As many of you are aware, we take in many Cavaliers with behavioural problems. Some are very severe and can be human or dog-aggressive. Others have issues with resource guarding, which has spiralled in their previous homes.
Our fosterers have support from us 24/7, but it is also beneficial for them to learn the basics and how to respond to dogs with different behavioural problems. We are a rescue, so it is a given that we will see many dogs that need some training before they are able to be put up for adoption. For this reason, we work with a behaviourist to ensure our foster team is all using the same techniques and are well supported.
The training is ongoing of course, and we will never stop learning. The key is spotting warning signs (that can be subtle) before any problem escalates and using learned techniques at the appropriate time. We, humans, are being trained as well as the dogs, and some issues take longer than others to be resolved or well-managed.
The most common issues we all face are as follows-
Resource guarding is probably the most common behavioural issue that we see. It is actually fairly common in Spaniels. Responding to resource guarding in the wrong way can have dire consequences for the dog and owner.
It can be extremely difficult to manage in homes with young children as they quite rightly don’t understand the warning signs and can get hurt.
It is very important to get help if you have a Cavalier that is resource guarding items, food or people and you cannot safely manage the situation. Contacting your local dog behaviourist is a really good idea. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers lists local, qualified trainers here: https://apdt.co.uk/find-a-trainer/
Separation anxiety is another common behavioural issue that we see often. We also believe the Covid-19 lockdowns will cause this issue to be even worse. Dogs haven’t been left alone for more than a short time for around a year, so when owners need to go back to work, the dogs are really going to struggle.
When out with the foster dogs, some are certainly aggressive with other dogs/people that they spot either close by or in the distance. It can be embarrassing for the owner/fosterer of a dog that is barking and growling at another dog or person.
Very sadly, many Cavaliers that come into rescue have been undiagnosed for many years with painful conditions such as Chiari Malformation, Syringomyelia, spine pain or arthritic conditions. They have learned to cope with the pain by tensing their bodies up and guarding themselves. They often have shorter attention spans and can take a long time to make progress, even when they have their pain managed well.
Always see a vet if your dog suddenly develops behavioural issues- there could be a medical problem.