Irish Water Spaniels and litter aggression: a new perspective

Dog owner question

Hi! Our Irish Water Spaniel, named Molly, has become particularly aggressive with her toys. When we try to take her toys away from her, or even touch them, she starts growling and biting.

I don't know why he has become so aggressive and how we can deal with this situation. I would like some help to better understand and deal with this situation.

Veterinary answer

"Hi! I am sad to read that you are having a serious problem with Molly.

Litter-aggression, as Molly is showing, is not uncommon among dogs, and especially in Irish Water Spaniels, which are known as a breed for being extremely affectionate with their toys and family.

Molly's behaviour may be hereditary, but it may also be the result of a negative experience with toys in the past, and she is trying to protect them from harm.

This behaviour is called litter-aggression and although it can be difficult to treat, it is not hopeless.

The first thing you need to understand is that Molly is not aggressive towards her toys, she is protective of them.

This means that her aggression towards her toys is not because she is being mean or angry with you, but because she is trying to defend herself from being hurt.

The best way to deal with aggression is to use positive reinforcement. If Molly lets you touch her toys without getting aggressive, praise her and reward her with a treat. This way Molly will learn over time that sharing her toys is a good thing and will reduce her defensive behaviour!

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Also, it's important to provide Molly with the mental and physical stimulation she needs. The Irish Water Spaniel has a strong hunting instinct and if she doesn’t get the right stimulation she can become tense and stressed, which can exacerbate the symptoms of litter aggression.

Another method may be to regulate playtime.

If Molly becomes too aggressive during her playtime, it may be worth taking a break and returning to her when she is calmer. Always reward him for good behaviour at the end of playtime.

Managing litter aggression is not an easy task and takes time and patience, but believe me, it is worth the effort. The important thing to remember is that Molly is only doing what comes naturally and what she thinks will protect her toys. It is your job to help her in this process and teach her that sharing toys is not a threat to her.

If you feel that the situation is improving but you are still having difficulties, you may want to consult a professional who can help with further advice and techniques.

I hope these tips have helped and that Molly will soon be less protective of her toys."