Barley is a 15-month-old Cocker Spaniel. He’s a friendly, loving dog much of the time.

There are two behaviours, maybe three, that are probably variations of the same thing.

Distance guarding of an item

This is the first: The lady described how he has left an item within his sight but not too close to him. Something he has either already chewed or held.

The most recent was a carrot.

Often they aren’t aware of the distance guarding and that he’s got his eye on something.

Then, when someone approaches, he rushes them, growling.

Distance guarding of a person

The second behaviour is when he’s in his bed or lying some distance away from a person. If they suddenly move he will do the same thing. He rushes at them, growling. He may use his mouth too.

He seems to have a need to control the item or the person.

I sense that he feels very much the same about a person getting up as he does if someone were to approach the carrot.

Walking away from him

A third variation of probably the same thing when he is sitting beside someone. If they get up to walk away and out of the room he will, again, rush them and growl.

Barley is fine if someone appears in a doorway and walks into the room. It’s when they’ve already been sitting and want to get up, Barley reacts.

The longer the item, human or otherwise, is there the more his tension builds up.

Poor Barley can’t feel comfortable being on tenterhooks, distance guarding.

The role of arousal

He’s unsurprisingly worst when aroused, so lowering arousal levels is important. Giving him calming things to do like chewing is a bit more tricky. Chew items may be the things he puts somewhere, and watches.

Breaking the pattern

First they need to work on indoor recall. If they call him, once, he should come. Coming needs to be rewarding for him. 

So, if someone wants to get up to go to the kitchen for example – it’s possible Barley is eyeing an item somewhere. They will call him over. Then reward him. Now they can go together into the kitchen.

If a person wants to get up when Barley is at a distance. They themselves may be the ‘item’. They should always call him to them before they move.

If he’s lying beside someone who wants to stand up and walk away, they can get his attention. Then call him to walk with them (for food).

Retrieving an item from Barley’s distance guarding

Now the question is how to retrieve an item he’s distance guarding. Chirag Patel’s counting game would be good.

Keep on counting and dropping, retrieve the object, continue with the game.

This behaviour has to have a function for Barley. In some way he’s fulfilling a need in himself. Part will be genetic, I’m sure. Most likely when his stress levels have risen, it’s his own particular method of ‘venting’.

I suggest walks are less for training and more for doing his own thing – wearing a comfortable harness. This is a great way of providing fulfilment as is scatter feeding and working for his food.

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