The Cocker Spaniel Temperament: What to Expect, and How to Deal with It

When asked about the Cocker Spaniel temperament, most people remember the beautiful little dog from the Disney classic Lady and the Tramp.

Cocker spaniel

When it comes to choosing a family dog, there are few breeds more iconic than the Cocker Spaniel. Here is what you can expect from the happy-go-lucky dog with the beautiful, flowing coat.

What You Need to Know About the Cocker Spaniel Temperament

If you looked in the dictionary under “companionable,” you would see a picture of a Cocker Spaniel. Everything about the Cocker Spaniel temperament makes her a wonderful family pet.

They Are Very Trainable.

Like the Golden Retriever and the Lab, the Cocker Spaniel is extremely eager to please and enjoys learning new things. Because of their gentle nature, positive reinforcement is the only type of training you should ever use with this sweet dog.

She is a people-pleaser, which always helps during training exercises. All she needs is to hear that you are unhappy with how she is acting, and that should help her correct her course.

She learns best when you present her with a challenge, so keep throwing different tricks at her to learn. Plus, a little variety never hurts – both for you and for her!

Girl and cocker spaniel

Everyone is a Friend.

One of the best things about the Cocker Spaniel temperament is her friendliness. In fact, to most Cockers there is no such thing as a stranger. Because of this, don’t expect her to be much of a watchdog.

Cockers Love to Be Busy!

Cocker Spaniels belong to the Sporting Group. As such, hunters still use them to hunt birds. Cockers enjoy lots of physical activity, and they are very playful. A rousing game of fetch, especially if she’s going after a ball you threw into a pond or lake, is a favorite activity of hers.

They are Very Loyal.

This pretty little dog bonds strongly with her family members and considers herself an important member of the family. Her loyalty is endearing, but it can backfire, leading to problems with separation anxiety. As a loving and loyal dog, Cockers do not do well when you leave them alone for long periods.

Cocker Spaniels are Wonderful with Children.

Though you should never leave a child under the age of 6 years old alone with any dog, the affectionate and agreeable nature of the Cocker makes her exceptionally well-suited for family life. In fact, some refer to the Cocker Spaniel as “the babysitter.”

Cockers get along with just about everyone, even young babies and other animals, like cats. Not only is her temperament perfectly suited for life with children, but even her size is perfect, too!

Unlike smaller dogs, she is sturdy enough to handle rowdier children, but not so big that she runs the risk of bowling them over.

A Brief History of the Cocker Spaniel Breed

Experts believe the Cocker Spaniel originated in Spain (hence the name) as early as the 14th century, perhaps even earlier.

Before the 1870s, people classified Cocker Spaniels as dogs who weighed less than 25 lbs. They classified larger dogs as Springer Spaniels.

Experts believe there are two dogs who are the sires for both breeds of Cocker Spaniels. They believe the Ch. Obo is the father of the English Cocker Spaniel, and that his son, Ch. Obo II, is the father of the American Cocker Spaniel.

A Few Quick Cocker Spaniel Facts

Cocker Spaniel Size

Height: Between 13.5” and 15.5”

Weight: Between 24–30 lbs., but they can gain weight easily, so you must be sure not to let them become overweight.

Cocker Spaniel Colors

It seems there isn’t a color that a dog can come in that the Cocker Spaniel doesn’t cover. Cocker Spaniel colors include:

  • Plain black, or mixed with tan or white
  • Plain brown, or mixed with tan or white
  • Plain buff, or mixed with white
  • Plain red, or mixed with white
  • Silver
  • Plain blue roan, or mixed with tan
  • Cream
  • Golden
  • Red roan
  • Plain sable, or mixed with white

Helpful Cocker Spaniel Training Resource:

For help with training your Cocker Spaniel dog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.

Grooming

To keep the coat of a Cocker Spaniel beautiful and flowing, you need to give it a lot of attention. If you don’t want to spend the necessary time brushing and trimming your dog’s coat, then the Cocker is a bad choice for you.

You must brush her regularly to prevent tangles and mats, and you must also comb her in addition to brushing her. Don’t pull on any snarls you find with the brush, as this could hurt her. Instead, gently pull the snarls apart with your fingers.

Be careful when brushing her ears, as the skin there is very sensitive, and you can actually cause her to bleed if you brush too hard. Bathe her regularly and be sure to rinse her coat, then re-rinse it to get all of the soap out. Also, be sure to look for any skin irritation or inflammation while bathing her.

Once she is clean, blow-dry her coat on a warm setting, not too hot. Be sure to learn the proper procedure on how to clean and dry her ears to prevent infection.

