The Cocker Spaniel Club


About the Breed | Breed Standard | Colours & Markings | Health | FAQ | What is Rage Syndrome

What is Rage Syndrome?

Rage Syndrome is a serious but rare uncharacteristic behavioural problem that has been reported in several breeds (particularly in Spaniels). Rage Syndrome is often incorrectly diagnosed as it can be confused with other forms of aggression and an assumption is too often made that any Cocker displaying signs of aggression must have Rage when this is not the case.

What are the symptoms of Rage Syndrome?

Sudden attacks for no apparent reason; the dog will often be sleeping and then attack without warning. The eyes become dilated and sometimes change colour during and after an attack, the dog is totally confused when attacking and will not respond to any attempts to stop it. The attacks are completely unpredictable and the dog will often appear disorientated afterward and unaware of it's actions, then return to it's normal self shortly after. Victims are usually members of the family and due to the lack of warning from the dog, suffer from a flesh wound that will need medical attention.

NB: Dogs that growl or snap in predictable situations (eg possessive guarding of food, toys, locations etc) are NOT suffering from Rage Syndrome. This behaviour is known as Resource Guarding and is extremely common in dogs generally. It can be solved by careful training as outlined HERE

I have heard Rage Syndrome a big problem in Cocker Spaniels. Is this true?

No, the number of affected Cockers is very small. Unfortunately this problem was sensationalised in the 1980's by the national press and this resulted in the Cocker Spaniel (particularly the solid coloured Cocker) gaining an undeserved reputation.

Is it true that only Red & Golden Cocker Spaniels suffer from Rage Syndrome?

Although Rage Syndrome is more often associated with red/golden Cockers, this is not a condition confined to any one colour or even one breed of dog (see below).

It should be noted that temperament and behaviour problems happen in all breeds of dogs & behaviour can be influenced by many factors, not only genetics but also rearing, training & general health. Poor temperaments (not necessarily Rage-related) are occasionally seen in all colours, due to the fact that the Cocker Spaniel is a very popular breed and sadly, not all puppies come from knowledgeable, reputable breeders. It is also true to say that some owners make mistakes in training their dogs which can result in temperament problems.

What other breeds are known to suffer from Rage Syndrome?

This problem has also been reported in American Cocker Spaniels, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Dobermanns, English Bull Terriers, English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs and St. Bernards. Again, the number of affected animals is very small.

What actually causes Rage Syndrome?

Nothing has been established as yet. Although there have been studies, it still cannot be accurately predicted. There are many theories on what Rage Syndrome is & what it is caused by. These theories are: a form of epilepsy, a canine form of schizophrenia; low serotonin levels in the brain and thyroid dysfunction. Some also believe that Rage Syndrome is simply a form of dominance-related aggression & is not a separate condition at all.

Could Rage Syndrome have a heritable basis?

Although there have been no large studies undertaken to prove this theory, it is certainly possible and some leading geneticists and behaviourists believe that there is a genetic component to this problem.

What should I do if I suspect my dog has Rage Syndrome?

It is important to remember that true Rage Syndrome is very rare. Concerned owners should consult their Veterinary Surgeon & ask for their dog's case to be referred to an experienced behaviourist (preferably a member of a profession body such as the APBC) who can determine if the dog is in fact suffering from Rage or has some other type of aggression problem.



Valid XHTML1.0

© The Cocker Spaniel Club 2003-2023.
All Rights Reserved. No images or content from this website may be reproduced without express permission.  

Privacy Policy