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English Cocker Spaniel Temperament: Merry, loyal, and even loved by the Royal Family

Are you thinking of adding a four-legged friend to your family? If so, the Cocker Spaniel may be the perfect breed for you! These little dogs have a people-loving temperament and are always happy. Cockers are one of the most affectionate breeds, and it's no wonder they consistently rank high on the favourite dog breed list.

This post will help you decide if the Cocker is the right dog for you. We'll discuss their temperament, energy level, and shedding habits to help you make an informed decision. So, keep reading, whether you're a novice dog owner or just considering adding a Cocker to your pack! This breed will even melt the coldest hearts with their devoted temperament.

Light brown-coloured Cocker Spaniel looking to the right and away from the camera and baby-blue background.
Nowadays there are two Cocker Spaniel breeds: The working cocker and the show cocker

History of the English Cocker Spaniel

The English Cocker Spaniel is a descendant of a large group of hunting dogs bred in England and is a reliable and loyal companion in the wild and a hunter's delight. They're also known as "the merry cocker" because of their loving and happy nature.

The ECS is a dog of the gundog group being bred to assist in hunting and retrieving furred or feathered game. They split into four groups: Setters and Pointers, Retrievers, Spaniels and Hunt/Point/Retrievers.

The Cocker Spaniel was bred to flush out game. Their name comes from the woodcock as it was their primary hunting bird.

All spaniel breeds are descendants of this ancient and original dog breed. The spaniel ancestors have been known since the 14th century, gradually dividing into land and water breeds. Here are all their cousins: English Springer, Welsh Springer, Cocker, Field, Sussex, Clumber, and Irish Water Spaniel.

Only in 1893 the breed was officially separated from other Spaniels.

Around this time, the founders of the American Spaniel Club took an active interest in a dog that characterised itself as a Cocker but had not yet been recognised as an entirely separate Sport Spaniel breed. So, in 1908, the current American Spaniel Club established breed standards to better define what makes a Cocker a Cocker Spaniel and not a Field Spaniel or a Springer Spaniel. They also found the American Cocker Spaniel breed in 1946 because they clearly became very different from their English cousins.

Today, you can distinguish between two strains of cockers: the working cocker and the show cocker. Working cockers are leaner and more rigid than their cousins to bustle through the undergrowth. They can be bigger too.

There is also a difference in behaviour. Working Cockers tend to have more energy and are more scent-focused. Of course, there are exceptions to every breed and some show cockers will have higher energy levels and vice versa.

The most recognisable feature of the English Cocker Spaniel is its long-slung ears. If you pulled them forward, they would touch the tip of their little nose. They have a tight, sturdy body that is essential to bustle around in woodland and bushes. Their expressive eyes are gentle and relaxed with a long, square muzzle.

Englisch Cocker Spaniel registrations 2023

The British Kennel Club recognises 27 breed standard colours, such as liver, golden, orange & white, red, black, chocolate and chocolate & tan.

The below table shows the number of Cocker Spaniels registered with the UK Kennel Club. The Cocker is indeed a very popular breed. In Q2 2022, 6,928 English Cockers were registered with the UK Kennel Club. The full year of 2022 saw 29,491 registrations, which is a 25% decrease. The Cocker Spaniel usually scores in the top 5 of popular dog breeds. And if trained and educated correctly, for a good reason!

Q1 2021

Q2 2021

Q3 2021

Q4 2021

2021 total

Q1 2022

Q2 2022

Q3 2022

Q4 2022

2022 Total











Source: updated March 2023

What is it like to live with a Cocker Spaniel?

You might be wondering what your life would look like with this small and merry bundle of joy. One thing is for sure. The Cocker is at its best with its mind and body being busy.

English Cocker Spaniel puppy
Cocker Spaniels will melt the coldest of hearts

The English Cocker Spaniel is very adaptable and loves to be a beloved family member.

Their cheerful temperament and easygoing nature make this people-oriented breed a fantastic choice for active individuals or families who enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors.

Cockers are charming, agreeable and always happy, which you will see in their ever-wagging tail. They're bustling around in the house and love to be busy but are not too high-energy. The ECS is excellent with children due to their patient nature. Perfect for a big and active family.

