View Full Version : Irrational Fear

25th February 2011, 11:34 AM
Our nine month old B&T CKC seems to have developed an irrational fear of a certain dog (Cocker Spaniel) she encounters on walks.

She's got bags of 'attitude' with other dogs (all mouth and no trousers!) until they come up to her; then she's all submissive - but still quite playful. However, with this one dog in particular she howls at the top of her voice as if she's being savaged. Yesterday, she was off the lead when the dog came over to her, trying to play, and she ran all the way home (half a mile or so) howling all the way. Thankfully, she wasn't run-over by a car.

We just can't fathom out this strange behaviour; she's never been bitten by another dog or intimidated in any other way by one.

Any ideas as to why she's developed this seemingly irrational fear? Apart from avoidance (which is difficult to guarantee) how can we remedy this weird behaviour. Our other CKC has no problem with the other dog.


25th February 2011, 01:44 PM
I never have Gracie off the lead. Cavs do not do well off lead and some will not race home. Since she has been off lead... maybe she has had an encounter with this dog or one like it that created the fear?

25th February 2011, 02:07 PM
Both are what I call 'off-road' dogs. The girls are pretty much 'tom-boys'. In water, mud, dirt, undergrowth, the works (and they're clipped short, too less tail/ears). We treat them like dogs; not pampered or over-protected outside. That said, they've never been out of sight so it's all a mystery!

Thanks for the suggestion though. :)

Kate H
25th February 2011, 03:10 PM
If the cocker lives locally, could you contact its owner and arrange some 'desensitisation' sessions? Perhaps just being in the same room with your girl securely on your lap, or standing talking outside with both dogs on lead - and perhaps give your girl some Rescue Remedy beforehand to calm her? It's really scarey when they take off for home like that - but what you don't want to do (as I'm sure you know) is get apprehensive when you see the other dog coming, as this will just convince your girl that she's right to be worried.

Debra wrote: Cavs do not do well off lead. My two walk for miles off lead - the difference being, I think, that Britain has a wonderful network of public footpaths (rights of way, so landowners and farmers can't block them off or plough them up) across open country, woods, beaches and farmland, where you can walk your dogs well away from traffic and meet hardly any other dogs (or people). These aren't just official long-distance walking trails, they cover all areas in and around towns as well, and are a real national treasure. You just have to watch out for sheep and cows - and prevent your Cavalier chasing rabbits on clifftops!

Kate, Oliver and Aled

murphy's mum
25th February 2011, 05:22 PM
Can you remember the first time she met the Cocker? It may have been something small that's troubled her, something you've forgotten as being unimportant? Was the Cocker very in her face or pushy? :confused:

I find my two to be quite funny with over the top excitable dogs. Both of mine handle off the lead encounters with other dogs better than on the lead encounters though. We were unfortunate enough to have a similar incident with Misty not long after we got her. She was jumped on by a black Lab that appeared out of the dark one night whilst we were in the field behind our house. Poor Misty was in such a panic she just fled. I chased the dog off, got Murphy on the lead and ran for home to get my OH. Rounding the corner I was over the moon to find Misty waiting on our door step. We never did find out who the black Lab belonged to either:mad:

And I have to disagree with you GraciesMom, both of my Cav's do very well off the lead, we constantly work on the recall, and always walk with treats in our pockets. That being said I wouldn't walk them down a main road off the lead, but that would be the same for any breed of dog not just a Cav. We are lucky to have many forest walks and beaches near Dumfries and my two tear around like loons and love it. I just wish they would stay out of all the muddy puddles though :lol:

25th February 2011, 08:13 PM
The Cocker's always been friendly and playful and the first couple of times they just played together, albeit ours was submissive. Just really odd; she's fine with all other dogs.

26th February 2011, 12:21 PM
There are some things that should be done right away, and others that need to be worked on over time.:)

Dog trainers will tell you there's no such thing as a safe off road dog *except* when you are truly 'off road' -- if you are anywhere near a road, which you seem to saying was the case if your cavalier was at such risk running home? -- then that is not off road. Any dog, no matter how well trained off lead, can for any unexpected reason run in front of a car. Cavaliers are actually bred to have no fear (you can see this is the actual formal breed standard) and often will run directly in front of vehicles with little sense of danger -- they need to always be on lead anywhere near traffic and especially amongst breeds, simply cannot be trusted to be safe near traffic. If you have a dog that just bolted and as you say, was lucky not to have been killed, then you have seen this factor in action and will know now that it is now imperative to keep them on lead on walks anywhere near roads or there's a serious risk you will end up with a dead or seriously maimed dog. Be sure to wisely save the off lead walks for safe, truly off road areas (for perspective == I have a dog that will run for hundreds of yards if he scents a pond or stream for swimming, and can do this unexpectedly :( , so I consider a very VERY long distance away from a road to be safely off lead. It is terrifying to see a little cavalier bolt across a road near cars. :eek:

Cavaliers are spaniels and most love long walks, getting mucky, and rolling in stinky things... :lol: But being off lead in a risky area with traffic truly wouldn't be lumped in as part of being outdoor dogs on walks -- dogs have little more innate sense than toddlers and are just as risky near traffic. :thmbsup:

If you have a dog that is reactive on or off lead it is worth working on this -- well known trainer Patricia McConnell has a good small book (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Feisty-Fido-Help-Leash-Reactive-Dog/dp/1891767070/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_3) on this issue that Amazon can supply (www.dogtrainingireland.ie also have it). As to why a dog would react so strongly to a particular dog -- for the same reason some kids take a strong dislike or have a particular discomfort with some people/other kids. :) I have five cavaliers and they all have dogs they like and dislike for no obvious reason. They are also much happier with other dogs one on one or off lead in the park than when walked together when they get pack behaviour. Dogs that are reactive on lead often are this way when walked with a companion but not on their own. The problem with having an aggressive acting dog, even if it is eventually very friendly with individual dogs, is that the initial aggressiveness will always risk sparking an attack from another reactive dog and if the cavalier is off lead the risk is even greater of a very tragic ending. Some breeds are innately more reactive to other dogs and most of these are strong and larger breeds that would instantly kill a cavalier if provoked, For that reason too it would be wise to work on this issue and keep a reactive dog on harness and lead.. A front clip harness enables more control than collar or back clip harness. Trainers recommend the Sense-ible or EasyWalk harnesses )both of which I use for my pullers! :).

Regarding the ckier --

Kate H
26th February 2011, 09:56 PM
I'd like to second what Karlin says about keeping Cavaliers on lead unless well away from traffic. I always walk mine on a coupler with an extending lead (yes, I know Karlin doesn't approve!!) because our two nearest open areas are surrounded by busy roads and I simply don't trust Oliver not to run across if he sees a friend (or a cat!). Aled is quite nervous and if he got seriously chased by a bigger dog, might well panic and run down the bank at the edge of the common and straight onto the road. On one of the commons there is a fenced area well away from the roads, and there I do let them off; otherwise, they can have quite a lot of freedom on their long lead and play with each other and sniff along the hedgerows, but without any risk. Where they do go off lead is in the country, where we can walk for several miles without meeting any roads (and I can also stop them at stiles to check whether they need to go on lead because of sheep), or in the bigger parks where we can get away from roads. But with Cavaliers it is sensible to err on the side of caution - Oliver is much too adventurous and fearless for his own good - I got him because his owner/breeder could no longer cope with him jumping over the garden fence and disappearing into the Yorkshire countryside for several hours!

Kate, Oliver and Aled

26th February 2011, 10:04 PM
Well, we're not going to curtail their freedom and enjoyment as dogs but thanks for the advice. She doesn't do this with any other dog so it's an acceptable risk.

We're more concerned at the reason for this behaviour rather than the potential (however remote) consequences.

26th February 2011, 10:33 PM
I thought Coco was very reliable off lead. This led me to start taking her outside for her potty breaks off leash, she has always been great coming to me at dog parks around distractions of other dogs and people, and just a super good girl. Then one day, as usual, just like the past several days, we took her out front (unfenced yard) to go potty. Someone accross the street was chopping wood. She zoomed out, in the road, in front of a car, and my fiance had to stop traffic. Coco would have been killed. We yelled leave it, come, wanna treat, you name it, she could not hear us (or did but chose not to obey).

So for a life and death situation, I do think being protected around roads is a good idea. I have read a few stories on here of other owners who unfortunately lost their Cavalier this same way. Not that your dogs are disobedient or should not enjoy freedom, but simply there is no guarantee, like I had to discover, that your dog will not ever get distracted to the point where they simply just do not hear your commands and run infront of a car.

As far as the fear of the other dog, maybe it has a certain smell or demeanor? Some dogs just don't like other dogs. I dont excpect dogs to make friends with every other dog they ever meet, just like with people. Maybe your dog is just put off by this cocker for whatever reason, senses something "off" about it and is playing it safe.

Kate H
27th February 2011, 04:13 PM
I don't think any of us (certainly those of us in the UK or Ireland - and certainly not me!) are suggesting that you 'curtail your dog's freedom or enjoyment' or 'over-pamper them' - just picking up on the fact that your pup was off-lead near enough to a road to have been killed when she ran for home. So far this fear of a particular dog is a one-off - but with no apparent explanation. Which means that unless you can find out the reason and counteract it by training, you cannot be sure that it won't happen again with another dog. I love watching my dogs running free in the park or across the fields, which they do almost every day, they are both water babies/mudlarks, and our holidays include 10 mile walks off-lead across country (though down to 5 miles since Oliver got SM) - but it's not 'pampering', just common sense, to minimise the risk of getting run over by doing simple things such as keeping them on lead until well clear of the car park, for example.

