Golden Retriever vs. Cocker Spaniel: 9 Differences Between Them

So you’re considering a Golden Retriever or Cocker Spaniel…

But which one would truly be the best fit for you, your family, and your lifestyle?

Over the years, both Golden Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels have been purposefully bred to be excellent pet dogs, however, the two breeds have many differences you should be aware of before you make your final decision.

We’ll start with a quick overview of them, then dive deeper into how they compare.

We’ll look at things like:

  • The different types of each breed
  • Size and grooming requirements
  • How good they are with kids
  • Temperament
  • Health Issues
  • And much more!
golden retriever vs cocker spaniel

Golden Retriever Overview

Golden Retrievers are lively, friendly dogs, who bond deeply with their owners.

Although Goldens were historically bred to be gun dogs and retrieve birds shot by hunters, their cooperative nature makes them excellent pet dogs.

Since Goldens are considered a sporting breed, they are naturally athletic and have exercise needs that require consistent physical and mental stimulation.

Goldens are medium to large-sized dogs, with a long, thick feathered coat that comes in shades varying from light cream to deep red.

Golden Retrievers are cheerful, go-with-the-flow dogs, who are up for any adventure, but are also able to have a chill day at home, snuggling on the couch.

Cocker Spaniel Overview

Cocker Spaniels are a long-time beloved breed, known for being highly trainable, adaptable and eager to please.

The smallest in the sporting breed category, Cockers were bred to be gun dogs as well, though, unlike Goldens, their task was to flush, or run, the bird up into the air for the hunter to shoot, as well as retrieve the shot fowl.

Cocker Spaniels love to be with their people and are playful, alert dogs.

Although Cockers are mainly bred to be family companions, they’re still gun dogs at heart and do require daily physical activity.

Cockers are medium-sized dogs, with a long beautiful coat that comes in a wide range of colors and color combinations, from all black to brown, white, and tan.

Cocker Spaniels are good natured, sensitive, lively dogs who love to spend time with their families.

Types of Each Breed

Golden Retrievers

There are two main distinctions within the Golden Retriever breed: conformation, or show lines, and field line Goldens.

Show line Goldens are bred to be judged in dog shows.

They’re bigger boned and sturdier.

Their heads are big and blocky, and their coats tend to be thick, silky, and lighter golden in color.

While still very energetic, show Goldens tend to be slightly less active than their field-bred counterparts.

Field Golden Retrievers are bred to hunt.

They’re built like athletes, with slimmer bodies that support their constant movement and activity.

Their coats are often a deeper red color and shorter in length.

A field Golden’s coat is said to be self-cleaning.

Field Goldens are highly active, and must be trained consistently.

golden retriever

Cocker Spaniels

Much like Goldens, there are two main types of Cocker Spaniels, show Cockers and working Cockers.

Show line Cocker Spaniels are bred for looks and conformation.

Show Cockers are stockier, with larger heads and longer, wavier coats.

Working Cockers are bred for work like search and rescue, bomb and drug detection, hunting, and more.

A working Cocker’s energy far exceeds a show line Cocker, and they need frequent activity to meet their needs.


There are two main types of both breeds: lines meant to work and lines meant for show.

Both field Goldens and working Cockers have more energy and a more athletic build with shorter hair, while the show lines are stockier, with blocky heads and longer coats.

Show line Goldens and Cockers are typically the chosen type of each breed suitable for family life.

Size and Appearance

Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers have friendly faces, with sweet, expressive eyes and endearingly floppy ears.

They are a medium to large-sized dog breed, with male Goldens standing at 23-24” tall and 65-75lbs., while females are 21.5-22.5” tall and 55-65 lbs.

Goldens have long, feathery coats that shed year-round.

Their coats require regular brushing and the occasional clip, but formal grooming is not typically a requirement with Goldens.

Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniels have large, soulful eyes with a cute, slightly upturned nose.

Their fold-over ears are long, with wavy hair.

Cockers are considered a medium-sized dog breed.

Male Cockers stand between 14.5-15.5”, and weigh 25-30 lbs. Female Cockers are 13.5-14.5” and 20-25 lbs.

Cocker Spaniels have a silky, wavy, double coat that is medium-shedding.

Cockers require daily brushing and frequent professional grooming.


Golden Retriever’s long feathery coats require frequent brushing, but formal grooming is not typically necessary.

Cocker Spaniels have long, wavy double coats that require professional grooming and daily brushing, therefore they’re slightly higher maintenance than Goldens.

cocker spaniel puppy

How Good Are They With Kids?

Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are gentle dogs that love bonding with their human family.

Goldens are able to adapt their play style to be gentler with younger children, but they’ll also happily roughhouse with older kids.

Although they generally make great family pets, Goldens should be socialized with children from a young age, and teaching kids to be respectful of them is a must.

Toddlers who grab, poke, or shove their faces into a Golden’s should be kept separate from them and taught appropriate behavior around dogs.

Cocker Spaniels

The Cocker Spaniel’s affectionate personality makes them well suited to be around children.

Their medium size is ideal for play with small kids, and their gentle nature appeals to many families.

Cocker Spaniels can tend to be sensitive, which may not be a great fit for a family with rambunctious kiddos, as this can scare your Cocker.


