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Discussion Starter #1
I was bored today and for some reason started hunting out a Cocker Spaniel forum. Chisum's not purebred (at least, I don't think so - if he is, he's not well bred but then I already knew that ;)) but I just thought it would be interesting to poke around.

I found a forum and was looking around in the training section, and it seemed like every few posts dealt with aggression, reactivity, and just "snapping" and biting people out of the blue. No warnings, just a bite.

I knew Cockers could have some behavioral problems - heck, Chisum sure does! My mother had a Cocker whom she loved dearly, but even she could get nasty toward strangers from time to time. But something about reading all those threads made me wonder - is my dog ever going to just "snap"?

As of right now, we're working through some things. He's reactive to strangers. He has a terrible problem with wanting to chase only some cars - I keep him on lead for this reason! - and he door rushes when certain people close a door behind them; still trying to figure that one out. Certain things - like cats and chickens - get him excited and sometimes overstimulated/frustrated (not in a mean way, just in an "I must play!" way). He's socially awkward, both with people he's just barely starting to trust and with our other dogs. Sometimes he will resource guard certain things, but we feed him separately and don't allow anything high-value, like bones or Kongs, unless he is alone, so it's not a major issue. But there have been times when he's been fed by my brother in the same room as others and no issues arose, so he's kind of hit or miss there.

There are still some lingering insecurities in him that I think are the cause of some of his dog-dog interactions -- sometimes he'll "stiffen" up or try to body block access, but over time that has lessened and has certainly deescalated; when he was 3 months it would be a precursor to a fight, now he can mostly be called away or will immediately drop into a play bow.

However, I would say on the whole that he's not a mean dog. He can be mouthy, but he only ever bit me once -- the second day I had him when I was holding him and his food dish and another dog came into the room; I think it was redirection due to him thinking the other dog would get his food.

He never, ever has resource guarded anything from me or any other human. He's overall very happy and bouncy, he lets you hold him, cuddle him, whatever without complaint. I would consider my terrier to be grumpy; Chisum doesn't have a grumpy bone in his body. He's got a lot of issues, but he's just love.

I don't believe he would ever want to bite anybody, but I am overcautious and never put him in the position to let it happen.

Well, now I think I'm just rambling. I think my anxiety is acting up again :rolleyes:. I realize it's silly to spend each day wondering "will he snap?" but honestly going through that forum was so off-putting. Most all of the dogs in question were well-bred dogs from show or working homes and poster after poster would input saying their well-bred dogs had major behavioral issues too....under those circumstances, what chance does my inbred-puppy-mill dog have?


I'm gong to post this just in case anyone has anecdotes or words of wisdom...but I do realize I'm coming off a bit crazy; try not to judge me in my anxious state! :eek:
 

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Hm. My parents have a Cocker Spaniel, not a particularly well-bred one, and she is the most submissive, non-reactive dog you could ever possibly imagine. She is difficult in other ways -- she gets into and eats EVERYTHING, food and nonfood items alike! Other than that she is a great dog though. Not every dog is defined by their breed.
 

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Yeah, that's fair. I think it was just a real shock because I expected a breed specific forum to come across more positively; the amount of complaints was off putting.

Like I said, my dog isn't mean but his current problems (which are getting better) coupled with that forum just unsettled me a little. Probably just my current anxiety stresses taking over :)
 

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I had a Cocker when I was younger that had a lot of anxiety issues, albeit not the kind that resulted in aggression. He was great with other dogs, but pretty much would not let any person but me and much later my mother touch him willingly, at all. Still, he wasn't a dog you'd think would ever get aggressive - he'd run for the hills if someone tried to pet him but if they caught him he never offered to bite or even growled.

That said, under some very specific extenuating circumstances, he actually did full-on snap and go off. Although when I say "extenuating" I do mean it, it wasn't out of sheer meanness, and there never was a repeat performance.

Another Cocker I knew definitely had some aggression issues and frequently picked fights with other dogs and would behave threateningly toward strangers.

My father's current Cocker is the most sweet, goofy, confident dog on the planet, though she's a french fry short of a Happy Meal, probably due to bad breeding. She's also from a known puppy mill and seriously inbred. (I mean, she's merle. Merle is known to be in the Cocker gene pool but it's very rare and the chances of her being merle without being the latest in a line of dogs being inbred to produce pretty spotted dogs is low.)

So, I don't know. I do think that many Cocker lines have issues with aggression, but at the same time I don't associate "meanness" with them, either. Aggression in Cockers often seems to be related to anxiety and neurological problems. And many Cockers are great dogs. My Cocker... honestly one of the best dogs I ever had, to the extent that I feel I didn't appreciate him enough when he was with me. I think that the presence of loyalty is overstated in dogs, but that dog was loyal. I could go nine months without seeing him and when I came back he was still 100% my dog. Most dogs just aren't like that.

I wouldn't necessarily think it's justifiable for your anxiety to heighten because your dog is less well bred than some other dogs that exhibit problems, though. Some show breeders really can be bad about selecting for appearance over temperament, especially in breeds where conformation showing is a super big deal. Based on the ones I've known (which is actually more than three, but Cockers are popular so trying to detail every one I've met would take a while) I don't think I've noticed a trend toward dogs from less-reputable breeders being wildly more unstable, for whatever reason.
 

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I have to admit my only "bite" wound ever received was from my last dog, Jazzy. Granted it was my fault, but she had 0 bite inhibition and left me with a scar under my right eye. She was a cocker, poodle, terrier (we think schnauzer).

She too had issues chasing cars, growling at people that came too close, etc. - although, ironically, she never had any kind or reactivity to other dogs. I mean, she didn't like them, but she never actively lunged or barked at them like Tessa my lab mix does.

