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Hello, I am new and am hoping that someone has some advice. Maggie is the sweetest most loving Springer Spaniel you have ever met. However, she is afraid of everything!! Then about 3 months ago she became aggressive during her heat cycle. She just seemed grumpy, she was growling at her older sister and being very possessive. Previous to that there had been some aggression over food but we were working on that.
It was about the middle of May. All of the sudden she bit me when I went to pick up a piece of food off the floor that she hadn't eaten. She did quite a number on my hand but it healed. Previous to that she had not bitten, only growled but sometimes it was quite hostile.
We immediately took her to the vet but he wouldn't even come near her, said she looked perfectly healthy. We then contacted a trainer and he has been wonderful. He has taught us that she was full of anxiety and the fear was making her aggressive. He taught us to be better leaders and it has had a huge impact. Things were going very well but then all of the sudden last night there was another attack. It was unprovoked. She growled fiercely at me and when my Husband tried to grab her slip leash she bit his hand. I read some forums on here about having her thyroid checked and our trainer is meeting us at the vets tomorrow to have blood work done. I am so scared that it might be this rare springer rage that I've heard about. Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions or similar stories with solutions perhaps?
 

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Definitely get a full vet workup with a thyroid panel.

A lot of this sounds like resource guarding, can you describe any situation where she might otherwise act afraid? Do you know why your trainer came to that conclusion?

I'm also curious as to what you mean by "he taught us to be better leaders." What exactly does that entail? What training methods have you been using?
 

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Definitely get a full vet workup with a thyroid panel.

A lot of this sounds like resource guarding, can you describe any situation where she might otherwise act afraid? Do you know why your trainer came to that conclusion?

I'm also curious as to what you mean by "he taught us to be better leaders." What exactly does that entail? What training methods have you been using?
Thanks for your note.

Yes to the resource guarding - guarding her food, the bed, the sofa and also instances of guarding me from our other older springer. But, it only happens sporadically. We could duplicate the exact situation tonight and it would be fine. That's the part we don't understand - it's random.

We've all concluded that she is afraid simply by her behavior. Not all of it aggressive. Hiding under the bed, under the table, running away, etc. She's afraid of loud noises, the vacuum, a saw. The doorbell scares her, a ball cap scares her. Our trainer has taught us to be the 'boss' so to speak. She enters the room after us, goes out the door after we do, on command. Gets invited onto the bed or sofa. This way when she is unsure of something, she looks to us for direction. It works for the anxiety.
 

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Okay, so here is my take. I apologize in advance if it seems a bit jumbled :D

- It could be medical in nature but it is much more likely to be due to a thyroid issue or some other hormonal problem than "springer rage". Rage syndrome is constantly debated and most think it's based in a neurological issue BUT the incidents of rage are totally random. Most dogs, and it sounds like yours is included, have a trigger.

- A lot of dogs become bitchy (for lack of a better word :)) during their heat cycle. It's a hormonal thing.

- Her fear sounds pretty intense, I might suggest approaching your vet or a vet behaviorist about anti-anxiety medication.

- The training exercises you mentioned sound pretty harmless but they may or may not really work either. I can get inviting on the bed if you're concerned about resource guarding, but I really don't think dogs understand that you are more in charge just because you walk through a door first. It's great to prevent door dashing, but I don't think it will really have the intended effect. My main concern is if there is anything going on that might instill more fear in her, even if you're not aware. Obviously you're not hitting her or outright yelling at her (I hope) but if you're doing other things she might find threatening (pulling her off of a bed or getting in her space to remove her, for example) in can definitely increase anxiety/fear.

- Resource guarding and just generally being insecure sound like the main issues here. Resource guarding isn't always consistent - 9/10 times she might be fine with you touching her food bowl, but one day she's just extra hungry or really doesn't want to be bothered. There are definitely exercises you can do to try and mediate this - a big one is learning to read her body language so that when she's uncomfortable you can back off before she feels the need to escalate to a bite.
 

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Okay, so here is my take. I apologize in advance if it seems a bit jumbled :D

- It could be medical in nature but it is much more likely to be due to a thyroid issue or some other hormonal problem than "springer rage". Rage syndrome is constantly debated and most think it's based in a neurological issue BUT the incidents of rage are totally random. Most dogs, and it sounds like yours is included, have a trigger.

- A lot of dogs become bitchy (for lack of a better word :)) during their heat cycle. It's a hormonal thing.

- Her fear sounds pretty intense, I might suggest approaching your vet or a vet behaviorist about anti-anxiety medication.

- The training exercises you mentioned sound pretty harmless but they may or may not really work either. I can get inviting on the bed if you're concerned about resource guarding, but I really don't think dogs understand that you are more in charge just because you walk through a door first. It's great to prevent door dashing, but I don't think it will really have the intended effect. My main concern is if there is anything going on that might instill more fear in her, even if you're not aware. Obviously you're not hitting her or outright yelling at her (I hope) but if you're doing other things she might find threatening (pulling her off of a bed or getting in her space to remove her, for example) in can definitely increase anxiety/fear.

