Cocker Spaniels

At a glance
cocker spanielThe term “Cocker Spaniel” refers to two different breeds of dogs that differ only in their place of origin, the American Cocker Spaniel (long coats) and the English Cocker Spaniel (short coats). This breed is only rivaled by Labradors in terms of popularity in the US because of their versatility (good for show and field work) and winning personalities.


  • Names – American, English Cocker Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Cocker, Merry Cocker
  • Group – AKC: Sporting Group; KC: Gundogs
  • Size – small
  • Life expectancy – 9 – 15 years; healthy cockers average 13 years.
  • Cost of ownership – medium
  • Ease of ownership – high
  • Aggressive tendency – low
  • Amount of Exercise – medium
  • Amount of Grooming – low for the short coats, high for the long coats
  • Ease of Training – high
  • Obedience level – high
  • Suitable for Children – high
  • Amount of Care Required – medium to high
  • Susceptibility to Health Problems – low

The Cocker Spaniel has very long drop ears with luxuriant hair and a rounded head. Short coats are flat and silky with plenty of feathering on the front legs, while long coats have full, silky hair with feathering on ears, chest, abdomen and legs. However, field dogs tend to have shorter coats which are more docile to the brush. The muzzle is square-jawed, wide and broad. The upper lip obscures the lower jaw from view completely. The eyes are round and have a pleading expression and Merle Cocker Spaniels can have blue eyes. The body is compact with well-muscled front legs. The coat comes in buff, black, and other solid colors, merle, black-and-tan (like a Rottweiler or Doberman Pinscher), parti-color (white with black, white with buff or red, white with black and tan points). The usually docked tail, if not in endless motion, is typically carried on line with the dog’s back.

  • American Cocker Spaniel Weight
  • Bitch: 11kg (24lbs) to 13kg (29lbs)
  • Dog: 11kg (24lbs) to 13kg (29lbs)
  • American Cocker Spaniel Height
  • Bitch: 34cm (13″) to 37cm (15″)
  • Dog: 36cm (14″) to 39cm (15″)
  • English Cocker Spaniel Weight
  • Bitch: 13kg (29lbs) to 14kg (31lbs)
  • Dog: 13kg (29lbs) to 14kg (31lbs)
  • English Cocker Spaniel Height
  • Bitch: 38cm (15″) to 39cm (15″)
  • Dog: 39cm (15″) to 41cm (16″)


  • Color – Black variety: solid black or black and tan; ASCOB (Any Solid Color Other than Black) variety: cream, red, brown, and brown with or without tan points; tricolor; Particolor variety: any color with white
  • Coat – Usually seen in white, solid black or light cream, this breed has a beautiful silky coat that should either lie flat or be slightly wavy.
  • Shedding – medium
  • Allergies – low
  • Causes Allergies – medium

Cocker Spaniels are intelligent and very loyal dogs. However, they do require an energetic and firm owner, as they are very playful and active, aside from being infamously stubborn. This lively breed is in a neck to neck race with Labs to be the US’ most favorite household pet dogs. Cockers should not be left outdoors for a long period of time. Their long hair is better off trimmed, and most especially in hotter weather since it prevents them from keeping cool. that makes it a surefire ally for kids.

  • Separation Anxiety – medium
  • Barking tendency – medium
  • Aggressive tendency – low
  • Compatibility with other animals – high
  • Suitable for children – high
  • Watchdog suitability – high

Cocker Spaniels are among today’s most popular dogs. This is mainly because they are handsome canines and excellent family pets that can get along well with older, sensible children and animals. A very cheerful dog, this breed loves to play and sometimes enjoys barking. The worst that could happen with this otherwise very gentle breed is that they can develop into bossy or stubborn pets if they grow up devoid of proper attention or socialization.