I think most cockers have problems, just like labs, goldens, poodles, etc., is because they're a popular breed. Even though Jazzy was definitely not afraid to growl and show teeth to get what she wanted (we're taking little black kujo here), she was a good dog. Sure she wanted to chase cars, just kept her on lead. Sure she threatened to rip your face off it you touched her nails, just walk her more so they wear down. Other wise she was a very chill dog, more cat like I would say. She only every 'snapped' at me once.

I think I just rambled there, sorry...
 

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I never went on a Doberman forum until after I got Kris. Probably if I had, I would have had second thoughts. Everyone seemed to have so much trouble with them biting and chewing on things and people when they were puppies. Kris has never put her mouth on a person and other than liking to chew up and destuff her stuffy toys, she has never chewed anything up. I think on a lot of forums, the people who write in are the ones who have problems and you do not hear about all the good well behaved ones.
 

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Chalk me up as another one that thinks that the well bred, show, Cockers are likely being bred for looks without much thought being put into is the temperament good. If I was going to buy a Cocker from a breeder I'd be purposely asking about the dogs temperament and do they breed for good, stable, temperaments. Cockers are supposed to be sweet, confident, happy, and trusting.

My Uncle has had two of them. The first was a lovely dog that had a true Cocker temperament, the one he has now is fearful, wary of strangers, and snappy.

Most dogs that suddenly snap "for no reason", have an underlying medical condition.
 
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Thanks all, you've made me feel a lot better :)

Looking around at some more of the threads, a lot of these people had issues with their dogs before they snapped. Some of them seem to have had multiple show-line Cockers with multiple problems, but they still have them as dogs, so there must be something they like about the breed. Some of them also seem to have dogs from the same lineage, or with certain dogs in common, so there could definitely be a genetic component there.

I'm conservative in saying so, but I honestly am not afraid of Chisum ever biting me, barring some major neurological problem. He's very happy go lucky, and lets you do just about anything to him (as long as he feels safe and there are enough treats involved!) I don't think he'd ever want to bite another person either, unless he really felt threatened.

I do remember when I had him at the lake and a strange man approached us to collect his off-leash dogs; I picked Chisum up because I didn't want him to bite the dogs (though he didn't mind them so much, it was the man who set him off). Even when the man kept approaching me as I was trying to get away, Chisum never growled, lunged, or bit at him - he just tried to get of my arms and once he squirmed free he just wanted to run away. So I honestly do not think he's aggressive.

It's just my darn anxiety monster latching on to things and blowing them out of proportion. :p. I don't know that I'd ever have another Cocker, but I love my little guy and appreciate all the support and talking-down.
 

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As a word of advice, don't take forum conversation as a solid example of a breed's common behavior. While I've heard of cockers being snappy, people go to forums when they're looking for advice or something's wrong; you're not going to hear as much from the people who have the calm happy well adjusted dogs.

Based on our forum here, one would think most every rescue dog is reactive, fearful and prone to serious problems! But we know that's not true.. that's just the people looking for help.
 

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As a word of advice, don't take forum conversation as a solid example of a breed's common behavior. While I've heard of cockers being snappy, people go to forums when they're looking for advice or something's wrong; you're not going to hear as much from the people who have the calm happy well adjusted dogs.

Based on our forum here, one would think most every rescue dog is reactive, fearful and prone to serious problems! But we know that's not true.. that's just the people looking for help.
What was most off-putting to me was that there were people asking for help (fine) but just about every poster replying had the exact same aggressive issues, and most were still dealing with them.

But, you're right. I'm looking way more into this than I have to; if he has these kinds of problems, I know it will be because something is medically wrong and I'll do what I can to fix it. One day at a time :)
 

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Well.. I have only met one cocker spaniel so my experience with them is very small. My grandparents have an old cocker spaniel. Sometimes this dog was the sweetest and nicest thing ever but all of a sudden it would turn and snap. When I was small my hand brushed against his side and in a split second he had bit both my writs and my leg. He also did this to my younger cousin. These attacks were probably causes by the fact that more people were around. But he literally would always come up to me and begged for my attention other times. I can't say I've liked the breed ever since, but I know this is only based on one.
 

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@Jeru - that seems to be somewhat normal for them. My mother's Cocker could be that way too.

It's funny to me how many on the forum seem to be like "oh, that's just normal for the breed" and accept it.

My Chisum is mouthy, but it's all play (he stops if you freeze and its not 'fun' anymore) but he has great restraint with us even when he's uncomfortable and I don't believe he'd be the sort to just snap without some underlying health problems.
 

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It's funny to me how many on the forum seem to be like "oh, that's just normal for the breed" and accept it.
Almost a different topic, but my gosh does it bug me when people accept truly hair-trigger aggressive or defensive responses from any dog or breed as "normal" and somehow not to be improved upon. If that's the vibe you got from that forum, I can see why it might have shaken you.
 

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Well, and beyond that @Liminal, but they seemed to have one Cocker that had major issues, were told/assumed it was normal for the breed, accepted it, then went out and got another Cocker with issues, and the cycle repeats indefinitely.

I mean, it's their right to have whatever dog they want and (I suppose) to support whatever breeding practices they want -- though I think most were 'well bred' show or working dogs -- but I can't fathom living in fear of your dog. It's one thing to get a dog and stand by him due to responsibility, but to go out and happily get into the exact same situation seems like madness to me.

But, I stopped poking around there :) It's not terribly active anymore anyway and I didn't like the vibe - though there were some people who truly did love Cockers and had some amazing dogs. I think I'll just count myself lucky that, despite his issues, my dog is not nearly as severe as those mentioned *knock on wood*.
 
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