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Pippa is a beautiful year-old Working Cocker Spaniel. She is affectionate and clever.

The teenage daughter adores her – and I’m sure the feeling is mutual. However, a human’s way of showing affection isn’t necessarily the same as a dog’s. Dogs don’t do hugging for a start – unless one counts humping.

Just as we don’t always feel like being touched and fussed, so it is for many dogs. To make her feelings quite clear to the girl who doesn’t stop otherwise, Pippa will now snap.

A snap works!

The young dog undoubtedly has found a snap is the only way to get her to back off.

She will have tried, I’m sure, all the usual signals that another dog would recognise. She probably will have looked away, licked her lips. She may have gone still and perhaps shown the white of her eyes or her teeth.

She has growled. This may have brought the very opposite response to what was needed. If the growl is ignored or even chastised, what comes next?

Snap! She goes to bite but doesn’t actually make contact. This at last works.

Pippa is adolescent and has a mind of her own. She doesn’t want cuddling and fuss imposed upon her when she’s either in her bed or sleeping somewhere. 

Let sleeping dogs lie

Now the seventeen-year-old girl will hang back and resist the temptation of going into the beautiful dog’s space to touch or hug her. She can talk gently to her – but not touch her.

If Pippa rolls over onto her back as she sometimes does, it’s not safe to assume she is asking for a belly rub. Very likely it’s the opposite – ‘please leave me alone’. See this.

When the girl wants to fuss Pippa, she should call her over to her. I’m sure that Pippa, a typically alert and energetic Working Cocker ready for anything that looks like action, will respond by jumping up and going to her.

The dog will now enjoy the fuss, knowing she can walk away when she has had enough.


The girl will also try a ‘consent test’ now and then – but not when the dog is in bed or asleep. This is like asking her ‘would you like a cuddle?’ She will cuddle or stroke Pippa very briefly, then stop. What will Pippa do?

She will either lean in if she wants more, she will look away or walk off if she’s not interested. She will probably stand still if indifferent. If you know what you are looking for, it’s perfectly clear.

Pippa should be allowed choice. A snap will no longer be necessary.

One more thing. Just sometimes when Pippa actively seeks the girl’s attention, the girl should play a little harder to get! What isn’t too readily available we value more, don’t we.

When Pippa is allowed a say in the matter, I’m sure the situation will change and she will no long feel the need to snap.

Just over one week later: ‘Thank you, Theo, for such sensible and thoughtful advice! We were so worried when Pippa started snapping at our daughter, but having followed all your advice, she’s a much happier dog! She’s not snapped once and we feel much more confident when around her. The trust is restored and out happy pup is back!’
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