Billy guards his personal space – mostly from the young girl.

It’s hurtful when he growls at her. She does a lot of the work of looking after him and training him. They have a great bond.

Billy is a friendly and affectionate 8-month old Show Cocker Spaniel but with this one unwanted trait.

He growls when approached.

Most specifically he growls in the hallway where he likes to lie on the front door mat. He has ‘control’ of several doors that lead into the hallway, as well as the stairs.

It is getting worse, especially when the eleven-year-old girl comes downstairs.

The growls also happen in the evening if has chosen to lie on the sofa.

He seldom growls during the day. The behaviour is more likely in the evening when, after the built-up excitement and stresses of the day, Billy settles down to sleep.

The humans must change what they do

Guarding behaviour is so common in Cocker Spaniels that there has to be a genetic element. One can’t get eliminate something that’s in his genes – it is part of him. Therefore, it’s the humans who must change their approach.

If they react differently and teach him the behaviour they DO want, soon he will feel no need for the growls, to guard his personal space.

Very briefly, these are the angles we covered. (The details are specific to the dog, so I would strongly advise anyone with a dog showing aggressive behaviours of any kind to get qualified help).

Firstly, they will avoid too much build-up of arousal during the day by firing him up unnecessarily and by giving his brain, nose and jaws more to do.

Secondly, management.

I suggest they gate the hallway to stop him commandeering the area in the evening. He may guard his space with growls when lying on the sofa, but it will be easier to deal with and the daughter will be able to come downstairs freely.

Thirdly, the young girl in particular will work at frequently calling him to her in the house at other times – and always rewarding him.

He’s lying down with ‘that look’. Now what?

Immediately and before he growls, when the girl or anyone else enters a room and sees him lying somewhere, watching them as he does, they will call him to them.

Reward! It has to be worth his while to come.

The thing they must NOT do if he growls again is to scold him. To many this is counter-intuitive.

Scolding him won’t change how he feels for the better. The opposite in fact. Ultimately saying NO can only make him worse to the extent that he may, in future, cut out the growls and bite instead.

This is a win win. Billy will no longer feel he needs to be rehearsing his growls. The family can move about freely. Everyone is happy.

It’s very likely that, without further rehearsal, the behaviour will stop altogether in time unless maybe Billy has been particularly aroused or upset by something.

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