Understanding Your Cocker Spaniels Behavior

If you are reading this, I genuinely hope that you are doing some research into buying a Cocker Spaniel.

If you already have a Cocker Spaniel pup and are now asking questions about Cocker Spaniel’s behavior, I bet you are asking the questions because your pup is already displaying certain aspects of undesirable behavior.

Here is a video we put together and posted to our official Cocker Spaniel World Youtube channel. Go check it out and don’t forget to subscribe….it helps the channel out a lot.

Well don’t fear, throughout this post I’m going to try and cover the main behavior issues you are likely to encounter and how best to deal with them.

As an owner of many Spaniels over the years, including my boy Called Guinness who is almost 14 years old, I would like to share my experience with you and what I have learned as a Cocker Spaniel owner.

I will add that I’m not a professional in this field, I’m just sharing my experiences with you and hopefully open your eyes to what you can expect when you bring a Cocker Spaniel into your family home.

YOU Need To Think Like A Dog

I read somewhere that it’s been scientifically proven that dogs do no think like humans. Talk about stating the obvious.

Dogs, and especially Cocker Spaniels are very intelligent but they are incapable of figuring out how we humans think so it’s down to us, the owners, to adopt a proper canine mindset…….bear with me.

It’s widely accepted that dogs do not rationalize and your Cocker exists in the present moment.

Many dog owners make the common mistake of thinking they can reprimand a dog something they did a while ago.

EDIT: I highly recommend you check out our review of this product if you are getting a new dog. It’s a fantastic online training resource that I have personally use and recommend to everybody who talks to me about training.

Basically, trying to reprimand a dog for something he did 20 seconds ago will fall on deaf ears, despite their size. (sorry for the terrible pun)

Either catch your pup in the act or forget it. It’s a waste of both your time trying to force this issue. Believe me, I’ve been there and done it, more than a few times.

Another way to think of this is in your dog’s mind, you are reprimanding him for whatever he is doing right now at that moment. If he’s sitting down trying to give you a paw, he will think he is being told off for that and will simply be confused.

The following behavioral problems I’m going to cover will represent the most commonly encountered by owners of all Spaniels, not just a Cocker.

Now you have to appreciate that all dogs are unique and every problem offers up a unique situation.

I will try and outline the basic and common elements of each problem so hopefully, the chances of solving any behavioral problems are increased.

It can be a good idea to discuss bad habits that sem persistent with your veterinary surgeon. They well recommend a behavioral specialist if needed.

Behavioral problems with dogs are the leading reason owners abandon their pets. It’s up to you to make a conscious effort to do everything to solve your Cockers problems.

Be patient and understanding and I’m positive that you will end up with the most loving Cocker Spaniel you could have ever wished for.

Cocker Spaniel Aggression – Cocker Rage

Cocker Spaniels are a very gentle breed by nature but aggression can occur just as in any dog, and then you have a problem.

Any sort of aggressive behavior should not be tolerated. It’s vitally important to get to the root of the problem as quickly as possible.

Aggression is a display of dominance and your dog should not have the dominant role in it’s, which in this case, is you and your family.

Cocker Spaniels can display dominant behavior from being a pup. This can look quite coming from a harmless little puppy but a lot of aggression problems start here.

Have you been too soft with your pup instead of firm? Did you let him get away with any dominant behavior as a little pup? I know I did, more than once.

If this sounds familiar then I recommend you pay a visit to some sort of behavioral specialist who ideally has training with Cocker Spaniels.

If you are yet to welcome your puppy into your home, I strongly suggest that when you do, do not let him be dominant regardless of how cute the little tyke looks.

It’s also a good idea to enroll your pooch into puppy classes as early as possible. This can not only help with aggression and dominance in your home, but also with aggression towards other dogs…..More on that next.

Behavior Towards Other Dogs

Usually when a dog shows aggression or fearful behavior towards other dogs, this is a sign that he was not exposed enough to other dogs at an early age.

When a puppy is familiarised at an early age, whether it’s with humans or other dogs, they will be placid and friendly around anybody with no issues at all.

Cocker Spaniels are very good with cats if they are introduced to them when they are a puppy.

It is very important for your puppy to learn to trust people and other dogs. Let me play out a scenario and see if it sounds familiar at all.

When something frightens a young Cocker Spaniel, many owners will react in a protective way and pick up their dog.

