Cassie - KC Registered Springer Spaniel




  1. OK my first major success story came on the back of a Springer Spaniel I re-homed from a very harsh and abusive relative who was incessant in his quest to be tyrannical. Why he ever felt the need I’ll never know but I used to regularly care for her when he and his family went on holiday and then she steadily started spending more time until she was here roughly 6-months of the year.

    The more time she spent with us and the longer periods she stayed with us for (sometimes up to a month a time) the more I noticed differences in her behaviour and the way she would change entirely as she relaxed, learned it was OK to just be a dog and not have to be up on her guard and worried all the time.

    Long and short – I picked up on lots of different things about her that really took me aback once the penny dropped with one being what seemed like an interest in other dogs. Historically she always trotted right past every other dog we saw whilst out walking as though she literally hadn’t seen them. Never interested and never responded to any that came over either she just carried on as though they weren’t even there.

    Then when my youngest was still a puppy and we met another dog out walking, the puppy went off playing and bounding around as she always did with that dog and Cass really shocked me by pricking her ears up and just gently wagging her tail and then seemed to check herself and look at me then stop the wagging and put her ears back down apologetically.

    Realising she had for a brief moment been interested in playing or at least saying hello I quietly went “It’s OK Cass go say hello” and the ears and tail went back up and she slowly walked over, gave the other dog a sniff then walked back to me and that was it. Done and dusted.

    For Cassie this was a MASSIVE change in behaviour and it suddenly occurred to me that she seemed nervous of getting near and looked to me unsure whether she was allowed to play. Must have given her some idea that it could be OK because our dog was playing and not being hit or shouted at so she let her guard down and allowed a tail wag albeit very slightly.

    Next time we were out I watched carefully and noticed the same thing and again just gently reassured her that it was OK to go say hello. Next thing she had the full-on zoomies and was sprinting all over the field at 100mph with this dog and my puppy and I had never in my life seen her behave like that. Not once in 7yrs had she been so playful or even acknowledged other dogs and now she was sprinting around the field and paddock like a lunatic.

    There were other things I couldn’t weigh up one being what she’d started doing more recently which was to ignore me when I called her and not respond until I started to get really hacked off and ended up raising my voice at her.

    She was never disobedient and lived in fear of being hit so wouldn’t risk being told twice or anyone getting angry. Made no sense she’d suddenly start to ignore me and I knew she’d heard me because when I called her the second or third time she would carry on sniffing or doing whatever but constantly give me a side eye and look edgy and unsure until I got mad and would raise my voice and go CASSIE!!! and then she’d be there before I could finish saying her name.

    Wondered whether her hearing just wasn’t what is used to be and tested that theory out by gently brushing against her food bag from a mile away to which she came hurtling in within seconds so I knew that was fine. Nothing wrong with her hearing at all.

    Seemed a daft thing to think at the time but I couldn’t help wondering whether because of how much, how often and how long she’d been shouted and bawled at, whether it was possible she wouldn’t respond unless you raised your voice. Had never heard of anything along those lines before but it seemed the only half plausible reason for her doing it and I started to search for various things on Google and find out whether it could actually be a thing.

    Like it or not I’m afraid… it was at this point I discovered an author, positive trainer and researcher of dog dog training methods. Stumbled across articles and posts and was deafened by the sound of a thousand pennies dropping.

    First of all the theory I had about Cass being desensitised to shouting was a thing known as The Punishment Callus and other aspects of her behaviour were also right there amongst her articles which were written brilliantly and explained at length the psychology behind it all.

    I could have cried for several reasons mainly because I realised how much that poor dog had spent her life trying to suppress normal behaviour and keep from doing things that were perfectly natural but she’d learned to keep under wraps to avoid being punished.

    That little dog set me on a different course when it came to all things dog handling and training. I started taking an interest in every style, technique and read up at length what the PO trainers had to say, what the other side argued and what balanced trainers came up with in the middle.

    Sadly because she hadn’t been looked after or seen a vet for health problems that had been ongoing for a while, by the time she came to me permanently Cassie was already in a poor state. Was admitted for inpatient treatment twice, put on IV fluids, meds and given all sorts of treatment to try and combat her illness but after a second collapse in as many weeks I knew she’d had enough and let her go on the just a few weeks after finally getting her for good.

    Sad though her life was and as devastated as I was to lose my little friend, she is and will be my first major sucess story and the reason I started to realise we need to be more open and willling to listen and learn properly.

    Not being willing to listen and refusing to accept he might have been doing something he shouldn’t was the main reason she suffered so knowing that and being adamant I won’t fall foul of the argument over who’s right and who’s wrong nonsense.