Posted by: Cheryl | 2004/09/20

Spoilt Spaniel

Dear Doc,

I have a spaniel who is almost 4 years old and very spoilt. We had a baby a year ago and although baby and spaniel are best buddies the spaniel is doing strange and naughty things that she never did before like jumping on furniture/beds, chewing baby's toys and burying shoes, I'm sure this is just for attention. She also licks baby's face constantly and we have tried everything to stop this but with no luck. What shold we do.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberVet

Hi Cheryl
As you say this is probably attention-seeking behaviour and you should not give her attention for it, even negative attention. Ignore (or try to distract her from) all the unwanted behaviour and concentrate on finding things that you can praise and reward her for. Try to give her some positive activities to do - a short daily walk on a lead, some new toys, teach her a few new tricks using treats to reward her. Her toys can be rotated and try to get some that involve her in some way, e.g. Buster Cube which has to be pushed around before the treats fall out. Keep her toys in a special box or basket that she can unpack and you can add to or repack. You could teach her to fetch specific toys and bring them to you. The baby's toys can be sprinkled with baby powder or baby lotion and hers should not - this way she will be able to tell which are hers. If she runs off with an illegal toy, call her with a treat and swop it with a legal one. To stop her licking the baby's face I suggest you just remove the baby from her reach each time, giving her a toy to lick. If she is obsessed with it you could try to humour her by buying her her own doll to lick!
Karen Gray-Kilfoil

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Our users say:
Posted by: Chill | 2004/09/21

Oops... I meant, an animal behaviourist who can advise you more comprehensively, not comprehensibly....

(although maybe that, too!)

Reply to Chill
Posted by: Chill | 2004/09/21

I would presume that you're right as far as the attention-seeking idea is concerned.

I can't offer a complete solution to this, but I know what I'd do, which is:

1. Don't reward the unacceptable behaviour by paying too much attention to it - however, try to keep chewable and buryable things out of the dog's way, to mimimise the problem

2. Make sure the dog does not get the idea that it has a higher status than your baby, because this could result in a nasty situation arising. It may be a good idea not to leave them alone together for the time being

3 Give the dog some extra attention at a time that suits you, when the baby isn't involved. Take her for a walk, play with a ball, give her some toys of her own that will keep her busy (I've just discovered that ramming some bits of salami tightly into a hoof keeps my dog busy for ages!)

Since you can't take any chances with a young baby, it might be a good idea to book a consultation with a professional animal behaviourist who can advise you more comprehensibly.

Finally, spaniels are lovely dogs which are normally very gentle - but make no mistake, they are not all angels. Some years ago, it was found that of all dogbites needing medical attention in the UK, those caused by spaniels were surprisingly at the top of the list. That's partly a factor of the popularity of the breed, but it does serve as a reminder that it's wise not to take chances.

Reply to Chill

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