They will save him from whatever is frightening him and comfort him. All this is doing is strengthening his belief that what just happened was very scary indeed.

If he gets frightened, do not pick him up. Talk to him instead and use a gentle but firm tone then carry on as if nothing has happened. That way he will learn that indeed, nothing has happened.

EDIT: Obviously if another dog comes barking and growling at your puppy and looks like it will attack, I’m not saying do not pick your puppy up. I mean if another dog comes for a sniff or a human wants to give your boy a pat.

Sexual Behavior

Dogs exhibit certain sexual behaviors that may have influenced your choice of male or female when you first purchased your Cocker Spaniel.

Female dogs usually have two oestruses per year, each season lasting about three weeks.

These are the only times in which a female dog will mate, and she usually will not allow this until the second week of her cycle.

If a bitch is not bred during the heat cycle, it is not uncommon for her to experience false pregnancy, in which her mammary glands swell and she exhibits maternal tendencies toward toys or other objects.

Male Cocker Spaniels will mount almost anything. A pillow, your leg or much to your horror, a neighbor’s leg. Oh come on, we have all seen this happen.

As with other types of inappropriate behavior, your dog must be corrected while in the act, which for once won’t be too difficult.

What can prove difficult maybe his reluctance to let go!

Whatever you do, do not have the attitude that he’s only doing what comes natural and he’s ‘sowing his oats’ and allow him to keep mounting.

If you do not correct him, as he grows into a full-size dog, he will continue to mount everything.

A full-size dog will have full-size urges and his behavior will be a nuisance as well as an embarrassment.

My owners choose to have their male Cocker Spaniels ‘altered at an appropriate age if they aren’t planning on breeding.

Doing this does limit a male’s desire but not entirely. It also does not calm them down despite what you may have heard.

All my male Cockers and the Springer we had were altered and they were still just as energetic and hyper as before…..but they did mount a little less.

As the owner, you must recognize that mounting is not merely a sexual expression but also a sign of dominance so take control.

Cocker Spaniel Chewing

Chewing, commonly referred to as a canine’s national pastime. Every dog loves to sink his teeth into a tasty bone or chew toy.

Unfortunately, that bone is attached to your hand. Yip, been there and had that done to me more times than I care to remember.

Your Cocker needs to chew so he can massage his gums. Chewing helps to make his new teeth feel better as well as to exercise their jaws.

This is a natural behavior and every single breed of dog behaves this way. Our role as owners is not to stop the chewing and biting, but to redirect it to positive, chew-worth and biteable objects.

It’s strongly advisable to have chew toys like firm nylon bones already present in your home before you even bring your pup home for the first time.

Make sure they are safe for your dog though as his safety is a priority.

Another tip which is probably my top tip when it comes to chewing, make sure you leave nothing lying around that he can get to.

I’m talking shoes, slippers, handbags. Your Cocker will be keen to chew on all these things. Be sure to make your home a dog-proof environment as I talk about in my giant puppy guide.

Whenever you catch your Cocker chewing something he shouldn’t, like furniture or a table leg, direct him to one of his chew toys and engage with him and the toy for a few minutes, praising and encouraging him as you do so.

My Springer Spaniel loved my dining table legs…..it’s really not a good look for home decor.

Jumping Up

This has proven to be a problem with every single Cocker Spaniel I have owed and it’s been entirely my fault every single time

Let me explain.

When a Cocker Spaniel jumps up at you, it’s his friendly way of greeting you and saying ‘hello’!!

Walking through the front door to be greeted by my Cocker Spaniel jumping up, wagging his tail and so happy to see me is something that never gets boring and I love it. My wife and 3 kids do too.

The problem with allowing him to do this is that he greets every single visitor who comes to our home in the exact same manner, whether they like it or not.

Now all my dog is doing is saying hello in a very friendly way but I’ve had visitors who aren’t exactly dog lovers and didn’t appreciate this greeting at all.

This is where will need to make a decision. Do you allow him to jump up to greet or not?

It’s one or the other I’m afraid because your dog won’t be able to distinguish who he can jump up to greet and whom he can’t.

If you go for the latter, I suggest you pick a one-word command such as ‘off’ and use that one word whenever he jumps up.

I had a friend who couldn’t get her Labrador to stop jumping up. She was constantly shouting ‘down’ and the lab ignored her.

