Springer Spaniels were bred to work; a gun dog used to help hunters find and retrieve game, mostly birds. They have since become popular companions and family pets. But what about aggression? Has this history and past led to any ongoing temperamental issues or behaviors in which owners will need to be aware? To find out, I spent some time researching the breed and will would like to share with you what I found.
So, are Springer Spaniels aggressive? The average springer spaniel is affectionate, attentive, and (usually) willing to follow commands or instructions. Aggression is not a characteristic that is usually associated with this breed. However, and more recently, reports of aggression have been raised from owners. It appears that there is latent aggression in the background of individual lines, where behaviors are generally displayed towards other dogs. “Springer rage syndrome” is the term that has since been used to describe a condition whereby a Springer acts aggressively and entirely out of the blue.
The importance of acquiring your Springer from a reputable breeder cannot be overstated.
Like with any breed; it is imperative that you research breeders ahead of time.
You need to do your due diligence; this is not a breed that you can take your chances.
Unfortunately, not all breeders test their breeding stock and this can often result in health complications and even temperament issues in their dogs later down the line.
Nevertheless, it would be outright unfair to label the entire breed as aggressive. This is simply not the case.
For the most part, the Springer Spaniel is a gregarious, high-spirited dog. They do require plenty of exercise and activity throughout the day, however, or they can be a handful.
Many Springers are fun-loving and enjoy playing in water and puddles. Don’t be surprised to see them tracking mud through the house!
So, if you are fastidious about housekeeping – this may not be the dog for you. Unless of course, you are willing to bathe them regularly or do what you can to stop them roaming while dirty.
Owners often report that their Springer Spaniel is eager to please, friendly, and intelligent.
That being said, this dog breed benefits significantly from early socialization and training to become a happy, well-adjusted adult dog.
Let us now take a closer look at the typical temperament of the Springer Spaniel breed. We will also cover those similarly related questions including whether they are protective of their owners.
We will be looking at some displays of aggressive behavior to watch out for, what is like to cause them and how you can manage and reduce the likelihood of this response if you decide to get one of these active dogs.
Typical Springer Spaniel Temperament
The typical Springer Spaniel is highly active, rambunctious, and can be quite a handful. This is especially true while they are a young puppy.
Most Springers get along reasonably well with other animals, and even more so if they have been socialized around them from a young age.
These dogs are fun-loving, and they enjoy jumping in a good puddle whenever they see an opportunity or get the chance. They just love getting dirty which does come with this own challenges!
When they are trained, Springers can be polite with everyone, they are mostly peaceful and even enjoy being held. In fact, doing so while they are still young is a great approach to prevent them from being timid.
Springers do struggle with separation anxiety mind you. This is where they feel deserted and isolated whenever their owners leave them alone. They get very attached to their owners and can even become destructive or bark a lot when left alone for too long.
For this reason, owners need to consider arrangements to keep them occupied while they are out, including the provision of plenty of mentally stimulating toys.
Equally, owners will need to consider not being out of the home for extended periods and being considerate and mindful of leaving/entering.
If work or other arrangements call for longer periods outside of the home, it is worth considering arranging for a close neighbor/friend or family member to swing by during the day to pay them a bit of attention.
Springers are not naturally confident, and they can be shy and fearful if they are not raised appropriately; this is where socialization (with other people aswell as dogs) helps combat this potential shyness.
Are Springer Spaniels Protective?
Springer Spaniels are usually not the protective kind.
Many breeds are naturally wary of strangers and will often stand in front of their owners when is a stranger is present.
Springers are not like this; their attitude towards strangers can vary from friendly to reserved. They are not inclined to be aggressive and as such do not make good guard dogs.
If the sense of a threat is strong enough, however, a Springer Spaniel may act out with aggression, but only as a last resort and this is a rarity.
Springer Spaniels are also great to play with; they are gentle, and they love kids.
Some dogs have what has been called, ‘Spaniel rage syndrome’. This is a condition that affects mostly show-bred Spaniels.
This condition is defined by a sudden and extreme act of aggression towards an individual nearby.
Spaniel rage syndrome is believed to be an epileptic-type or a genetic type of disorder caused due to low serotonin in the brain. It is not to be expected in all dogs of this breed.
If your later find that your Springer Spaniel does appear to be suffering with this condition, then you are going to need to make arrangements to prevent any dangerous episodes, attacks and risks.
Liaising with your vert, along with consulting a trained professional, are two options that comes strongly recommended.
Springer Spaniel Aggressive Behaviors
Not all Springer Spaniels will act aggressively, it does depend on the individual dog, temperament, personality, along with their health status and the environment.
There are many factors and triggers for aggression, which we will soon look at in the section below. However, for the most part perhaps the stand out behavior of note is biting.
Unfortunately, Springer Spaniels are one of the few dog breeds that are more likely to bite – and without a reason.
Most breeds give a warning before moving to the biting phase, for example, they will back away from an individual, stiffen their body, and growl.
This gives the person time to walk away and flee the situation. Dogs do this as a threat, and then proceed to biting if the threat does not reduce.
With Springer Spaniels, you do not get this kind of warning before biting. They have also been known to bite their owners and those with whom they love and are most familiar with.
Obedience training goes a long way to minimizing this behavior, and not all dogs of this breed will even display it altogether.
Of course, Springers with ‘rage syndrome’ and whom are naturally more aggressive are the main candidates, and most likely to bite in general.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much understanding of what this syndrome is. Some experts feel that it’s due to dominance aggression; others think it could be an altered state of consciousness.
One thing to mention is that if your spaniel is still a puppy, some biting is to be expected Nipping and play biting is entirely natural in puppies.
This is how they explore the world and learn about their environment.
It does usually subside in time as they age, along with socialization.
