Cocker Spaniel Temperament & Personality

Cocker Spaniel Temperament

The English Cocker Spaniel temperament is second to none. Cockers are gentle, loyal, companionable, and affectionate.

Once you've owned a Cocker Spaniel (or should I say, once you've been owned by a Cocker Spaniel!) I'm sure you won't want any other dog breed in your life!

What's The Cocker Spaniel Temperament Really Like?

Cocker Spaniels Are Happy Little Dogs!

Cocker Spaniels are renowned for being 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. Whenever you see one, it will probably have its nose to the ground, its bottom in the air, rooting around in the undergrowth or zigzagging from one sniff to the next.

And, of course, that little tail will be wagging; it never stops, no matter what 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!

The Cocker Spaniel temperament is very gentle. This Chocolate Cocker is sitting in a field of buttercups.What a beautiful Cocker Spaniel Temperament!

Cocker Spaniel Temperament: They're Easily Trained

Cocker Spaniels are very intelligent and eager to please; this combination of traits helps 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!

If your dogs temperament is a little unruly, keep him well-trained. Don't let him get away with deviant behaviour; if allowed, they will always test the boundaries!

When training your dog, I recommend only using positive training practices (rewarding good behaviour and ignoring the bad) with no rough handling; 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 must ensure that the kids understand how to behave around dogs.

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

They're 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. You'll know what I mean if you've ever watched your Spaniel chasing a rabbit or squirrel!

Please Note: a farmer has the right to shoot your dog if he's caught chasing livestock! You have been warned! Keep him on a lead wherever there is 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 put 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 Cocker Spaniels 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 and sometimes too timid to make good guard dogs.

Although Cockers are not generally known as nuisance barkers, they will almost certainly bark to let you know someone is at the front door; however, 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.

Golden Cocker Spaniel sitting in a field of buttercups. No temperamental problems here! A golden Cocker Spaniel puppy with a sweet temperament

Cocker Spaniel Temperament & Exercise

Cockers love going for long walks through the woods. They also 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 runabout. 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 Problems: Loneliness

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

Cocker Spaniels shouldn't be left alone for very long or they may become stressed and anxious; this is known as separation anxiety.

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

Like most dogs left on their own for too long, Cockers can become very destructive. They may develop unwanted behaviours such as chewing, barking, howling, 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.

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

Understandably, you can't be around all the time (even if you don't need to go out to work). 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, human family members, or toys.

If your Cocker constantly fears having something taken away from him, he may become aggressive.

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 guarding his food, it's often because the dog feels his food is in danger of being taken off him. For example, he may believe his food is at risk of being eaten by another dog or a family member is getting too close while he's eating.

He may defend his food aggressively to ward them off.

This is a throwback to the wild, where only the strongest survive.

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

A beautiful Cocker Spaniel puppy sitting on the kitchen floor, looking sad.Did somebody steal my dinner?

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.

Otherwise, where one family member regularly feeds, walks, or plays with the puppy, you may find that you're unwittingly fostering a possessive nature in your puppy.

It can lead to aggressive behaviour towards others approaching the 'favoured' family member.

Mum, Dad, and kids should all be involved in the puppy's daily activities; feeding, walking, playing, and taking turns for cuddles. Sharing these activities will ensure your puppy responds well to all family members.

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.

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?

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

However, like most other breeds, Cocker Spaniels can become somewhat unpredictable if the dog has not received adequate socialization or training.

The same can apply if they are handled roughly or their owners are terribly inexperienced.

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

A Strong-Willed Cocker Spaniel

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

This type of temperament is known as assertive dog temperament. 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. Here are 10 essential rules of puppy training to help you get started.

If your pup shows dominance, you'll find this article about the alpha male useful. 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 trapped or frightened.

A submissive or nervous puppy needs very gentle handling and 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.

Where your puppy's nervousness is caused by ill-treatment or a frightening experience (not from you, of course), it may be possible to rectify this with lots of patience and socialization.

Follow the link if you'd like to read more about dog temperament.

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 must 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 strongly recommend you read more about it 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

The Spaniel is a beautiful-looking dog; with adoring brown eyes, soft, floppy ears, and a silky, smooth coat. Most of all, it's their loving temperament that makes them the most popular Spaniel breed.

There's no doubt the Cocker Spaniel temperament is just delightful!

We've seen that some Cockers may be a little sensitive and need gentle handling. Early socialization and positive training methods can help to boost your pet's confidence and help your puppy grow 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 breeds before making your final decision?

If you decide to plump for a Cocker Spaniel, ensure 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. Cynoclub at
3. John Elamper at
4. Sid74 at