Can a Cocker Spaniel be a Service Dog?

June 10, 2022

When you think of a service dog a Cocker Spaniel might not be the first breed that pops into your head. Labrador Retrievers or Golden Retrievers are very popular options for dogs with this purpose.

However, Cocker Spaniels make great service dogs.

When you consider this for a moment it is not that surprising. Cocker Spaniels have many positive traits which make them a great choice.

From their loving and affectionate nature to their keen intelligence, and the strong bonds they make with their family. Cocker Spaniels are practical made for the job.

Being quick to pick up new skills is an important factor that qualifies Cocker Spaniels for this job. They can be trained to support in a wide range of situations.

Their size might add a few limitations over some of the larger service dog breeds but there are still many ways in which a Cocker Spaniel will excel.

From emotional support to therapy or support with day-to-day life Cockers are capable of being supported in many capacities.

I know I feel better after spending some time with my Cocker Spaniel after a hard day!

What is a Service Dog?

Service dogs are dogs which are specially trained to carry out specific tasks or support people with disabilities.

If related to a disability the dog will help alleviate some of the challenges this disability poses. This could be support for sensory, mental, intellectual, or physical disabilities.

There are no specific breed requirements for being a service dog.

A service dog is an important part of the life of its owner and can really improve the quality of their life while becoming a loving companion a the same time.

For more information on this ADA's website.

What Makes a Good Service Dog?

While there are no breed requirements for a dog becoming a service dog there are qualities which you would look for.

Luckily, a Cocker Spaniel service dog ticks all of the boxes with ease.

Traits to look for include:

  • Builds a strong bond with their owners
  • Loving nature
  • Intelligent
  • Easy to train
  • Calm and relaxed

Now anyone who has owned a Cocker Spaniel will happily tell you that their dog fits these criteria.

I know, sometimes Cocker Spaniels can be hyper or energetic. But with proper training and time they know to be on their best behaviour.

The only other consideration would be size and strength to carry out more arduous duties. If you are looking for more physical support you might want to look at a larger breed such as a German Shepherd.

Cocker Spaniel getting a hug

What Can a Service Dogs Help With?

There are a vast range of tasks a service dog can support with to improve the quality of life of their owners. It is actually very impressive how broad the range of tasks a dog can be trained to support with.

Many of these specific purposes have the dog wearing a special vest or harness to let others know not to distract the dog as they are hard at work! Most owners have a 'no petting' rule when it comes to their dog.

The UDS Foundation have a brilliant in-depth article on the different types of service dogs. But here is a quick run down of the options. Types include:

Diabetic Alert Dogs

These dogs are specially trained to alert their owner if their blood sugar is dangerously high or low. This can offer a diabetic person a new lease on life in the knowledge that their canine companion is monitoring their blood sugar.

Given their history as hunting dogs Cocker Spaniels will work well as diabetic alert dogs.

Guide Dogs

This is the first thing that most will think about when you say service dog. Their role is to support blind people or those with impaired vision.

Interestingly guide dogs actually support 'selective disobedience'. This is where a Cocker Spaniel will shine being such a clever dog. Guide dogs need to assess situations for danger and act accordingly.

Mobility Assistance Dogs

Companion dogs trained to support people with physical disabilities can make a massive difference to the day-to-day lives of their owners.

It could be opening a door, retrieving an item, or even just offering balance and stability. If a larger service dog breed is being used they can even pull a wheelchair or help their owner get into the bath.

For this reason, Cocker Spaniels might not be the best suited if heavy lifting or stability is required.

Autism Dogs

Service dogs with this specialism are meant to support people with autism and the challenges it poses socially. Those who have autism often have difficulty reading social cues and building connections. The dog can also help if its owner has a sensory overload.

It's a great job for Cocker Spaniels are great with children and very friendly dogs.

Autism dogs are often paired with children. They could support by not allowing the child to leave home unsupervised, or even help connect with their peers.

They also take commands from the parents but not the child.

Seizure Alert Dogs

This type of service animal can save its owner's life if they are having a seizure.

During an emergency, the dog is trained to find help or even call emergency services. They can also physically move their owner if in an unsafe location, fetch medication, or help their owner regain consciousness.

Having an assistance dog to help in case of seizures can genuinely be life-saving. Given the strong bonds they form and that Cocker Spaniels are intelligent, this would be a suitable role.

Hearing Dogs

A hearing dog is used to support those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

It can be difficult for someone who can't hear to relax in their own home. However, a hearing dog can identify doorbells, phone calls, or alarm clocks. This helps the owner relax more in the knowledge that their dog is their ears.

Service dogs with this skill set can also help someone with impaired hearing stay safe by identifying potentially life-saving sounds such as a fire alarm.

A Cocker Spaniel service dog would work well here. Those big ears can pick up sounds from a long distance with ease. It is worth noting though that Cockers can be prone to ear problems.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

The last example we will go over is psychiatric support dogs. These service animals generally help with PTSD, anxiety, or depression.

They are able to use their keen senses to preempt their owners from having an anxiety attack or any other negative feelings.

PTSD service dogs offer round-the-clock support for the well-being of their owners as this condition does not only impact their owners during the day.

If you are looking for an assistance dog to help with PTSD you should check out Service Dogs for America.

Cocker Spaniels are well suited to this role.

Golden Cocker Spaniel

Is a Cocker Spaniel a Good Choice for a Service Dog?

Cocker Spaniels can make excellent service dogs but it will depend on the specific tasks which are required as outlined above.

If you are looking for heavy lifting or stability support then other dog breeds might be a better choice.

An English Cocker Spaniel or their American counterpart can both be effective in many of the roles support dogs do.

Service Dogs vs Emotional or Therapy Dogs

Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for their owners. But there are other types of dog which can support people. A therapy dog.

The difference between these dogs is that a therapy dog usually doesn't support their owner, but instead is trained to ease other people suffering.

Dogs in either of these areas both receive specialist training to do their job and play an important role in human lives.

You will often find therapy dogs visiting hospitals, nursing homes or schools and unlike service dogs, they are encouraged to interact with everyone.

There are many shared traits of being a service or therapy dog such as a nice cool temperament, easy to train, and a friendly personality.

This is why Cocker spaniels make great therapy dogs too.


So, can a Cocker Spaniel be a service dog?

Yes. They definitely can. There are some types of service dog roles that are better suited for though.

Training for service dogs is quite intense. These are serious jobs these dogs have but luckily easily trainable cocker spaniels make great candidates.

Cockers bring many positive traits which make this dog breed brilliant in these specialist roles as well as great family pets too.

Allan  Noble
Hi, my name is Allan! I am the owner of Spaniel Advisor and I've got over seven years experience of owning Spaniels.  
I hope this article was helpful for you! 
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