We know that the Cocker Spaniel’s temperament is overwhelmingly friendly and loving but there have been a few recorded cases of apparent canine aggressive behaviour in the breed – Cocker Rage Syndrome – which can lead to extreme uncontrolled aggression, or dominance aggression.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that Cocker Spaniels rage is the exception rather than the norm.
When it occurs, the condition is more likely to be seen in males or show-bred dogs. It usually appears in solid colours (golden/black) animals rather than parti-colors.
Cocker rage is an unexplained, sudden vicious attack; it happens without warning and for the dog, there doesn’t seem to be anything in particular causing it and can take a number of forms of aggression.
Although not proven, some research has shown that rage syndrome may be hereditary and/or potentially caused by epilepsy so it could be a form of partial seizure disorder.
If you are worried cocker rage is going to happen, please don’t be. It is a very rare condition. If it does happen, it usually occurs before your dog becomes an adult and can show up as early as 8 months old.
It is work taking to time to have a careful behavioural history, particularly with solid coloured cockers which have a higher risk of aggressive behaviours.
Other breeds that may have a similar issue include Bernese mountain dogs, golden retrievers, German shepherds, English Buller terriers, Pyrenean mountain dogs, Chesapeake Bay retrievers but as with Cockers, it is extremely rare.
Table of Contents
What is cocker rage?
Cocker rage is a condition that affects dogs of the cocker spaniel breed. It’s not a common problem, affecting less than 10% of all cockers. Common symptoms include excessive drooling, panting and inappropriate urination as well as the more obvious unprovoked aggression, bad behavioural traits or a temperament disorder.
The cause is unknown. Above we discuss whether it is a type of epilepsy but it may be caused by allergies or tumours in the brain or pituitary gland.
Cocker rage is a serious concern for dog owners. Cockers are not typically aggressive dogs, but they can become very angry if provoked or overly excited. If you have a Cocker Spaniel, it’s important to be aware of the signs of cocker rage and how to avoid them. This blog post contains information on what causes Cocker Rage and how to prevent it from happening.
There are ways that this can be managed through dog training, with behavioural modification techniques, positive training methods, clicker training and reinforcement to curb the dominant behaviour that is prevalent in many dogs.
Given that these dogs are so lovely, cocker rage is a type of dog aggression that occurs when they are in the presence of other dogs. You may notice some symptoms, such as growling, barking and lunging at other dogs or other aggressive responses while on walks or out in public, or even violent attacks or dominance related aggression.
This can be very frustrating for owners and their family members who would like to take their pup around with them more often but don’t want to risk an incident of sudden onset aggression where they are aggressive towards another dog.
In this blog post we’ll cover what cocker rage is, how to recognize it and vet tips for taming it.
What are the symptoms?
How can you tell the different from ‘normal’ aggressive behaviour?
- A cocker’s episode of rage syndrome is barely controlled, savage aggression that almost always takes the owner by surprise.
- The dog often sleeps before an attack and is spurred by no provocation other than perhaps a sound or someone entering the room. In any case, its eyes are usually staring and dilated.
- The poor animal will most likely not know what’s going on, which is one of the reasons why some people attack them. The dog may seem calm again after the attack and behaves submissively because he does not understand his situation.
Cocker rage offers no pattern of predictable behavior, unlike aggressive dog behavior (such as resource guarding, dominance, etc.) that can be re-created.
For example, if you try taking a bone from a resource guarder (and I strongly recommend that you don’t!) but if then they’ll probably react aggressively.You cannot try to recreate rage syndrome. It just happens almost randomly and the term rage syndrome is often used.
Aggression in dogs is often incorrectly diagnosed as “rage syndrome” and it sometimes leads to the dog being destroyed when this behaviour could have been resolved with good training.
It is such a shame that dogs that show initial aggression are being mis-diagnosed and therefore being destroyed unnecessarily.
More on Cocker Rage
Cocker rage is a term coined by veterinarians to describe the aggression displayed by some dogs of the cocker spaniel breed. This type of aggression can be directed at humans or other animals, but it usually stems from fear and nervousness in the dog’s environment.
