A lot of people ask if working cocker spaniels make good pets. The short answer is yes but with conditions.

Finding a breeder that will sell a working cocker as a pet is no mean feat in itself as most breeders want to sell to working homes. Once such breeder is Cathy Bowler at Whiteford Working Cocker Spaniels. Cathy is a private breeder who loves her dogs and as such doesn’t over exert them into having too many litters. She is also where I got my working cocker, Joey, so I’m biased.

The first thing you should do when inspecting a litter of any dogs is meet the mother. If the mother’s temperament is good then the chances are she’ll pass it on to her offspring. You also get to see whether she’s healthy and cared for properly. I’d recommend sitting with the mother for a while then when you’re choosing your puppy, just let them run all over you while you sit on the floor. That way you’ll get to witness their personalities first hand. I chose my dog, Joey, because he spent most of his time trampling over his siblings to get to me then when he did make it to me he chewed my arm. I knew straight away what I was getting in to.

As I said before, working cockers can make good pets but only if you’re willing to put some time in to them. My dog gets about 2 hours of walks a day. When I say walks I don’t really mean that. I mean that I walk and he runs everywhere. He is constantly exercising, chasing his Kong, swimming and sniffing things out. If at some point during the walk he hasn’t taken the time out to lie down of his own accord and have a rest then I’m not exercising him enough and he’ll let me know later on by sitting next to me and staring at me constantly until I take him out again. It’s unnerving to be stared at that much I can tell you.

Working cockers are also incredibly loyal. If you want a dog that won’t leave your side then a working cocker spaniel is for you. If, on the other hand, they’ll get on your nerves following you about then think of another breed. If you get up and walk anywhere in the house then the dog will think that there is something going on that’s going to be good fun and you’ll probably end up tripping over him. On saying that, my dog is currently lying asleep next to my feet but then he’s been out swimming for an hour this morning.

Would I say that my dog is good with kids? Erm, no. He dislikes them immensely. Not to the point of biting but he’ll do everything he can to stay out of their way and he is completely disinterested in anything they’ve got to offer. He’s been socialised with children since he was a pup too so it’s not through lack of contact.

Are working cockers clever and easily trainable? Absolutely. Once you start to train your puppy it won’t take more than a couple of weeks before they can consistently do pretty much everything a ‘normal’ dog would do – sit, lie down, stay etc. Then you’ll notice their retrieving instincts. The best toy I ever bought was a ‘Cool Kong’ which is a Kong on a rope that floats. Buy one. Throw it. And keep some ham in your pocket so that when your puppy brings it back he gets a piece. After a week of this my dog wasn’t bothered about the ham – he just loves the retrieval and the running to the Kong. Then you can start to do things like cover your dog’s eyes, throw the kong into the undergrowth where he can’t see it, and let him go after it. Their sense of smell is incredible. Working cockers love the water. I was a bit worried about Joey because he didn’t go in the water until he was nine months old but since then I can’t keep him out of it. Now, he’ll fetch stones off the bottom of the sea – yes, he swims underwater.

Working cocker spaniels, as with the springers I’ve had, are really bitey when they’re puppies. Not in a malicious way but they will definitely bite you and they chew stuff. The chewing can be kept under control by giving them lots of different toys, sticks etc. to keep them occupied but I guarantee that while you’re playing with them you’ll get those needle teeth sticking in your hands every now and again and will find holes in your clothes that weren’t there before you got the dog.

The other thing you should know about working cocker spaniels, and any spaniels in general, is that they are social animals. Please don’t get one if you’re out of the house at work all day every day because you’re asking for trouble. Get a labrador instead.

I hope that this helps with your choice of dog. It’s by no means a bible, but is my experience of owning a working cocker spaniel.


28 Responses to “As Pets”

  1. 1 Jacqui August 19, 2008 at 5:40 pm


    I find these happy go lucky little dogs to be perfect pets. That said I spend alot of time training and generally playing with ours and hae to agree they just love to be out as much as you can.

    All 5 of ours are superb with our very young children Molly 3 and Archie 24 weeks, that said our daughter has been taught to respet them as much as they her.

    We do all sorts with our from Scurries at the game fairs to having a small agility course in the garden as well as loving walking. We are also lucky enoughto live near the river which gives great opportunites for swimming.

    All in all a fantastic all round little dog who is always happy and loves being part of family life.

  2. 2 afinder August 19, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    I would love more working cockers but I’ve got two problems. Firstly, in Aus, if you have more than 3 dogs you need a breeder’s licence. Secondly, they don’t breed them out here. I’m forever getting asked if I’ll stud Joey out but there’s no way I’m going to breed him with a poodle. He’s far too good a pedigree to water it down and let it go to waste.

