Are Cocker Spaniels Good Family Dogs?

When thinking about adding a new puppy to your home it’s important to know if they will get along with every member of your family. If you have children and are wanting to get a Cocker Spaniel, this article will tell you all about the pros and cons of this breed for kids and families.

Cocker Spaniels are one of the best medium size dogs for kids and families. Their playful, friendly, docile, and affectionate attitude makes them a good fit for children of all ages. Cocker Spaniels are able to match the energy of children, are sturdy, and can get along with your kids without much training.

Cocker Spaniels can be a good breed for children, but I want to share with you how you can make it a GREAT breed for your family! I’m going to tell you all the goodness you can expect with this fluffy breed as well as some of the things you should watch out for, then you will truly know if getting this breed of dog is right for you and your family.

Please understand that even though most Cocker Spaniels have a lot of these great qualities and can be amazing for families with young children and babies, it is never a guarantee that you will get a dog with these qualities.

A lot goes into making a dog the way it is. Their personality is as much a product of the environment as well as genetics and breed characteristics.

Finding a Cocker Spaniel from a reputable breeder and understanding the characteristics and qualities of the parents is the first step to finding a Cocker Spaniel that will have all the qualities that can make them great for kids.

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Qualities that make Cocker Spaniels great for kids are:

  • Affectionate

    They love to be cuddled and held, they freely give attention and love to multiple members of the family.
  • Outgoing

    This breed is naturally friendly and generally willing to meet new people and see new things. They also tend to get a long well with other dogs.
  • Happy temperament

    As long as a Cocker Spaniel is properly cared for, they have a happy temperament and are easy going.
  • Adaptable

    Cocker Spaniels are generally able to handle most new situations which can be important for a family with young children.
  • Loyal

    Cocker Spaniels will always show their allegiance for their family that cares for and loves them and can sometimes be protective of their family members.
  • Docile

    Ready to submit and accept your role as the alpha Cocker Spaniels are gentle and submissive.
  • Sturdy

    Children still need to be careful when handling their dogs and taught how to hold them, but generally Cocker Spaniels are strong and can put up with minor jostling from children.
  • Playful

    Cocker Spaniels seem to have just the right amount of playfulness without demanding too much. It’s just right for kids to get some play time in but not requiring too much since kids can be easily distracted and get bored quickly.
  • Calm

    If you have a new baby or children who are easily frightened of dogs, a Cocker Spaniel’s calm nature can help to reassure you that they will be gentle with your children.
  • Cute
    No explanation needed, this picture says it all!
  • Soft and fuzzy

    Your kids will love to brush and pet and comb all that beautiful soft hair!
  • Gets along well with other dogs and animals

    Generally speaking, as long as they are properly socialized Cocker Spaniels get along great with other dogs, cats, and most pets of any kind.
  • Loving

    Cocker Spaniels can be very loving and affectionate. Although that’s not the case for all Cocker Spaniels, the vast majority love to cuddle.

With their loving and loyal temperament, Cocker Spaniels will easily bond with your child. Cocker Spaniels were bred to be lap dogs and so they will be happy to sit and chill with your child on the couch during family movie night.

Cocker Spaniels will have bursts of energy and playfulness throughout the day which can be great to give kids an opportunity to run alongside them and play a fun game of fetch or hide and seek.

Because of their playful nature, Cocker Spaniels are a great dog to help your kids burn off energy and get more exercise as they play and grow together.

Cocker Spaniels seem to be just the perfect size! According to the AKC, they usually grow to be 14-16 inches or 15-31 pounds. This is a great size for kids to play with without being so big that they will get too rough with the kids and knock them over.

As with any pet, it’s very important to teach children how to properly handle and care for a new puppy or dog, but when compared to some of the other more fragile small breed dogs like the Chihuahua or Yorkshire Terrier, Cocker Spaniels will handle rough play a little bit better.

Chess Dog 300 x 600

What Are Some Challenges to Having a Cocker Spaniel with Kids

There are so many great things about having this breed of dog for your family, but there are a few challenges as well. Generally speaking, Cocker Spaniels want to please their masters but occasionally will have a stubborn streak which can make them a little bit more difficult to potty train.

