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Hello, I have a 3 year old cocker spaniel who in the last year has got increasingly more aggressive towards other dogs. When he was young he was ridiculously submissive and dogs would always try and hump him or chase him, in the summer he would start telling them off with just a little bark but now it’s getting more aggressive, he’s not bit a dog but he’s barking at them and even chasing and barking if they back off, can anyone advise what to do? Thank you
 

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Can you explain the situation when it happens? It’s likely that he just craves some space.

You should get him checked by a vet since this kind of behavior could mean that he is in pain. Cocker spaniel is also a breed that can suffer from “rage” which basically means that the dog has a diseases which makes them aggressive. I don’t know how common this is though and from your text I don’t think he suffers from this but I thought I would mention it.
 

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Hi. It sounds like he is indeed trying to scare them off and he will continue to do it if he can, because it generally works. He likely feels anxious so has to put on a big display of 'I'm big and scary, don't mess with me'.

He will have an invisible radius of space around him where he feels secure - it's called flight distance, anything within that radius triggers the fight or flight stress response that you may have heard of. Find out what that distance is and keep him far enough away from other dogs that he is aware, but relaxed. Reward his calm behaviour. Gradually, over weeks and months, not days, work on reducing the distance. This may mean you have to be selective where you walk - choose places with good visibility so you can give other dogs a wide berth, or where you can turn and walk away easily. But - be aware that if your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone can stay in the body for up to 72 hours so a distance he was comfortable with the day before might be too close that day. So the safe distance can change, watch his body language.

Trainers describe behaviour like this with reference to the three Ds. Distance, as above but also be aware of Duration - your dog might be tolerant for 10 seconds, but not 15, and Distraction - how distracting the stimulus is; a calm dog might not trigger any reaction at a given distance but a bouncy one might. Alongside that you could train a 'watch me'. As your dog looks at you, mark and reward the behaviour (if you need pointers on how to do this, shout out). Ask for longer periods of watching. Then if a dog approaches, after you have worked on the distance issue, you can get your dog to focus on you and not the other dog. BUT - some dogs find this scary as they cannot see the thing they are anxious about so you need to judge your dog.

Dogs really don't need to meet and greet other dogs, in the same way as we wouldn't be best of friends with every random stranger in the supermarket so he won't be missing out.
 

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Can you explain the situation when it happens? It’s likely that he just craves some space.

You should get him checked by a vet since this kind of behavior could mean that he is in pain. Cocker spaniel is also a breed that can suffer from “rage” which basically means that the dog has a diseases which makes them aggressive. I don’t know how common this is though and from your text I don’t think he suffers from this but I thought I would mention it.
Thank you for your response, I’ve read up on Cocker rage and luckily don’t think it’s that, it happens if a dog tries to chase him and there’s been a couple of times when dogs have been barking and playing and he’s run over barking as if he was trying to break it up
 

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Than
Hi. It sounds like he is indeed trying to scare them off and he will continue to do it if he can, because it generally works. He likely feels anxious so has to put on a big display of 'I'm big and scary, don't mess with me'.

He will have an invisible radius of space around him where he feels secure - it's called flight distance, anything within that radius triggers the fight or flight stress response that you may have heard of. Find out what that distance is and keep him far enough away from other dogs that he is aware, but relaxed. Reward his calm behaviour. Gradually, over weeks and months, not days, work on reducing the distance. This may mean you have to be selective where you walk - choose places with good visibility so you can give other dogs a wide berth, or where you can turn and walk away easily. But - be aware that if your dog has had a stressful episode the stress hormone can stay in the body for up to 72 hours so a distance he was comfortable with the day before might be too close that day. So the safe distance can change, watch his body language.

Trainers describe behaviour like this with reference to the three Ds. Distance, as above but also be aware of Duration - your dog might be tolerant for 10 seconds, but not 15, and Distraction - how distracting the stimulus is; a calm dog might not trigger any reaction at a given distance but a bouncy one might. Alongside that you could train a 'watch me'. As your dog looks at you, mark and reward the behaviour (if you need pointers on how to do this, shout out). Ask for longer periods of watching. Then if a dog approaches, after you have worked on the distance issue, you can get your dog to focus on you and not the other dog. BUT - some dogs find this scary as they cannot see the thing they are anxious about so you need to judge your dog.

