Sussex Spaniel has taken to growling when they want him to do something he himself doesn't want to doI went to see gorgeous Bertie four years ago when he was just a year old, before I started writing up my ‘stories’. He is an unusual breed – a Sussex Spaniel.  The majority of his issues which included separation anxiety and problems on walks were resolved – he’s now a pleasure to walk and great with other dogs – but his people have relaxed the rules, most particularly around food and guard duty.  As usually happens in these cases there is some sort of fallout – the dog regresses.

Bertie was rather mouthy back then, but more recently he has taken to growling when they want him to do something he himself doesn’t want to do. He may bark then use his mouth if someone comes through the gate when he is in the garden. Things came to a head a few days ago when he bit the doggy daycare lady who looks after him three days a week – she has two young children and has refused to take him any more.

It is a shame that she put Bertie into the situation at all. She left human food – packed lunch – on the floor, and Bertie helped himself! She then went to take the food out of his mouth and he bit her.

Knowing he has these tendencies, people should be warned not to leave food about just in case, and if  it gets as far as him mouth then it’s too late – it is their fault after all. His people have continued to work at exchange and he’s usually very good at giving things up now and he shows no possessiveness around his own food.

Bertie also gets cross if he’s settled somewhere and if for instance they want him to go outside before bed time or to get out of the car.  If he ignores their requests they man-handle him – a sure way to make a determined dog defiant.  I showed them how to get him into a willing state of mind with a bit of subterfuge! We worked on some clicker training and he was brilliant (so was the man!). They will now arouse him by engaging him in something interactive that he likes to do before asking him to go somewhere – and he will learn that there is always a ‘thank you’ reward at the end. There has to be something in it for Bertie after all. Even something as simple as asking for eye contact or to touch a hand before getting him out of the car will I’m sure do the trick.

This time the changes need to be observed for the rest of his life and not just until things seem to have got better.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out here. Finding instructions on the internet or TV can do more harm than good sometimes. Every dog is different and every situation is different. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)