It’s unusual, puzzling behaviour.

9-month-old Cocker Spaniel Jack only behaves like this when either the man or one of the adult sons is present.

A loving dog when the lady is alone with him

When she walks into the room and the man is there, he flies at her growling, jumps at her and sometimes bites her. He never does this with the men. For them he has only, to quote the lady, ‘kisses and cuddles’.

Understandably upset, she feels Jack doesn’t love or even like her.

That won’t be the case. Jack has a problem.

He’s so lovely with the lady when he’s alone with her – which is much of the time.

When alone, she can pick him up and cuddle him. If the man is about he would go for her.

It’s not uncommon for the dog to be very attached to one person, but this is a bit different.

Why the puzzling behaviour?

The question is, does he guard the man, or does he feel the lady, in some way, is a resource belonging to him? He will hump her and nobody else – a sure sign of stress. She does act a bit like his handmaiden; she’s the one who does nearly everything for him. He seems to want control of her movements when the man is about. We do know that dogs experience jealousy.

Guarding the man (and their two adult sons when they are there)? I think not. Is it likely that a young dog would guard three adult men from a lady? Moreover, they feel that if I, a stranger, were to go up to the man, Jack wouldn’t mind at all.

It’s all to do with the lady – with the man unwittingly being party to it.

We look at the puzzling behaviour from the point of view that Jack is troubled in some way and he needs help.

One example of his puzzling behaviour is that when the lady takes him out and the man is at home, she can’t take his lead off afterwards. Wildly excited, Jack runs straight to her husband and will now go for the lady if she intervenes.

The very fact the man then takes the lead off and fusses Jack shows how he’s a party to it.

Instead, I suggest he gets up, walks out and shuts the door, letting the lady remove the lead.

The lady calls him. Jack looks to the man instead.

When the lady calls Jack to her, if the man is there he looks at him instead and ignores the lady. I suggest the man looks away. Again, if that doesn’t work, he should walk out.

Only the man can change all this.

The behaviour towards the lady doesn’t happen outside, only in the house – or when he’s trapped on lead and the man is there.

The man gives him freedom in the garden and on walks. She daren’t – the garden isn’t secure and he may not come back to her when out. He’s always tied to her.

The actual cause may not affect what they do about it.

Whatever is the cause of the puzzling behaviour what they should now do about it will be the same.

A typical scenario is when the lady enters the room and Jack is, as usual, on floor by the man.

What should they do when he flies at her as she approaches, jumping up, growling and grabbing her?

They need a joint effort.

Instead of pushing him down and saying NO, they will now teach him what they do want.

Teaching Jack what to do

This will involve the lady calling Jack to her as she enters the room. The man should look the other way – detach himself. She can drop food away from herself as she walks towards the man. She could teach Jack to sit in front of her as she herself sits down beside her husband (Jacks doesn’t go on the chairs).

If he is still agitated, she should have something to hand for him to chew.

If he still jumps at her, the man should get up straight away and leave the room.

They will make what they do want rewarding and what they don’t want unrewarding.

Whether the puzzling behaviour is due to guarding the man or possessiveness over the lady – or something else altogether, the man should no longer be party to it.

A more fulfilled life

Jack will now work for his food in order to give him more enrichment. The lady will teach him things that use his brain and to do things for her. If she behaves like his handmaiden, he will treat her like one. He needs a daily outing and not just two or three times a week – and on a long line for maximum freedom.

He’s under-stimulated and under-worked.

I suspect he’s filling that gap by having created himself a job to do.

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