As a busy parent, you may not have a lot of time to train your new puppy. …….and let’s be real, as a parent of young kids you’ve probably had your feel of potty training little humans that can sometimes be stubborn as well!

This dilemma can be solved by signing your puppy up for obedience and training classes where you will get help and support in teaching your dog, or if you have older kids they can learn to help in the responsibilities of teaching your new puppy.

With a bit of patience, consistency, and persistence your Cocker Spaniel can be a very well trained dog!

Trying out a fun training program together like this widely popular program Brain Training for Dogs can help unlock your dog’s hidden potential and help them learn how to avoid problem behaviors.

Another challenge to having a Cocker Spaniel can be grooming them and dealing with possible chronic ear infections. Because Cocker Spaniels have such long floppy ears they are much more prone to ear infections. Keeping their ears clean and well-groomed is an important aspect of having this breed of dog.

Pro Tip: To learn more about what it takes to keep their ears clean and healthy check out this article: Cocker Spaniel Ear Care and Cleaning Guide.

Cocker Spaniels are not Hypoallergenic which means there is a possibility of your family having allergies to your new fur friend. The good news is they do shed less than other dogs. Unlike some dogs that have a double coat, Cockers have long silky hair that tends to shed a lot just a few times a year.

This can easily be remedied by considering another very popular breed that has a lot of the same characteristics as a cocker spaniel, but some added genes to help make it Hypoallergenic.

A Cockapoo is a Cocker Spaniel mixed with a poodle and a very popular breed with families as well.

Along with grooming, Cocker Spaniels are prone to dental disease. They will need their teeth brushed regularly to keep their gums healthy and clean. It’s also a good idea to have their teeth cleaned regularly with a vet. Your dog will need to be trained and conditioned to allow that to happen.

You will want to make sure to get your Cocker from a reputable breeder that tests them for health and genetic diseases.

Some health Challenges that a Cocker Spaniel might have are chronic ear infections, eye problems, hip or back problems. Most of these can be avoided with good breeding and good care.

How to teach your kids to handle your Cocker Spaniel

It’s important that your children know how to safely handle your puppy before you even bring it home.

Establish a clear set of rules and expectations for your children and grandchildren’s behavior around your dog!

Having rules already in place will help your children know what is expected of them. This is not an exhaustive list, but a good place to start. Examples of some good rules are:

  • Don’t scream or yell around the puppy

    Even though Cocker Spaniels are generally very amiable, loud noises and screaming could frighten your dog, especially if it’s a puppy.
  • Don’t pick up or hold the puppy without help from an adult

    Children need to be taught how to pick up and hold a dog properly. Make sure to supervise them at all times until you are sure that they can hold and carry your dog properly is important to avoid injury.
  • Play calmly around the puppy

    This can be especially important when your dog is in the early stages of its training (2-6 months old). Puppies will feed off the energy of those around them and extremely hyper or rowdy play around your dog can encourage high-strung behaviors and excessive puppy biting!
  • Leave the puppy alone when they are eating or sleeping

    Eating and sleeping is important for your dog’s developmental growth and your puppy needs to have their own space. For children who often crowd and are obsessive with being around your dog at all times, this can be a good rule to help build in some natural breaks and rest for your puppy.
  • Don’t feed the dog any people food without permission

    Children don’t always have a good understanding of what kind of foods are ok and not ok to give to dogs. They also may not know when is the proper time to treat them (like never feeding them scraps from the dinner table). It’s important that they get permission from an adult first.

  • Don’t allow them to treat the puppy like a toy

    Children need to be taught a clear distinction between a stuffed animal and a real live dog. Real dogs whether a sturdy Cocker Spaniel or any other dog breed can be hurt if handled improperly by a child. This has the potential to make your Cocker Spaniel nervous or skittish around your children.

Having your child practice with stuffed animals and researching or learning together about proper care can help your child feel involved and important in the process of getting a new puppy.

Giving them a chance to learn and practice with other kids who are going through the same thing is also a great way to help them realize the importance of handling your new puppy or dog very gently. In my online dog care class, I go over all the points above and more.

