When you start thinking about owning a cocker spaniel, the first thing that comes to mind for many people is Lady from the movie Lady and the Tramp. All the traits of this breed are made evident in the character in the film. Cocker spaniels do an excellent job of capturing our hearts because of their loyalty, willingness to play, and their overall sweet nature.
As with any other pet for which you would share a home, there are some distinct benefits and disadvantages to consider when you have a cocker spaniel. If you are considering the addition of one to your family in the near future, then these are the pros and cons you will want to review right away.
List of the Pros of Cocker Spaniel Ownership
1. Cocker spaniels are an exceptionally adaptive dog breed.
The reason why cocker spaniels are very popular additions to the modern family is because they are adaptive. They do exceptionally well with different personalities and environments without changes to their overall nature. Although there are outliers with specific dogs, most of these dogs are sweet-natured animals who are friendly, devoted, and obedient.
Most cocker spaniels will not bark excessively, even when they sense a stranger is within their territory. That makes them an excellent addition for families who live in a smaller space, such as an apartment or condominium. You can introduce this breed to senior citizens, young children, and homes who already have other pets with relative ease.
2. This breed loves to please their owners whenever possible.
Cocker spaniels are a social breed, so they appreciate a family situation where they can get a lot of snuggles. This trait also makes them a highly trainable option for homes that need a dog that follows a specific set of behaviors. Although some of them will try to become your master, especially if you’re adopting an older dog, there are still ways to work with them to create a loving relationship.
You will want to start the training process from the moment that you bring your dog home. Then use positive reinforcement techniques to encourage positive changes to their behavior. If you show aggression towards your dog, even when it is a puppy, then the responses could run counter to what you expect.
3. They can be a perfect playmate for most children.
Because the cocker spaniel is a medium-sized dog, they are the perfect size for children aged 8 and over in a family. They are large enough to play outside, run around, and even wrestle sometimes without being too big and causing physical injury. Younger children can be too rough with this breed, teaching it inappropriate social cues, but that is your call to make with your current situation.
Most families discover that the cocker spaniel is the perfect playmate because of its willingness to please, be social, and stay active.
4. Cocker spaniels are usually a healthy, long-lived breed.
Most cocker spaniels live a long and healthy life that is free of the significant health problems which are found in other breeds. The median lifespan of these dogs is approximately 15 years, with some individuals living beyond the age of 20. When you get a puppy for your family when your kids are between the ages of 8-10, they truly do become a companion that can lead them through the critical teenage years with unconditional love.
The two most common health issues that cocker spaniels face is susceptibility to eye problems and ear infections, both of which are easy to treat and proactively prevent with some basic hygiene habits.
5. This breed is highly intelligent and has a robust emotional IQ.
Some families complain that their cocker spaniel is too needy at times, as if they were attached like Velcro to the side of their alpha human. The reason why there is a certain level of clinginess with these dogs is that they can sense the moments when you feel anxious, so that causes them to feel the same way. They have a sixth sense about knowing when you need some snuggle time or a moment of solitude.
Even with these advantages in mind, there are some cockers who like to tag along with you to every room. If you need to use the bathroom, then the dog is going to be there. It can be comforting when they’re lying at your feet when watching television or working at your computer, but it can be problematic when there is no space offered between the two of you.
6. Cockers come in a handful of different coat color options.
There are several different versions to consider when you’re looking at cocker spaniels, including English and American varieties. The latter has been around since the end of the 19th century, with breeds developing three different color options: black, mixed, or ASCOB – which means any other solid color other than black. Many families in the United States tend to prefer dogs with a red, brown or buff coat, but it won’t take you too long to find some other options available to you as well.
7. Their coat is silky smooth.
You can always tell when a cocker spaniel is well-groomed because their coat is silky smooth to the touch. That means they are a lot of fun to pet, which is a trait that will sometimes encourage strangers to want to come over for a head scratch and an introduction. If you’re not the biggest fan of random social encounters, then you might consider this a disadvantage, but most families love the extra attention.