Typical Causes Of Aggression In Springer Spaniels
One of the main reasons for aggression in Springer Spaniels is dominance aggression. This occurs when an owner has not asserted their dominance and enabled their Springer to take charge.
A permissive owner and a confident dog are two personalities that don’t mix well.
You may have a dominance problem with your dog if they show any of the following signs:
- Reluctance to obey your commands,
- Do not move out of the way when needed,
- Takes your arm and insists you pet them,
- Defends their toys, bowl, and other objects from you,
- Growls, bares their teeth and snaps at you,
- Gets up on the furniture and refuses to get down.
Same-sex aggression is common among Springers, and this is due to certain factors.
Most intact males fight for dominance of a female. Occasionally two females will fight, but it’s rarer.
Signs of same-sex aggression can include but are not limited to, glaring at each other, lowering their heads and lifting their rear, stiffening their bodies, growling, snarling, and loud barking, and it can even move onto fighting each other.
Generally speaking, the Springer spaniel is a docile dog, not often or likely to display any signs of aggression.
Then there is hereditary and genetic lines; some dogs are more predisposed to aggression.
How To Prevent Aggression In Springer Spaniels
Preventing aggression in a Springer Spaniel will depend a lot on the dog, their age, health and their own induvial temperament.
For example, there is no way to prevent Springer rage syndrome, because it is a condition and is brought on entirely unprovoked.
Springer rage syndrome is not even the dog’s fault. It’s a medical and not a temperament issue, so there’s no way to train this behavior out. The best obedience training will not prevent or help it.
Springers with this type of condition must be kept away from children, strangers, and animals. Owners will need to be more considerate, but should not give up on them. Treatments are available and therapies include: B12 vitamin therapy and anticonvulsants.
Some experts will recommend you start by changing your dog’s diet and surroundings. But its important to continue trying different treatment methods.
When it comes to medication, always seek a second opinion and be sure to try recommendations until you find one that works best.
In the meantime, keep your Springer away from people and situations where issues could arise.
This is why it is so important to acquire a Springer Spaniel from a reputable breeder. Through testing and proper breeding lines, this kind of condition should not be passed on on inherited.
It will make your life much easier in the long run, plus it more fair on the dog and other people. Its the responsible thing to do, so always be willing to invest a little more when buying your dog for those extra checks, care and considerations.
Now, onto other aggressive behaviors found more commonly in the breed.
To prevent dominance aggression, your Springer must see you as their leader. Dogs establish hierarchies within their social structure as a way to maintain order, promote cooperation within the community, and reduce conflict.
The more dominant individual will be in control with access to prized items (depending on location) like food, mates, toys, sleeping areas, and so on.
In your house, you should be the alpha, not your Springer Spaniel. You should be in control of these items.
Obedience training is essential to claim your dominance, as is being fair but firm in your approach.
If you recognize the signs of dominant behavior appearing, you should speak to a professional like an animal behavior specialist. This needs to be addressed quickly and can be hard to resolve on your own.
With a Springer that shows signs of dominance aggression, you will also need to take precautions to maintain the safety of family and those who encounter your dog:
- Avoid situations – that trigger aggressive behavior,
- Keep calm – if your dog begins acting aggressively, remain calm and talk to your dog in a soothing voice to relieve the tension,
- Supervise and restrict – your Springer’s activities, especially in the presence of other children and pets,
- Control Access – when indoors, you should control how much access your dog has to the entire house by using baby gates or crating your dog.
The following methods will help you to control your Springer’s aggression:
- Spaying/Neutering – You should consider spaying/neutering your Springer if you do not plan to breed them. This reduces hormonal urges that can contribute to aggression. With that said, spaying and neutering don’t always eliminate aggression, certain behaviors may continue, and you must deal with those in other ways.
- Train your Springer to respect your leadership by establishing as the alpha; you can do this by entering a room before they do; you must come first always. They must obey at least one command before you give them dinner, pet them, or give them a toy.
- Minimize Inappropriate Foods – don’t feed your Springer people food, he should not be at the table, never allow begging
- Always reward good behavior – by offering praise and treats.
- Alternative Therapies – ask your Veterinarian about alternative therapies such as massage therapy, drug therapy, and acupuncture.
- Restrict Access – don’t allow your Spaniel on the bed or furniture; this is a right reserved for heads of the house. If your Spaniel growls when you try to remove them from the bed or furniture, use a treat to entice them off. You can use baby gates or close doors to restrict his access to the rest of the house
- Obedience classes won’t necessarily help prevent dominance aggression, but they can help establish a better bond between you and your Spaniel. Your Springer Spaniel will learn to obey your commands, but you should hire a trainer who uses positive reinforcement.
In general, Springer Spaniels are not considered an aggressive dog breed. Most are fun-loving and make great family pets.
However, some of these dogs can be aggressive and there is even a condition termed in recognition of it.
Therefore, to avoid some of the negative characteristics associated with this breed, it’s essential to research breeders and do all you can to question, and educate yourself on their dogs, lineage and history.
Another option is to adopt an adult Springer from a rescue shelter. With an adult dog, you can see the personality of the Springer Spaniel first-hand and you can even find out exactly how this dog behaves.
If your Spaniel, unfortunately, has inherited Spaniel rage syndrome, do not give up hope.
Make sure to keep your Springer Spaniel away from people, animals, and social situations and seek treatment. Be patient and willing to try new things and approaches.
Always remember that this syndrome is a genetic issue and not a behavioral one. Experts can even trace the condition from a specific line of dog.
There will never be a cure, but treatments do help.
For the most part, this condition is not something to worry about. It is more to be aware of.
Aggression is generally not an issue with these dogs. So do not let this put you off what is otherwise a fantastic breed. Just do your research and due diligence ahead of time
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.