Golden Cocker Spaniel Aggression

by Louise
(Somerset, England)

Max - Golden Cocker Spaniel (Site Owner's Dog)

Max - Golden Cocker Spaniel (Site Owner's Dog)

I have two cocker spaniels, both female and spayed. My black cocker is five and my golden spaniel is four and I have had them both from pups.

My black spaniel has the most beautiful temperament and is wonderful in every situation.

My golden spaniel however, is nervous around unfamiliar people and guests, and barks at them in the house and when out on walks.

Worst of all she has started to attack my black cocker. She never does this when it is just the three of us, but if we are going on a walk with someone else, someone she likes, such as my parents, my partner or our very good friend, she can, for no reason at all, attack my other cocker.

She does this by placing her jaw on the back of her neck, then grabbing her flesh and shaking her head. My other cocker fights back and they are very hard to separate. Yesterday when walking with my partner, she did this and as he tried to separate them he got bitten.

She can be a lovely dog at home, and when it's just me, my partner and both dogs at home, everything is fine. I need to stop this behaviour now, please can you help?


Reply from Pauline (Web Owner)

Hi Louise,

First of all I really must point out that you need a professional dog behaviourist to help you with your problem and I am not qualified to offer you any solid advice.

If you speak to your vet he or she will be able to (hopefully) rule out any underlying medical problem which may be causing aggression and refer you to a behaviourist in your area.

I recommend you do this as soon as possible because aggression problems like this can quickly escalate and get out of hand.

My unqualified opinion though, is this:

I don't think the problem is alpha related, I think it's fear related.

Because your golden cocker spaniel is nervous around other people, I believe it sounds like a fear motivated aggression which is being redirected onto your black cocker.

Fear motivated aggression is a defensive reaction to someone or something that triggered a fear in a dog and the dog responds by barking, snapping, nipping, biting or a full blown attack.

It sounds like your dog's barking was a reaction to being frightened of strangers, and now it's escalating.

Now comes the 'redirection' bit - because your cocker is nervous of people and she knows she can't bite them, she's redirecting her fear onto your black cocker instead of biting the 'object' of her fear, ie another person or a stranger.

You mention that she can react that way even in the presence of people she likes. It's strange that she should be frightened of someone she likes. Are you sure there weren't other people around in the park when she bit your black cocker? That would 'explain' the attack.

Anyway, that's my (unqualified) opinion, but I really do ask you to speak to a professional.

In the meanwhile, I would limit any opportunity for the problem recurring until you can speak to an animal behaviourist, because the more often this happens, the worse it's going to get and it could be more difficult to resolve.

Personally, I don't think a muzzle is necessary because I think your partner was bitten 'accidentally' - it was not intended, but you might like to consider it until the problem is resolved.

Please let me know how you get on Louise. I'd really like to hear how it turns out for you all.

Good luck.

Kind regards,

Comments for Golden Cocker Spaniel Aggression

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Cocker Rage
by: Anonymous

We have a delightful spayed English golden working cocker female who is now 7 years old. We’ve had her since she was 9 months old, had her puppy-trained, and she is the third member in our family of retired professionals. She needs to run every day and gets her runs and swims and climbs daily - unless there is a COVID lockdown. I had read about red cocker rage before we took Emma on. Sweet natured, intelligent, delightful Emma: there she was raging in the bed in the evening as I tried to join my husband, hackles raised, lips curled, teeth at the ready, a wolf in a cocker’s clothing. It happens occasionally. She now understands, through our heated debates afterwards, that this is utterly unacceptable and the incidence has gone down. I had American cockers growing up - no problems. This was real stark rage - and would I trust this precious dog with small children?

From Fearful to Trusting
by: Chris

An up-date on my 4 (now 5) year old Cocker Spaniel.

He did have fear problems around both people and some other dogs. 11 months on, and he is so much better!

Two things have greatly helped him I think.
Firstly, socialising him with other people every day on walks and seeing other dogs of different sizes quite near to him.

Secondly, giving him lots of affection and attention, in a proper meaningful way that he can
understand. He is still wary of certain people, by showing a distance he keeps from more than that.

I also, keep a healthy distance from certain dogs & people who I know might spook him or worry him.

For me he is now a lovely companion and I do NOT regret taking him in as a RESCUE DOG.

golen cocker aggression
by: Anonymous

I have a golden cocker who has been spayed, sweet natured but very driven and has formed habits of pulling tufts from carpets, trying to bite while taking the mail and pulling tufts from his tail and eating them.

I have done training with him, however my husband ignores the training and now when my husband is in the house he guards him and if I try to leave the room growls at me. If my husband is upstairs he lies on the landing and I daren't go up.
Tonight I checked him for jumping up at the kitchen work-surface and he lunged at me and circled me and my husband had to grab him by the collar.

I am at my wits end now and can't trust him. I have had dogs most of my married life of forty six years and do not recommend golden cockers unless you are aware of their reputation, which seems well deserved.

"Red - Rage " Aggression
by: Chris

Yes, those were the words used by a local Vet some three years ago almost, when I inherited my second Cocker Spaniel who sadly died of IBD 3 months ago.

Now I have taken on another English Red Working Cocker Spaniel who has been Spayed, just so that people know, that it is not a hormone related problem.