The best way for owners to prevent these attacks is through early socialization, positive only training methods and training that helps their pup feel more confident with people and pets in its surroundings and will curb the aggressive behaviour that comes with rage syndrome.
As mentioned above, rage syndrome has been observed in many different breeds of dogs, not just cockers; however, it’s most prevalent among this particular breed due to their high levels of sensitivity. The first step towards preventing such attacks is through early socialization where you expose your puppy to positive reinforcement, treats and affection which will help affected dogs.
The cocker rage epidemic is something that we all need to be aware of. It’s not just a problem for the dogs, it’s also an issue for their humans! Follow these simple steps and your canine will be safe from this nasty rage syndrome.
Cocker spaniels have a temperament more delicate than most other breeds, and they are often high-strung. This can lead to difficult dog behaviour, with them becoming territorial or feeling threatened in their own home environment. Early socialization and training that helps your pup feel confident with people and pets in its surroundings will help reduce the chance of an attack from occurring.
Why do Cocker Spaniels have Cocker Rage?
We have mentioned a few suggested causes above. This section goes into more detail into the relevant aggressive dog behaviour and the background to this more exaggerated form of possession aggression, aggressive displays, idiopathic aggression and the like.
Although conclusive scientific evidence has yet to be offered, there are several theories about the cause of Cocker rage:
- Genetics/Make-up: Some people believe cocker rage is a form of inherited genetic disorders, while others speculate that it’s instead epilepsy or schizophrenia.
- Abused or neglected dogs are more likely to be aggressive, and puppy mills typically focus solely on the profit they can make from a litter. Of course, there may also be other factors that contribute to this phenomena as well. So check your breeder and see if they have previously had any aggression cases.
- However, there are many conscientious breeders whose goal is to produce puppies with good temperaments. They won’t use aggressive dogs and will never breed from dogs that have shown signs of Cocker rage syndrome.
- Some people have talked about a lack of early socialisation as another theory to go into the mix. However, many experts in dog behaviour believe this sort of aggression to be based on fear and is not Cocker rage syndrome. Socialising puppy to be exposed to many different people and other animals would have helped avoid canine fear aggression or dominance aggression and it is very different from, say, mental lapse aggression or seizure related aggression.
- Low serotonin levels: Serotonin is believed to have a calming effect on the brain. (It’s interesting to note that many violent criminals have low serotonin levels).
- Inexperienced owners: Some people think that the reason for “cocker rage” behaviour is because of inexperienced pet owners, who are possibly not meeting their dog’s needs but this does not explain the types of aggression such as mental lapse aggression.
There are many theories about what may cause rage syndrome, but nothing is certain.
Are there other breeds that have this problem?
Cocker Spaniels are not the only breed of dogs that have this condition as referred to above. However, this type of mental lapse aggression is more prevalent with cockers, due to a mutation in their genes which makes them more prone to be startled by sudden noises or movements, and feel threatened when they are touched from behind because it’s something they don’t see coming.
Diagnosing the Symptoms
If your Cocker Spaniel is showing signs of aggressive dog behaviour, they are probably experiencing another form of aggression, such as dominance aggression, resource guarding, and territorial related behaviours.
For example, when your dog becomes aggressive on seeing someone get too near his food bowl while he’s eating (dog food aggression), or if he growls when he’s asked to get down from the sofa he may be trying to challenge your status.
Or he could just be behaving badly, for example resource guarding or around human food. That might be part of mutual respect training.
If you suspect your Cocker Spaniel is exhibiting signs of Cockapocalyptic rage, we recommend seeking the advice of a veterinarian as soon as possible.
To indentify the persistent symptoms and events that may have caused a rage episode in your dog, take note of everything that happened before, during and after the event. Even better if you can get it on video, but that’s not going to be straightforward.
The vet may diagnose it himself or refer you to an animal neurologist.
On the bright side, he may conclude that this is simply a training issue and recommend you find a dog behavioural therapist in your area.
How do you treat Cocker Rage?