  3. 3 Jacqui August 19, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    My best friend emigrated to Aus and she told me about not being able to have more than in her case 2 dogs without having a lot of land. That is good in some respects but for those who adore their dogs and would give them the time and attention needed such a shame. As far as the breeding of working cockers goes I have heard of quite a few peps down under who would like an English working cocker – we must try to do something about this???

    Any ideas gladly welcome – alhtough I am not keen to export pups to complete strangers may speak to my friend and see if she would be interested in liasing??? Would need to look into this further???

  4. 4 afinder August 22, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    It’s a pretty grim job exporting your dog. They get shoved in a crate and basically left in the dark for over 24 hours. I really wouldn’t recommend it as a thing to do for somebody over here who wants a dog. If you’re moving and you have no choice then fair enough. Also, Australia are still a little backward with regards to quarantine. In virtually every other developed country in the world your dog gets his vacs then he can come and go between countries as long as you can prove the vacs are genuine. In Aus, regardless, there is a 30 day quarantine from the UK. Believe me, it’s pointless too as all the dogs in quarantine share excercise yards so can spread whatever they may or may not have. It left my boy with some awkward separation anxiety issues which have now been sorted but it took a while.

  5. 5 Jacqui August 23, 2008 at 2:42 am

    I have had a look and decided it is not something I would persue especially with a young pup – maybe we will emigrate!!! LOL

  6. 6 sean September 26, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    i got a bulldog and chihuahua,and she just gave birth to puppies. but i wanna give the chihuahua puppies to someone willing to adopt and care for it.my email is seanbill2k@yahoo.com .waitin to hear from anyone serios.

  7. 7 Felicity April 7, 2010 at 8:54 am


    My boyfriend and I are looking to buy a working cocker and i really wanted to get a golden one but have read around and people have said that they have problems especially with aggression. I also heard that in working cockers that the problem isn’t that bad. As i have a baby niece to consider, I don’t want to buy the wrong dog

    Can anyone advise me on whether to get one or their experience with their golden cockers


    • 8 afinder June 24, 2010 at 2:48 pm

      I had a friend who had a golden cocker who got ‘rage syndrome’. I’m not sure the dog would have bitten anybody, she just growled when being stroked like a cat would purr. You’re better off getting a brown/white or black/white because they’re better looking anyway! Then the problem goes away.

      One thing I would say is that working cockers are extremely high energy so I’d supervise your niece with your dog otherwise she might get knocked flying when your dog is running about. There’s not much down time with them. My dog, Joey, is 7 years old now and still gets 3 hours of runs (not walks) a day. He doesn’t look like slowing down yet.

    • 9 Alex September 24, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Dear Felicity,

      I have a golden roan cocker and she has no problems with aggression. ‘Rage Syndrome’ is seen in a small percentage of golden cockers and to put it into perspective, children under the age of 5 cannot recognise warning signs in a dog. This has been proven because no matter what the canine’s breed, age, gender or colour, the child doesn’t recognise it.

      As a dog trainer in training (I know it sounds weird), I have child proofed my dog to within an inch of her life. She loves my brother’s kids and will even let my baby nephew grab onto the skin above her shoulders and walk with him. She is a week away from turning 2 years old, she is spayed but I do not condone the whole ‘don’t pick a dog just because it’s black…or blue….or orange with red polka dots’. Unless it is for a purely practical reason.

      My reason at the moment is that I’m looking for a black, black and tan, blue roan or liver working cocker so that when I need to, I can just clip a lead onto the dog and know I’m taking the right one for socialisation with a client. My golden roan is a champion with puppies and timid dogs but she is a little small at 11.9 kg (and no, she isn’t underfed we got her from a breeder who had a litter of smaller pups) to be running around with a golden retriever. She is also a little nervy around aggressive dogs which I am working on.

      I want a second cocker to be able to keep up with both home life and life with their human as a dog trainer. My golden roan loves socialisation and is willing to do more, unfortunately as soon as I get her home…well…some days she’ll crawl into her crate and sleep for the rest of the night. I want a working cocker that is vastly different in colour from the golden roan so it is easy to see which is which and I don’t have to fuss around by trying to grab collars and read names.

      Speaking of working cockers, anyone know a good breeder in Australia?


  8. 10 Mark August 20, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Hi Andy,

    Cathy suggested we contact you. We are moving to Oz in the coming month and we are bringing Maja with us. She is a pedigree working cocker spaniel from Whiteford Spaniels (which is by sheer coincidence) and is now roughly 16 months of age.

