There is not yet a clear understanding of what rage syndrome is and what underlying causes trigger this form of aggression. What is clear is that there appears to be a pattern of this form of aggression involving a disproportionate amount of Springer Spaniels andCocker Spaniels. However, the syndrome has been observed in many other breeds such as Bernese Mountain dogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Dobermans, English Bull Terriers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs and St. Bernard’s, even though at a less extent.
Signs and Symptoms of Rage Syndrome
Rage syndrome is characterized by sudden, unprovoked attacks often targeting family members. The dog does not appear to give much warning other than perhaps a hardening of the eyes. The attack may then end as quickly as it came with often the dog behaving as if nothing has happened. Many owners report that their dogs acts in an apologetic manner after the attack often licking the owner and acting submissive.
Theorized Causes of Rage Syndrome
There are various theories as to what may be causing rage syndrome. Some believe that it may be a hereditary disorder due to some form of brain disorder or a reduced level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for providing a calming effect. Another theory is that rage syndrome is simply an extreme form of dominance aggression. Another theory finally suggests that this form of aggression in reality is a seizure disorder especially when the dog appears to be in an altered state of consciousness.
Prognosis and Treatment of Rage Syndrome
The prognosis for this syndrome varies, depending on its severity and the underlying cause if pin-pointed. Consulting with a dog behaviorist is a must in order to obtain an accurate assessment. There are better results in dogs who give warning signs such as growls and showing teeth when compared to dogs who engage in full force attacks. Better results are also seen when owners are able to see a pattern and can predict what can trigger an attack (ie waking the dog up when sleeping, going near the food bowl or moving the dog away from the couch or bed).
Treatment options are discussed after observing the dog's Jekyll and Hyde behavior. Generally, medications may be prescribed and a behavior modification plan must be followed. Cocker Spaniel rage syndrome fortunately affects only a small percentage of dogs and is quite rare.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 03, 2013:
Was he actually diagnosed by a vet with this? Startling a dog when he's sleeping may cause even a normal dog to bite; it's not necessarily a sign of an issue such as rage syndrome. The dog just wakes up startled and reacts. In what other circumstances did he bite/react aggressively? have your vet see him and then ask for a referral for a veterinary behaviorist if he has a clean bill of health.
Jeff on May 02, 2013:
my cockapoo has this. He is the most loving, affectionate dog normally. When his rage occurs, and it can come with no warning very often, he is inconsolable. I bumped him with my foot once while we were sleeping and he instantaneously bit me and went inside his dog carrier. He has epilepsy and takes phenobarbitol. The pheno has worked exceptionally well on the seizures, but it doesn't seem to be helping his aggression. We are taking him to the vet tomorrow to see about medication modifications. I will not have him put down. Luckily he is only 22 pounds and I love him far too much to do that.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 02, 2012:
If your dog a cocker spaniel? See your vet and discuss any possible medical causes first and then if nothing is wrong physically perhaps see a behaviorist and see what can be done, best wishes!
Em West on April 01, 2012:
Thank you to whomever posted this information. I have a dog that seems to have this. I just read this tonight, so I have more info to look into and I'll be taking my girl back to the vet to talk about this syndrome and check her thyroid out. God bless...
Barbara Badder from USA on October 20, 2010:
We had a Springer Spaniel that had this syndrome. It was so sad because she bit our daughter and the vet insisted she be put to sleep. I still miss her terribly.
The vet wasn't open to treatment at all and insisted she would have to be put to sleep. We don't have a dog behaviorist in our area.
I've done a lot of studying about this syndrome and they can actually trace it back to the actual ancestor dog that passed this down to English Springers. Springers were originally bred from the largest Cocker Spaniels in the litters.
India Arnold from Northern, California on September 18, 2010:
This is outstanding information on a very credible disfunction. Thank you for sharing.
Sweetsusieg from Michigan on September 14, 2010:
We did have a dog that suffered terribly from this. Had I heard of it maybe we could have spared his life. he was a beautiful mixed breed of dog that def. had spaniel of some sort. After he attacked my daughter (unprovoked mind you) while she was laying on the floor, biting her severely, we had to put him down. This was a heartbreak for the family, my husband in particular.
He had exhibited very aggressive behavior before the attack especially when we had company. When he was one on one with any of us he was very sweet, and not aggressive at all.
His vet had no idea what to do with him. Even neutering didn't help.
Great info - for the future!
chardee42 from Orlando, FL on September 14, 2010:
This is the first I've heard of this. I'm so happy that I don't have first hand knowledge. Some of these dogs are picked because they can live well with kids.