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

Are you considering adding a new family member with a wagging tail and a lot of love to give? Look no further than the delightful English Cocker Spaniel! These little canines will bring you endless joy with their loving and cheerful disposition. Affectionate, loyal, and consistently ranking among the most beloved breeds, it's no wonder why Cockers have captured the hearts of countless dog enthusiasts.

In this blog post, we'll dive into the English Cocker Spaniel to help you determine if they fit perfectly. We've got you covered, from exploring their fascinating history to unravelling their temperament, energy levels, and potential health considerations. So whether you're a first-time dog owner or simply considering adding a Cocker to your existing pack, this post is your go-to resource for making an informed decision.

Prepare to be enchanted by their unwavering devotion, as these gentle souls have an uncanny ability to melt even the coldest of hearts. So, grab a cosy spot, get ready to be inspired, and embark on a journey to discover why the English Cocker Spaniel might be the canine companion you've been searching for.

Get ready to fall in love with these lovable Cockers! Let's jump right in, shall we?

Table of Contents

History: Where does the English Cocker come from?

With its charming and friendly demeanour, the English Cocker Spaniel holds an important place in the history of hunting dogs in England. This breed is considered a descendant of a diverse group of hunting dogs carefully bred to possess specific skills and characteristics. For example, as part of the gundog group, the English Cocker Spaniel assisted hunters by flushing out game and retrieving furred and feathered prey.

English Cocker Spaniel Temperament
The English Cocker has 27 recognised breed standard colours.

The term "Cocker" in the breed's name refers explicitly to their proficiency in hunting woodcocks. These birds were known for their ability to hide and camouflage themselves in dense cover, making them challenging targets for hunters.

The English Cocker Spaniel's job was to locate and flush out the woodcocks, using their keen senses to track their scent and navigate through thick vegetation. Then, hunters could take their shot once the birds were startled into flight.

As a broader category, Spaniels were categorised into four distinct groups based on their hunting tasks: Setters and Pointers, Retrievers, Spaniels, and Hunt/Point/Retrievers. Within the Spaniel group, the Cocker Spaniel took the role of flushing out game birds from dense vegetation.

With their exceptional scenting abilities, agility, and intelligence, English Cocker Spaniels became highly valued by hunters for their reliability in the field. These dogs would actively work alongside their human companions, expertly locating and flushing out game for the hunter to take their shot. Their determination, focus, and innate hunting instincts made them a true delight for hunters.

Beyond their hunting prowess, the English Cocker Spaniel's temperament has endeared them to people worldwide. They are affectionately known as "the merry cocker" due to their loving and happy nature. In addition, their loyalty and devotion to their human families make them reliable and cherished companions in rural and urban settings.

English Cocker Spaniel Temperament
The Cocker is a keen hunting dog.

The English Cocker Spaniel has a long-standing presence in art and has been depicted in paintings for centuries. The exact origins of the English Cocker Spaniel's mention or visibility in paintings are challenging to trace. Still, historical evidence strongly indicates their presence in art as early as the 18th century. Artworks from that period provide glimpses into this beloved breed's long-standing history and timeless charm.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, many renowned artists captured the beauty and charm of various dog breeds, including the English Cocker Spaniel, in their works. These paintings often portrayed them in their traditional role as hunting companions, showcasing their athleticism, intelligence, and distinctive physical features.

One notable artist who frequently included English Cocker Spaniels in his paintings was Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873), a prominent English painter known for his animal subjects. Landseer's works, such as "The Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner" and "The Highland Shepherd's Chief Mourner," prominently featured spaniel-type dogs, likely including English Cocker Spaniels.

As time progressed, the popularity of the English Cocker Spaniel grew, and they became more widely recognised and appreciated in art. Their charming appearance, expressive eyes, and endearing nature made them a favoured subject for artists across various genres.

While the precise origins of their presence in paintings are challenging to trace, the English Cocker Spaniel's enduring presence in art reflects their historical significance and enduring appeal as beloved companions.

All spaniel breeds are descendants of this ancient and original dog breed. The spaniel ancestors have been known since the 15th century, gradually dividing into land and water breeds. Here are all their cousins: English Springer, Welsh Springer, Cocker, Field, Sussex, Cumber, and Irish Water Spaniel.

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

During that period, the founders of the American Spaniel Club developed a keen interest in a particular dog type that exhibited Cocker-like qualities but had yet to be officially recognised as a distinct breed separate from the Field Spaniel or Springer Spaniel.

To address this, in 1908, the American Spaniel Club established specific breed standards to define the distinguishing characteristics of the Cocker Spaniel. This ensured that a Cocker Spaniel could be identified as such and differentiated from other spaniel breeds.

