The irresistible love story between Lady, a classy and pampered cocker spaniel, and "the Tramp", a street-wise mutt living by a railway, has captured many hearts, but unfortunately, cocker spaniels are not always as Disney movies portray them. Behavioral problems in some specimens are not uncommon and may become troublesome.
Well-socialized cocker spaniels are normally friendly and social with people and other animals, but there may be excessive submissiveness and timidity in some lines. If you are not too eager to step into puddles, keep also in mind that this breed has a tendency to urinate excitably or submissively especially when young, according to dog trainer, breeder and author Michele Welton.
This breed craves a lot of companionship and does best in a home where it gets oodles of attention. Failure to train this breed to become independent may result in a cocker spaniel becoming a clingy "Velcro dog," eager to follow you from room to room demanding attention. When left alone for more than a few hours, Lady may decide to express her unhappiness through destructive behaviors such as chewing, scratching at doors and windows, barking and indoor soiling. If your busy lifestyle keeps you away from your home for prolonged periods of time, this may not be the breed for you.
Because this breed has a tendency to be stubborn, but at the same time can be oversensitive, you will need to be careful about how you approach your cocker when training. Using harsh training methods and correcting your cocker with your hands may result in defensive biting. Families with small children should stay clear of this breed as it will not tolerate any nonsense and may feel overwhelmed by the loud voices and quick movements of children which may result in defensive biting.
If your cocker transforms into Cujo the moment you try to remove a toy or a bone, your cocker is very likely a possessive resource guarder. Don't worry; you are not alone. Cocker spaniels are notorious for resource guarding, according to dog behaviorist and trainer Stan Rawlinson. Indeed, Stan claims that 70 percent of his resource-guarding cases involve specimens of this breed.
Unfortunately, many cocker spaniels are bred by breeders who do not have a clue as to how to selectively breed for good temperament. This has resulted in many cocker spaniels with neurotic behaviors leading to aggression and biting. Of course, this is not true of all cocker spaniels. A well-bred cocker placed in a loving home with owners willing to train, socialize and provide enough exercise and mental stimulation can bring loads of joy and happiness. Good genes and good owners yield intelligent, gentle dogs blessed with an even temperament and no suggestion of timidity; just what the American Kennel Club standard calls for.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.