|Barked: Wed Mar 7, '12 6:21am PST |
|Springer Spaniels are not the easiest dogs to own on a good day, let alone one that has been abused. This is not to say he cannot be rehabilitated, because he surely can, but this breed can be very trying. They are very smart, very easy to pick up bad habits, and very emotional. But the fact that after only a few days he has warmed up to you and your kids is a good sign!
However, you are both at a critical point in his training, where everything is new, but you are unsure of how to deal with his issues. It is a fine line between giving praise and reprimand with this dog, and one that will take a lot of practice and know-how to get right, so as not to cause him to fear you, too. Also, the way he reacts to other dogs and strangers is protectiveness and possessiveness. Though you have only been "his" for a short time, he has little confidence in himself and the world around him, so he will fiercely "protect" you and try to keep others away.
If you are unsure of how to train this dog, some obedience sessions with a licensed dog behaviorist/trainer are necessary. Find a reputable trainer in your area and discuss either private sessions or group classes. There are benefits to both - the main question is whether you can bypass the private classes to participate in the group class, or whether you need some of both. Either way, the way to resolve much of the behavior you are seeing is through obedience training, where you will train the dog as to what behaviors of his are expected from you, which will eventually not only bond him to you and your family (as they should practice this training with him as well, once he is completely responsive to you), but give him more confidence in himself since he will know how to act, and what he has to do to earn reward from you.
The other thing that I suggest is joining one of the many English Springer Spaniel breed forums, or better yet, joining one of the Rescue forums, to meet other owners of these highly intelligent, very feeling dogs as I really do feel that other than a behaviorist, only owners of this breed are going to be able to give you the best guidance in how to help him get over his past traumas and become a great family pet who is not fearful. From what you say, it sounds like the ability is there, but you will need to earn his trust, and learn how to teach him, which can be different for different dogs.
Another thing about ESS. They are very family-involved dogs and like to be involved with everything happening around them. Allowing him to take part in whatever the family is doing is a great way to help him over some of his issues, but you and he really should have some training classes as well.
Also, as far as the submissive urination goes, the only way around that it is to start, at first, by not giving the dog any kind of negative reaction, even if he has done bad. He does not know he's doing bad, first of all, and secondly, he is anticipating being yelled at or hit. You will have to start reversing this by always, always speaking sweetly and softly, and with a happy tone, and approaching without being threatening, even if there has been inappropriate behavior (which he does not know is wrong). With obedience training, you will learn how to properly reprimand and reward in ways that will not make him afraid, and eventually the submissive urination should stop. In the meantime, if reprimanding becomes an issue, then you, as the human, need to not put him in positions where he could require being reprimanded until there is some kind of training program enlisted.
Good luck, and I hope you are serious about your initial statements, that he has a home for life with you. In spite of sometimes being a bit difficult, I'm sure you will find over time, and as his behavior improves, that they are really great, lovable and personable dogs that will take over your heart.
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