English Cocker Spaniel Temperament
The Cocker is also called the "merry" Cocker

As time passed, the American Cocker Spaniel evolved independently from its English cousins, exhibiting notable differences. Recognising this significant divergence, the American Cocker Spaniel was acknowledged as a distinct breed by the American Spaniel Club in 1945.

This recognition reflected the substantial variations in appearance and temperament developed over the years, solidifying the American Cocker Spaniel's status as a separate breed from the English Cocker Spaniel.

In the UK, two strains of Cockers are distinguished: 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 and less compact, too. The Show Cocker will resemble the UK Breed Standard with broader skulls, a lower set, and longer ears.

There is also a difference in behaviour. Working Cockers tend to have more energy and are more scent-focused. They can spend all day in the field and are able contestants in agility and flyball. Naturally, there are always exceptions within any breed, and it is possible to find Show Cockers with higher energy levels, just as there can be Working Cockers with a calmer disposition.

Show Cockers are often seen with appealing looks and compact sizes in show rings.

The energetic and tireless temperament of a Working Cocker Spaniel can be challenging for some owners to keep up with, mainly if they have limited time and availability. In addition, these dogs possess a busy and easily bored mind that requires generous mental and physical stimulation.

Adopting a Show Cocker Spaniel may be more suitable if your lifestyle and schedule are better suited to a less demanding companion. Show Cockers are generally calmer and may require less intense exercise and mental engagement.

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, 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!

2021 total

2022 Total

Q1 2023




Source: updated August 2023

What is the Temperament of the English Cocker Spaniel?

You might wonder what your life would be like with this small, merry bundle of joy. The English Cocker Spaniel is renowned for its delightful temperament, which combines an irresistible blend of charm, friendliness, and intelligence. Known as the "merry cocker," this breed captures hearts with its joyful and affectionate nature.

English Cockers are incredibly people-oriented and thrive on companionship and social interaction. Whether they're greeting you with an exuberant wagging tail or showering you with gentle affection, their loving and loyal temperament makes them exceptional family pets and cherished companions.

We will now delve deeper into the temperament of the English Cocker Spaniel, exploring their unique traits and highlighting why they are adored by dog enthusiasts worldwide.

English Cocker Spaniel Temperament
The Cocker Spaniel is people-orientated and loves their human.

The English Cocker Spaniel is adaptable and loves to be a beloved family member. The English Cocker Spaniel's delightful temperament and laid-back nature make them an excellent choice for active individuals or families who relish spending abundant time outdoors.

Their cheerful and people-oriented disposition adds to the joy of outdoor adventures, creating a perfect match for those seeking a four-legged companion to join their active lifestyle. They're charming, agreeable and always happy, which you will see in their ever-wagging tail. They're bustling around in the house, love to be busy and be part of any family activity.

The English Cocker Spaniel is generally good with children and can make excellent family pets. Known for their friendly and sociable nature, English Cockers often form strong bonds with children and enjoy their company. In addition, they are patient, gentle, and tolerant, making them well-suited for households with children of all ages.

English Cockers are typically eager to participate in playtime and activities with kids, and their energetic temperament can match the enthusiasm of young ones.

However, as with any interaction between dogs and children, supervision and teaching children how to appropriately interact with a dog are essential to ensure a safe environment for both the child and the dog. For example, if your dog is tired, ensure they have a place, like a corner in the house or crate, without interruptions by children.

English Cocker Spaniels, true to their hunting heritage, have a natural instinct to chase birds and small animals when outdoors. It's essential to provide early obedience training to ensure reliable recall, as their strong prey drive can lead them to wander off in pursuit of their instincts. Teaching them basic commands and reinforcing recall training from a young age is crucial to keep them safe and prevent potential mishaps.

Keeping Cockers on a lead or within a secure, fenced area is advisable until they have demonstrated proficiency in obeying commands in open areas or unfamiliar environments. By taking these precautions, you can effectively safeguard your English Cocker Spaniel and minimise the chances of them getting involved in potentially hazardous activities.

By providing appropriate training and guidance, you can balance allowing them to enjoy their natural instincts and ensuring their well-being in various outdoor settings.

Notably, Cockers do not respond well to harsh training methods. As with most dogs, they're pretty sensitive, so positive training methods are a must. Your Cocker should love and respect you, not fear you. A fearful dog will ignore you, become high-strung, and be hard to train.

English Cocker Spaniel Temperament
The English Cocker loves to play

Training should begin when you bring your puppy home with a consistent, persistent and motivating hand. A lot of positive praise will go a long way, but this also means a lot of time must be invested. Ensure your lifestyle can support the training of a Cocker.

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.