Even if you feel like you’ve done a great job teaching your children how to carefully handle your dog you will always want to supervise their interactions.

If you notice your dog giving cues that he’s feeling stressed out or bothered by your child it’s a good idea to step in and allow them to have a break from each other. Early intervention when problems arise can oftentimes save injury and heartache.

If you have young kids this article I wrote about teaching your toddler to handle your dog with care is for you!

My Toddler Won’t Leave the Dog Alone. (What to Do!)

How to train your Cocker Spaniel to be good with your kids

Just as your children need to understand and learn how to interact with your new puppy, your new puppy will need some training to teach them how to behave properly around your kids.

This is not only true for a Cocker Spaniel, but for any dog or puppy that you get.

Start with obedience training and establish yourself as the alpha. You can also get your children involved in training and teaching your puppy so that the dog will understand that children are not just playmates. 

Work with your dog and your children to make their interactions with each other a positive experience. You will want to reward both your Cocker Spaniel and your children when they are successful with this.

It will be very important to socialize your Cocker Spaniel from a young age. When your Cocker Spaniel is a puppy they will be more accepting and curious about new experiences.

Socializing your puppy means letting them experience and get used to new sights, sounds, smells, people, animals, and environments while making it a positive and fun experience for them. Socializing them in a safe and positive way to be around your children as well as other children will help them learn how to be great with kids.

You will want to practice handling your puppy as your kids might handle him. You may have a rule that they are not allowed to pull the puppy’s tail or ears, but that doesn’t mean they will never try it.

If your puppy gets slowly used to you handling him a little rough and receives positive reinforcement for it, it’s more likely he will tolerate it well coming from a child. Just remember that we never want to be so rough with our dogs as to make them yelp or want to nip at us.

Should I get a puppy or an adult Cocker Spaniel for my kids

You may wonder if getting an adult Cocker Spaniel for your family could be a good idea. After all, it would be nice to skip the house training and puppy biting phases.

You may be surprised, but It’s actually more likely that you will get a dog that handles being around kids better if you get a puppy and train them up and socialize them properly as they grow.

Not knowing the history of an adult Cocker Spaniel could be problematic. If that dog has had bad experiences being around kids or no experience at all it will be a long road and a lot of work to properly train him to handle being around kids. It’s feasible as well that because of the dog’s personality it may not be possible to teach him to like children.

If you do decide to get an adult Cocker Spaniel for your family, you will want to make sure he’s been properly trained and socialized to be around children.

Either way, you decide getting a puppy or dog for your child can be a lot of work, but has countless benefits and can be a wonderful addition to your family. Here are some more articles that can be super helpful for you in the process of getting a new puppy!

Are Working Cocker Spaniels Good Family Pets?

Working Cocker Spaniels are very similar to show Cocker Spaniels. The main differences are they are a bit taller and leaner and have shorter hair. They are also bred to do a job, which makes them more high energy than a regular Cocker Spaniel.

If your family has a lot of energy and likes to stay fit and active then a working Cocker Spaniel might be a good fit. Working Cocker Spaniels are good for families that love to be outdoors, running, hunting, or camping. They do require more exercise and can get bored or into trouble if not given proper attention.

Should I get more than one puppy at a time?

When getting a Cocker Spaniel puppy you may be tempted to think if I’m going to get one puppy then I might as well get two so they can have a playmate and I’ll be doing all the work to take care of a puppy anyway.

Please don’t get two puppies at the same time. If you do you will have to worry about littermate syndrome.

Littermate syndrome is when 2 puppies that are close in age bond and connect more with each other than they do with their owners. This can cause them to have issues if they are separated. It can cause them to be more difficult to train.

Read more about getting a second Cocker Spaniel here: Getting a Second Cocker Spaniel (A Guide to Spaniel Pairs)

Should I Get My Kids a Dog? (17 Reasons to Say Yes!) | Paws and Learn

Can A Cocker Spaniel Be A Service Dog? (Your Complete Guide) – Paws and Learn

While we strive to give the most accurate and helpful information about your pet’s health that we can, this article is meant to be informational only and not medical advice. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider regardless of what you have read on this site or elsewhere.