Behavior in Cocker Spaniels

Behavior in Cocker Spaniels

The Cocker Spaniel is a happy and playful dog that makes a great addition to any family. Learn more about this family breed.

Originally bred to be a hunter of small game birds, the Cocker Spaniel today is a popular family pet. These cheerful little dogs have many qualities that endear them to their owners. Cocker Spaniels are adaptable to different environments and can live successfully almost anywhere, including apartments. Cockers need some exercise daily, but a bit of play and a half-hour walk is usually sufficient.

Hunting Behavior

Cocker spaniels are descended from hunting dogs. Their name comes from the fact that they are excellent dogs to use for hunting woodcocks. While many Cocker Spaniels today are bred for looks rather than hunting, they typically have retained the drive to chase, and it carries over into their everyday lives. Because these dogs will try to chase after birds or small animals, they should always be kept either on a leash or in a fenced yard to prevent them from running into danger when they are outside.

Barking Behavior

Some Cocker Spaniels will bark excessively, reacting to every sight and sound that comes their way. To minimize this problem, owners should teach their pets the “Quiet” command early on, so their pets will learn to stop barking when told to do so. Leaving Cockers alone too much creates boredom, which can lead to unwanted barking and other behavior problems. Cockers need to be involved in the family’s life as much as possible.

Learning Behavior

It is normal for Cocker Spaniels to want to please their owners. They are easy to train and can do well in obedience, agility and field trials, as well as in the show ring, but harsh handling will make these dogs fearful and withdrawn. Their normally cheery dispositions make them excellent therapy dogs, and their gentle natures make them popular everywhere they go. Enroll your Cocker Spaniel in puppy classes as early as possible for basic obedience training and socialization. This work will help your dog to become a stable adult who is pleasant to have around.


Some Cocker Spaniels are very sensitive, on the shy side or a bit nervous, and may urinate when excited. This can happen even when some Cockers have been well socialized and gently trained; it is just part of their nature. While such dogs may not be ideal candidates for therapy work, they can still be excellent pets and can participate in family activities and many dog sports.

While they make excellent alarm dogs and will give you plenty of notice that someone is at the door, cocker spaniels will also become best friends with that person as soon as they enter your home, making this breed a poor choice if you want a dog for protection.

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