Q&A: Disobedient English Cocker Spaniel

Disobedient cocker spaniel

A reader whose English Cocker Spaniel is misbehaving asks our resident vet for advice on what to do.

Q: I have a serious issue with my English cocker spaniel, Molly, who doesn’t listen when I call her, escapes from the property at the slightest opportunity, occasionally attacks my calm male spaniel, nips me for attention, and has become destructive with her bedding and with my plants in the garden. I’m at the end of my tether, but I do love her, and need to do something. What do you suggest?

A: With any dog exhibiting multiple behaviour disorder syndrome you need to alter your attitude completely if you want any degree of success. Molly is expressing her anxiousness in many ways because she has no boundaries, rules, or hierarchy structure, and she’s an unqualified pack leader. The latter means you’ve given so much love and attention that you’ve elevated her status to the point that she’s taken on the leadership role and you’re showing submissive behaviour. She’s also receiving confused signals from you as her name has been used during reprimands.

In a nutshell, I recommend the following: only use her name for positive events such as feeding
time and rewards. Never punish for doing ‘wrong’. She must learn to earn everything from you, including attention and food, and these must only be given if she’s calm. Reward her for being calm and say nothing if she’s boisterous. Stop staring at her, because this gives her instructions to perform. When she attacks the male, respect her authority
by rewarding her and do not protect him. Only give him attention if she’s out of sight. The nipping for attention is controlling behaviour. Walk away from her if she persists. I suggest that for the next month you feed her at unpredictable times so that you’re in control of the most important asset – food.


Make sure she has enough exercise to burn up pent-up energy. Take her for walks outside the property at unpredictable times. There are many more ways to help in this regard, including power-walking, psychotropic drugs, anxiolytics, and returning to obedience training, but you must first become assertive to restore harmony to the home and put an end to Molly’s frustration and dysfunctionality.

Compiled by Candice Curtis, contributors: Melvyn Greenberg and Michael Ferreira. Photo: Fotolia.com
The advice contained here is strictly for informational purposes. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, and treatment. Always consult your vet or animal behaviourist for specific information regarding your pets.




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