Keep in mind Cockers are sensitive, so heavy-handed discipline will only ruin the dog’s sunny disposition. Lastly, due to the popularity of the breed, puppy mills and backyard breeders have unfortunately stocked the market with poorly-bred specimens that are yappy, snappy, nervous, high-strung dogs that are unhealthy and difficult to train and handle.

Cockers will benefit from gentle and firm obedience training that involves teaching basic commands. Formal classes are optional as long as the puppy responds to commands like sit, down, stay and come, and can walk on a leash without pulling. Many Cocker Spaniels enjoy doing tricks, playing ball and Frisbee. Lastly, field dogs have better hunting abilities than those for show or companionship.

  • Obedience – high

Exercise required
These dogs learn to adjust their activity level according to what kind of home they are in, yet they still require a fair amount of exercise, especially since they are gun dogs at heart. The swimming instinct is in their blood, so keep an eye on them when near water. In addition, it’s a good idea to provide them with the freedom to run off lead in a fenced yard, so they can burn off their energies.

  • Energy – Medium
  • Amount required – 60 – 80 minutes per day for the American Cocker; slightly less for the English

Cocker ears do not have proper air circulation; therefore, they are susceptible to infections caused by bacteria that thrive on moisture. Cocker puppies must be trained to feel comfortable from an early age when having their ears handled, for they will need to be groomed for cleaning or when checking for foreign matter that they can pick up from outdoor adventures.

Sore ears caused by an infection usually make a dog shake his head frequently and often violently. Ear problems can be prevented by checking the ears daily. If the ears appear dirty, use a medicated solution and avoid using water or alcohol. Ear hairs can also be clipped or plucked to allow air circulation.

To further foster cleanliness among the dogs, Cockers should be fed in deep, narrow bowls that prevent them from messing their droopy ears with food or water.

Eyes should be checked regularly and cleaned of any dirt or discharge. The lip folds and teeth will also require regular cleaning. The hair around their feet and between their pads needs to be checked often for mud and matted hair. Owners that are nervous about personally stripping the dog’s hair three or four times a year can approach a professional groomer.

To begin with, puppies need to have small meals a few times per day, while an adult Cocker requires a single larger meal daily. The actual quantity of food the dog will need per meal typically depends on their weight, age and degree of activity.

What exactly can Cockers eat? For those interested in providing homemade dog food, instead of commercial kibble, ideal ingredients include meat, fish fillets and brown bread rusk or wheat meal (dog biscuit). Some vitamins and minerals (from food suppliers) can also be added to ensure that the dog receives a “balanced diet”. Additional alternative foods include tinned dog food and biscuit meal. If a food brand offering complete diet requirements will be used, owners need to ensure that it is appropriate for the puppy’s age and size. Finally, fresh drinking water should also be made available at all times.

Long haired Cockers require a good grooming every day. Moreover, some of these dogs like to run in wooded areas, thus, an owner will want to keep their coat clean of any foreign matter that sticks to their fur. They require hair trimming from time to time, and this is especially important for working cockers. Bathing may also be needed often to minimize any odor. Lastly, their coat should be stripped out three or four times a year by a professional groomer.

For the short hair variety, aside from regular brushing, they will also benefit from the removal of excess hair around the ear passages and beneath the ears.

  • Ease of grooming – medium
  • Amount of Grooming – low for the short coats, high for the long coats

First of all, any would-be breeder must realize his or her motives for breeding a litter before engaging in this practice. The plain truth is that unless the dog has some noteworthy quality that can contribute to making the breed outstanding, any plans of breeding must be stopped. It may be true that having a litter in the house will be a learning experience for kids but many people are not ready to invest in the considerable amount of time, effort and expense that comes with the territory. From a sensible point of view, breeding a litter is more appropriate for those dedicated individuals who have the time, energy, finances and facilities needed for the job.

