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Rebecca, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 16800
Experience:  Veterinarian for more than 30 years
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our new 7 month old golden cocker spaniel pup has begun

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our new 7 month old golden cocker spaniel pup has begun showing extremely vicious outbursts, snarling and snapping and trying to bite us. We got him a week ago from a shelter. He gets on very well with our other dog a Labrador. We have a relaxed and calm (until now!) household with plenty of indoor and outdoor space and he's been getting plenty of exercise. He is mostly sweet and loving and there is no obvious pattern to these outbreaks. We are experienced dog owners and we are trying to understand why this is happening. Any advice would be very much appreciated.
I am sorry to hear about your new puppy. I am a veterinarian, and will do my best to help.
There is probably a trigger to these outbreaks, but it can be very subtle. Since dogs do not talk, they are very sensitive to body language, and they may be reacting to things that you are not aware of.
When these happen, where is he? On the ground, on furniture or a bed?
Is there ever food in the room when this happens?
Are you just walking by him, or reaching to pet him, or just sitting in a chair and he suddenly runs at you like this?
Sorry the questions. Behavior problems are complex, and there is rarely a quick or easy answer. The more information I have, the better I can help.
If you can think of anything, no matter how small, that is consistent with these attacks: time of day, level of light in the room, food, whether you are approaching him or he is approaching you, if another dog is in the room, if there are particular people present or not when this happens, etc. that will help me try to help you figure this out.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Mostly happens when he is asked move over in the bed or get off and into his own bed which is in the corner of our bedroom. There is never food in the bedroom. He knows the command "get into bed" and does so eventually.

Happens mostly but not exclusively at night or in the morning, room both light and dark, has attacked both of us at different times. This morning was particularly savage. I held my ground while issuing a firm but quiet command but he went on the attack. We were both there as was the other dog.

Sometimes doesn't like to be stroked along his back even when snuggled up to one of us on the couch. we don't loom over him or come up behind him unawares.

He is very food-aggressive and tries to steal the other dog's food but we have that under control by supervising feeding times closely; at the same time he will take a treat very politely in his turn after giving the paw.

Sometimes just casually watching him you can see his eyes darken and he starts to growl even when no one is approaching him.

Immediately after each episode of attempted biting he tries to climb up on you displaying lots of affection.

We are mystified and can't let this go on - any help appreciated.

Being on the bed should not be allowed. Sleeping or resting on something elevated, like a bed, is a position of high status. This could be a dog that is dominant in nature. In the wild, when a high status dog is asleep, the other members of the pack know not to touch or even brush against them, or they will be "corrected" by a quick bite or snap. He may believe he is the "boss" or "alpha" and that you are out of line or even being in your own bed!
So he should not be allowed up on any furniture or beds, and made to get off if he does. If he does not know the command OFF, he needs to learn it.
These dogs need strict obedience training. The need to learn commands, and that commands are to be obeyed immediately. All of their food comes by doing something to earn it; you can't leave food out at all, ever.
It is particularly scary to me that you see his eyes darken (probably they are dilating). This dog is potentially very dangerous.
It is actually normal to be affectionate after the attacks. He "corrected" you out of line and not accepting his being the boss, and as soon as you reacted by recoiling, or letting him alone, he lets you know that now everything is OK.
It appears that this is why he ended up at a shelter. He can be helped, especially since he is so young, but I would strongly recommend working with a trainer, or a veterinarian who specializes in behavior problems. These dogs can be trained, and can be good pets, but are never 100% trustworthy, especially around children.
Please let me know what other questions you have.
It appears I lost the first part of my posting!
This sounds classic dog that thinks he is of high social standing, what we used to call an "alpha" dog or a dominant dog. In the wild, in a pack, the high status dogs sleep on elevated positions, and the subordinates know not to touch or even brush against them, lest they be corrected by snap or a bite.
Then I started to explain that he must not be allowed up on furniture, and that all his food must come as a reward you or others in the house.
Let me know what else I can answer.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks .

Should we return the affection when it's offered, or try to ignore it? It's difficult to ignore a puppy but we will if necessary.

Yes, you should return affection. Ignoring him will not help, and could make things worse.
The most important thing is to have him learn, in a loving way, using lots of rewards and no negative reinforcement (raised voices, any physical punishment) that he is a valued member of "the pack" but that he is a dog and does not have a high social position in the pack.
Part of the training is called "nothing in life is free": he has to earn going outside, affection, food, going walk, play, everything he gets, by earning it.
The dilated eyes really scare me; he could get worse and someone could get seriously hurt. I would seek a trainer as soon as possible.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks help we will contact a trainer asap rgds

You are welcome! I will be checking back with you to see how he is doing.
Kindly consider rating my answer, but only if I have answered all your questions.
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Thank you great rating.