Cocker Spaniel Temperament & Personality

The English Cocker Spaniel temperament is second to none. These dogs are gentle, loyal, companionable, and affectionate, and once you've owned a Cocker Spaniel, I'm sure you won't want any other breed of dog!

What's The Cocker Temperament Like?

The Cocker Spaniel temperament is gentle, loving, and loyal. They're very friendly dogs and have many positive traits. Once you've owned a Cocker Spaniel, I'm certain you won't want any other kind of dog!

Cocker Spaniels Are Happy Little Dogs!

Their lively, friendly, enthusiastic nature has given them the nickname 'the merry cocker', and it's easy to see why.

They're very 'busy' little dogs, and whenever you see one, he'll probably have his nose to the ground, his bottom in the air, either rooting around in the undergrowth or zigzagging from one sniff to the next.

Chocolate cocker spaniel sitting in a field full of yellow buttercups. Large pink tongue licking his snout.What a beautiful Cocker Spaniel!

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

Cockers Are Easily Trained

Cocker Spaniels are very intelligent and eager to please, and it's this combination of traits that help to make training a Cocker Spaniel a walk in the park.

And let's face it, there's nothing better to see than a well-trained Cocker Spaniel!

When you're training a Cocker Spaniel, I recommend your only use positive training practices, with no rough handling, as Cockers can be sensitive little souls.

Cocker Spaniels Make Great Family Dogs

Cockers adore being around the family and are particularly good with young children, preferably over 5, which is why they make good family dogs.

A word of caution, however. If your Cocker is a little sensitive, in fact, regardless of his temperament, you need to ensure that the kids understand how to behave around dogs.

I stress this for any breed of dog, not just for the Cocker Spaniel.

...And Excellent Gun Dogs Too!

Cockers have a medium to high prey drive, making them excellent gun dogs.

Their willingness to work is astonishing (they're almost tireless!), and their original hunting instincts are never very far below the surface.

Please Note: a farmer has the right to shoot your dog if he's caught chasing livestock!

My dog Max is a testament to that because he'll chase just about anything that moves when we're out in the vineyards!

A word to the wise.

Unfortunately, some Cockers have a tendency to chase cows and sheep, and in particular, new born lambs. Even if your dog is well-trained, don't take the risk.

Always pup your pet back on the lead if you're about to enter a field with animals.

This is even more important if your Cocker's prey drive is high!

Do They Make Good Guard Dogs?

Don't make me laugh!

If you're expecting your Spaniel to be an effective guard dog, you can forget it!

Cocker Spaniel temperaments are too gentle to make good guard dogs.

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

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

Cocker Spaniel Temperament & Exercise

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

They're very active dogs and need lots of exercise to help keep them fit and happy.

A one-hour walk each day and a few minutes of playing 'fetch' should be enough, but I'm sure your Cocker won't object to more if you can manage it.

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

It's so true what they say, a tired dog is a contented dog!

Cocker Spaniel Temperament & Loneliness

Cocker Spaniels love being with their pack (you and your family), and they like to be the centre of attention... and they need a fair amount of it!

Blue roan cocker spaniel adult dog, white background, head and shoulder shot.I may look sad, but I'm not, honestly!

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

They miss you so much that they become miserable, lonely, bored...and that's when the trouble begins!

Like most dogs left on their own for too long, they can become very destructive and develop unwanted behaviours such as chewing, barking, howling, or peeing indoors...or worse!

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help reduce your dog's separation anxiety and make his time alone bearable.

Understandably, you can't be around all the time (even if you don't need to go out to work), so it makes sense to teach your puppy (from a very early age) to be alone for short periods, even if you're only in another room.

Cocker Spaniel Temperament & Possessiveness

Cocker Spaniels have a reputation for being possessive. They tend to resource guard and may become possessive over their food, members of their human family, or their toys.

If your Cocker is in constant fear of having something taken away from him, he may become aggressive in a bid to stop it from happening.

It's important not to tease your dog as this could 'teach' him to become possessive.

Possessive behaviour in dogs can lead to dangerous situations. Please make sure the kids understand this!

Cocker Spaniel Temperament: Food Guarding

If a Cocker Spaniel is possessive over his food, it is because they feel that their food is in danger of being taken away from them (a throw-back to the wild where only the strongest survived).

Whilst you can never be sure of completely stopping your dog from guarding his food, there are things you can do to reduce the severity of the problem.

