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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20221
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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Please help as Im at my wits end. We have an 8 month cocker

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Please help as I'm at my wits end. We have an 8 month cocker spaniel and he is fantastic with my fiancé but a completely different dog with me and my young children. I dont believe he is being nasty but it seems he is trying to let me know who is boss if that makes sense? For no reason he will start barking at me and then will jump or lunge at me and bite me, if I walk away he will continue to jump and bite me from behind. His tail will be wagging the whole time but he will not stop until I can catch hold of him and put him in another room. He hurts me very much often leaving me in tears, both myself and my children (both girls) are intimidated by him. I am with him all day every day as my partner works long shifts so I do everything with him including walking him twice a day. I dont kniw what to do as he doesnt listen to me st all.
Hi JaCustomer,
My name is Jane. I have been working professionally with animals especially dogs in both health and behavioral issues for over 18 years. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

In order to supply you with the best information, I do need to ask for some additional information. Once I receive your answer, it will likely take me about 30-45 minutes to type up your response. I hope you can be patient.

Are you female?
Is he neutered?
Has he had any obedience training?
Can you tell if he is being aggressive or could he be trying to play?
Are you the one who feeds him as well?
Is he allowed on furniture?
Are you and your children now scared of him?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi I think it will be easier if I bullet point the answers to your questions


1 yes I am female

2 no he is not neutered

3 we have booked obedience lessons but there is a waiting list

4 he appears to be playing as his tail is wagging all the time however we find him very intimidating as he will not listen and stop.

5 I am the only person who feeds him in the house

6 no he is not alllowed on the furniture - I am very strict about this.

7 we are scared of him during these periods when he behaves


Thanks for the additional information. It is very helpful.

He is at the age where he has reached sexual maturity and is going to be testing his limits and see if he can dominate the other menbers of his pack. His pack does include the humans. It seems like he still respects your husband as being more dominant but has decided that he can dominate you and the girls since he has sharp teeth. So we need to make some changes.

The first thing is get him neutered unless you have a very good pedigree and plan on breeding. It will help with dominance issues in a lot of cases.

Go ahead and start obedience training NOW. It should have started as soon as you got the pup. While a class is great, it should be the finishing part of training as it helps teach obedience with distraction. The following site is helpful for teaching you how to train your dog. Be sure and click on the link to the page on obedience at the bottom. and links on subsequent pages leading to detailed instructions.

Training works best if you train at least 30 minutes a day (two 15 minute sessions). I would start making your dog work via the Nothing in life is free program (NILF). It is outlined below.

Unfortunately, the site does not allow me to make clickable links, so to view the supporting websites, you will need to copy and paste the link into a new browser window or tab.

Have your daughters participate in training as well once he learns a few commands. Use tasty treats like vienna sausage slices or liver slivers for training. Dogs will obey for these types of treats. Now when a dog obeys a command it naturally makes them just a little more submissive to the person giving the commands, so this is how you gain the upper hand with them. It works even if the dog is only doing it for the treat because after the dog is listening well, you decrease treats and substitute praise until it is all praise. By then the dog listens to you and sees you as the boss.

Of course, making him obey to get fed, affection and even walked helps him see you as the boss and not him. Attach a leash to him and give him a short tug to get his attention and a firm Low toned NO if he tries to nip or bite. By now he should know that biting hurts, so now he needs to know that you do not approve of it and won't allow it any longer. So give the reprimands. When he starts to stop trying to bite in circumstances when he would have before, go ahead and give him a special treat as a reward.

I want to mention not to hold treats in your fingers but have them in a closed fist and open the hand so the dog takes it off the open palm. This helps eliminate a dog nipping at the fingers to get you to drop it.

While you are keeping him off the furniture, try and keep your girls up off the floor. This keeps him lower than the humans. Also teach them to always give the dog warning if he is asleep and they are going past him or need to move him etc. Keeping a leash attached can be used for this as well.

Now for the nipping at your ankles, adopt an exaggerated walk bringing your heels up higher on the back swing. This way if he tries to jump in and get an ankle, he is likely to have a heel get his chin. Since you are walking, he won't take it as a kick but be sure not to use more than the normal walking force. It usually only takes one or two times before the dog decides that is not a good idea anymore. It works. Once he learns, you can usually stop the exaggerated walk.

Of course, get a muzzle and have it on him when you have visitors especially children. If your children are very young, I'd be tempted to keep it on when they were up and moving around as well. Make sure it is a basket style muzzle as they are designed to be worn for longer periods of time and will allow a dog to breath relatively normally, drink and even eat to a certain degree.

I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have .
Jane Lefler and other Dog Training Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Im sorry about the abrupt end to my previous E mail but the dog was in the middle of one of his episodes. Thank you for your advice, it sounds great and I will certainly be taking it on board. Im prepared to put in the effort so fingers crossed for a good result.

Thank you.



You are very welcome. I had to step away myself.