Enjoy your walks and look out for cocker spaniels!:)

Kate, Oliver and Aled

28th February 2011, 04:00 AM
I wish I had the statistic's, but here in the State's, pets being killed by vehicles is one of the top percentages reported for injury and death.

I've always been proud of being able to have my dogs off leash to 'potty' and whatnot, but have recently thought differently with my Claire. My older dog Nash I have NEVER had a problem with. We live in a rural area, surrounded by State land, and our home and property backs up to all this. Claire, as she has gotten older seems to be getting more 'bold'. And recent 'potty' breaks having me questioning how I want to handle her. The last few days, as we've gotten a bit of thaw, she just today, took off in snow nearly chest deep to follow her nose towards the woods. If not for my husband very firm and commanding voice and me rattling her treat jar, I fear we would have been chasing her through several hundred acres of woods while she chased her 'nose'.

My concern with our rural property is running into NOT other dogs, but rather other wildlife like raccoons and coyote who could tear Claire apart. She is a very bold dog, and seems to have no fear, which I have found out here at CT is VERY common among CKCS.

I've even considered buying an indoor loo for my garage (which is attached to my home) to let her out in on days that aren't good for taking her to potty by leash.

I've had several dogs and never have had this issue, but have found that Cavaliers can certainly change your style of training in many aspects. But, I wouldn't trade her for ANYTHING. She is smart, and sweet, and I am totally smitten with her.

Could it be that the dog you encountered is sick or even if a female, coming into heat? I would worry about what would happen the next time you encounter this dog again. Shame they can't talk..........

28th February 2011, 05:53 AM
I want to add my personal story to a cavalier off lead. Holly got out one morning as I was taking my youngest daughter to school. She literally must have followed closely by my car's tires as we were backing out of the driveway -- demonstrating an ubelievable fearless cavalier demeanor around cars. I never saw her, but hit her with the car in our driveway.

After barely surviving the shock at the emergency vet clinic, Holly faced several months of rehabilitation from her 6 hour surgery at a university hospital two hours from our home. The small "bump" at a speed of less than 2 miles per hour caused a total fracture of her hip -- right through the hip socket itself. She also suffered a fractured vertebra, two fractures in her right hind leg and her tail was severed. She now has no tail, a plate and screws in her right hip and healed fractures in the hind leg. It is no small miracle that she was able to regain urinary and bowel continence and the function of all four legs. She faces a life where arthritis is a real possibility. She receives monthly injections for her joints and daily supplements.

We spent thousands of dollars and countless hours devoted to Holly's recovery. We engaged in a rigorous regimen of physical therapy for over three months, which was very expensive and time consuming. We took Holly to specialists all over the state to give her the best chance at a full recovery. And these things are the tangible "damages." I can't begin to explain the guilt, sadness and overall misery I felt and still do to this day. I still can't drive in reverse without feeling anxious. And I of course can't explain Holly's pain throughout the ordeal. My entire family suffered as we watched Holly do the same. I would do anything to get a "redo" on that morning.

I don't mean to criticize or pass judgment. I understand you wanting to see your dogs run and enjoy freedom. But ... if there is any chance at all that they might encounter a motor vehicle, I know from personal experience that they are ONLY safe on lead. I would not wish my experience on my worst enemy.

Kate H
28th February 2011, 10:52 AM
I suppose this post really should be going into the Training section, but it seems appropriate for here. Several people have mentioned how fearless their Cavaliers are, and how they 'take off' when they start hunting (they are spaniels, after all!). A very useful tip given me by an experienced dog trainer, which has really worked with my Oliver the Might Hunter, is if your Cavalier runs out of sight, NOT to keep calling - this actually reassures a dog that you are still around and it is safe for them to carry on doing their own thing without losing you. Instead, take advantage of the fact that Cavaliers may love hunting, but they also love their humans and actually don't want to lose touch with them. If they run off too far, call them loudly and firmly just once and then either walk slowly away or hide behind a tree or hedge. Eventually, your dog will wake up to the fact that you seem to have disappeared and come looking for you. Best practised to start with in a confined area where they can't disappear for miles - but it really does work. (Except when they disappear into a couple of acres of maize/corn so tall they completely lose their sense of direction and haven't a clue where you are!! That was a bit scary - though I did know Oliver was in there somewhere!)

Kate, Oliver and Aled