This blog post is the first in a continuing series while I work with a rescued Springer Spaniel in resolving a very frustrating oral behavior.
I’d like to introduce you to Wrigley. “Rigs” as my daughters have nicknamed him is a 2 ½ year old energetic “field” Springer Spaniel. He was adopted by us earlier this year through ESRA (English Springer Rescue America). Rigs was a voluntary surrender because of hardships experienced by the original family. He is a beautiful young man with impressive lineage. Rigs is not our first Springer and I have to admit I am partial to the breed. His mannerisms are typical of a Springer; he’s great with my girls, loves to be with humans, stays close when off-lead, and is not short in the affection category.
One would also assume that because his past was apparently free from abuse, neglect, or other hardships that he would have made a quick, simple, transition into our family. The first two weeks went as well as could be expected. Being a smart dog, Rigs explored his boundaries and pushed them as far as we would allow. He quickly learned the rules of the house and generally complied.
One evening while I was watching TV, I heard a snapping noise coming from Rigs who had taken a spot on the floor at my feet. I was surprised to see that it was being created from him biting his nails. I told him to stop (which he did), let him outside to do his business, crated him when he was done, and went to bed. This activity continued every evening within minutes of the previous night.
We took Rigs on a weekend Northwood’s camping trip. That first evening, while sitting around the campfire, I heard a familiar but somewhat different sound in the vicinity of Rigs. I thought he was nail biting. It was in fact something different. Rigs was chewing on a ROCK! I immediately pried open his mouth and commanded Rigs to “drop it”. The stone fell from his mouth. I moved the location of his tie-out away from the area. To my surprise, within minutes Rigs was digging up the dirt in the new area and retrieving and chewing on rocks almost as fast as I could take them away from him.
Upon returning home, the rock searching and chewing did not stop. In fact, the activity accelerated and became more driven. Rigs not only targeted natural stones within the yard, but he took a particular interest in the red decorative lava rock which fills the flower beds around the house. It finally progressed to the stage where the command “drop it” solicited a response from Rigs to swallow the stone. A recent vet visit and x-ray revealed he had swallowed a total of three, which fortunately passed naturally over the week.
The oral activity then moved to inside the house. He began to peg his nose to the floor, and any small item that he would intersect would go immediately into his mouth. This could include; lint, a paper scrap, a poly-pocket, or a penny. A survey of our yard would yield an inventory of nondescript colorful bits of paper, plastic, string, and other items I have yet to identify their origin, mixed in with the dog bombs. Although we have done the best we can to “Rigs-proof” our home, retrieving something from his mouth is still an occurrence that happens daily.
This behavior is truly the most confusing and stressful I’ve had to break down and deal with as an owner of an adopted animal. As I work through this challenge with Rigs, I will keep you informed on the steps taken and ideas considered to correct this behavior.