This was originally written last century. Both Annie and Lucy are waiting at the rainbow bridge now. Keep in mind that all dogs are individuals in their behaviour and this always needs to be recognised. It is not, and never has been, a “one size fits all” scenario.
I didn't expect an answer, because I spoke in Spaniel, which is understood only by spaniels.
￼Without doubt the behaviour of these two Cockers is significantly different. While Lucy, the blue roan, is placid, obedient and non aggressive, Annie, the orange roan, can be quite the opposite. Many points of Annie's behaviour can no doubt be related back to her up bringing. This included
• Lack of socialization
• Lack of human contact.
• Lack of training
The Early Days
Shortly after bringing her home she would snarl (by this I mean bare her teeth and growl menacingly) under the following conditions
• Attempting to remove her from a comfortable spot
• Attempt to remove any sort of food or other item she was eating
• Go anywhere near her if she had a bone
• Just walking past her when she was laying down in the main bedroom (yes I know)
Very early in the piece she attacked me for no apparent reason. This has never occurred again. We firmly believe that it was a memory situation, just as the dog, badly mistreated by an alcoholic, becomes aggressive at the smell of beer, a combination of circumstances led to Annie recalling something from her past.
A small portion of the remains of my own meal was laid down next to her. She began eating it but was pushing it further away by the action of her tongue. In attempting to move it back for her she snarled, swung around and bit.
This is My Spot
An attempt to coax her out of the bedroom led to a bandaged hand.
Give the Poor Dog a Bone
Efforts to provide a balanced diet are some what thwarted in that Annie's protectiveness over bones is unmitigated. The interpretation is clearly that she is fearful that the bone will be removed. This is contrast with Lucy, who will let you play with her, and the bone, while she is chewing on it.
Bones are currently given when humans are absent, so as to pre-empt any aggression. Annie has shown no change on this point whatsoever.
Annie is very excitable. The slightest nuance or odour will send her out on patrol. A car stopping in the street will start her barking in warning. Even a new piece of furniture raises her hackles. Emergency sirens will have her howling in unison.
The Good News
The level of aggression in Annie has mitigated considerably. In particular the "this is my spot" aggression, the unwarranted food aggression have all but gone.
The Good News continued
Apart from the bone situation, Annie is now a much well behaved dog. She has lost the worst of her disobedience and stubbornness and is proving a delightful companion. The contributing factors to her turn around were
• Frequent socialization with other dogs
• Frequent socialization with people
• Obedience classes
• Varied Diet
• Love and attention
Annie still possessed lots of spirit. She can get quite excited over strangers in her territory (there's no such response outside our block of land) and her typical greeting is to bark and jump up on people. This worries people with no empathy towards dogs, but I do not consider this bad behaviour on Annie's part as it is non aggressive.
Lucy the Typical Cocker Spaniel
This Blue Roan is the epitome of the good natured, mild temperament cocker spaniel. She shows no aggression of any type although she does bark at strangers. She will, however cease on instruction.
The interesting point is that Lucy will more than hold her own with other dogs including Annie with whom she has the occasional disagreement. Fortunately they never have differences over food. Incidents between Lucy and Annie are few and far between and only occur when they get in each other's way.
Lucy is generally obedient, comes when called, stops barking when told. She is also very dependent, refusing to leave my side. In the first few week we had her she cried whenever she could not see me.
It is apparent that Lucy was much loved by her previous male owner and has attached herself to the male in our household. Nothing will stop her from tailing me around. She will give up anything she is doing if she perceives I am leaving her presence.
The stark contrast in behaviour between these two dogs is, and this is my opinion, tied up with their previous history. I believe, that although Annie has shown various levels of aggression, she is fundamentally of good temperament as is the rest of her breed. And that underlying temperament was retrieved through perseverance and respect.
Bad and inconsiderate treatment of dogs leads to behavioural problems down the track. This is stating the obvious, but it should be reinforced. And it is not just a matter of providing sufficient food and shelter. The love that Lucy must have received is manifested in affection she unselfishly gives to us.
Equally love and attention given to an estranged dog has proven to be a cure for its ills. Annie has rewarded us many times over now and is proof that an old dog can be taught new tricks.
I must give a special note of thanks to the following people
Steve Austin, previously of Hanrob Kennels, for his invaluable obedience classes.
The Cocker Society of NSW for their willingness to give us advice.