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American Cocker Spaniels: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

American Cocker Spaniel temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

American Cocker Spaniel dog breed

The American Cocker Spaniel should be  a sweet-natured, happy, playful dog. And many individuals are.

Unfortunately behavioral consultants like myself see an awful lot of American Cockers with neurotic behaviors, including nastiness. So you need to be very careful when buying or adopting a Cocker Spaniel. Obviously you want to choose one of the nice ones!

The American Cocker does need regular exercise, but daily walks and romps in the backyard or at a dog park will suffice.

When well socialized, American Cocker Spaniels are friendly and peaceful with strangers and other animals.

Some Cockers are a bit stubborn, but most are quite responsive to cheerful training.

Some Cocker Spaniels, especially adolescents and young adults, are excessively submissive. These dogs might suddenly urinate (or dribble urine) when they get over-excited or feel intimidated. This might simply be someone's hand reaching to pet them, or your body looming over them during play. This is not a housebreaking issue! It's called excitable or submissive urination  and it might go away with time as long as you don't punish the dog.

If you want a dog who...

  • Is conveniently-sized and sturdy
  • Has a pretty feathered coat that comes in a variety of colors
  • Needs only moderate exercise
  • Is friendly, or at least polite, with strangers
  • Is peaceful with other pets

An American Cocker Spaniel may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

  • An extremely careful search to avoid all the nasty, neurotic Cocker Spaniels
  • "Separation anxiety" (destructiveness and barking) when left alone too much
  • Frequent brushing, combing, and clipping
  • Lots of shedding
  • A distinctive odor from the skin and ears
  • Potential for excessive barking
  • Excitable or submissive urination (tendency to dribble urine when excited or nervous)
  • A multitude of serious health problems

An American Cocker Spaniel may not be right for you.


Dog Breed Traits – Which Traits Are Right For You?

In this brand new series, I'll help you decide which dog breed traits would best suit you and your family, your home and yard, and your lifestyle, so you can choose the best dog breed for your family.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament  is less predictable than the inheritance of physical  traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

FREE eBooks by Michele Welton

dog icon"Respect Training for Puppies"  and "Teach Your Dog 100 English Words"  are free step by step guides to teaching your pup to be calm and well-behaved.

dog icon"11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy"  is a free guide to keeping your dog mentally, physically, and emotionally happy and healthy so you can enjoy a longer lifetime of companionship.

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  • You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Cockers have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
  • If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy.

More traits and characteristics of the American Cocker Spaniel

If I was considering an American Cocker Spaniel, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Unstable temperaments. The American Cocker Spaniel is such a common breed that many people breed them. Unfortunately, most of those people don't know how to produce good temperaments. The result is a lot of poorly-bred Cockers with neurotic behaviors, including aggression.

    If you have small children, I would be very careful about choosing an American Cocker Spaniel. A good Cocker would be fine, but there are so many whose temperaments are suspect. Some of these dogs won't tolerate any nonsense. Others get overwhelmed by the loud voices and quick movements that children can't help making. If you combine such a sensitive individual with active children, the result might be stress that could lead to defensive biting if the dog felt startled or threatened.

  2. Potential separation anxiety. More than many other breeds, American Cocker Spaniels need a great deal of companionship and do not like being left alone for more than a few hours. They tend to express their unhappiness through destructive chewing and barking.
  3. Grooming. To keep their silky coat free of mats, American Cocker Spaniels require weekly brushing and combing. Also clipping and trimming every 2-3 months. If you clip the short really short, it's much easier to care for.
  4. Shedding. American Cocker Spaniels shed a LOT. Make sure you don't mind hair on your clothing and furnishings.
  5. Doggy odor. Cocker Spaniels have a distinctive doggy odor that some people find bothersome.
  6. Potential barking. American Cocker Spaniels are often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop them.

    To teach your Cocker to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. Read my free online training programs.

  7. Potential health problems. From hip problems to eye problems to skin problems to epilepsy, American Cocker Spaniels are one of the riskiest breeds in the health department. To keep this breed healthy, I recommend following all of the advice on my Cocker Spaniel Health Page.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy is for puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know. Click here to read for free.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say. Click here to read for free.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life. Get my honest advice about all 11 Things before you bring home your new puppy, because some mistakes with early health care cannot be undone. Click here to read for free.

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