Playful and intelligent, the English Cocker Spaniel gets along well with other dogs 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.

Socialisation should include visiting busy areas, meeting old and young people and training in different settings. This way, your Cocker will form a framework and get confident in applying the right decisions in difficult situations with your guidance.

House-proud people may find this dog breed a challenge. The Cocker sheds consistently and should be brushed several times a week to minimise tangles. Professional grooming salons are expensive, another downfall of this breed.

Due to their hunting background, English Cocker Spaniels tend to bark, as they were specifically bred to vocalise when they detected prey.

If you're considering a Cocker Spaniel as a pet and live in an apartment, it's essential to be aware that managing excessive barking can be challenging. Consistent and patient training will be required to help curb this behaviour and ensure a harmonious living environment.

While it's not impossible to address this issue, potential owners in apartment settings should be prepared for the commitment and effort required to reduce excessive barking tendencies. In addition, exploring positive reinforcement training methods and providing mental and physical stimulation can be beneficial in managing and redirecting their vocal instincts.

By understanding and addressing this characteristic, you can make an informed decision about whether the Cocker is the right choice for your living situation.

Let's now look at some common questions about the English Cocker Spaniel.

Are English Cocker Spaniels aggressive?

Let's separate fact from fiction regarding the Cocker Rage Syndrome. The term "rage syndrome" has been misused to describe aggression, causing an exaggerated perception of its prevalence. It's sporadic, with only 4% of Cockers affected.

While the triggers for this dangerous and unpredictable behaviour are still uncertain, research suggests it has genetic roots, emphasising the breeder's role in preventing this incurable condition. The below breeds have been associated with this syndrome as well.

American and English Cocker Spaniels, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Dobermans, English Bull Terriers, English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs and St. Bernards.

Solid-coloured Cockers show higher risks than roans, and show-bred counterparts are also higher affected.

The number was 12.1 % in golden-coloured Cockers (According to a recent study by the VetCompass project). Males also show a higher chance of this syndrome. Reputable breeders play a crucial role in minimising the likelihood of an affected Cocker, and when buying a puppy, always ask about the temperament of the family line.

Are English Cocker Spaniels hypoallergenic?

English Cocker Spaniels are not considered hypoallergenic. The English Cocker Spaniel boasts a luxurious double coat with a plush, dense undercoat complemented by a longer, coarser outer coat. This coat shedding may release dander and allergens into the environment, potentially causing allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

While no dog breed is completely hypoallergenic, some hypoallergenic breeds produce fewer allergens and may be more suitable for individuals with allergies. If you have allergies, it's crucial to spend time with an English Cocker Spaniel to see if you have any allergic reactions before bringing one into your home.

Alternative dog breeds with similar size and wiry-coat with less shedding are Border Terriers or the relatively unknown Dandie Dinmont Terrier. They have an equal temperament as the Cocker Spaniel and might be a more suitable alternative.

Can English Cocker Spaniels be left alone?

English Cocker Spaniels don't like being left alone. They're people-orientated and very dependable on their owners. As a result, separation Anxiety is quite common in this breed. A dog experiencing these systems can become bored and nervous, chewing boards and remotes to reduce anxiety. If there are instances when your Cocker needs to be alone, increase the alone time gradually, starting with a few minutes.

Crate training is also recommended for this breed. However, if you must leave your Cocker alone most of the day, there are better choices than this dog breed.

English Cocker Spaniel Temperament in a nutshell

English Cocker Spaniel Temperament
English Cockers don't like being left alone and are prone to separation anxiety.
  • Happy and Loyal: Their joyful and loyal temperament will surely melt even the coldest hearts.

  • People-oriented Nature: They thrive on companionship and shouldn't be left alone for long periods of time.

  • Excellent Worker: Their skills shine in the field, making them awesome workers with a keen instinct.

  • Regular Exercise: Regular exercise is essential for this breed to prevent weight gain and boredom.

  • Family-Friendly: English Cocker Spaniels make awesome family pets and are a fantastic choice for households with children.

Girl Dog Names for English Cocker Spaniels

Boy Dog Names for English Cocker Spaniels

Potential health issues in the English Cocker Spaniel breed

When considering adding an English Cocker Spaniel to your family, it's vital to be aware of potential health issues that can affect this beloved breed. While English Cocker Spaniels are generally robust and healthy dogs, like any other breed, they may be predisposed to specific health conditions.

By understanding these potential issues and taking proactive measures, you can help ensure the well-being and longevity of your English Cocker Spaniel companion. In the following, we will mention some common health concerns associated with the English Cocker Spaniel breed, providing you with insights to make informed decisions about your pet's care and overall health.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (Night Blindness): A genetic eye disorder that can affect Cocker Spaniels, leading to progressive vision loss and, eventually, blindness. It is essential for Cocker Spaniel owners to be aware of this condition and consider regular eye screenings to detect PRA early. In addition, Cockers with this condition shouldn't be bred.