Dogs really don't need to meet and greet other dogs, in the same way as we wouldn't be best of friends with every random stranger in the supermarket so he won't be missing out.
Thank you for your advice I will definitely start implementing this tomorrow and see how he gets on, he loves his ball so I’ve started using that as a distraction to divert his attention, it just becomes difficult when the other dogs persist. I think you’re right with it being an anxiety thing as I noticed he was more vocal when winter set in as we were walking in the dark. Thanks again for your detailed response
 

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When you say it becomes difficult when other dogs persist, it's too late - they are already in his space. It's a little bit like trying to apply the brakes after you have driven the car over the cliff edge. He needs them to be far enough away, and you rewarding his calmness, that he isn't reacting. You aren't trying to distract him, you want him to be aware in a ”there's a dog but I don't need to worry about him” way.
 

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When you say it becomes difficult when other dogs persist, it's too late - they are already in his space. It's a little bit like trying to apply the brakes after you have driven the car over the cliff edge. He needs them to be far enough away, and you rewarding his calmness, that he isn't reacting. You aren't trying to distract him, you want him to be aware in a ”there's a dog but I don't need to worry about him” way.
He’s quite happy to be in close proximity It’s when they want to interact with him that’s his issue, he could be right next to a dog and be absolutely fine until it tries to play. He’s never been that playful with dogs when he’s outside even his dog “friends” he’ll only ever play with in the house. But to make it more confusing he’s goes to day care on occasion and absolutely loves it there, it’s only when he’s out we have these issues
 

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Don’t put him in situations where there are dogs that close enough to interact with him. Does this happen when you walk him or do you take him to dog parks? I don’t otherwise understand where all these dogs comes from? He doesn’t have to play with other dogs and he shouldn’t need to greet random dogs on walks.
 

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He is fine until.they start to play (sorry, I'm struggling with quotes) - see D for Distraction in my first post.

At daycare, it may be that it is a familiar environment or maybe he gets the opportunity to withdraw to a quiet place?
 

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He is fine until.they start to play (sorry, I'm struggling with quotes) - see D for Distraction in my first post.

At daycare, it may be that it is a familiar environment or maybe he gets the opportunity to withdraw to a quiet place?
Yeah I think we’ll definitely work on the watch me command you mentioned to distract him. It’s like he’s two different dogs when outside and in, at day care he’s the most playful dog and instigating play but like you said maybe it’s because it’s a familiar environment
 

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Don’t put him in situations where there are dogs that close enough to interact with him. Does this happen when you walk him or do you take him to dog parks? I don’t otherwise understand where all these dogs comes from? He doesn’t have to play with other dogs and he shouldn’t need to greet random dogs on walks.
We don’t walk in dog park, we go to the beach the forest and fields but it’s likely we will cross paths with other walkers
 

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We don’t walk in dog park, we go to the beach the forest and fields but it’s likely we will cross paths with other walkers
Okay, keep distance and train him on taking contact with you when he sees another dog. I don’t know what you call it in english but in sweden we call
it “gossip training” which means that you reward the dog when he sees another dog. Soon the dog will begin to seek your contact when he sees a dog because he expects to get a treat. In the end he is supposed to see a dog and directly look at you. You begin with a large distance, if he is acting out you’re too close. Then you gradually decrease the distance as he gets better. It’s great to combine klicker training with this.
 

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Hello, I have a 3 year old cocker spaniel who in the last year has got increasingly more aggressive towards other dogs. When he was young he was ridiculously submissive and dogs would always try and hump him or chase him, in the summer he would start telling them off with just a little bark but now it’s getting more aggressive, he’s not bit a dog but he’s barking at them and even chasing and barking if they back off, can anyone advise what to do? Thank you
Hello, I have a 3 year old cocker spaniel who in the last year has got increasingly more aggressive towards other dogs. When he was young he was ridiculously submissive and dogs would always try and hump him or chase him, in the summer he would start telling them off with just a little bark but now it’s getting more aggressive, he’s not bit a dog but he’s barking at them and even chasing and barking if they back off, can anyone advise what to do? Thank you
I agree that it could be an issue with one person said that he could actually be in pain or have something wrong. It can happen as a dog ages that he just becomes more insecure, but, there could be so many reasons. A big reason for aggression might be boredom of lack of exercise, but it sounds like it may be a domination thing. I would ask a vet and take him to an animal trainer to see how to modify the behavior if there are no physical reasons.'
 
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