Cocker Spaniel Rage Syndrome

Are you worried your dog is showing signs of Cocker Spaniel rage syndrome? How can you be sure it isn't simply a case of bad behaviour? Do you know how to spot the signs of Cocker rage? 

Learn how to tell if your pet's aggressive 'episodes' are actual indications of this very rare but scary form of canine aggression.

Aggressive Behaviour Or Cocker Spaniel Rage?

Cocker Rage or Bad Behaviour?

Cocker Spaniel rage syndrome is not as common as you may think; in fact, it's pretty rare!

Ordinarily, Cockers aren't aggressive dogs, but aggression in Cockers isn't entirely unheard of. Where aggressive behaviour is seen in Cockers, it's often automatically misdiagnosed as Cocker Rage (also known as Sudden Onset Aggression).

It's well-documented that the Cocker Spaniel's temperament is loving and gentle. However, over the years, there have been some recorded cases of Cocker Spaniel rage within the breed.

Golden cocker spaniel sitting in a lush green field. No signs of Cocker Spaniel rage here!Cocker Spaniel rage syndrome is very rare!

What Is Cocker Spaniel Rage?

Cocker rage can be described as unexpected, unexplained aggressive dog behaviour, or a sudden, vicious attack, for no apparent reason, towards the owner or whoever is near the dog at the time.

It's important to understand that rage syndrome in Cocker Spaniels is the exception rather than the norm.

However, when rage syndrome is present, it's more likely to be seen in males and in show breed dogs rather than working Cockers, and the condition is almost always reported in solid-coloured dogs (golden/black etc.) rather than in parti-colours.

If you're worried it's going to happen to your pet, please don't. Rage syndrome in dogs really is a rare condition.

On the extremely rare occasion that a Cocker Spaniel is affected by this rare syndrome, the condition would ordinarily show itself during your Cocker's puppy months, often around 8 months.

What Are The Symptoms Of Cocker Spaniel Rage?

Symptoms of Cocker Spaniel rage syndrome include:

  • An attack of rage syndrome will be very aggressive - savage, in fact - and you probably wouldn't be able to control your dog in this state.

  • The dog will often be sleeping just before an attack is triggered, unprovoked and without warning.

  • The dog's eyes often appear glazed and staring, and the pupils may be dilated.

  • The poor animal will probably be unaware of anything around it. When the attack is over, the dog will become calm and friendly again. 

  • Following the attack, the dog may appear disoriented and confused. It may even behave submissively, utterly unaware of what has just happened; he won't have any 'memory' of the attack.

Cocker Spaniel rage offers no pattern of predictable behaviour, unlike aggressive dog behaviour (such as resource guarding, dominance, etc.), which can be easily re-created.

For example, if you try to remove a bone from, say, a resource guarder, you would almost certainly trigger an aggressive reaction from the dog. However, I strongly recommend you don't try this!

You cannot re-create Cocker rage; it just happens.

Cocker Spaniel Rage Syndrome: What Causes It?

Although conclusive scientific evidence has yet to be offered, there are several theories regarding the cause of Cocker Spaniel rage:

  • Genetics/Make-up: Some believe it's an inherited genetic disorder, while others suggest it's a type of epilepsy or schizophrenia.
Cocker spaniel with a beautiful chocolate coloured coat. He's sitting against a white background.I'm a very well-behaved boy!
  • Some have suggested that it results from casual breeding, particularly from breeders whose first (and sometimes only) priority is money!

    However, there are many conscientious breeders out there who will not breed from aggressive dogs and certainly not from dogs that have shown signs of Cocker rage.

    A good breeder's ultimate aim is to breed healthy puppies with sound temperaments. They will not breed from aggressive dogs and certainly not from dogs that have shown signs of Cocker rage.

    Here's help on how to find a good breeder.
  • Lack of early socialization is yet another theory put forward. I don't believe that. I think any aggression resulting from a lack of adequate, early socialization is based on fear, which is NOT Cocker Spaniel rage syndrome.

    In such cases, socialization as a puppy would have helped to avoid fear-aggression developing.

  • Inexperienced owners: In some circles, it's thought that the behaviour is caused by dog owners; again, this is NOT Cocker Spaniel rage syndrome!

    The aggressive behaviour is either because they don't understand enough about dog psychology, and sadly, the relationship (and mutual respect) between owner and pet has broken down.

The bottom line is that many theories are offered; however, no one really knows for certain what causes Cocker Spaniel rage syndrome.

I believe genetics may play a part in this, which is why it's imperative to find a good breeder who breeds on temperament and thoroughly checks the breeding pair's history.

This will go some way to ensuring that Cocker spaniel rage is kept very much at bay!

Diagnosing Cocker Spaniel Rage Syndrome

If your dog shows signs of aggressive behaviour, it's more likely to be another form of aggression, not Cocker rage.