Furthermore, even if a breeder has all logistics and support concerns down pat, he or she will have to ensure that the bitch is free from any negative hereditary conditions. This small step lowers the chances of the future-puppy owners incurring even more costs that can result from problems with the dogs they obtained from that breeder. When it comes to the pregnancy, costs to think of are a possible caesarean section, fluid therapy and antibiotic treatment following surgery.

A responsible breeder needs to have ready advice for the puppies’ new owners, and be able to provide practical guidance on a range of issues from puppy diet to health care. A breeder must also be able to take back the odd puppy that is weak and unhealthy. Therefore, anybody that is not ready or willing to seriously take on these responsibilities is better off discarding any plans to breed Cockers.

  • Litter size – average of 6; range of 4 to 7
  • Puppy cost – average of $700 for both varieties; ranges of $420-$700 for American cockers; $700-$1,120 dollars for English Cockers

Well-bred Cockers are relatively free from many diseases and genetic abnormalities. That said, health problems that this breed is prone to includes genetic eye diseases, heart problems, epilepsy, and hip dysplasia.

  • Life expectancy – average of 15 years; range of 9 – 17 years
  • Susceptibility to illness – low
  • Common health problems – Health issues to watch out for among Cocker Spaniels are cataracts, glaucoma and patellar luxation. Other problems are hemophilia, as well as chronic ear and skin infections.

In exchange for taking them on walks, running off leash, field games or the rare swim, Cockers reward their owners with their undying affection, shown through small ‘presents’ (captured wildlife) or mischief. It is perhaps their sociability which makes them very popular pets and a favorite among families, visitors and other animals in the house. Overall, they are cheerful intelligent dogs but their confidence sometimes bubbles over into excitement, so patience is required to correct behavior.

Dogs that have long silky coats will require considerable expenses per year. A professional groomer will also be needed to strip the dogs 3 or 4 times a year. Another major expense issue is skin problems, which can be common.

  • Living conditions – The Cocker Spaniel thrives in a home that has, at the very least, a small yard. An apartment is sufficient enough for this gun dog but he will require the proper exercise. Some Cockers may need as many as three walks per day if they are unable to run freely.
  • Good with Children – Children and Cockers easily makes friends and kids are the ones who typically end up pampering the dog.

The popular Cocker Spaniel, sometimes called the American Cocker Spaniel, was originally developed from careful breeding of the English Cocker Spaniels brought to the United States. The American variety is smaller than the English variety and has a different conformation. The name “Cocker” comes from the woodcock, a game bird these spaniels hunted particularly well. Today, the Cocker Spaniel serves primarily as a companion and glamorous show dog.

  • County or origin – England
  • AKA KC name and group: Gun Dog, AKC Sporting

Did you know…

  • Famous people who owned English Cocker spaniels include Robert Kennedy, former U.S. President Richard Nixon, poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Oprah Winfrey, and Charlize Theron.
  • There are many famous American Cocker Spaniels, such as:
    • Checkers, owned by US former First Couple Pat Nixon and Richard Nixon
    • Solomon and Sophie, pets of Oprah Winfrey
    • Lady from the Disney animation classic “Lady and the Tramp”
    • Freckles, owned by Robert Kennedy
    • The dog who appears in the original Coppertone television ad
    • Whitey Hoover, who appears in several restaurant chain “Tim Hortons” testimonials
    • Tubby, the only victim in the collapse of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge, in Tacoma, Washington on November 7, 1940
    • Chewie, owned by Patrick Melton of Nobody Likes Onions
    • Doodles, Holly Hobbie’s dog from the American Greetings franchise
    • Acer, from “Cheaper By The Dozen”
    • Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s pet golden Cocker Spaniel Flush
  • The Cocker Spaniel has been recognized in the United States since the early 1880s.
  • The word Cocker comes from the dogs’ specialization for hunt woodcocks (a group of wading birds).
  • The Cocker Spaniel is one of the most popular American purebred dogs.
  • The dog’s nose is always black on black spaniels, but will unusually be brown on other dogs.

  • Winsor Pilates

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