Jarvis Cocker – don’t you love it! 

Jarvis is a 17-month-old working Cocker Spaniel. His need for constant action is giving his young gentleman owner some trouble.

To quote the young man:

‘He has no fear, took a sock off my nephews foot and swallowed it. Stealing food from table, walking on dining table, barking at people when out for walks and running up to them. Aggressive /bites when you try and take certain items off of him’.

His behaviour has a function – for him. 

About six weeks ago the young man moved in with his parents and sister whilst in the process of moving house. Since then Jarvis’ behaviour and need for action has got worse.

It’s so obvious that arousal and excitement is the cause. Often the more people there are to react with, the more unruly and excited a young dog can become.

The trouble grows as the day wears on. As they prepare food in the kitchen, he’s jumping at the sides. He steals food from the table while they are eating. ‘No’ is an invitation to do it again or he may become defiant.


The most important thing here is to make this no longer possible.

When man and dog move into their new house shortly, a gate or a pen for Jarvis is a must. He should no longer be able to get to the table while people are eating. However, shutting him behind a barrier is not punishment. Whilst shut behind something he can have his own tea – in a Kong maybe, so that it takes time to eat.

Over time the man can teach him the behaviour he does want by rewarding and reinforcing him for sitting quietly.

Stealing things always provides Jarvis with action.

He takes stuff from all over the house then hides somewhere and guards it, getting cross if they try to take it off him. The man approaches in a challenging kind of way.

Ideally he could ignore it, but if the item is valuable or dangerous he should get it off him with as little drama and attention as possible. The more the dog thinks he wants it, the more fun he’s having!

Scattering some food around the place would probably work, then to thank him and walk away. There will no longer be confrontation. 

Meanwhile he will work hard on exchange and ‘give’.

Less excitement and more enrichment

We looked through each of Jarvis’ unwanted ‘action’ behaviours. Most of it boils down to cutting down the excitement and giving him more enriching and calming things to do – with his brain and his mouth. Walks will be sniffs and mooches with some off-lead running, not chasing balls.

Generally cutting out the scolding and using a lot more encouragement and reward should make a big difference to Jarvis’ need to create his own action.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help