Blue road Cocker Spaniel sitting for his photoBlue chases shadows and reflections. If a large bird flies over it’s not the bird he’s interested in but the shadow it casts. It is the same with cars when they are out on a sunny day. In fact, sunny days can be a bit of a nightmare because there are shadows and reflections everywhere.

The couple already have put an awning over their kitchen window and fitted a new blind to keep Blue as chase-free as possible indoors, but outside, particularly when he’s already a bit excited at the prospect of a walk, he is fixating as soon as he’s out of the door.

When away from shadows Blue appears almost unnaturally calm for an eleven month old working Cocker Spaniel. He is biddable, very friendly, there is gentle jumping up but he settles easily. He appears in to be relaxed.

There are some strange inconsistencies in his behaviour. Blue never barks. He doesn’t react when mail comes through the door and he doesn’t bark when someone knocks. You would expect a dog who is so reactive to everything he sees, especially things that move, to be reactive to sounds also. I observed that he only really responded if the sound was loud – the lady laughed which made him excited and the man blew a whistle which brought Blue running to him.

Blue Roan Cocker lying on his tummyIs this because he is naturally placid and calm indoors and away from shadows, or is it because sounds are muffled to his ears. Dogs that don’t hear naturally compensate with their vision and visa versa just as we do. I suggested it would be a good idea to get his hearing checked at the vet to see if he has any degree of deafness. It could explain the total lack of barking too – a very non-Cocker thing!

Until a couple of months ago when the couple adopted him, Blue lived in a flat in London. The young lady worked all day so he may well have spent hours alone. It is just possible – and this is guesswork – that being in a flat it was important that he should not bark and maybe he was fitted with some sort of punishing anti-bark collar. A very intelligent young working dog with a high prey/chase drive, left alone all day, deprived of expressing himself vocally, could well resort to focussing on anything that moves. There could well now be an element of learned behaviour to his obsessing – a habit. In no other way does he act like a ‘disturbed’ dog.

I watched when Blue was let out of the house into the garden. He came alive. He tore around sometimes chasing anything moving but generally letting off steam. Very similar to how my own Cocker Spaniel behaves.

The lady always plays ball with him when they are out and he’s fairly fixated on that also. I suggested no more ball play as this merely tunes up his prey drive and afterwards he is even more focussed on moving shadows and reflections. It looks like a ball quietly just given to him to carry may work as a distraction when he’s becoming bothered. We have one or two other ideas of things he can do – calming activities that are incompatible with chasing shadows.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have planned for Blue, which is why I don’t go into exact detail details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).