Why is my Cocker Spaniel Suddenly Acting Weird?

So, if you searched this, chances are your cocker spaniel has begun to exhibit sudden, strange new behaviors. They can be confusing, especially if your dog has never done any of these things before. So, why is your dog suddenly acting weird?

Your cocker spaniel is suddenly acting weird due to hormonal changes, canine dementia, or even an illness or injury. Even more rarely, your spaniel’s behavior change could be the result of a rare condition known as Cocker Spaniel Rage Syndrome.

In the rest of this article, I will explain the different reasons that a dog could experience a sudden behavior change and what you can do to fix it. We will also discuss Cocker Spaniel Rage Syndrome and how to determine if the condition is the cause of your dog’s behavior change.

Hormonal Changes

If you have a young, unaltered, male dog, and his behavior has recently gone through some sudden changes, chances are it has something to do with his hormones

Oftentimes we associate these changes with starting to hump the furniture and other dogs. However, hormones can affect a dog’s behavior in many ways. Over-arousal can cause excessive nervousness as well as aggression. 

A young male dog can have so much pent-up sexual energy that it can manifest in many forms of bad behavior, including urinating in the house, nervous pacing, and excessive chewing.

Of course, there is the classic permanent solution to this problem, and that would be getting your dog fixed, but not everyone wants to do that. If that is not the road you are willing to go down, there are a few other possible solutions. 

One would be waiting it out, typically their “teenage years,” from around 6 months to 1 year, are the worst of it, and after that, they will begin to calm down. You can also try increasing their daily exercise to see if that will help them burn off the excess energy.

Illness or Injury

One of the most common causes of a sudden change in your dog’s behavior is an illness or injury. Like most other animals, dogs do their best to conceal their injuries, so their illnesses will rarely present with obvious symptoms. 

It is more likely that you will first notice their ailment through subtle changes in their behavior. 

According to information put out by the Acoma Animal Clinic, any sudden changes in your dog’s behavior need to be closely monitored. Oftentimes we won’t even notice that something is wrong with our dog until the illness has already progressed to a more serious stage. 

If they are acting more reclusive, losing their appetite, or acting more tired than usual, these are all signs that you should seek out a vet’s opinion. You want to make sure that you’re catching any issues before they become too severe to treat. 

Canine Dementia

If you have an older dog that is experiencing sudden behavior changes, then chances are it isn’t because of their raging hormones or excessive energy. They are likely facing different issues. 

If you’ve taken your dog to the vet and there’s nothing that is physically wrong with them, such as a hurt leg or infection, you may want to begin looking into canine dementia. Canine dementia can have many different manifestations, and every dog will react somewhat differently, but there are some classic symptoms that you can look out for.

Here are some of those symptoms to look for:

  • If your dog begins urinating or defecating in the house, that is a sign of dementia as they will usually forget that they need to go outside until it is too late. 
  • Another common symptom is if they start barking at seemingly nothing. They may have difficulty recognizing their surroundings or people, which could trigger them to start barking. 
  • The most common symptom is pacing and staring. Dementia causes a lot of confusion for your dog, which can lead them to anxiously pace and stare blankly because they are not able to determine where everything is. 
  • They may also get stuck in corners because they cannot figure out how to turn themselves around to get out.

Cocker Spaniel Rage Syndrome

If your dog has suddenly begun to act out aggressively without explanation, it may have developed an extremely rare condition known as Cocker Spaniel Rage Syndrome. However, it is essential to ensure a proper diagnosis because although this condition can occur, it is often overdiagnosed, leading to perfectly retrainable dogs being put down.

This syndrome is a rapid onset condition that usually begins before a dog reaches adulthood, around 8 months of age. It is characterized by random, unprovoked episodes of extreme, uncontrollable aggression that end as suddenly as they begin leaving a very confused cocker spaniel.

These cases almost always occur in solid-colored male dogs that are bred from conformation, show, lines as opposed to working lines. 

There is no definitive cause. However, it is believed that it is a hereditary condition that can be passed down. This is one reason why cocker spaniel breeders today are working so hard to ensure the temperament of their dogs is sound before breeding them. 

It is thought that it may be a form of epilepsy or schizophrenia, which would explain the calm, confused state of the dog after the episodes and the randomness with which they occur. There has been some success in treating this condition with anti-seizure medication, but that will not be effective in many dogs.

Unfortunately, oftentimes there is no way of correcting this condition. 

For everyone involved, the best option might be to euthanize the affected dog. Fortunately, this condition is extremely rare, and, for the most part, other forms of aggression can be worked through with the help of a professional trainer. 

So, if your dog is exhibiting sudden aggression talk to your vet and a professional trainer before making any rash decisions. 


There are many reasons that your dog could begin acting strangely. Anything from a young dog going through puberty to an older dog developing dementia could cause behavior changes.

Fortunately, for almost every problem, there is a solution. With help from your vet and other professional guidance, you should be able to restore your cocker spaniel to its normal behavior. 

And as always, Live, Love, Laugh, and Scratch our bellies often!

Love you guys,


P.S. If you’re new to this world, you may want to check out my Ultimate Guide for First Time Dog Parents. It’s a great reference to get you started on this journey.

This article has been reviewed by our Editorial Board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our Editorial Policies.


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