alot of cocker spaniels have this too.. due to the inbreeding and overbreeding..
A high percentage of today's dogs (all breeds) develop severe temperament problems, and sadly this is a common reason for dogs being put to sleep.
It is my view that many owners often treat their dogs like humans and forget that they have their own needs and limitations.
Many dogs are inappropriately punished and they have become sensitised to gestures like a raised hand or an approach. The owners don't realise that they have done this because it can take as little as one incident for every learned response. This is particularly the case when there is delayed punishment, that is out of proportion to what the dog is doing or punishment when the dog has issued a mild challenge to the owner e.g. by growling when the owner approaches them after they have stolen something. These dogs become defensive and obviously if the individual is of an impulsive and self-defensive nature the dog becomes aggressive. The owner is not aware that the dog is now fearful of them or that it is now very wary of being approached/held by the collar or looked at.
Owners should try to imagine what it is like from a dog's point of view. The dog steals something and growls a little as the owner walks by. The owner wants the object back and so gets down to talk nicely to the dog and starts to stroke it. The dog snarls or snaps because it sees this as a challenge and then the owner loses his temper. If the owners smacks the dog and take the object away the dog will then be wary of all of the actions that preceded the smacking, even the nice things.
My aim is to try and help dog owners who are concerned about their dog's aggressive behaviour. Whilst Rage Syndrome is a rare condition it is very distressing for owners of affected dogs. I am particularly interested in collecting pedigree information of dogs with temperament problems and have extensive databases of several breeds. Certain temperament problems are inherited and a pattern does seem to be emerging. I have studied and obtained a Diploma in Advanced Canine Psychology and I'm currently considering doing a Diploma in Companion Animal Bereavement Counselling, as sadly this seems to be major part of my role.
Dip. ACP AMACC
The term "rage syndrome" was originally coined to describe a set of
behaviors that were occurring in a disproportionate number of English
springer spaniels, compared to other breeds. It is one of those terms that
is just too attractive, so now there are reports of golden retriever rage,
cocker spaniel rage, Persian cat rage... and so on.
These are the clinical signs that fit the original syndrome as it was
described in English springer spaniels:
1) sudden unpredictable biting, often directed at the dog's owner
(this has been modified now to include biting that does occur in
certain predictable situations as more observation of these dogs has
2) extreme aggressiveness during these attacks that often stops as suddenly
as it starts
(this is referred to as uninhibited aggression in some reports)
3) dilation of the dog's eyes prior to the attack is a commonly reported sign
4) multiple bite wounds are common in biting incidents associated with this
There is a lot of argument about whether this syndrome really exists as a
distinct syndrome apart from dominance behavior in dogs, about whether this
is a heritable condition, whether this is a form of seizure or whether
these dogs have brain disorders such as reduced seritonin levels
(associated with violence in people).
Based on information in the literature and on the Veterinary Information
Network, Dr. Ilana Reisner, who has probably done more research on this
condition in springers than anyone else, believes that this is a condition
that follows family lines, is associated with decreased seritonin levels
and that the condition is hard to distinguish from dominance aggression.
Dogs that appear to have rage syndrome do become aggressive in certain
repeatable situations, such as when an owner leans over the dog or attempts
to move if from the couch or some other repeatable trigger for the
behavior. This makes it less likely that this is a seizure disorder and
treatment for seizures has not been a very successful way to control the
I think that it is safe to say that most veterinary behaviorists believe
that there are a group of dogs who exhibit extreme uncontrolled aggression
that is way beyond the "typical" aggressive responses for dominant dogs. I
think that these dogs probably occur in many breeds but that springer
spaniels are over-represented among these breeds. The term "rage syndrome"
is almost certainly inappropriately used to describe aggression that does
not fit the reported syndrome, making the problem seem much more widespread
than it really is.
While I have not heard of a specific rage syndrome diagnosis among
Beaucerons, that doesn't mean it doesn't occur in the breed, but it should
be reserved for situations that fit the definition of the syndrome.
If this doesn't cover your concerns, please let me know.
Mike Richards, DVM
[quoteSadly, out of the blue, certain breeds of dog display unpredictable outbursts of aggression known as ‘rage syndrome’ and ‘low threshold dominance aggression'.
These dogs will be perfectly civil with strangers and in the show ring, but then will suddenly attack family members for no apparent reason, their eyes becoming dilated and sometimes changing colour during and after an attack.
The dog will not respond to any attempts to stop it, often appearing confused afterwards, but will return to its usual self in time.
English Cocker Spaniels, especially the red and golden varieties, particularly suffer from rage syndrome, but it has also been reported in American Cocker Spaniels, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Dobermans, English Bull Terriers, English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs and St. Bernards.
Although “rage syndrome” has been widely and seriously studied since the 1930s, it cannot be accurately predicted and can only be diagnosed by EEG or genetic testing. Unfortunately, these tests are not conclusive, since the causes may be polygenic and therefore very difficult to pinpoint.
While it is very distressing to have a dog with this problem, owners should seek advice from a veterinary surgeon who may then refer their dog to a certified veterinary behaviourist for assessment.
The Rage Syndrome Helpline is also available for advice, support, and information.
Article adapted from information provided by the Rage Syndrome Help-line
by Judith Gintz-Aminoff
If you wish to read more about this condition,
or contact the Rage Syndrome Help-Line,
If you wish to take part in their latest study, they will need to know the age of your dog,
a detailed description of the symptoms, the colour and sex
of the dog and information on its breeding (i.e. copy of pedigree).
All information will be treated in the strictest of confidence and will not be used for anything else.
Owners wishing to remain anonymous may do so.
This study is primarily concerned