November 12, 2018

The English Cocker Spaniel: preliminary findings on aggressive behaviour

The research group (Kennel Club, UK) sent out a survey to more than 1000 purebred English Cocker Spaniel owners in an attempt to understand what influences aggression. The survey featured 13 questions that went over different environments where aggression differed, and the questions could be answered on a 1-5 scale (1 being never and 5 being always). The questions/situations were, per the article: "aggression towards strange dogs (A1), towards strangers approaching the dog (A2), towards persons approaching/visiting the home (A3), towards persons approaching the owner away from home (A4), towards children in the household (A5), towards other dogs in the household (A6), when the owner gives attention to other person or animal (A7), toward owner or member of owner's family (A8), when disciplined (A9), when reached for or handled (A10), when in restricted spaces (A11), at meal times/ defending food (A12) and, suddenly and without apparent reason (A13)."  


The study found that solid-coated cocker spaniels were more likely to show aggression than particolored spaniels in 12 out of 13 situations. Red/golden coats were more likely to show aggression than black coats in 10/13 situations. It found that female dogs were more likely to show aggression in the household while male dogs were more likely outside of it. Neutered (spayed) females were more likely to show aggression toward children. 


The study concluded that aggression within the breed was a result of neural, endocrine, and genetic variation. The study also went over "rage syndrome", which is unpredictable aggression as social dominance, which is highly prevelant in the Cocker Spaniel breed, and said that more research was needing to determine whether "rage" exists. 

Article reviewed by Aidan Ryan on November 12, 2018