I was called out because, as the people interpretted it, three-year-old Blue Roan Cocker Flo was ‘aggressive to puppy Wilson because he wouldn’t leave her alone and kept wanting to play with her’.
The situation was different to what I expected. Dear little 4 1/2 month Wilson was frequently going to Flo in a polite, appeasing ‘I want to be friends with you’ sort of way, making himself low and licking her face. Every time he does this, Flo growls. Flo simply seems not to want her personal space invaded or to be interfered with by Wilson, who simply aches to interact with her.
As time went on I gradually got more clues. Flo is a bit like this with people also.
She gets everything she wants on demand. She paws insistently. ‘What do you want now, Flo?’ and they cast about seeing how they can satisfy her. She won’t eat her food when given it, only when later its produced as a result of the pawing. Unless slightly intimidated by a loud command, she doesn’t very readily do anything that is asked of her; she has learnt that interaction is under her own terms. She can be nervous which is hardly surprising.
Flo’s life has changed a lot since the arrival of Wilson a couple of months ago. Her food no longer can be left down all the time, she isn’t hand fed any more, Wilson has taken over her bed and her walks have to include a playful puppy. She can’t now even go outside to toilet in peace (this can be rectifed straight away).[divider type=”white”]
Growls at the puppy
To add to the problem, they have been so keen for the two to get on that they have been trying to force her to accept Wilson. She is scolded for growling and Wilson is told off for pestering her. They have even used a water spray. The gentleman is jovial and quite noisy, and when he shouts ‘leave it’ at the puppy or ‘Oi, that’s enough’ or ‘bed’ to Flo, he doesn’t mean to intimidate them but he realises that he does. Just as with dogs’ behaviour we need to take breed characteristics into consideration, we need to take into consideration human personalities also and work with them! I found both dogs reacted instantly to a soft request followed by reward.
I have advised keeping the two dogs apart for now unless closely supervised, both indoors and in the garden, reinforcing and marking all good interaction. Wilson being calm near Flo or lying down quietly by her deserves a silent food reward. Flo, quiet when Winston aproaches her, deserves a silent food reward. No scolding. If Flo’s not happy, Winston can be called away and given something else to do. As she becomes more tolerant they can spend more time together. Slowly slowly catchee monkey!
Flo needs the security of consistent rules and boundaries and relief from the burden of decision-making. Another saying: ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’. She should then relax and open up to Winston who really is a very self-controlled puppy.
The more Flo has been forced, the more defensive she has understandably become. Her growling is merely saying, ‘please keep away, I don’t want your attention’. How else can she convey this? We expect our dogs, in silence, to put up with so much more than we would tolerate ourselves. Ignored or scolded for trying to be understood, it’s quite surprising in the circumstances that Flo has remained so patient.
It’s not the growling itself that needs dealing with – but the cause of the growling.
If Flo is ‘helped’ through this and it is treated sensitively and given time, I am sure the two will end up the best of friends.