As they're people-oriented dogs, they're one of the most loyal little dogs you will ever encounter. In addition, being both a Gundog and family dog, they're fantastic all-rounders.

Outdoors, English Cocker Spaniels are hunting dogs and may be tempted to chase birds or small animals. Early obedience training is essential to train recall due to their high prey drive. The ECS should be kept on the leash or in a fenced area if they haven't mastered basic commands.

Because English Cocker Spaniels love to eat and are bred to last longer hours in the field, they can gain weight quickly if not exercised enough, so be sure to measure your dog's food intake and take them out for at least one hour daily. They wouldn't stop eating if they could decide on their own food intake.

Notably, spaniels do not respond well to harsh training methods. In addition, they're pretty sensitive, so positive training methods are necessary, as with most dogs. Your ECS should love and respect you, not fear you.

Playful and intelligent, the English Cocker Spaniel gets along well with other dogs in the family and can even socialise with cats. Take your English Cocker Spaniel to the dog park and outdoors with friends to acclimate him from an early age because the more comfortable he is as an adult, the better his temperament will be.

It is worth noting that this breed should not be left alone at home for a long time, and the English Cocker Spaniel likes to regularly stretch his legs outside. They will do well on long hikes, and playing fetch outside. However, they can start chewing furniture and skirting boards if bored and left unattended. The puppy phase can be a hard time, requiring a lot of patience.

A cocker and their stick
Cockers love carrying sticks and other objects

ECS characteristics in a nutshell

  • Happy and loyal temperament who will melt the coldest hearts

  • Can't be left alone due to their people-orientated nature

  • Awesome workers in the field

  • Needs to exercise regularly otherwise the Cocker can become overweight and bored

  • Awesome family pets and fantastic choice for families with children

Potential diseases in the English Cocker Spaniel breed

When choosing a dog breed, it's always important to be aware of potential inherited diseases. Although the Cocker Spaniel is generally seen as a healthy breed, there are some conditions to note.

Canine distichiasis is considered a presumed hereditary eye disease (PIED) in dogs, with American and English Cocker Spaniels being among the most commonly diagnosed breeds. Glaucoma, an eye disease affecting English Cocker Spaniels, is a severe condition that quickly leads to blindness if left untreated. The disease is often a hereditary disease that English Cocker Spaniels commonly suffer from. A variety of eye diseases are another group of problems to which cockers are predisposed.

Other diseases to be aware of are hip dysplasia, renal failure and dilated cardiomyopathy.

Make sure you're aware of the costs and prepared to carry those for the lifetime of your Spaniel.

All potential dog owners should research the breed they are interested in before bringing a dog into their home to ensure they are prepared for any potential health issues, especially the financial impacts of health issues.

Many dog owners are unaware of the danger in some pet toys and accessories that can worsen health issues when they innocently buy cheap products from the Far East.

Swap out harmful plastic materials with eco-friendly pet products from plant-based materials here at Hooman's Friend. If you're interested in reducing your carbon paw print, it's a start to look for eco-friendly options when shopping for your pup.

What else do you need to know about the Cocker Spaniel? Cocker Spaniels will not make the most extraordinary watchdogs. It's not to say that they're not an alert breed because they are. But strangers will be probably greeted with a waggy tail and some smooches.

To learn more about other dog breeds, check related articles or sign up for our newsletter here. We are working hard to add all dog breeds as soon as possible to have a whole extensive library!

English Cocker Spaniel Fun facts

A lot of celebrities love the English Cocker Spaniel. David Beckham and George Clooney are on the list of ECS lovers. The Royals are the UK's most famous family loving the breed. Unlike the Queen, who famously has Welsh Corgis, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had Lupo, a black Spaniel who sadly passed away. So there are rumours of a new addition to the family. And the obvious choice? An English Cocker Spaniel.

If you have made it this far, we can only assume that you are as smitten with the English Cocker as we are. They are adorable, loyal and make excellent companions. Before you run off to the nearest breeder or adoption agency, let us give you one more piece of advice: be prepared for so much love and, especially with puppies, a lot of mess.

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