List of the Cons of Cocker Spaniel Ownership
1. Some cocker spaniels can be overly aggressive with their behavior.
When the owner of a cocker spaniel lashes out towards their dog for any reason, the animal will take that cue as permission for it to behave in a similar way. Although any dog can become apprehensive or aggressive if they feel threatened, a failure to establish trust with this breed will create a greater likelihood of harm for the rest of the family. One of the most common reasons why this breed is put into shelters or offered up for rehoming is due to potentially dangerous tendencies that these pets learn directly from their owners.
2. They don’t like to hang around rowdy children.
Because cocker spaniels take their cues from their owners, having young children (under the age of 8) in the home can be hit or miss for some families. Although they work well with kids when they are calm, having lots of rambunctious energy in the home can inspire the dog to behave in some inappropriate ways.
High energy levels can also cause high levels of anxiety for the cocker spaniel, which can lead them toward aggressive behaviors that target family members. It is not unusual for a pet in this situation to resort to biting when they feel threatened. Others in this breed tend to become shy with repetitive exposure to this energy.
3. Cocker spaniels require a significant amount of exercise.
You will need to give some time every day to your cocker spaniel so that they can get the exercise needed for their health. This breed needs at least 20 minutes in the morning and a similar amount of time in the evening to romp around freely to play. There should be at least one structured walk during the day as well, and younger dogs could need double that commitment.
Cocker spaniels are often seen as a breed that lies around a lot during the day, but that only applies to the senior members. This dog is a high-energy companion who will love spending as much time as possible with you every day.
4. Heavy grooming is necessary to maintain its coat.
Cocker spaniels have a challenging coat to manage, with the long hair needing frequent grooming to ensure that it doesn’t snag or develop knots. If you have an adventurous dog living at home with you, then all of the seeds and shrubbery which are out in your yard will get tracked inside after playtime. Shedding is a significant issue with this breed as well, especially if you have hardwood or laminate flooring. Frequent combing and trimming are necessary, and then you’ll want to keep any grass and weeds cut short to remove the threat of fleas and ticks.
You can do a lot of this work on your own if you have the necessary equipment at home. If you go to a grooming provider, then the expense can become a significant portion of your health and maintenance costs with a cocker spaniel.
5. This breed can become food-aggressive if you encourage that behavior.
As with other breeds, a cocker spaniel really loves to partake in human food. They can use their cute puppy eyes to encourage a snack from the table every so often, which then encourages unwanted behaviors as they become adults because they’ll expect the treat every time you eat. Although this is a medium-sized dog, they will become pushy and resist training behaviors.
This trait also applies to homes with multiple dogs. They are food hounds to the extreme, refusing to share with anyone else. It is not uncommon for families to feed their pets in different rooms because of this trait.
6. Some cockers can have significant health issues.
Although most cockers are healthy and long-lived, there can be a handful of health problems that may adversely impact some individuals. Some are particularly prone to skin conditions and allergies in addition to their ear and eye sensitivity. You will need to perform frequent ear washes with this breed to limit the number of visits that you’ll be taking to the veterinarian.
Common eye problems include progressive retinal atrophy, glaucoma, and cataracts. Some dogs can develop chronic inflammatory hepatic disease, Cushing’s disease, and heart problems. Some of these issues can develop along genetic lines, so try to check the lineage of your pup whenever you can.
7. Some cocker spaniels don’t work well with other large dogs.
If you have a dog at home already which is significantly larger than a cocker spaniel, then this breed might not be the right choice in some situations. The clinginess of the breed can rub some of the larger dogs the wrong way, so it is imperative that you take a “test run” with your prospective pet to see if they can get along with everyone else at home. Some larger dogs become the protector and best friend to new cockers, but there are some others who are tempted to turn the new pup into a chew toy.
These cocker spaniel pros and cons provide potential owners with a peek into what life is like with this breed. If you want to make sure that you’ve always got someone around for snuggling, then these dogs will provide you with plenty of attention. The problem is that they can ask for just as much in return. If you can give a high-energy pup the attention they want while managing their learned habits from early on, then this breed can become a welcome addition to a family.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.