    We’re slightly worried about the quarantine period which will be a month, as she is incredibly engaging, and separation issues are a concern. Do you have any specific advice in this regard?

    She is simply an amazing dog and your Joey looks almost identical, so we’re trying to find ways to make the move/process as smooth as possible.


    • 11 afinder August 21, 2011 at 11:25 am

      Hi Mark

      I’m not going to lie to you. Quarantine is crap. I got in touch with them before I came over and arranged it so that I could go there every day to see Joey. I think that was a one-off thing though as they’re not really keen on people being there and half way through the quarantine period they tried to stop me going every day. Don’t get me wrong, the facilities are OK, it’s just that once you see it you will wonder what the point is. When you visit there are shared exercise yards that all of the dogs can use (not at the same time) but kind of defeats the object of quarantine really. Still, some exercise is better than none, especially for our dogs so I’d recommend going there and giving her a run. I think the thing to focus on is that it’s only a month and it doesn’t take long for dogs to forget about things. There will be dogs in the kennels next to Maja and you’ll find that they jump at the fences and lick each other (quarantine?) so it’s not like they’ll be short of dog company. They just get bored. Just think about that 30 day time limit and count down the days. I’m sorry I can’t paint a pretty picture for you. Your dog will be fine – I just think the whole thing is shit when your dog has had all the required vaccinations and doesn’t really need to be there.



  9. 12 Linsey Romani September 21, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Do you have a spam issue on this website; I also am a blogger, and I was curious about your situation; many of us have created some nice methods and we are looking to swap strategies with others, why not shoot me an email if interested. Many thanks!

  10. 14 Isabella October 22, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Hello Andy, hi All!

    Can anybody tell me how to contact Cathy Bowler? The homepage seems to be down.
    Or maybe another reputable breeder who would sell working cockers as a pet?

    Thank you very much!

  11. 15 Isabella October 22, 2011 at 9:11 am

    I forgot to mention, the breeder should be in Europe, since I do not live in Australia.

  12. 16 click here January 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Thanks for another excellent article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such information.

  13. 17 Lizzy Vale March 14, 2012 at 1:35 am

    Hi, I also got my working cocker from Cathy Bowler and she has been such an amazing pet. My mum would like one, but I can’t find Cathy’s contact details. Do you know if she’s still breeding and if so, do you have her contact details please.

    Thank you. x

  14. 18 Roland April 29, 2013 at 6:40 am

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  15. 19 Megan August 2, 2013 at 10:29 am

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  16. 20 David November 27, 2013 at 1:35 am

    I’m exercising my cocker down a canal towpath on my bike. We do a half marathon pretty much every day and she appears to not be in the slightest bit tired! How far do I have to go and is there anything else you would recommend?

    • 21 afinder November 27, 2013 at 7:46 am

      I think that’s a good distance. Joey used to regularly come out and do 30km mountain bike rides with me and at the end of it still be going strong. Being fairly old now his paws don’t take the hard ground so well for long periods but any run on the beach and he’ll make you look unfit. All I can say is as long as you and your dog are enjoying it and he/she’s not overheating then do whatever you want to do.

  17. 22 Millie May 26, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    I have got a working cocker spaniel puppy, (she is 6months) and she is so lovely =, she follows me everywhere, the only thing is she constantly bites, is there anything i can do to stop this? i give her lots of things to chew on and excerise her loads but she just keeps biting my hands? please help.

    • 23 afinder May 27, 2014 at 7:58 am

      My dog did that for a while too and while they’re that young it’s like having needles put in your hands. I ended up buying loads of kongs and other toys to exercise his jaw. He started to just carry them around with him so his mouth was full and he couldn’t bite.

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  20. 26 HLB January 7, 2015 at 7:31 am

    Hi I was just wondering if anyone could offer any advice to me 🙂
    My boyfriend has a 12month old working cocker and despite all efforts he still jumps up you when you enter a room or he tries to jump up strangers when we are out walking (well we are walking!). He carries out other commands without batting an eye lid, but is so disobedient when it comes to this one habit! Any ideas on how to break it? Thank you for all your help!

  21. 27 Little Tiles June 15, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    Fab advice and it made me laugh too – we have a 7 month old and this sounds like him!! Thank you 🙂

  22. 28 Nigel December 25, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Hi there.

    I have an 8 1/2 month old male working cocker who is unite tall and strong weighing in at 16.5kilos. I’m about to move him to adult food and am currently taking him on 45-50 min walks where he charges and jumps around in the undergrowth at full speed throughout.

    I’m still a little unsure when I can extend these walks to what I’d call longish ones of say an hour or two before going all day hill walking given that he’s still young.

    He spends his other time active either with playing and training.


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