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Cocker Spaniel, Resource Guarding and Aggression When Woken Up

We’ve had the first session with Harry the working cocker spaniel.

Harry has got a fairly weird issue for anyone that doesn’t have a spaniel - basically, if he falls asleep and someone moves, he growls, he sometimes runs to grab a toy to guard and he can snap at people as well as bite them.

This is a fairly common behaviour for working cockers, I’ve seen quite a lot of this already. It is a bit of resource guarding and it’s something called a startle reflex, basically, they’re fast asleep, they wake up very quickly, they have a kind of rush of anxiety and then they do what they do best and grab something to guard.

For this, we had to be careful to wake him up fairly slowly, to begin with. Then we will teach a word that wakes him up and he automatically goes to do something else, ie goes to the kitchen where he’s going to get a treat. Once he understands that, we then add some small movement first so movement predicts the cue and then he gets the treat. So first they move their foot, say the cue, Harry goes to the kitchen, gets a treat without any issues there and then builds on that until they can stand up, say the cue, he goes to the kitchen and gets the treat. What will start happening is as soon as they start moving, he will go off to the kitchen and get a treat even if he has been woken up or started awake. He’s got that alternative behaviour there that is a lot more desirable.

Previously they’ve had sessions with a couple of other trainers who worked on things like pulling on the lead and some behaviours outside so we’ll be taking over them as well as helping them with some of those next time.

Harry did well in the session, he’s massive food motivated which is going to go in his favour and he will do really well with his training, I can’t see any issues that we’re going to have with him. So well done Harry, well done to his owners for keep trying with him and for being on the third trainer, well done!

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