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! 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, whether you're a first time dog owner or just considering adding a Cocker to your pack, keep reading! Rest assured that this breed will even melt the coldest of hearts.

Cocker Spaniel
Nowadays there is 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 hunters 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 for the purpose to assist in hunting and retrieving furred or feathered game. They split into four further 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 very old and original dog breed. The ancestors of the spaniel 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 has been officially separated from other Spaniels.

Around this time, the founders of the American Spaniel Club took an active interest in a dog that characterized itself as a Cocker but had not yet been recognized as an entirely separate Sport Spaniel breed. 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 established the American Cocker Spaniel breed in 1946 due to them clearly becoming 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 bred leaner and tougher than their cousins to bustle through 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 are their long-slung ears. If you would pull 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.

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

What is it like to live with a Cocker Spaniel?

You might be wondering how your life would look like with this small and merry bundle of joy. Once thing is for sure. The Cocker is at its best with their 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 member of the family. 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. They’re 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 awesome with children due to their patient nature. Perfect for a big and busy family.

As they’re people-oriented dogs, they’re one of the most loyal little dogs that you will ever encounter. Being both a Gundog and family dog, they’re awesome all-rounders.

Outdoors, English Cocker Spaniels are hunting dogs and may be tempted to chase birds or small animals. Early obedience training is important 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. If they could decide on their own food intake, they wouldn't stop eating.

Notably, spaniels do not respond well to harsh training methods. They’re quite sensitive so positive training methods are a must 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. They can start chewing furniture and boards, if bored and left unattended. The puppy phase can be a hard time in particular which requires a lot of patience.

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

ECS characteristics in a nutshell

  • Happy and loyal

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

  • Awesome in the field

  • Needs exercise regularly otherwise can become overweight

  • Awesome family pets

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 is 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 that also affects English Cocker Spaniels, is an extremely painful 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.

Some other diseases to be aware of is 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 do their research on 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. Avoid synthetic rubber play things like chew bones, nylon bones or tug o' war ropes from polyester plastic; Swap out those harmful materials with our eco friendly pet products from hemp here at Hooman’s Friend. If you're interested in reducing your carbon paw print to help the planet, it's a great start to look for more eco-friendly options.

What else Cocker Spaniels will not make the greatest watch dogs. Its 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.

If you want to learn more about other dog breeds, check related articles or sign up to 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. In the UK, the most famous family loving the breed, are the Royals. Unlike the Queen, who famously has Welsh Corgis, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had Lupo, a black Spaniel who sadly passed away. There is 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 awesome 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.

Owners voices

'You will never fill me up' This breed will do anything for extra kibble
"When i got my first cocker nearly 12 years ago I was told to always remember “if you think it, they’ve done it” - in other words they’re so quick they’ll always be 1 step ahead of you and before you even worry what could happen, good or bad they’re doing it"
"Slightly smaller than dogs I have had in the past. Marley is the most beautiful puppy and now dog ever but boy do I work for him! He seems to love being snuggled up with me but can only sit still for around five minutes or so. Constantly full of beans and requiring puzzles to work out at all hours of the day given the chance. Wants to run with a nose glued to the ground and attempt to catch anything particularly birds. I could walk for endless hours and the energy will still be there. Just because they are smaller doesn’t mean anything!"

English Cocker Spaniel Breed Information at a glance



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Feeding Need


Tendency to drool


Energy level


Tendency to bark


Tendency to dig


Attention need