My current male is a Rescue Dog, I`m the fourth you can imagine how confused a 4-year 9 month old dog must feel in his head.

Yes he has problems around other dogs when on a lead, yes he sometimes snarls at people who approach him from the side! I do intend to work on him to try and win his confidence back.

Someone wrote that this aggression is a `FEAR` thing. I do believe that this comment is correct!

However, Red Cockers seem to be the most vulnerable in this rage-related problem and I firmly believe that the issue is a BREEDING ISSUE, that goes back many, many years and that this breed of spaniel needs to be curtailed to just bona-fide professional breeders only. In other words too many of these lovely dogs are being allowed to be bred by just anyone!

Two months ago, when I was looking for another Spaniel, I literally counted over 400 cocker puppies for sale online just in England and Wales. This figure exceeds any other breed of dog, say a Pointer, Afghan or Poodle!

Spaniels were the first breed of dog to enter Britain over 400 years ago and we have exploited them generation upon generation.

This is only my opinion but I believe I have a strong case for legislation by either Local Government or Council.

I rest my case.

Cocker spaniels two sisters
by: Anonymous

I had one cocker spaniel chocolate who is a year-and-a-half-old and I bought another white cocker spaniel when she was flown here at 8 weeks old.

She came out of her cage and snapped right at my older cocker spaniel. She's a little aggressive when it comes to toys and bones even grocery bags and wants to dominate all the time.

I'm trying to get her to stop that. She's actually a very sweet dog but she does get a little jealous of the other one.

Golden cocker aggression
by: Anonymous

I have two female working cockers one is brown the other golden. They are both 6 years old I have had the brown from a puppy and adopted the golden from someone I knew at 1 years old as they could not cope with her. She is very reactive to everything, over the years she has become much less reactive and more relaxed. She is however on valerian & skullcap tablets daily with the vets knowledge.

However she has suddenly started to attack my brown dog in the last month and seems to becoming more frequent.

Off to the vet next week so will be asking for some advice, why after 5 years of peace would this happen ?

Golden Cocker Spaniel Aggression?
by: Anonymous

I had a beautiful good-natured golden cocker spaniel from 8 weeks until she died at 15 years. While I had heard of possible issues with 'golden' cockers and the possibility of them being or becoming a bit 'psycho', I never experienced this.

She was the only dog in the house and was in my eyes number 1 and spoilt rotten.

Cockers prefer humans to other dogs. So I wonder if the aggression that people are writing about is more about jealousy?

I did have many friends whose dogs 'sleep over' which my cocker tolerated but no way could they come too close to the bed - out of character barking would occur.

Not just nervous aggression?
by: Mike

We've problems with aggression in our own (UK / English) 2.5 year-old golden cocker spaniel and in looking into our options, it's becoming clear that golden cockers are getting a (deserved?) reputation for unreasonable aggression.

If you're reading this page while researching which type of dog to buy, based on our experience I can only advise you steer clear of an English golden cocker. Her sociability issues have taken much of the joy out of owning a dog and it looks like we have hard choices ahead. :-(

Raged Golden Cocker
by: Anonymous

Hi, I have two cocker spaniels, one is black one golden and the other is black. The black one is 7 years old and the golden is 6 years old. I've had both since they were ten weeks old.

In the past year the golden has become very aggressive to anyone walking by, driving by, post man etc. We have a run for them and he started breaking out so we attached a wire on top. He got a shock and has been troublesome going in since, shaking uncontrollably to the point of me having to lift him in.

This morning I called him out of the kitchen he wouldn't come out so I went to him (as I have done all last week) to grab his paws, at which stage he usually comes along himself. This morning however, he flew into a rage, lunged at me and snapped at me. I don't know what to do, I rang the vets and their suggestion is neuturing straight away so that's arranged for next week, but if there is any other advice it would be very much appreciated.

Possible Food Aggression in our Golden?
by: Anonymous

We have 4 male cockers and they're all neutered. Three of them are American cockers, and the youngest is a golden English cocker, called Angus.

Angus has tried to dominate everything since coming home with us nearly 2 yrs ago. He turns 2 next month. He can be the sweetest dog, and is super smart, but for no reason, will attack one of his "brothers". It's usually when food or toys are involved.

One of the dogs isn't kind and they would fight to the death...blood has been spilled. He has never bitten or snapped at a human or a strange dog, only his packmates.

We are at a loss. Such a sweet and highly intelligent puppy. Not sure what is driving this little guy to pick fights......

Dog Aggression
by: Anonymous

I agree. I see this behavior every day when I walk my dog. I walk him past a house which has a high garden, fenced off with chicken wire. There are always two Alsatian dogs in this garden and because the garden is elevated, the dogs are about my head.

As soon as they see me and my cocker walking towards their garden they begin running along the fence towards us and they bark really loudly and aggressively. My dog just ignores them. They don't seem to bother him (perhaps because he knows they're contained and he's safe?).

Anyway, when both dogs reach the edge of the fence (and the corner of the garden) so that they can't follow us and there's nowhere else for them to go, one always turns on the other and starts to attack it. It's really scarey to see - I'm just glad that they can't escape!

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