- Resource guarding and just generally being insecure sound like the main issues here. Resource guarding isn't always consistent - 9/10 times she might be fine with you touching her food bowl, but one day she's just extra hungry or really doesn't want to be bothered. There are definitely exercises you can do to try and mediate this - a big one is learning to read her body language so that when she's uncomfortable you can back off before she feels the need to escalate to a bite.
Thanks for your note, I appreciate your input. We'll have test results in a week, so we'll see on that.
We do watch for triggers and she lives with her slip leash on for that reason, so, hopefully we can correct and difuse a situation. I agree with what you are saying about the resource guarding and I think the insecurity causes the resource guarding. Do you know what things we can try to help with resource guarding?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Hello, I am new and am hoping that someone has some advice. Maggie is the sweetest most loving Springer Spaniel you have ever met. However, she is afraid of everything!! Then about 3 months ago she became aggressive during her heat cycle. She just seemed grumpy, she was growling at her older sister and being very possessive. Previous to that there had been some aggression over food but we were working on that.
It was about the middle of May. All of the sudden she bit me when I went to pick up a piece of food off the floor that she hadn't eaten. She did quite a number on my hand but it healed. Previous to that she had not bitten, only growled but sometimes it was quite hostile.
We immediately took her to the vet but he wouldn't even come near her, said she looked perfectly healthy. We then contacted a trainer and he has been wonderful. He has taught us that she was full of anxiety and the fear was making her aggressive. He taught us to be better leaders and it has had a huge impact. Things were going very well but then all of the sudden last night there was another attack. It was unprovoked. She growled fiercely at me and when my Husband tried to grab her slip leash she bit his hand. I read some forums on here about having her thyroid checked and our trainer is meeting us at the vets tomorrow to have blood work done. I am so scared that it might be this rare springer rage that I've heard about. Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions or similar stories with solutions perhaps?
Update on this, all of the medical tests came back fine. I am also working with a Lady from Springer Rescue and she sent the test results off to various people for review and they didn't find anything wrong either.
We are now working on getting her spayed to see if this will solve the issue.
Just this past weekend she was growling at her sister a lot, but I was always on guard and it didn't go further than growling. But, at one point over the weekend she was also laying in bed with her sister, like they used to do all the time before the aggression started. It is so perplexing!
I sent an email out to 6 behaviorists that I found online and not one responded. I am grasping at straws to try to figure this out because both my Husband and I love her so much, she is such a joy in our life...but the aggressive issues are trying and we feel like we have to be on guard 24/7, and that is really stressful and we're finding it's not good for our health.
If anyone has any suggestions it would really be appreciated. Thank you
 

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My dog is a mutt, poodle mix, and has some similar issues. He resource guards (sometimes), protects me, and is anxious. I can calm him down sometimes with my voice. I am worried he is getting aggressive

He has been worse. he used to bark and lunge at other dogs. Now, he just stares at them. I try to cross the street when we see other dogs on walks. I would praise him for not reacting and did not get close enough to upset him.

I had a behaviorist come out and he socialized him with his dogs and told us some dog psychology. He left and I am unsure what to do. I e-mailed him but I think I should call. Maybe you could call some of those behaviorists you e-mailed.

He told us some similar things. We are holding him closer at a heel. On a loose leash, he likes to lead. He said to keep him off the bed and from going under the bed, but I have not figured out how to do that.
 

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I question the slip lead as a safety tool instead of something like a harness.

If the slip lead closes down on her throat when she gets triggered there is a good chance it will increase the fear response as she is essentially leaning that the scary thing is going to choke her. In a superstitious dog this could lead to an offense is the best form of defense strategy. So it works for a while because it snaps her out of it but then she starts anticipating it and appears to have sudden aggressive incidents without triggers.

That's just one possible scenario though.
 

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Learn how to read your dog's body language BEFORE she escalates to a bite!!

There are definitely exercises you can do to try and mediate this - a big one is learning to read her body language so that when she's uncomfortable you can back off before she feels the need to escalate to a bite.
Like @PoppyKenna said, knowing how to read your dog's body language is SUPER IMPORTANT in reducing anxiety and thus preventing aggression!! Geez if I didn't take time to really learn and know how to read my shy/fearful/cautious Gracie dog's body language she may not be around right now. Seriously.

We watch Gracie's body language all the time, esp when doing anything mildly stressful, such as hose/water training, combing, dealing with the new pup, having the cat hiss at her, meeting any new dog, going to the vet, thunder, etc....Even when she lets herself get in a new vulnerable position for petting, I take note of her body language.

Sometimes the signs are obvious that Gracie is beginning to stress; her body freezes, her back leg shakes, whale eye (whites of eyes show), she looks away, starts to back out of harness/collar, starts looking "busy' by sniffing grass, bushes, etc.

But sometimes the signs are very subtle
. Like I ask her if I can do "combies" with her, meaning comb her fur. She is very sensitive to this at times. I show her the comb first for consent, no surprises. Then she will sit in my lap facing outward (her thing) and I pet her head (to distract her, since she is comfortable with this) while running comb gently through her fur on her body. But....after a few moments, she starts worrying about the comb, and shifts in my lap. Very subtle body language, but to me, that means, "Mom, I may need a break from this stress soon." If I don't respect this stress signal and keep going on and on, I may not be happy with the outcome, and I feel that it would be my fault for not listening to her stress signals. I call it "operator error"...

My goal is to always keep Gracie under threshold and thus prevent any aggressive stress response.

Anyone can study dog body language online for free.

Every dog is different. Learn YOUR particular dog's body language and signals, and you will find yourself not only seeing when your dog is becoming stressed, but you will be able to prevent many aggressive escalations!!
 

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Read my posts about Stress Stacking..could help you guys

We've all concluded that she is afraid simply by her behavior. Not all of it aggressive. Hiding under the bed, under the table, running away, etc. She's afraid of loud noises, the vacuum, a saw. The doorbell scares her, a ball cap scares her.
I just today wrote 2 posts about Stress Stacking that may help you and your dog since she is anxious about a lot of things.

Here is the title of my posts and they are dated today, Sept 5, 2018.

Stress Stacking -Part 1
Stress Stacking -Part 2

Maybe read them if you get a chance?
 
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