Studies show that an increasing number of dogs are aggressive, anxious, and hard to control. English Springer spaniels made the list of aggressive dogs, along with Dalmatians and German Shepherd dogs. Some English Springer spaniel owners were not surprised because their dogs show, on occasion, their aggressive side.
Unchanneled energy, fear, anxiety, territorial stress, dominance, and sex could flare aggression up. Learning your Springer’s temperament and behavior training may help reduce its aggression. English Springer spaniels were bred for hunting, and they are naturally hyperactive.
In the following discussion, I will look at reasons for aggressive flareups in English Springer spaniels, early signs, and other symptoms, including the so-called Springer Rage. I will also look at ways to help your Setter deal with aggression through training-based behavioral modification.
Are English Springer Spaniels Aggressive?
English Springer spaniels are not considered to be aggressive. They were not listed among the most aggressive dogs in a 2021 study by the University of Helsinki, Finland. It is clear, however, that aggression and rage are not uncommon among English Springer spaniels.
Springers make wonderful dogs for an active, exercise-keen family. They are alert, watchful, happy to be trained, cheerful, warm, gentle, and even-tempered. These bundles of energy do well with children. Springers may also be overexcitable and hyperactive. They may crave constant attention and become anxious when left alone.
The importance of breeding cannot be overstated. Springers may be erratic if not bred properly, becoming overreactive and aggressive towards strangers and other dogs. They may bark incessantly, growl, and even bite. Therefore, adoption centers may not be the best option for a family looking for a Springer.
Typically, the dog’s aggression is directed at the owner, kids, persons unknown to the dog, and other dogs. Fear of certain sounds, reaction to provocation, avoidance of an unpleasant event, low sociability with humans, and the tendency to chase other dogs, are major triggers in the dog’s aggressive behavior.
Causes Of A Springer’s Aggression
As you observe your Springer’s behavior, you are likely to find that, far from being an arbitrary “out of the blue” reaction, aggression may stem from specific events or causes that trigger the dog’s reaction. Once triggered, the dog may growl, snarl, snap, lunge, or bite as it reacts to whatever triggered it. Springers are reactive by nature.
Fear Triggered Springer Aggression
The dog’s aggression may be triggered by fear, just like their human friends. Fear-triggered aggression can appear anywhere. The dog may be startled or feel threatened by something or someone. It may react to a visit to the vet, startled by a loud sound, or taken by surprise by someone appearing unexpectedly
Fear-triggered aggression may respond to past conflicts related to desertion, pain, impulses such as possessiveness and domination, and various social traumas. Fear aggression causes the dog to attack and retreat in short bursts. It growls and snarls before nipping and pulling back.
Conflict Triggered Springer Aggression
A conflict – pending or immediate, may trigger the Springer’s aggression. It is important to notice that dogs may react aggressively in certain circumstances while becoming docile and accommodating in other situations. The various reactions are a response to the trigger, the reason the dog reacts the way it does.
When challenged, dogs react in ways that humans may find familiar. Dogs, too, face the options to fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Your Springer may growl, snarl, nip, or bite, to show non-submission. It may freeze to allow a mutual assessment of the conflict. It may also fawn, lie on the ground, or sniff the other dog in submission.
Possession And Ownership Triggered Springer Aggression
Your Springer may react aggressively to an attempt to take away, or even approach, something it holds. This may be a toy, stick, a favorite blanket, a treat, a food bowl, or anything the dog claims ownership of and intends to keep. As the dog’s perception of approaching threat increases, so will its aggression – growling, snarling, and even biting.
Your Springer reacts to a perceived challenge, a threat. Its aggressive response is fear-based and has much to do with its sense of safety and security. Some experts see possessive aggression as part of the dog’s primal scavenging instincts. The dog may consider attempts to retrieve possession, for example, by chasing it, as play.
Territorially Triggered Springer Aggression
Springers make excellent watchdogs because their territorial instincts match humans’ need for vigilance and protection. Dogs are hardwired to identify territory and protect it from unknown dogs and other invaders. Your Springer will detect unknown persons approaching and alert the house.
Springers’ territorially triggered aggression is an unwelcome by-product of their instincts. They view their home, yard, couch, crate, blanket, etc., and the people in the home as a territory that requires protection. Any attempt to encroach on their territory threatens their sense of safety and causes an aggressive reaction.
Pain Triggered Springer Aggression
Your Springer may become aggressive due to pain caused by an injury or sickness. They are likely to resist being touched or moved. Pain is the body’s way of warning that something needs your attention. A thorn in the dog’s paw, a strained tendon, hip displacement, broken bone, or an illness – your Springer’s aggression indicates that something is wrong.
Having identified the warning signs, you need to assess the cause of the pain and decide if you should seek input from a vet online or take the dog to the clinic. Use the Basic First Aid for a Pet Emergency guide for practical advice. Use the Canine Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) Guide and the questionnaire if it looks like the dog has a larger medical issue.
Unpredictably Triggered Springer Aggression
This type of aggression includes unpredictable and intense episodes unrelated to any apparent cause. Since the dog’s extreme reaction is disproportional to the situation it emerged from, it was defined as rage. The Rage Syndrome was more prevalent among English Springer spaniels than other breeds and is also known as Springer Rage.
Rage syndrome symptoms are similar to most other types of aggression: freezing, growling, snarling, staring, nipping, biting, and, sometimes, lunging. There is no known trigger for the aggression – which gave the syndrome its medical name Idiopathic (that is, of no apparent, undetectable reason) Syndrome.
The dog’s reactions are larger, and the progression through the various postures is much faster. Often, the dog forgets its behavior and seems tired and docile. The general opinion is that if the cause of the syndrome is assumed to be medical rather than behavioral, the dog needs to undergo medical examinations and be diagnosed and treated with medication.
It was found that the Rage Syndrome dog’s aggression is often directed at its owner – or owners. It may also behave aggressively toward one person while showing love and kindness to another. Experts argue that this selective behavior, originally diagnosed as Rage Syndrome, is an aggressive episode triggered by the dog’s possessiveness.
English Springer spaniels are lovable, gentle, loyal, and playful dogs. They are not considered dangerous dogs and are popular bought or rescued pets. Springers need to be socially trained and taught various ways to adapt, thrive, and live comfortably among those with whom they share their space.
Springers are not aggressive by nature, and aggressive behavior indicates that the dog was triggered by things that upset, scared, threatened, or hurt it. Behavioral diagnoses and training will likely help the dog adapt to its surroundings. The dog’s owner must learn as much as possible about their best friend’s character and emotional makeup.