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My Working cocker

January 25, 2012

Twelve long, long weeks ago I was a happy, energetic woman and full of optimism and excitement I took on a rescue puppy. believed at the time to be a spaniel mix. Unknown to me, she (Sophie) was a working cocker. Sophie is spectacularly beautiful and cute which is just as well because her behaviour is frankly driving me bonkers. I am middle aged and my son will be off to University in October so I thought it would be a super time to take on a pup to fill my impending ’empty nest’. I have had a dog before and she was so easy, well-behaved and eager to please. Before taking on Sophie I read every book about puppy and dog training I could lay my hands on and wrote copious notes so I thought I was prepared. Sophie has been a nightmare – house training took 9 weeks of hourly trips out and in the end we finally cracked it (well nearly) by my putting on a one woman carnival show after each evacuation in celebration of the achievement. But even now she will suddenly jump on the sofa or my bed and wee (both off limits to her).

Sophie was bought from a rescue home that is, in my opinion, somewhat over burdened and she had been allowed to get covered in faeces on a regular basis. She had dreadful diarrhoea when I received her which was the result of a parasitic infection so I suspect she did not receive the relevant and critical early lessons. My carpets are now all ruined and I am sick and tired of mopping up whilst airily pretending it does not matter (as the books advise one to do).

Sophie is a little fire ball of energy, she has a really strong sense of self and is determined with a penchant for nipping (I use the term nipping because frankly it sounds better than biting!). I have followed religiously from day one the guidelines about how to encourage bite inhibition, I can now yelp better than most dogs. I have also stared into space ignoring her, put her for time out, given myself time out, growled (it always makes me choke so I’ve given up on that one) etc. etc all to no avail. I have recently started to spray her with water which helps a lot (well revenge is sweet is it not?). She is SO prey driven and it seems cannot help herself, she will not stop attaching herself to our clothes (did I say clothes?- rags) and shaking, pouncing on us, and worst of all nipping or acting as if going to nip (not really hard.) Whenever she is pushed away or told not to do something she will look as if about to nip. She is not dominant in that I can take anything off her, brush her, clip her nails etc with no trouble even when she doesn’t like it. She knows all the essential, basic commands – sit, stay, leave, drop, fetch my G and T and is walked off lead in open landscape where she will come back to my whistle and meaty treat. When excited by other dogs she will ignore everything and I feel I have little control at these times. She approaches other dogs beautifully and flops down making herself look absolutely tiny, cute and vulnerable and then once she is sure she had duped the other dog into thinking she is sweet and ‘ickle’ she pounces on thier backs and nips their tails. I am desperate for a dog to give her a good telling off but they are all too well trained locally so I end up having to put her back on lead. Ah and there is another problem – lead control, I regularly have to reinsert my arms back into their sockets like playing with a barbie doll as a child (maybe that was just me!). I have tried the suggested techniques but she is either being obstinate or she is thick. The truth is, it must be me failing to communicate what I want/expect her to do. I’ve watched the entire series of the dog whisperer, read every book going and quite frankly feel like a failing parent with a hyperactive toddler-teenager. I love her dearly (when asleep) but surely it shouldn’t be this exhausting and this demoralising. Please tell me other people feel like this and that she won’t end up out of control.

She is walked slightly more than recommended, played with, taken out for all sorts of social experiences. She has every type of toy, chew available plus some of our own inventions – a loo brush (new) is one of her favourites! She is fearless – fireworks, thunder, emergency vehicles, and baths do not bother her which is great but neither does her angry owner. We can be out on a walk and I’ll blow the whistle and have 5 dogs all sitting for me waiting patiently for a treat (none of them mine!). I have thought of just running off, swapping her for someone else’s dog as it waits patiently outside a shop for its owner but then she looks up at me, comes for a cuddle and licks my face and we are aright again!

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