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Maturing Cocker Spaniel Puppy is Starting to Bark and Becoming Fearful

Hi John,

My cocker spaniel puppy is 4 months old today. We adopted her from a breeder when she was a little over 6 weeks old (but at the time I had thought she was 8 weeks old–it was a miscommunication between us). She’s a wonderful puppy and very easy to train. I waited until she had her first set of puppy shots (2 months) to take her out on walks in the neighborhood and she showed a reasonable amount of fear but got over it after about a week. She was shy around other people and dogs at first but quickly warmed up once people started to pet her or other animals sniffed her.

Barking Cocker Spaniel PuppyAbout a week and a half ago I’ve started to notice her becoming more fearful of other people and other dogs. She will bark at noises (especially at night when it is dark), bark at doorbells, bark at the neighbors when she sees them outside when she is in the front yard, bark at kids/adults when we are on walks, and bark at other dogs. I’m not really sure where this behavior was learned or why it was developed as it sort of came out of nowhere.

I’m wondering if this is just a stage cocker spaniels go through as I’ve heard they tend to go through a separation anxiety stage just as babies do. She is rarely home alone as we have a very full house of people along with another dog (8 years old, who acts like she’s 2 around the puppy) and a kitten she plays with. I take her on walks once or twice a day when I can and my dad has taken her to the dog park. He says she did fine there, but she was a bit timid. I’m wondering if there is a way I can help feel more comfortable with strangers and new animals.

Thanks for your time,

Cassidy – Murrieta, CA

Hi Cassidy,

Some dogs allegedly go through a second fear imprint state but you’re a few months away from that so I doubt that’s the issue. I say allegedly because I’ve seen it happen with some but not others.

I could be wrong as training from afar has it’s drawbacks but what I think may be going on is a combination or her maturing physically but not in her relationship with you.

Young dogs generally don’t find their voice until they get a little older and your dog is getting to an age where that may explain her increased vocalization. Personally I discourage this sort of barking until a dog is closer to 18 months of age as I’ve found the end result is a decent watch dog type of bark as opposed to barking at every little thing.

Without meeting your dog I can’t say how she’s actually wired as far as confidence but what you’re describing makes her seem as she’s a “softer” than usual dog. Without appropriate guidance from you she’s likely to let her emotions get the best of her and you can end up with a rather dramatic dog from a fearful and/or aggressive perspective. If however you start using training her using appropriate techniques you can get her to start looking more to you for cues as to how to react and be far more responsive if she does react to something when you attempt to guide her.

When I say appropriate techniques I’m referring to the confusing array of dog training methods. Some trainers are one variation or another of “might is right” which would be a bad match for her I suspect and others are all about all positive all the time which I also suspect would be equally damaging of the two. I suspect you need something a little more balanced. Something that is clear when she’s off track but very reinforcing when she’s on. I suggest you read my e-book. There are some great tips in there.  The Beautiful Balance – Dog Training with Nature’s Template

John Wade

Difficult to Control Dog? – Try the WadeCollar –

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