I'm often asked if Cockers are good dogs for children so I thought I'd post the question here, together with some answers and comments from visitors.
We'd like to know if Cockers are safe with children?
Our 7-year-old son, who is an only child, would love to have a dog.
So we've given in to him, and we're currently looking at dog breeds to find something suitable for our little family.
My husband thinks Cocker Spaniels are cute and would like to own one.
Unfortunately, my personal experience is different.
When I was young, I was around Cocker Spaniels, and I found them mean and aggressive.
Is this the true nature of Cockers?
Or do you think that where they are aggressive, it is down to the owner's lack of experience with dogs?
At the moment, there are Cocker Spaniel puppies at the pound, so we might get one this week, depending on the information and advice we get here.
Reply From Pauline
Cocker Spaniels are usually very gentle and loving. The Cocker Spaniel temperament is second to none, and yes, Cocker Spaniels can make good dogs for children!
I think you are correct to suggest that where an animal is mean or aggressive, this behaviour may be down to the owner (who is usually inexperienced with dogs), or the children (who don't know how to behave around dogs).
If a Cocker Spaniel behaves aggressively, it could also be down to external influences, such as a change in environment, or a new baby in the house.
I have found that generally, Cocker spaniels can be very stubborn.
They need a firm but gentle hand and don't respond well to heavy-handedness, or (heaven forbid) violence, but they respond well to gentle training.
On the other hand, they can sometimes be very nervous, and extra gentle handling is needed. Otherwise, the dog may shy away or become aggressive (fight or flight syndrome).
However, well-socialized and well-trained Cockers are a delight to have around, and these articles on socializing your puppy and puppy training will give you all the information you may need to ensure your puppy learns his manners.
I no longer believe in the concept of the alpha male. However, I believe that making your dog work for everything he gets is still the way to go.
I also think that if you make it clear to your puppy what behaviour is acceptable, and more importantly, what is not, there won't be any misunderstandings or challenges.
My Cocker No Longer Likes Children
My cocker spaniel used to love playing with children. Unfortunately, since we moved house, he has started to dislike them.
We now have noisy neighbours, whose children run up and down the corridors screaming every day, with high-pitched voices.
We also live next to the local school, where the kids are constantly screaming when playing outside.
They also scream on their way home from school and make loads of noise. My cocker has become very nervous about them as a result.
The kids would knock on my door to make my dog bark. When he hears them outside, he runs to the door or the balcony and either growls or barks. Very occasionally, he sits there silently and listens.
He's only 4-years-old, and this change in his behaviour has nothing to do with me badly treating him or being inexperienced.
He's very much loved and is a very clever dog.
I think it's got everything to do with him being frightened easily by silly things, and he seems to dislike people shouting and making too much noise in general.
He usually runs away to hide.
Now I have to be very careful because he won't let a child approach him, let alone stroke him, and he barks at them when they get too close to him.
Cockers And Children
I've found that where cocker spaniels are aggressive, it's usually down to the owner.
It's either a result of a misunderstanding, miscommunication, or just plain ignorance.
If you teach your dog obedience commands and teach him the behaviour that you find good, you'll have a well-behaved cocker.
Sometimes, cocker spaniels (or any dog breed) may behave aggressively, because it is frightened. I think it's called fear aggression.
Generally, the cocker spaniel's temperament is good, and they're great with children.