Familial Nephropathy: A hereditary kidney disease primarily affecting certain English lines Cocker Spaniels. This condition leads to progressive kidney failure and can result in significant health issues for affected dogs. Responsible breeders prioritise genetic testing and screening to prevent the transmission of FN and promote the overall health of Cocker Spaniels.

Hip Dysplasia: A common orthopaedic condition that can affect English Cocker Spaniels, leading to abnormal hip joint development. It can cause pain, lameness, and mobility issues in affected dogs. Responsible breeding practices, including hip evaluations and screenings, help reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia in the breed.

Adult-Onset Neuropathy: A neurological disorder that can affect certain lines of Cocker Spaniels, typically manifesting in adulthood. It leads to progressive degeneration of the nerves, resulting in weakness, muscle atrophy, and coordination difficulties. Genetic testing and responsible breeding practices are essential in reducing the prevalence of AON.

Ear Infections (Otitis): Cocker Spaniels are prone to ear infections because their long, floppy ears trap moisture and create an ideal bacterial or yeast overgrowth environment. Regular ear cleaning, proper grooming, and routine check-ups with a veterinarian are essential in preventing and managing ear infections in Cocker Spaniels.

Lip Fold Dermatitis, aka Cocker Mouth: A common condition in Cocker Spaniels characterised by inflammation and infection in the skin folds around the lips. The accumulation of moisture, food debris, and bacteria in the folds can cause this. Regular cleaning, proper lip fold maintenance, a healthy diet, and good dental hygiene can help prevent and manage Lip Fold Dermatitis.

Paying attention to symptoms of the above health issues will ensure you can seek advice early and have a long, happy life with your Cocker.

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.

English Cocker Spaniel Fun facts

When it comes to canine companions, even the stars can't resist the charm of the English Cocker Spaniel. Celebrities like David Beckham and George Clooney have fallen head over heels for these adorable pups. But it's not just the Hollywood elite who adore this breed – in the UK, the Royals are smitten!

While the late Queen famously favoured Welsh Corgis, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge shared their lives with Lupo, a beloved black Spaniel who has sadly crossed the rainbow bridge. However, exciting rumours about a new furry addition to their family are circulating. And what could be a more perfect choice than an English Cocker Spaniel?

Known for their affectionate nature and captivating personalities, these delightful dogs are popular among the famous and influential. So, whether you're a celebrity enthusiast or simply seeking a canine companion fit for royalty, consider joining the ranks of English Cocker Spaniel enthusiasts. Your star-studded journey with this charming breed might just be beginning!

Is the English Cocker Spaniel the right breed for me?

The English Cocker Spaniel is renowned for its delightful temperament, making it a beloved choice among dog owners. With their affectionate and friendly nature, these dogs are known to melt hearts and form strong bonds with their owners. They are often described as happy, merry, and eager to please.

English Cocker Spaniel Temperament
The training starts as soon as your Cocker puppy arrives home.

Cocker Spaniels thrive on human companionship and are highly people-oriented.

They naturally desire to be a part of the family and enjoy participating in various activities. Therefore, the owner should match their energy level as much as possible and be an "outdoorsy" person.

English Cocker Spaniels are intelligent and trainable, making them suitable for owners willing to invest time in positive reinforcement training.

They respond well to consistent guidance and are eager to learn new commands and tricks. Mental stimulation is essential to prevent boredom, as they have an active mind that requires regular exercise and engagement.

These dogs have a high energy level and typically enjoy outdoor adventures. Therefore, regular exercises, such as daily walks or play sessions, are essential to stimulate them physically and mentally. However, it's worth noting that they have a strong hunting instinct and may be prone to chasing birds or small animals. Therefore, early obedience and consistent recall training are vital to managing their prey drive and ensuring their safety.

The ideal owner for an English Cocker Spaniel is someone who can provide them with great companionship, love, and attention. They thrive in a home where they are an integral part of the family and included in daily activities. Active individuals or families who enjoy spending time outdoors and are committed to regular exercise and mental stimulation will find a great companion in the English Cocker Spaniel.

In conclusion, the English Cocker Spaniel's temperament is characterised by its loving, friendly, and eager-to-please nature. They make lovely and devoted companions with the right owner who can give them the required attention, training, and exercise.

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



Dog Size


Dog Weight


Bitch Size


Bitch Weight




Feeding Need


Tendency to drool


Energy level


Tendency to bark


Tendency to dig


Attention need



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