When the man invades his personal space he bites.
It must be very hurtful when your dog picks on you – the dog that you love. This is the case with Cocker Spaniel mix, Freddie and his gentleman owner.
When the man approaches his space to touch him, he bites him.
The man however won’t stop trying.
The dog guards his own personal space
He guards his space particularly from the man. If he approaches him through a doorway, he goes for him. The lady was sitting on the floor cuddling him and the poor man leaned forward and put his hand out to touch him. He bit him.
He bites when the man tries to get his collar on or off. The lady can do these things with no trouble at all.
Freddie particularly doesn’t like the man approaching his bed. He flies at him.
He is resource guarding in a way – guarding his own personal space. Resource guarders can be selective who they guard things or themselves from.
It seems that every incident has involved someone approaching his space in some way, nearly always the man. The man doesn’t even have to touch him for Freddie to just fly at him.
It’s worst of all if the dog is beside or in front of the lady, so he may also be guarding space around her as a resource too.
Play hard to get
Freddie has never bitten the man when he himself has chosen to go to him. He then, head endearingly on the man’s knee, will plead, ‘touch me!’ (which the man gratefully does!).
My advice to the gentleman is to make himself more valuable. Instead of Freddie controlling his own space but invading the man’s when he feels like it, he should instead become keen to come to the man when invited.
This the man can do by playing hard to get. When the dog comes to him and ‘gives him permission’ to touch him, to resist!
Instead of feeding all his food in a bowl, the man will use kibble to make himself more relevant to Freddie. The only way the dog will get some of his day’s quota will be by pleasing the man! I know this will be hard but it will be worth it in the end.
Meanwhile, to resist touching him however much he pesters for a fuss. That can come later, very gradually, and only when the dog is invited.
It’s very likely Freddie needs more to amuse himself. There could provide more variety to his life, including freedom on walks to explore and to do Cocker Spaniel things. The currently have him on a tight half-check collar and shortish lead. They dare not let him off.
They will now get him a harness to which they can attach a long line.
Introducing the harness
Introducing the harness will be a challenge as, like with the collar, it will involve invading his space and touching him.
They will introduce it in such a way that he welcomes it. He will learn to like it placed beside him and over his back. He will gradually put his own head through – for food. (The lady can start this and the man can take over later).
At present when they want him to do something, they give him food afterwards to say good boy. They should give him the food during the process so that he pairs each stage of putting the harness on with something nice. This builds up positive associations. How to put on a harness.
Keeping his general arousal/stress levels as low as possible – difficult with a Cocker – along with more general enrichment will help him to be less explosive.
The man in particular should either have pots of food around the place or food in his pocket.
As Freddie is particularly sensitive to having his collar and lead put on and removed, I advise getting his neck checked for pain at the vet and not to use the collar for walking anymore. I gave him a careful and gentle touch around the neck and I felt him momentarily freeze. I took it as a warning and stopped – it could have been discomfort.