I’m a complete newbie here - a friend who is forum regular recommended this site to me because I’d told her I was at my wit’s end with my dog, Ruskin. He’s a seven month old male English cocker spaniel (unneutered). I’ve had dogs all my life and my last dog was an English Springer/cocker cross which means in theory he ought to have been as mad as a box of frogs. But despite an imperfect upbringing from me, he was a sweetheart and pretty damn obedient.
Ruskin is not.
I’ve had him since he was eight weeks old. Not wanting to repeat my past mistakes, I’ve read many books on bringing up puppies (not just on puppies in general but on cockers in particular). I’ve followed all the non-force methods of positive reinforcement with him and have treated him with firm gentleness and love. But from day one he’s been… basically, a nightmare. And he’s barely improved.
The two biggest issues are aggression and toilet training. He bites me - ranging from playful nips to proper, blood-drawing bites - all the time and also swipes me with his front paws and draws blood that way. When I walk him (and he gets between an hour’s and and hour and a half’s off-lead exercise every day) he will jump at other dogs and attempt to bite their ears and muzzles. He’ll bite me if I try to catch and stop him. He also attacks my cats, despite their having both given him a good whack with a stiff paw on many occasions. I’m frightened one day he might kill one of them. I have no idea where this behaviour is coming from. I’m really firm with him, I tell him NO in a deep yet calm voice, I yelp if he bites me and put him away from me and ignore him so that he knows he’s causing pain, but it’s like he’s completely indifferent.
In toilet training - he doesn’t seem to distinguish between indoor and outdoor at all. I’ve praised him and given him treats literally every time I’ve seen him go outdoors. But even though let him out at least once an hour during the day, most of the time he’ll just mess around out there, come back inside, and then pee in the kitchen. Or he’ll pee outside, get his praise and treat, and then poo in the kitchen. The latest I get to sleep in these days is 5am - he demands to be let out, then doesn’t go, and half an hour later I’m crawling around cleaning up pee and poo from my kitchen floor.
When I first got him I put him in a soft-sided pen in my bedroom to sleep at night. Within two days he had demolished this, ripping the zips out so that he could escape. I bought him another, larger and more robust one. He threw himself at the walls so hard that he caused it to collapse on him. The vet’s behaviourist told me not to try a hard-sided crate as there was every chance he would seriously injure himself (he now sleeps on a chair in the corner of my room).
I try to offer him mental stimulation to keep him from getting bored (a snuffle mat, treat balls, all kinds of rawhide chews) but these mostly seem to make him more frustrated and aggressive. The only things he really seems to enjoy doing are running really fast and biting things really hard (we go through a huge rawhide bone every day).
Is neutering going to make a difference here? What is going on? I’ve had dogs my whole life and NEVER met such an aggressive personality. English cocker spaniels are supposed to be loving, devoted and gentle! And this is not a case of ‘cocker rage’ because he’s working rather than show type. I love him to pieces but at this point he’s honestly making my life a misery.
Any advice much appreciated. Before I have a heart attack and he eats my corpse…