The cocker spaniel temperament – what to expect, and how to deal with it

Cocker spanielWhen asked about the Cocker Spaniel temperament most people think about the beautiful little dog from the Disney classic Lady and the Tramp.

When it comes to choosing a family dog, there are few breeds that are more iconic than the Cocker Spaniel. Here is what you can really expect from this happy-go-lucky dog with the beautiful, flowing coat.

A Few Quick Facts

Height: Between 13.5” and 15.5”

Weight: Cocker Spaniels should way between 24–30 pounds but they tend to gain weight easily and care needs to be taken to not let them get overweight.

Age: Cockers can live to be between 11 and 15 years old.

What You Need to Know About the Cocker Spaniel Temperament

If you looked in the dictionary under “companionable” you might see a picture of a Cocker Spaniel. Everything about the Cocker Spaniel temperament makes them a wonderful family pet.

They are very trainable

Like the Golden Retriever and the Lab, Cocker Spaniels are extremely eager to please and enjoy learning. Because of their gentle nature, positive reinforcement is the only type of training that should ever be used with this sweet dog.

Girl and cocker spanielEveryone is a Friend

One of the best things about the Cocker Spaniel temperament is their friendliness. In fact, to most Cockers there is no such thing as a stranger. Because of this, don’t expect the Cocker to be much of a watch dog.

Cockers love to be busy!

Cocker Spaniels belong to the Sporting Group and are still used as bird hunting dogs. This means that they enjoy a lot of physical activity and are very playful. A rousing game of fetch, especially if going after a ball thrown in a pond or lake, is a favorite Cocker Spaniel activity.

They are very loyal

These pretty little dogs bond very strongly with their family members and consider themselves an important member of the family. This loyalty is endearing but can lead to problems with separation anxiety. As a loving and loyal dog, Cockers do not do well when left alone for long periods.

Cocker Spaniels are wonderful with children

Though children under the age of 6 should be never be left alone with any dog, the affectionate and agreeable nature of the Cocker, makes them exceptionally well suited for family life. In fact, the Cocker Spaniel is sometimes referred to as “The Babysitter.”

They get along with just about everyone, even young babies and other animals. Not only is the Cocker Spaniel’s temperament perfectly suited for life with children, their size is perfect, too.

Unlike smaller dogs, they are sturdy enough to handle life around rowdy kids but not so big that they run the risk of bowling them over.

Health Concerns of the Cocker Spaniel

Girl and cocker spanielObesity

Just like with humans, obesity on Cocker Spaniels can lead to many other problems and Cockers love to eat almost as much as they love to cuddle!

Ear infections

Those beautiful long ears make for a predisposition to ear infections. These can easily be prevented with proper diet and grooming

Autoimmune Disorders

Cockers are predisposed to both Hemolytic Anemia and Thyroiditis, both autoimmune disorders that can lead to serious health problems. Special care should be taken not to over-vaccinate these dogs as it can trigger an autoimmune response.

A Note About Rage Syndrome

In your research, you may come across the so-called Cocker Spaniel Rage Syndrome. There is a lot of myth mixed in with facts about this problem, so keep in mind:

  • Rage Syndrome is a term coined to describe unprovoked attacks on family members and was originally thought to occur in a disproportionate number of male Cockers when compared to other breeds. This has since been disproved.
  • Rage Syndrome can appear in any breed. Even other normally docile breeds such as Golden Retrievers and Springer Spaniels have been diagnosed with it.
  • Reports of happy, trustworthy Cocker Spaniels are much more the norm than reports of alleged Range Syndrome. Typically, Cocker Spaniel’s temperament leans more toward that of a teddy bear than a Grizzly bear.

Is the Cocker Spaniel Right for you?


Grooming – That beautiful, flowing coat needs a lot of attention. If you don’t want to have to spend time brushing and trimming your dog’s coat, the cocker is a bad choice. Here are some Bichon Frise grooming tips that might also be applicable to your Cocker Spaniel


If you are looking for a dog with a lot of love and affection to give, the Cocker Spaniel’s temperament makes him a great choice.

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