She eventually went back to training classes and they realized that she had already used the word ‘down’ for the dog to lie down and she was confusing him by using it when he was jumping up to greet her.

Whenever your dog jumps up, say ‘off’ and make him sit down on all fours and sit for a little.

Like with all training, repeat as often as necessary and be sure to lavish him with praise and petting and maybe the occasional dog treat.


I will link to a post I wrote a called How To Stop My Cocker Spaniel From Digging In The Garden so I won’t go too deeply into this topic here.

We find digging to be destructive behavior but to dogs, it’s perfectly natural.

Usually, when a dog starts digging in the garden, it’s doing so out of boredom.

I read online that this is somewhat similar to someone eating a whole bag of pretzels in front of the TV-because they are there and there’s nothing better to do.

Admit it, we have all done that although in my case it’s usually a full case of Pringles.

The solution is to provide your dog with adequate play and exercise so that his mind, and more importantly, his paws, are well occupied.

Again, try and catch him in the act of digging and say a firm ‘no’ and he will learn not to dig.


A dog’s way of talking, occasionally known as a dog’s way of annoying you and your neighbors.

It’s also frustrating because your dog’s bark will pretty much sound the same regardless of what he’s trying to say.

Here’s a link to a post I wrote about Cocker Spaniel Barking and how you can go about stopping it.

Never punish your dog for barking. He’s trying to tell you something. It’s his way of communicating with you.

When the barking becomes excessive or more of a bad habit then yes, you will need to intervene.

Look at it this way. When somebody knocks at your door or rings the doorbell, the chances are your Cocker Spaniel will bark.


He knows that there is about to be an intrusion to yours and his territory. He has no idea who is at the door, all he knows is that is about to be a potential intrusion.

Image a burglar broke into your home during the night and your dog barked and scared them off. He would be a hero.

This sort of barking should never be discouraged in my opinion. It’s instinctive and there to protect his pack, which is you and your family.

If your dark barks for no reason for a few minutes or so and he only quietens if you give him a treat, for example, you can bet he will do it again, over and over.

He will think you are rewarding him for barking.

It really is important to understand why he is barking before you can come up with a way to stop it.

I personally believe a dog barking at the doorbell is perfectly fine but other excessive barking will need to be dealt with from an early age.

Food Stealing

Is your Cocker Spaniel devising ways of stealing food from your countertops?

Obviously the easiest way to deal with this is to make sure there’s no food left on the countertops.

With 3 kids, this was easier said than done. The number of times my kids have left food on their plates and took them into the kitchen only to then place their plate right on the edge of the countertops, pretty much in view of my dog, well I’ve lost count.

A great tip I read many years ago to combat a dog jumping up and trying to steal off the bend is to fill an empty can of pop with some coins.

The idea here is to startle your dog and catch him off guard. When the can drops to the floor with a loud noise, he will think twice before trying to steal again.


Just like food stealing, begging is another favorite pastime of hungry puppies and with the same reward-FOOD!

Your Cocker Spaniel will quickly learn that you keep all the ‘good food’ themselves and that we don’t treat ourselves with dog biscuits.

As soon as there’s an activity in the kitchen and food is starting to be prepared, your pup is conditioned to start with the begging.

Mayne your takeaway has just been delivered? If so be prepared for your dogs whining and begging and offering of his paw.

Never ever give in to this begging unless you want it to continue for every meal as long as your dog is alive.

If you give him something, he will see it as a sign that you are rewarding him for sitting pretty, whining, rubbing his nose into you or jumping up and the reward is food.

Next meal time and it will be a repeat. Every meal will be like groundhog day.

My best advice for this behavior is to completely ignore him and never ever give in.

I know it will be hard especially when during the early days he will be spoiling meal time but he will realize that no matter how he behaves, you won’t be giving him anything and he will eventually give up.

Separation Anxiety

Oooh, this is a biggie that will affect every single Cocker Spaniel to some degree, at some point in their lives although usually, it’s very early on in their lives.

Yes, the dreaded separation anxiety. I have touched on this in other posts on this website. Because Cocker Spaniels are pack animals, their natural instinct is to be around people.

When you go out to work or even just put them in another room for bedtime, do not expect any peace and quiet until your Cocker is fully and properly trained.

They will simply not understand why you have left them and they will certainly let you know about it.

I think I have covered the basics here but whenever I think of something that needs to be added I will be sure to edit this post.


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