If you do have the time and want to spend it on a Cocker, then here are some Bichon Frise grooming tips that might also be helpful for grooming your Cocker Spaniel.

Cocker Spaniel Health Issues 

Girl and cocker spaniel

  • Obesity – Just like with humans, obesity for a Cocker Spaniel can lead to many other problems. And, also like some humans, Cockers love to eat almost as much as they love to cuddle!
  • Ear infections – The Cocker’s beautiful long ears, unfortunately, come with a predisposition to ear infections. However, you can easily prevent ear infections by feeding her a proper diet and grooming her regularly.
  • Autoimmune Disorders – Cockers are predisposed to both Hemolytic Anemia and Thyroiditisboth of which are autoimmune disorders that can lead to serious health problems. Take care not to over-vaccinate these dogs, as this can trigger an autoimmune response.

Life expectancy

The lifespan of a Cocker Spaniel is between 12 and 15 years.

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A Note About Rage Syndrome

In your research into the Cocker Spaniel breed, you may come across something called “Cocker Spaniel Rage Syndrome.” There are a lot of myths mixed in with the facts about this condition, so keep the following in mind:

  • “Rage Syndrome” is a term coined to describe unprovoked attacks on family members. Experts originally thought it occurred in a disproportionate number of male Cockers when compared to other breeds. However, this is not actually true.
  • Rage Syndrome is not exclusive to Cocker Spaniels. It can appear in any breed. Even breeds who are normally docile, like Golden Retrievers and Springer Spaniels, have been diagnosed with it.
  • Reports of happy, trustworthy Cocker Spaniels are much more the norm than are reports of alleged Rage Syndrome. Typically, a Cocker Spaniel’s temperament leans more toward that of a teddy bear than a Grizzly bear.

Exercise

The Cocker Spaniel needs lots of exercise, but not because she has extra energy to get out. Instead, for this breed, it’s all about keeping her muscle tone to maintain her abilities as a sporting dog.

Take her for a walk or play fetch with her as easy ways of getting her exercise in. She also does well with other dogs as her play companions.

Top Cocker Spaniel Mixes

Some folks just can’t resist a good mixed breed. Here are some of the more common Cocker Spaniel mixes out there:

Finding the Perfect Cocker Spaniel

So…has the little Cocker Spaniel won you over with her gentle temperament and personality?

If so, you can find a Cocker Spaniel for sale from a breeder, or you may be able to adopt one from your local animal shelter.

Cocker Spaniel Puppies for Sale

The average Cocker Spaniel price is between $600 and $800.

That’s not all that bad when you consider what a wonderful dog you are getting for that price. Of course, that price can vary, depending on who you buy the dog from.

Always be wary if the price seems like it’s too good to be true, especially when buying from a breeder. This may be the breeder’s way of telling you that there is something wrong with the dog.

Cocker Spaniel Adoption and Rescue

If you would like to adopt a Cocker Spaniel, keep an eye on the “stock” at your local animal shelters. You just never know when a beautiful Cocker Spaniel may come through their door.

You may want to consider adoption over buying a dog from a breeder because there are certainly some perks that come with adopting a dog, rather than buying one. For one thing, a puppy has not received house-training – nor is it trained on anything else for that matter.

An older dog, more than likely, has received training from her former owners. At the very least, the shelter attempts to train dogs to make them more adoptable.

Shelters are also a good idea because there are so many dogs that are awaiting their forever homes that may never see them. This can simply be because they are mixed breeds, or because they’re not puppies.

When you adopt an older dog, you give a dog a chance that might not have otherwise had one.

Cocker Spaniel Breeders

If you would rather buy a puppy from a Cocker Spaniel breeder, make sure you do your research before you fork over the cash. Inspect the breeder’s home thoroughly, looking for signs of abuse, at the worst, and apathy at best.

If you see dogs in uncomfortable or dirty conditions, this is a sign that the breeder cares more about profit than he or she does about the animals. You are more likely to buy a dog with issues from a breeder who only cares about money.

Make sure the breeder can provide you with health clearances for the puppy you have your eye on. And always inquire about the health of the puppy’s parents. This will give you a good idea of what to expect down the road with your little one.

Is the Cocker Spaniel Right for You?

If you are looking for a dog who has a lot of love and affection to give, then the Cocker Spaniel temperament makes her a great choice. Some people are impressed by the personality of a dog they see on TV, only to be disappointed when they bring the dog home. This is not the Cocker Spaniel. She is just as sweet in real life as Disney portrayed her in their movie.

Just be warned: this dog’s coat is a lot of work. If you’re not prepared to pay the attention to her coat that she desperately needs, then this is not the right dog for you.