Confident Cocker SpanielThe main reason a dog may snap is because of fear – he feels threatened in some way. [divider type=”white”]

A very confident young dog

Sometimes a dog may snap because a resource he regards as his is being threatened. In the case of Lewis, a beautiful ten-month-old golden Cocker Spaniel, it’s certainly not due to fear.

Lewis is scared of nothing.

He is supremely confident, friendly with everybody and all dogs – and his recall when out is excellent when a ball is involved! In most ways he is a joy to have.[divider type=”white”]

He’s snapped at his lady owner

What’s upset them is that Lewis has snapped at his lady owner several times. Each time it’s because she has tried to move him. Sometimes, due to circumstances, he has had to share their sleeping space¬† and it’s possible the confident dog regards this space as his resource.

He also isn’t keen on being brushed. Fortunately he hasn’t yet actually bitten.

He believes it’s quite OK for him to invade their space when he feels like it, but not so good if they invade his uninvited. He can be very excitable and quite demanding for attention. Clever Cocker Spaniels can be very creative and very persistent at finding ways to get under our skin!!

The concerning thing is that Lewis doesn’t give a noticeable warning before he snaps. He may go still and he may curl his lip, but because it’s usually dark this goes unnoticed. There is no growling.

As I’ve said before, growling is actually a good thing. The dog is telling us how he feels and it’s for us then to work out why and to do something about that. It is much more difficult if the dog acts impulsively and lacks this inhibition.[divider type=”white”]

Removing opportunity

The two issues that need dealing with are ‘opportunity’ and his relationship with his owners.

It’s fairly simple to ensure Lewis always sleeps in his own space when away from home. Because they are afraid he may snap, they are afraid to manhandle him in any way. They are relying on bribing and enticing him to give things up or to go somewhere. This gives a defiant teenage dog plenty of scope to play them up and to take control!

They will work at gaining his cooperation and respect using rewards relevant to Lewis and getting him to work things out for himself: ‘If I do this, so and so will happen, if I don’t do that, so and so won’t happen’.

They may need to be imaginative and sometimes outwit their confident dog also! They themselves need to be more relevant to Lewis, in that when they do ask him to do something, to give something to them or call him to them, he is eager to oblige.

In Lewis’ case, this quote from Jordan Rothman is especially relevant: To control your dog, control what motivates your dog: food, toys, belly rubs, attention, access to other dogs etc.’