Cocker Spaniel Traits and Characteristics

Cocker Spaniel looking out of car

Cocker Spaniels are one of the most popular breeds due to their energetic and effervescent nature and ability to get on with people, other domesticated animals and dogs.

But, what are they really like? In this guide to Cocker Spaniel traits, we’ll help you:

  • Understand the main characteristics of the Cocker Spaniel breed
  • Decide if a Cocker Spaniel is a good fit for you or your family
  • And, lots more…

Cocker Spaniel Size

Cocker Spaniels are the smallest of the Spaniel breed and are small to medium-sized dogs and are therefore well suited for most households, even those with limited space. 

The size and weight ranges for Cocker Spaniels are as follows:


Male: 38cm - 48cm (15 inches - 19 inches)

Female: 36cm - 41cm (14 inches - 17 inches)


Male: 13kg - 16kg (29 pounds - 35 pounds) 

Female: 12kg - 15kg (26 pounds - 33 pounds)

Cocker Spaniel Life Expectancy

Cocker Spaniels make great long-term companions and have a life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years. They are relatively easy to care for and providing you exercise them regularly, feed them a good and balanced diet and, spend time with them, they’ll live a long and healthy life.

Cocker Spaniels and Families

Spaniels as a breed and more specifically Cocker Spaniels are wonderful family dogs or dogs for first-time dog owners.

They are generally gentle and caring dogs that enjoy being around children and can happily live with cats. Importantly, they are normally non-aggressive to children and other domestic animals, such as cats. 

This is certainly the case with our Cocker Spaniel and our two children and two domestic cats.

It’s always good to teach your children how to deal with and be around your Cocker Spaniel as they can, on occasion, be snappy if they feel they are being manhandled. Can’t we all?

Spaniels are not guarding dogs, so don’t expect them to watch over your house or family. In fact, in our experience, our Cocker Spaniel is more interested in giving the postman a cuddle than warning them off!

Cocker Spaniel Health

Cocker Spaniels are naturally healthy dogs, but as with every breed are susceptible to some specific health conditions.

The most common health conditions that affect Cocker Spaniels relate to their ears and eyes, with Otitis, a yeast/bacterial-based ear infection being the most common. 

Otitis happens as a result of a Cocker Spaniel’s long ears and occurs when moisture gathers in the ear canal and becomes infected. It can be prevented by regular cleaning of the ears.

One of the most muscular-skeletal issues for Cocker Spaniels relates to Hip Dysplasia, which is a misalignment of the hip.

 If not dealt with properly hip dysplasia can cause arthritis.

Cocker Spaniel Training

Cocker Spaniels are inquisitive, bright dogs and are eager to please so they adapt well to training. In fact, in our experience, they thrive on and enjoy the repetition of being trained. 

It’s best to start training early along with socialisation to help provide your Spaniel with a great foundation upon which they can build healthy and fulfilling lives.

We found that formal group training worked best, although the one caveat is that, after speaking with our trainer, we kept the sessions short and focused. Cocker Spaniels are into everything and can lose focus if there’s a lot going on for too long a time.

Cocker Spaniels and Exercise

Spaniels generally and particularly Cocker Spaniels love, and even more importantly, need a decent amount of exercise. 

Their effervescent and active nature combined with their breeding means they love the outdoors and enjoy nothing more than a long walk or exercise.

Although both show and working Cocker Spaniels need exercise the working variety will need and thrive on exercise more than a show Cocker Spaniel. 

We try to give our working Cocker Spaniel a minimum of an hour of exercise each day.

If you’re a runner, Cocker Spaniels can be great running companions, which really helps to give both you and them some great exercise and will help to improve the bond between you and your dog.

Cocker Spaniels and Other Dogs

Cocker Spaniels are extremely sociable dogs and enjoy spending time with other dog friends. Yes, they can be excitable when they first meet other dogs, but this is natural behaviour and certainly shouldn’t be discouraged.

To give your Cocker Spaniel the best chance of being a sociable dog, it’s best to make sure they are exposed to other puppies and adult dogs from an early age. 

In our specific experience, our Cocker Spaniel's ability to get on with other dogs really improved when both our dog and the dogs we were meeting were both off the lead. This gave them the freedom to run around together without being restricted in anyway. 

Cocker Spaniels are “People Pleasers”

Cocker Spaniels were bred to be around humans. They need and thrive on human companionship and are absolute “People Pleasers”.

They will constantly be by your side and will do all they can to get praise from you or simply a cuddle or stroke. 

The one downside of this need to be with their human companion is that they can sometimes suffer from separation anxiety if they are left alone for long periods of time. Please remember to plan this time and give them enough Cocker Spaniel-appropriate toys and things to occupy themselves whilst you are not around. 

Do Cocker Spaniels Need to be Occupied

Cocker Spaniels, like most dogs, can become bored and in some cases disruptive if they’re not occupied and/or given attention by their human. 

There are a number of things you can do to keep your Cocker Spaniel occupied

  • Exercise. Regular walks are a must for your Cocker Spaniel. We aim to give our working Cocker Spaniel a minimum of 1 hour per day.
  • Socialisation. Great for a number of reasons, but one of the most important is simply occupying your Cocker Spaniel.
  • Toys. Giving your Cocker Spaniel access to plenty of toys will help by giving them something to focus on when their own or looking for something to do.
  • Play. Spending time with your Cocker Spaniel is a must and will help the two of you bond and develop an ever-lasting relationship. Throw and Fetch, Tug-of-War and Hide and Seek are all games your dog will love to play.

Are Cocker Spaniels Affectionate?

Simply, yes they are. 

If you got your Cocker Spaniel when they were a puppy and spent the time and effort to integrate them into your family, the chances are your Cocker Spaniel will be a wonderfully affectionate addition to your family.

Cocker Spaniels were bred to be around humans and they love nothing more than a cuddle with their important human companion(s). They will be by your side most of the time and will show their affection by:

  • Licking
  • Closely sitting next to you
  • Sleeping next to you
  • Resting their legs over you
  • Hugging you. Yes, some Spaniels actually hug you…!

Do Cocker Spaniels Bark?

Like all dogs, Cocker Spaniels bark. Barking is a natural behaviour and can happen for a number of reasons, but with some time and effort you can try you and your dog, so that barking won't be a be problem for your household.

There are a number of reasons why Cocker Spaniels bark:

  • To seek attention
  • Territorial barking
  • Barking with or at other dogs
  • Boredom and/or loneliness
  • Separation Anxiety

Do Cocker Spaniels Shed?

Most dogs shed and Cocker Spaniels are no exception. However, when compared to some other popular breeds such as Labradors and Retrievers, Spaniel shedding is moderate  and can be more easily managed in your home. It is advisable to regularly brush and maintain your Cocker Spaniels coat primarily to ensure that their fur doesn't knot around their ears and rear-end. This is particularly important for keeping your dog comfortable during hot weather.

Cocker Spaniels and Separation Anxiety

Cocker Spaniels are proper "people pleasers" and love to be around their family and their important human companions. This need to be close to humans can sometimes, and we do mean only sometimes, lead to them suffering from Separation Anxiety Disorder, particularly if they are older dogs that have been re-homed or have come from a shelter.

Separation anxiety disorder can present itself in a number of ways including, persistent barking, urinating and defecating and chewing and digging, but with some planning, time and persistence can be overcome.

Final Thoughts

Cocker Spaniels are bright, intelligent and social dogs who love nothing more than spending time with their humans. They are great companions and love to keep you and your family happy.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to Cocker Spaniel traits and remember to check back for more Cocker Spaniel-related information.

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