Acquired: Breeder (professional)
Training: I haven't learned care / training techniques, Attended conferences / shows, Books
Posted January 9, 2013
Cocker Spaniels are one of the best dog breeds a family can own. They truly are "family dogs," and for the most part, have one of the sweetest temperaments and demeanors of any breed I've ever owned.
In my life, I have owned three Cocker Spaniels--two white and buff Spaniels, Benson and Maggie, and one black Spaniel, Bosley. Each of them brought their own personality, positive aspects, and negative aspects into the home, so I will present my details on an overall/general/average scale.
The positives to owning a Cocker, in my opinion, far outweigh the few negatives. Let's jump right in. On the positive side, Cockers are very intelligent. They can be trained thoroughly and well; so well, in fact, that many times they are trained as hunting dogs. They also have a generally very sweet manner and temperament about them if treated well and taken well care of. They can be very playful and energetic at times, but are also very laid back and relaxed dogs who will enjoy napping with you, laying with you while watching a good movie, or just hanging out with you while you relax at home. They aren't yappy or vocal dogs. In my experience, they rarely bark and generally keep quiet, even when surprised or shocked (sudden knock on the door, doorbell, loud noise, etc.). Cockers are extremely loving, too. They bond deeply with their owners and are loyal, obedient, and loving to them always as long as they are treated well and never neglected.
Another great thing about Cocker Spaniels is that they are gorgeous dogs, often a show-winning breed. People will often go on and on about my Cocker, Maggie, and how sweet and loving and beautiful she is. However, they do require a lot of grooming and often.
Cockers are very well behaved for the most part. They are rarely, if ever, destructive, so you needn't worry about chewed shoes, shredded papers, scratched up furniture, and the like. In fact, Cocker Spaniels are so well behaved that many people consider them an intellectually superior breed due to their very stately, royal way of carrying themselves.
On the negative side, Cocker Spaniels need a ton of grooming and OFTEN. Their coats grow very quickly, which creates an extremely bushy effect in the facial region, making it difficult for them to see, and it also makes it difficult for them to breathe because they then easily become over-heated from the amount of excess hair. So their hair needs to be trimmed often--in whatever style you prefer. Also, you will need to keep them regularly groomed, because Cockers have long, bushy ears that VERY easily become matted and painful to them. This is something that should be avoided through consistent grooming, because the mats are extremely difficult to remove and can be painful. You will need to brush and bathe your Cocker regularly to keep his/her coat clean and allow for minimal shedding.
Cockers should be given premium brand dog foods only to ensure the longest, healthiest life possible, as I believe all dogs should be. They will also need regular, healthy trips to the Vet, and be SURE to have them vaccinated. About a week after we got our first Cocker, Benson, he became very ill with Parvo at a very, very young age. He spent 3 months in the hospital, and we almost lost him. Luckily, he pulled through and grew into a very happy and healthy boy, but please know how important puppy vaccinations are.
One other negative of Cocker Spaniels is that they don't have a high percentage of success with re-training and rehabilitation, at least not in my experience and from some articles that I have read. Our second Cocker, Bosley, was a rescue dog, who had been formerly abused and neglected. The first person in our family that Bosley met, was my mother, and she was the ONLY person that Bosley allowed to bond with him because of his history of abuse and neglect. I believe it was because my mother is very soft-spoken, gentle, and has a light touch. Anyone who squealed over him or walked to quickly or attempted to play to vigorously with him scared him to the point of aggression. This did not suit our family. He became very protective of my mother and wouldn't let anyone near her while he was with her, which of course, became a problem. No matter how much we worked with him, using positive reinforcement, admiration, respect, and love, he simply never recovered from his former abuse. We had no success in rehabilitating him. He was simply afraid and therefore, aggressive. We eventually had to give him to a more qualified, trainer family, which I hope led to a more productive, fear-free life for him.
Overall, Cocker Spaniels make wonderful additions to any family. Their generally sweet and calm nature makes them excellent companions for small children and elderly. They can be playful and yet don't require an extreme amount of activity, and most of all, they are very obedient and loyal to the end.