Sadly, sometimes it may be cocker rage. Epileptic medication may be an option for small dogs with a sudden onset aggression.
Unfortunately, all animals respond differently to medication and the treatment may not have long term effectiveness.
Due to the unpredictability of this condition, and for all precautions sake, sadly there is only one other alternative: euthanasia.
In the meantime, careful breeding by responsible Cocker breeders will eventually help remove this problem from the Cocker Spaniel breed.
The most common symptom of Cocker Rage is aggression, and it can be a dangerous behavior. It typically occurs when the dog is teased or tormented by children. As more people are becoming aware that cocker rage exists, there has been an increase in awareness about how to prevent this condition from developing into something worse. Here are just some simple steps you can take to avoid triggering this aggressive response:
Don’t tease your pet with toys if they don’t want them; -Keep any food on high shelves;
Provide plenty of exercise for your pets so that their energy levels stay low at all times; and lastly, always provide love and affection!
These tips should help keep both you and your dog in the best condition and will help with future breeding as well.
Here are some more simple steps for how to avoid a dog’s rage.
1) Make sure you have enough time with the pup – especially if he or she is new in your home;
2) Provide plenty of exercise and playtime outside, even when it’s cold out;
3) Give them quality chew toys to keep their teeth healthy;
4) Feed him/her high-quality food that contains all necessary nutrients (including protein);
5) Don’t let them sleep on beds where they can crush things like furniture or pillows.
Follow these tips and hopefully you won’t end up with an angry pooch! We wish you all the best.
Cocker Rage FAQs
Can cocker spaniels be aggressive?
We know that the Cocker Spaniel’s temperament is overwhelmingly friendly and loving, but there have been a few recorded cases of apparent canine aggressive behaviour in the breed – Cocker Rage Syndrome – which can lead to extreme uncontrolled aggression.
It’s important to keep in, cocker rage does occur but it is more likely seen in males or show-bred dogs. It appears most often in solid coloured animals rather than parti-colors.
What causes Spaniel Rage?
There are several theories but nothing conclusive:
- Genetics/Make-up: Some people believe that cocker rage is an inherited genetic disorder, while others speculate that it’s either epilepsy or schizophrenia.
- Abused dogs are more likely to be aggressive, and puppy mills typically have only focus on profit. So check with the breeder about their past aggression cases.
- Responsible breeders go out of their way to ensure that puppies they produce have good temperaments. They will not allow aggression from a dog and refusal to use dogs with the Cocker rage syndrome whether it appears in most members of the breeding line or just one will be reticent to breed with them if there is any indication at all that progeny may have this issue.
- Some people have suggested that lack of socialisation is another possible cause. For example, having a puppy may not be exposed to other people and animals before the fear sets in will result in canine fear aggression or dominance aggression, which are different from say mental lapse aggression or seizure related aggression.
- Low serotonin levels: There is a theory that low amounts of the neurotransmitter hormone could increase someone’s aggression. (Cases have been reported regarding criminals with related brain chemistry, which led to them being violent.)
- Some people think the reason for “cocker rage” behaviour is because of inexperienced pet owners who are not meeting their dog’s needs but this does not explain the types of aggression such as mental lapse aggression.
What is cocker rage syndrome?
The term cocker rage was given to describe the aggression seen in some of the cocker spaniel breed’s dogs. Usually this type of aggression comes from fear or anxiety in its environment and is directed at either people or other animals.
The best way to prevent these attacks is through early socialization, positive only training methods and training that helps your pup feel more confident with people and pets in its surroundings.
“Rage syndrome” is a term used to describe explosive aggression in dogs. Research has shown that although the condition affects numerous breeds, it most often occurs among intact male cocker spaniels. Prevention can start when you introduce your pup to positive reinforcement, treats and affection as part of early socialisation.
Can cocker rage be cured?
Epileptic medication may be an option for small dogs with sudden onset aggression. Unfortunately, all animals respond differently to these meds and treatment may not be long lasting.
Sadly, the only other alternative to euthanasia for this condition is careful breeding by responsible Cocker breeders. This will help alleviate cocker rage in future generations of Cockers.