World’s Meanest Dog: The English Cocker Spaniel?

May 22, 2009 — A floppy-eared, innocent-looking breed may be one of the world’s most aggressive dogs, according to a new study that found English cocker spaniels tend to be more hostile than other breeds.

The discovery adds to the mounting evidence that aggressiveness is an inherited characteristic, suggesting that genes and breeding practices can both help determine how a dog will behave.

“In our country and according to our database, the English cocker spaniel is the breed that shows more aggression problems,” lead author Marta Amat told Discovery News.

Amat, a researcher in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and her colleagues analyzed 1,040 cases of canine aggression brought to a nearby veterinary teaching hospital from 1998 to 2006. Of those cases, the majority of cases were attributed to English cocker spaniels, Rottweilers, Boxers, Yorkshire terriers and German shepherds.

Probing the data further, Amat and her team discovered that English cocker spaniels were more likely than other dogs to act aggressively toward their owners as well as unfamiliar people. In contrast, dogs with reported behavior problems from other breeds tended to act aggressively toward other dogs. Among the English cocker spaniels, golden varieties and males were found to be the most hostile.

The findings, published in the latest Journal of Veterinary Behavior, confirm an earlier study conducted by a separate Spanish team from the University of Cordoba, which also found males and golden English cocker spaniels were more aggressive than females or those with black and mixed-color coats.

In terms of coat color, Amat explained that the coat pigment melanin shares a common biochemical pathway with dopamine and other brain chemicals involved in the control of aggressive behavior.

Amat also noted that “inadequate handling by the owners due to their lack of information on dog behavior” is a contributing factor.

Other experts place even more blame on caretakers, suggesting there are no born-to-be-bad dogs, only bad owners.

Joaquin Perez-Guisado of the University of Cordoba led one of the earlier studies on English cocker spaniels and is the lead author of a new Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances study that found poor training by owners predicted aggressive behavior in 711 test subjects from a variety of breeds.

Taking all possible reasons into consideration, he and his team found that 40 percent of dominance aggression in dogs is associated with a lack of authority on the part of owners, who performed no, or minimal, obedience training.

According to Perez-Guisado and his team, “dogs that are trained properly do not normally retain aggressive dominance behavior.”

Members of the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America appear to agree. They describe their favorite breed as being “a homebody” that is “typically affectionate, loyal and reserved with strangers.”


MUTTNEWS COMMENTARY on this article:

Obviously in Spain there must be a lot of ill-bred puppy mill blonde cocker spaniels. If this isn’t a case for shutting down the puppy mills in their country I don’t know what is! Cocker Spaniels are not a mean breed, they aren’t aggressive by nature but any breed of dog when bred and in bred for profit and not for health and temperment can have its genetics damaged and the result is a dog who is not healthy in mind, spirit or body.  Instead of assuming the owners are terrible people who don’t know how to train their dogs, I would say that Spain is in desperate need of pet owner awareness campaigns to let people know how to choose a dog and the importance of knowing where they come from- just because a dog has papers doesn’t mean they aren’t from a puppy mill. Careful breeders provide lots of documentation and guarantees to health and temperment. I think this is a terribly unfair article and I hope it doesn’t scare anyone off of one of the most beloved breeds in the world.

As for the lack of training in owners leading to aggression in dogs- isn’t the Dog Whisperer on in Spain? I think Cesar Milan needs to take a trip to Barcelona and set some people straight on pack mentality and making sure you as an owner are the leader of your pack.


One Response

  1. If this is true and you still want a Cocker Spaniel try a Cocker Spaniel Plush Stuffed Animal Toy guaranteed not to bite or be aggressive. I have been around Cocker Spaniels during times in my life and they are sweethearts, they certainly aren’t life threatening like a Pit Bull.

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