However, you should be aware that once a dog has displayed food aggression, there's always the possibility of this behaviour returning later, at some point in his life.

On a positive note, if you can spot the early signs of food guarding, you'll be able to spring into action quickly, thus  any real 'confrontation'.

You can learn more about food aggression and how to deal with it here.

Resource Guarding People

Our dogs love being part of the family, but your Cocker Spaniel must have exposure to all members equally. If not, it can lead to possessiveness.

If one particular family member becomes more important or valuable to your puppy than other members because, for example, they always feed him or walk him, it can lead to the puppy becoming aggressive towards others who approach that family member.

Mum, dad, and kids should all be involved in your puppy's daily activities (for example, feeding, walking, playing, and taking turns for cuddles).

By sharing these activities, you will be ensuring your dog responds to all members of your family.

These Toys Are Mine!

Sometimes Cockers can be possessive around their toys.

If your Cocker Spaniel refuses to share his toys, don't try to take them away from him as it could prove to be dangerous. Simply leave him to play on his own.

If your dog has a good selection of toys, he's less likely to develop resource guarding in the first place.

So, Is The Cocker Dog Temperamental?

Black cocker spaniel with knotted tug rope in its mouth. Standing on crazy paving.Please play with me!

The short answer is no, Cockers Spaniels are not generally temperamental dogs.

However, like most other breeds, if they're not properly socialized, well-trained, are handled roughly, or their owners are terribly inexperienced, Cocker Spaniels can become somewhat unpredictable.

How this unpredictability is displayed will depend on whether the dog is strong-willed or sensitive.

A Strong-Willed Cocker Spaniel

Cockers can sometimes be quite strong-willed (read stubborn!).

This type of temperament is known as assertive dog temperament, and you will need to set some boundaries for your puppy to follow.

This is where puppy obedience training comes into its own, especially 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 about the alpha male very useful, and it will show you how to manage dog behaviour problems that you may see beginning to develop in your pet.

It's recommended reading whether or not your dog is dominant because it will help you to teach your dog some polite manners.

A Sensitive Cocker Spaniel Temperament

Although Cocker Spaniels can be strong-willed, they can be sensitive too - aren't they such a wonderful contradiction? 

A sensitive puppy may be frightened of his own shadow, pee with excitement or develop 'fear aggression'. Conversely, timid dogs can often turn aggressive if they feel they are trapped or feel frightened.

A submissive or nervous puppy will need very gentle handling and lots of early socialization.

If your puppy's nervousness is genetic and he's naturally 'skittish', socialization will help to make him more confident.

Socialization alone may not be enough to change your puppy's temperament, but coupled with obedience training, you may be able to improve his shyness.

On the other hand, if your puppy or dog's nervousness has arisen because of ill-treatment or frightening experiences, (not from you, of course) you will most likely be able to remedy this, gently and gradually, with lots of socialization.

If you'd like to read more about dog temperament, follow the link.

Cocker Spaniel Temperament & Rage Syndrome

Whilst researching this breed, you may come across the term 'Cocker Rage Syndrome' or simply 'Cocker Rage'. Although it is a condition you need to take seriously, you shouldn't worry too much about it.

That's because Rage syndrome in Cocker Spaniels is rare.

Aggressive dog behaviour is very often misdiagnosed as rage syndrome.

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

Most aggressive behaviour is more likely caused by poor socialization, a lack of training, owner inexperience, or aggressive handling.

Cocker Spaniel Temperament: Conclusion

Without a doubt, the Spaniel is 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 that makes them the most popular of the Spaniel breed.

As a rule of thumb, the Cocker Spaniel temperament is just delightful!

We've seen that some may be a little sensitive and need gentle handling, but we know that by giving your puppy lots of early socialization and using positive training methods, you can help to boost your pet's confidence so that he grows up to be a well-adjusted, happy Spaniel with good manners!

I hope you've enjoyed reading this page about the loving Cocker Spaniel temperament, and that it's helped you to decide that this is the breed for you!

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

If you decide to plump for a Cocker Spaniel, just make sure you get your puppy from a responsible Cocker breeder who breeds for temperament.

More About The Cocker Spaniel

The Cocker Spaniel's characteristics  are totally appealing: floppy ears, soulful brown eyes, and a merrily wagging tail - how could you resist?

Click on this gorgeous Cocker to learn more or follow the link above.

Photo Credits: Cocker Spaniel Temperament 
1. Crabchick at -
2. John Elamper at -
3. Namq at -