It may be, for example, dominance aggression, resource guarding (guarding toys or food) or related territorial behaviours.

With resource guarding, for example, your dog may become aggressive when someone gets too near his food bowl while eating (dog food aggression).

If he growls in protest when you ask him to get down from the sofa or your bed, he may be trying to challenge your status.

Or it could simply be down to general bad behaviour. I won't apologize for repeating this, but rage is rare in Cocker Spaniels.

Cocker spaniel and owner enjoying a romp in the forest.This golden Cocker Spaniel is enjoying his walk today!

However, if you suspect your dog is showing signs of Cocker rage, I strongly recommend you speak to your vet as soon as possible and explain your concerns.

Don't try to diagnose aggressive dog behaviour without referring it to your vet.

Severe cases of aggression in dogs are often incorrectly diagnosed (by owners) as rage syndrome.

Sometimes this results in the dog being unnecessarily euthanized when the problem could have been resolved quickly and easily with good training. This is a crying shame.

When you visit your vet, go armed with a note of all the symptoms and events that lead you to believe your dog's aggression is Cocker rage. List everything that happened before, during and after an alleged rage episode to give your vet a better understanding.

It would be even better to get it on video, but that may not be easy.

Your vet may be able to diagnose it himself, or he may refer you to someone who specializes in animal or canine neurology.

On the positive side, he may confirm that the problem is simply a training issue and recommend a dog behavioural therapist or a trainer in your local area.

Interesting Point:  Serotonin is said to have a calming effect on the brain; many violent criminals have low serotonin levels. If your dog has low serotonin levels, he may be more prone to aggression. 

Treatment For Rage Syndrome In Dogs

If your vet confirms that your dog has Cocker Spaniel rage syndrome, it may be possible to treat the condition with medication, such as anti-epileptics.

Unfortunately, all dogs respond differently to treatment, and medication may ultimately prove ineffective.

Because of the unpredictable nature of this condition and for the sake of safety, sadly, the only other alternative is euthanasia.

Meanwhile, careful breeding by responsible Cocker Spaniel breeders will eventually help remove this problem from the breed.

Final note on Cocker rage: I cannot stress this more strongly; cases of rage syndrome in Cocker Spaniels are extremely rare. 

The Cocker Spaniel temperament is generally very gentle and loving in nature; they're biddable dogs and make excellent pets and companions. Please don't be put off getting a Cocker Spaniel; just make sure you buy from a reputable breeder.

Visitor Question About Cocker Spaniel Rage

How Can I Prevent Rage Syndrome In My Cocker Spaniel?


Me and my family are going to get a cocker spaniel puppy and we don't want any aggression in our dog. What we're hoping for is a very quiet, gentle dog.

How can we prevent rage syndrome in our Cocker puppy?

kind regards,
Jada :)

Rage syndrome in Cocker SpanielsThe Cocker Spaniel temperament is gentle

Hello Jada,

First of all - Cocker rage syndrome is the exception rather than the norm, and although it's not unheard of in Cocker Spaniels, it is very rare.

Many declared cases of Cocker rage are nothing more than an aggressive, badly behaved, and/or poorly-trained Cocker Spaniel.

Of course, you want a healthy Cocker with an excellent temperament. To ensure this, I recommend you buy from a reputable breeder. Follow the link for helpful guidance on how to find a good breeder.

I urge you not to buy your puppy from a pet shop or a puppy farm (also known as a puppy mill) - puppy farms churn out puppies by the hundreds - they're like puppy factories. The dogs and puppies are not given the love or care they need; these puppies very often have health and behavioural problems.

When looking for a good breeder, be sure to do your homework to check that they have the relevant experience and that they're a reputable cocker spaniel breeder. They will be expecting you to ask questions about their dogs and puppies, and they'll also want to know a lot about you, so expect to be grilled!

Here are a few ideas about the questions you should ask cocker spaniel breeders.

Make sure you choose a breeder who breeds their puppies for that excellent Cocker Spaniel temperament - that's always a good start! - but that's not the end of it.

If you want a good temperament, it's also very, very important that you begin socializing your puppy as soon as you bring him home to ensure that he develops into a confident, well-mannered puppy and grows to be a well-balanced adult dog with a great temperament.

Please don't worry about Cocker rage; I promise you, it's not a common condition. Following the above advice will take a long way towards getting a Cocker Spaniel puppy with a great temperament!

Good luck with your choice, and enjoy your puppy.

Kind regards,

Visitor Comments About Cocker Spaniel Rage

How To Prevent Cocker Spaniel Rage Syndrome

Yeah, just make sure you get a cocker spaniel with a good temperament - don't go to puppy farms or pet shops, and don't buy from friends!

Treat your cocker gently, and don't shout at him because cockers can be pretty sensitive and need gentle but firm handling.

Do this, and you shouldn't have any problems!

By: Anonymous

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