springer spaniel growling at 3 year old children

by Tamara
(Durham, NC)

this is charlie, the springer in question

this is charlie, the springer in question

My sister-in-law's springer growls at the children for walking too close to him, petting him, and even giving him kisses.


I fear for the safety of the children as well as myself due to the fact that the dog has not only growled at me, but also snapped.

I have been training dogs since I was 13 and I have never once met a dog that with consistent training I haven't been able to rehabilitate.

After many failed attempts I am at a loss. When the dog snarls and bears teeth at me and I separate him my sister-in-law immediately lets him out and feeds him treats. I am at a loss as to what to do with this situation. He also growls at all the other adults in the house and the other dogs in the house.

Any information that you can give me would be helpful, even if the advice is to rehome the dog. If anyone that is a veterinarian responds please say in your post that you are a vet so that my sister-in-law doesn't think that it is just random people trying to tell her what to do with her dog.

From Anna@love-springer-spaniels.com

Hi there
I have this issue with George growling at my kids, and the first thing I did was to get him neutered. That had an immediate impact, now he just grumbles at them.

So what I do no is make sure its always the kids who feed him treats so he associates the kids with goodies. They also throw the ball for him when we go for walks so he builds a positive bond with them

Good luck

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Jul 01, 2011
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growling springer
by: Anonymous

The growling has developed recently, but the dog has grown up with the children. He doesn't do any of the signs of avoidance, he just starts growling. I personally feel that the dog is not safe to be around the children, but my sister in law refuses to get rid of the dog. If it was my 6 month old APBT growling and snapping at the children she would want her gone immediately and I'm just having trouble understanding why it is any different just because it is her dog.

Jun 29, 2011
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growling springer
by: seoirse mac enri

my springer can be contrary also it may be territorial he sometimes growls and snaps usually when he doesn't get his own way he never actually bites though.sometimes it's a sign leave me alone i don't want to do what you want to do.I usually ignore Sam for a while when he's like this Springers love attention.Let the kids feed him but don't be over affectionate with him at the start try and encourage the dog to go to them for the treat gradually simply noone else treats him but the kids for a while let them give him a toy or something they can both play with ie knotted rope
let him pull it away from the kids just to prove himself a little walking him regularly again by kids will build up trust especially if they are the only ones to walk him and at a set time form a routine this has worked for me Sam is a large
very strong springer but now knows if he steps out of line he'll lose out on treat or will have to wait for walk til he behaves believe me he never has to wait too long springers are great fun and i hope this will be of help to you

Jun 29, 2011
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re springer spaniel growling at children
by: Shara Halls ( Torwind Spaniels)

As the dog has now become more defensive or wary, then I would go back and start afresh and try and notice the warning signs, that the dog does to show its uncomfortable..eg dogs might turn their head away, yawn, dip their head and avoid eye contact.

Thats usually the first stage that a dog can do to show its uncomfortable or feels under pressure (like us, we can feel uncomfortable in different situations too. we're all different)

If that doesn't work, a dog can then go onto the next level of a slight grumble, then growl and then snap.

I would go back and firstly, try and note down anything that the dog feels under pressure about, and for now, don't let it feel under threat or uncomfortable before you go onto the next stage..

( I am not suggesting in any way that the dog is under threat, just saying that its feeling stressed in these situations for whatever reason, same as we as people can do)

eg help the children to understand that the dog is unsure at the moment and keep the children back out the way at first. Some Dogs can find children more difficult as unpredictable, move differently etc and can't always 'read' a dog.

Then, find out, not with the children, but other lesser problems at first, how close someone gets before any of the 'warning signs' are present( not growling as thats already gone too far but the other signs)

When approaching, avoid eye contact too and if for example,you can get 4m away before the dog turns its head away to try avaoid the issue, you have an idea, where its 'uncomfortable' region is, so next time, stop short of that invisible barrier and like above, throw a piece of chicken or cheese, if the dog doesn't do the avoidance sign and then quietly back off, without forcing the issue. Randomly doing that sometimes, could build up posititive reinforcement and in time, how close someone can get,should get closer.

positive calm reinforcement, and like th other comment says, good things from the children but I would firstly, rewind,to discover all the moments and times when the dog is uncomfortable and don't force the dog to be friendly with people,as if its feeling stressed about it, avoiding an minimising those situations at first, then gradually building up those positive situations, where you might notice improvement and use the treats, for positive rewards, when the dog has overcome each little hurdle.

Helping the children to understand, that it needs space and time alone too and not leave the chiuldren alone with the dog without supervision, so then all situations can be monitored, re warning signs and how the dog is handling a situation.

Has it always been this way or has it got worse or developed recently?





Jun 29, 2011
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Growling Springer
by: Joanne

I agree get him neutered but when your sister in law removes him then gives him a treat this is re-inforcing his bad behavour. So no treats unless he does something good.

I have a springer who can be a bit growly, he went to "boot camp". 2 weeks away from home with intense obedience training. This really helped. He needed to be put at the bottom of the pack so now he lives outside. If he gets growly now instead of getting cranky with him I tell him to do something that he knows ie: sit/drop and praise him when he does. It distracts him from whatever was making him growl & gives positive re-inforcement for doing something good.

Failing this I would stongly consider rehoming where there are no children as it is not worth the risk. If he is a young dog perhaps a working inviroment would better suit him.

Good luck

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