lot more treats when he is behaving properly.

I would suggest that he wear the basket muzzle anytime children are around or visitors are there. Be sure to use the leash to make him obey you. If he growls give a short tug to get his attention and a firm "NO" to let him know, you are not going to allow his aggression. If he is sleeping, give a little tug to let him know that someone is there so he isn't startled when being woken up. .

In addition, if the situation is not improving using the techniques i have provided, you may have to consult a professional behaviorist. You can usually find a behaviorist by asking your Vet for a recommendation or you may be able to find one using the following site.

http://www.apdt.com

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Now I promised to give you some information on resource guarding and with a dominant dog, he is likely displaying some signs of this as well. Resource guarding can be dangerous if not addressed correctly. I have to tell you that it is best addressed in person with a professional behaviorist. However many owners are able to help their dogs overcome this unwanted behavior with lots of patience and hard work. The following sites go over this in great detail. The last site give many different ideas and techniques to help resolve resource guarding.

http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_ResourceGuarding.html

http://www.clickersolutions.com/articles/2002b/objectguarding.htm

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I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have .

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If you have questions in the future that you wish me to answer, you may click here and bookmark the page or make it a favorite. It is best to put my name "JANE" in the question as well. Please recommend me to your friends and family members if they have any problems with their dog as well. I would truly appreciate it.

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Hi Jill, I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going? Jane Lefler
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