Cocker Spaniel Temperament Explained

Loyal, companionable and affectionate, the English Cocker Spaniel temperament is second to none; however Cockers can sometimes be a little sensitive and need gentle handling. Using positive training methods and lots of early socialization will help to boost your pet's confidence so that he grows up to be a well-adjusted, happy Spaniel with great manners!

The Cocker Spaniel temperament is just wonderful!

Black cocker spaniel with chew rope in his mouth

They're gentle, loving, loyal, and companionable, and they adore being around the family.

They're also very intelligent and so willing to please which makes training them a walk in the park.

Cockers are a lively breed and their friendly, enthusiastic nature has given them the nickname 'the merry cocker'.

They're very 'busy' little dogs and whenever you see one, he'll more than likely have his nose to the ground, bottom in the air, and be zig-zagging from sniff to sniff or rooting around in the undergrowth. 

But whatever he's doing, his tail will be wagging back and forth so enthusiastically that his whole back end will be 'wagging'.

Cocker Spaniel Temperament - Stubborn or Sensitive?

As well as being affectionate, Cockers are particularly good with young children which is why they make good family dogs - you just need to make sure that the kids understand how to behave around dogs.

They make excellent gun dogs too because of their willingness to work (they're almost tireless!) and their original hunting instincts which are never very far below the surface. My dog Max is testament to that because he'll chase just about anything that moves when we're out in the vineyards! 

As far as the English Cocker Spaniel temperament is concerned, this breed can sometimes be quite strong-willed (read stubborn!) and this is where puppy obedience training becomes very important if you want a well-mannered little puppy that will do what you ask of him.

If your pup is turning out to be quite dominant, you'll find this article very useful. It's about the alpha male and how to manage dog behavior problems that may  begin to develop.

Although Cockers can be strong-willed, they can also be quite sensitive (they're such a wonderful contradiction!) and a sensitive puppy may be frightened of his own shadow, pee with excitement or develop 'fear aggression' and will need very gentle handling and lots of socialization.

The best advice I can give you is to find a responsible experienced Cocker Spaniel breeder, particularly a breeder who as a priority, places temperament over appearance.

A well-bred puppy is likely to be confident with a good temperament; however a puppy that’s not well-bred is more likely to be scared of people (and its own shadow!) and will probably end up snapping or biting out of fear.

If you’re inexperienced with dogs, find a breeder who breeds their dogs to produce good temperaments.

You'll find detailed explanations of what to look for when choosing a puppy  and this article 'picking a puppy from the litter' outlines what 'tests' you can do to help you understand the pup's 'personality' to help you choose one with the right temperament for you and your family.

Once you get him home, no matter whether he's submissive (sensitive) or dominant, I strongly recommend that you thoroughly socialize your puppy. It's very important if you're to avoid behavioral problems with your dog later on in life.

Begin socialization as soon as you get him home and continue right up until he's 12 months old to help build up his confidence.

Cocker Spaniel Temperament And Exercise

Spaniels are very active dogs and need lots of exercise to keep them fit and happy - around one hour per day should be enough, but more if you can manage it.

Delightful chocolate cocker spaniel sitting in a field full of yellow buttercups

They love going for long walks through woods and love to run through fields and swim in rivers whenever they get the opportunity.

Unfortunately they'll also chase cows and sheep, particularly lambs, so even if your dog is well-trained, it's a good idea to put him back on the lead if you're about to enter a field with animals.

Please be aware - a farmer has the right to shoot your dog if he's caught chasing livestock!

Max enjoys being off the lead and running free for a while during his daily walk and he always seems better 'behaved' after a run. I think that's because he burns off all that excess energy and he's simply too tired to get up to mischief!

A tired dog is a contented dog!

Cocker Spaniel Temperament: A Guard Dog?

Don't make me laugh! If you're expecting your Spaniel to be an effective guard dog - forget it!

Although not known as barkers, they'll almost certainly bark to let you know that there's someone coming to the front door, but that's probably as far as it goes.

They make friends very easily and once your visitor has said 'hello', and your dog's had a good old sniff, he'll probably go merrily about his business.

Cocker Spaniel Temperament And Loneliness

English Cocker Spaniels love being with their pack (that's you and your family) and need a fair amount of attention.

Black and white cocker spaniel adult dog

This breed shouldn't be left on their own for very long or they may become stressed and suffer from separation anxiety.

This is where the dog misses his pack so much that he becomes miserable, lonely, bored...and that's when the trouble begins! Left on their own for too long, they can become very destructive and develop unwanted behaviors such as chewing, barking, howling, or peeing indoors.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help reduce your dog's separation anxiety and make his time alone bearable. It makes sense then, to teach your puppy (from a very early age) to be alone for short periods of time, even if you're only in another room.

Even better if you're home most of the day!

Cocker Spaniel Temperament And 'Rage Syndrome'

Whilst researching this breed, you may come across the term 'Cocker Rage Syndrome' or simply 'Cocker Rage'. Don't worry too much about this.

Rage syndrome in Cocker Spaniels is extremely rare and aggressive dog behavior is very often misdiagnosed as rage syndrome.

I do recommend you read more about it just to understand exactly what it is, but trust me, you are unlikely to ever see it in your lifetime (unless you're very, very, unlucky).

Most aggressive behavior is more likely caused by poor socialization, training or handling.

Cocker Spaniel Temperament: Summary

The Spaniel is such a beautiful looking dog - their adoring brown eyes and soft droopy ears, their silky soft coat, but most of all, it's their loving temperament which makes them the most popular of the Spaniel breed.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about the English Cocker Spaniel temperament and that it's helped you to decide that this is the dog for you!

However, if you weren't quite convinced, (and I can't believe you're not!) why not learn a little more about the Cocker Spaniel breed before making your final decision?

You'll also find more useful titles below.




More Relevant Titles

General Information on the Cocker Spaniel breed.

Coat Colors - cockers can be found in a combination of beautiful solid, mixed and roan markings.

Cocker Spaniel Health - hopefully your dog will remain healthy, but it's really important you understand what can go wrong and if it does, how best to fix it.

Cocker History - do you know the History of the Cocker Spaniel? Learn all about it here.

Spaniel Characteristics - the Cocker's characteristics are totally appealing, floppy ears, soulful brown eyes, wagging tail - how could you resist?

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