Both of these breeds can get along well with kids, but Cocker Spaniels can be a bit more sensitive, so they may not be great in a home with very rowdy kids.


Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are alert and friendly dogs with active personalities that are lively and silly.

They’re loyal and intelligent, and enjoy both adventuring and having a lazy day on the couch with their humans.

Goldens are people-pleasing and love to work cooperatively with their humans during training sessions, whether for pleasure, competitive sport, or hunting.

Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniels are cheerful and energetic dogs that are loyal and playful with their families.

They can be sensitive pups, which can cause potential generalized anxiety issues.

While they also aim to please, Cockers tend to be a bit more environmentally focused, which can create challenges when training outdoors.


Golden Retrievers have an all-around happy-go-lucky temperament.

While they need daily activity, they’re also happy to have a chill day at home with their family.

Cocker Spaniels are an energetic breed that loves to work and can be a bit more environmentally focused.

They can be anxious due to their sensitive nature.

If you’re looking for a dog whose world revolves around you, then Golden Retrievers would fit the bill.

Behavior Concerns

Golden Retrievers

While they’re lovely dogs all around, no dog comes without some undesirable behaviors.

Golden Retrievers may struggle with behavior issues such as:

Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniels also aren’t perfect and may display some of the following problem behaviors:

  • Reactivity
  • Separation anxiety
  • Excessive barking
  • Generalized anxiety
  • High arousal outside


All dogs struggle with behaviors that humans may deem undesirable.

Meeting your dog’s typical needs can help combat some of these behaviors.

Depending on your lifestyle, you’ll want to choose the breed whose behaviors you’re most able to live with, or work with a qualified trainer or behavior consultant to decrease them.

golden retriever dog

Cat Friendliness

Golden Retrievers

Many Goldens live harmoniously with companion cats.

Some even love to cuddle with the family kitty!

While they can have a high prey drive and need to chase, this need can be met for them in more appropriate ways than chasing the family cat, like playing with flirt poles and other chasing toys.

Cocker Spaniels

Cockers can also be raised to live happily with a family cat, however, their prey drive is typically higher.

Since Cockers were bred to chase after birds, they love to play a fun game of chase, and who better to do that with than the cat?

To the dismay of your cat, a game of chase can be really rewarding for them.


Cocker Spaniels have higher prey drives than Golden Retrievers, and calmness around cats may be more difficult to train.

If you have a beloved family cat, you may want to consider that Goldens are likely more suitable to live with them.

In all cases, though, the dog and cat should be introduced gradually and the cat should always have appropriate escape routes from the dog, should they choose to be alone.

Health Issues

Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are prone to several health conditions.

Among their most common concerns are cancer, hip and elbow dysplasia, and allergies.

These conditions can be pretty costly, and in some cases, fatal.

Cocker Spaniels

As a breed, Cocker Spaniels also tend to suffer from some common health problems.

Cockers are prone to glaucoma, intervertebral disc disease, and inflammation of the liver.

Although many of these health issues can be controlled for the most part, these too, can be very expensive conditions to resolve or regulate.


Both Goldens and Cockers suffer from common breed-specific health conditions.

As a potential owner, you should know that some medical conditions can be quite expensive, especially chronic issues.

But in general, as long as you take good care of your pup and feed them a high-quality diet, these diseases can hopefully be kept at bay.


Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers have an average lifespan of 10-12 years.

Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniels have an average lifespan of 12-14 years.


Sadly, Goldens do not typically live as long as Cockers.

If life expectancy is critical for your family, then the Cocker Spaniel might be a better fit for you.

Cost & Availability

Golden Retrievers

Well-bred Golden Retrievers cost between $1,000-$4,000.

They are one of the most popular breeds in the United States, and are readily available and not hard to find.

Cocker Spaniels

Well-bred Cockers typically cost between $1,000-$2,000.

This breed is also relatively easy to find.


Golden Retrievers from reputable, ethical breeders can cost more than Cocker Spaniels.

If cost is of concern, then a Cocker might be the best option.

But also understand that the price of your puppy is just a small portion of what you’ll spend on your dog for the length of their life.

(Read more about how much Golden Retrievers cost here.)

Final Thoughts

Both Golden Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels can make excellent family companions and adventure buddies.

The breeds are both highly intelligent, affectionate and active.

Field Goldens and working Cockers are more active than their show line counterparts.

But regardless, these two dogs require daily physical exercise and mental stimulation.

If a strong bond with your dog is important to you, then Goldens are likely more your speed as Cockers can be more environmentally focused.

Both Cockers and Goldens make excellent family pets, though Cockers tend to be a little less tolerant of rambunctious kiddos.

Goldens are significantly larger than Cockers, which is an important consideration for families with small children.

Both breeds require frequent brushing, but Cockers need professional grooming, as well.

As you weigh the pros and cons of each breed, take some time to consider the time commitment, cost and other factors that may impact your decision.

The ideal dog for you is the one that works best with your lifestyle and personality!

Do you have one of these two breeds?

What’s your experience been like?

Let us know down in the comments!

See other breed comparisons here:

To learn more about whether or not a Golden Retriever is right for you, take the Golden Retriever Quiz!

And if you’ve decided on getting a Golden Retriever, check out this article on how to raise a Golden Retriever puppy.

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