Watson is a stunning Show Cocker Spaniel, seventeen months old. He’s fun, clever and, mostly, cuddly.

But Watson bites when woken suddenly.

Also on a couple of occasions he has bitten both young adults in the face.

Each time they were messing about and had got him over-excited. He’d had enough and they simply pushed him too far.

On the other occasions that he has bitten, it’s when he’s been woken suddenly.

My belief is that this is an instinctive survival mechanism and common in a lot of dogs. Watson doesn’t (can’t) think first, which makes it so much harder to deal with than most aggressive reactions.

Instinctive reaction

Any aggressive reaction is a symptom of something else that has caused it – something which usually can be worked on. An automatic response is more tricky.

The question is, can we change his automatic response to attack when woken suddenly?

His biting the young adult kids gives us a clue to one aspect of this. It’s very likely that the more aroused and stressed he inside when he is asleep, the the more extreme his reaction if woken suddenly.

Let sleeping dogs lie

They will no longer disturb him while he is asleep – but it’s easy to forget oneself.

The first incident happened some months ago when Watson was sleeping on the floor by the sofa. The lady put a foot down and happened to touch him.

Wilson immediately attacked and bit her foot. I say ‘attacked’ due to the accompanying noise he makes.

The first thing they will all do is to find ways not to over-excite him, most particularly the youngsters. There are ways to help him chill.

This ensure that his mental state as stable as possible.

Changing the attack response itself

I suggested an experiment.

They can try to change the immediate attack response when Chester’s woken suddenly.

They must be well away from where he’s sleeping. Then they throw particular smelly food at him. He will wake suddenly.

Whatever his immediate response, he will quickly find the food.

With luck, after doing this multiple times they can change his automatic reaction. His wake response, though initially self-preservation, will quickly change to – ‘Oh I’m OK! Where’s the food?’


There is always the chance that someone will forget themselves.

When the youngsters have friends round or times when people may forget themselves and there is a danger of Watson being woken suddenly, they will muzzle him. It may be the only way they can have him sleeping beside them on the sofa.

They will introduce him to a Baskerville muzzle – a muzzle through which he can drink and take food.

This covers all angles: a stable and calmer mental state, working on his instinctive response itself, letting sleeping dogs lie and playing safe when necessary. They have already had him checked by the vet for pain.

Just three weeks later: ‘Whilst we are still very cautious…. he’s a changed dog in all the right places. I find it funny how when the things he would have grumbled about happen he goes looking for cheese.’

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