American Cocker Spaniel
The Cocker Spaniel comes in two varieties: the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel. And though they are different, both can be traced back to mid-19th century England. The American Cocker Spaniel was originally bred for hunting small game, and its jolly disposition has made the breed a pet in many homes today.
The American Cocker Spaniel happens to be the smallest of all the Sporting Group spaniels. Its athletic, compact body and soft facial expression gives the dog an appealing look, while its most distinctive feature is the Cocker Spaniel's medium-length silky coat, which can either be slightly wavy or flat. Today, a majority of Cocker Spaniels have a heavy coat meant for field work. The dog also has a strong and balanced gait.
The American Cocker Spaniel is generally split up into three color varieties: black, ASCOB (Any Solid Color Other Than Black), and parti-colors. The black varieties include solid blacks and black and tan, while the ASCOB varieties include colors ranging from the lightest creams to the darkest reds, including brown and brown with tan points. Parti-colored Spaniels have large areas of white with another color(s), usually black and white, brown and white, or red and white.
Personality and Temperament
The American Cocker Spaniel, apart from being sensitive and responsive, is very keen on obeying instructions and learning. Always cheerful and affable, it has even been dubbed as the "merry" Cocker. While this breed loves staying indoors, it considers outdoor walks one of its favorite activities. The breed is also known for its excessive barking, especially if it has been cooped inside the house all day.
It is important that the American Cocker Spaniel receives regular eye, ear, and feet cleanings to keep them dirt-free. The dog also needs its coat brushed a minimum of two to three times a week, as well as a monthly hair trimming and nail clipping. Its exercise requirements, as with many other dog breeds, can be met with regular walks. And as the American Cocker Spaniel is a social dog that needs constant human companionship, it should be kept indoors to be closer with the family.
The American Cocker Spaniel breed generally lives between 12 to 15 years. Some of its serious health problems include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, patellar luxation, and glaucoma. Diseases like elbow dysplasia, gastric torsion, and epilepsy can occasionally affect the breed. Other minor health problems that the American Cocker Spaniel suffers from include cardiomyopathy, ectropion, urinary stones, otitis externa, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), hypothyroidism, seborrhea, phosphofructokinase deficiency, entropion, "cherry eye," liver disease, allergies, and congestive heart failure. In order to identify these conditions early, a veterinarian may recommend hip, knee, thyroid, or eye exams during routine checkups; DNA tests may be used to diagnose a phosphofructokinase deficiency, which may lead to anemia in the dog.
History and Background
The Cocker Spaniel is a very lovable and pleasing creature, which comes in two distinct breeds: the English and the American Cocker Spaniels. According to experts, the American breed originated from a large influx of English Cocker Spaniels, which were brought to America during the latter half of the 17th century (possibly on the Mayflower ship).
The first American Cocker Spaniel was registered in the 1880s and went by the name of Obo II. There is evidence which points to a possible cross-breed of English Cockers with smaller toy spaniels to achieve the American version. For U.S. hunters in search of a smaller-sized dog with the ability to hunt quails and other small bird game, the American Cocker Spaniel was a perfect fit.
The American Kennel Club recognized the English Cocker Spaniel as separate breed from its American counterpart in 1946, ending a long discussion of which dog type could bear the Cocker Spaniel title. The English Kennel Club of England followed suit in 1968 and also acknowledged the distinction between both breeds. Whether it is referred to as the American Cocker Spaniel or Cocker Spaniel, this dog breed has become a mainstay in the U.S. and is beloved for its warm temperament and distinctive look.
Cocker Spaniel Dog Breed Information and Personality Traits
Males are about 15 inches tall and weigh about 28 pounds (13 kilograms); females are about 14 inches tall and weigh about 25 pounds (11 kilograms).
The cocker spaniel has a round, graceful head and a broad, square muzzle. The ears are long and feathered, and the back slopes toward the tail, giving the dog a regal appearance. Perhaps most notable, however, is the cocker spaniel's long, silky coat with feathering not just on the ears but also on the legs, chest, and underside. The tail is usually docked.
Cocker spaniels can have a variety of colors. Some are solid black, red or tan. Others are bi-colored or tri-colored. Some of the mixes you might see are black and tan, black and white, or black and white with tan flecks. The AKC divides them into three varieties for show purposes: black, parti-color and ASCOB (which stands for Any Solid Color Other than Black).
The life expectancy of the cocker spaniel is good, about 14 to 16 years.
Cocker spaniels are known for being gentle, easy-going and affectionate yet lively. They are generally considered good with children. They tend to be non-aggressive toward other animals and people, but that also means they are not particularly good watchdogs.
One note of caution is warranted. At one time, cocker spaniels became so popular they were overbred, which resulted in some high-strung dogs and dogs with health problems.
When it comes to housebreaking and obedience training, reports are mixed. Some sources say that cocker spaniels rank average when it comes to ease of training. Others say these dogs are very obedient, but others say they can be stubborn, particularly about housebreaking.
Cocker spaniels enjoy attention, so this is a breed for people who like to lavish affection on their pets.
They are average shedders. They do have an elaborate coat, which requires grooming at least a couple of hours weekly to keep it in good shape. Some professional trimming from time to time is needed. Avoid exercising cocker spaniels in places with burrs and thickets that can tangle the coat.
Cocker spaniels can adapt to living just about anywhere, as long as they are given daily walks on a leash or are allowed to have play sessions in a fenced yard. Remember, they are primarily an active sporting breed.
The cocker spaniel, often referred to as the American cocker spaniel, descends from the English cocker spaniel. The name "cocker" comes from the woodcock, a game bird that these dogs efficiently flushed out for hunters.
Cocker spaniels were introduced to the United States in the late 1800s and were still considered the same breed as the English cocker spaniel. American fanciers selected for smaller size, greater coat, and a rounder head; today, the cocker spaniel and the English cocker spaniel are considered separate breeds. The cocker spaniel is smaller than its English counterpart and is the smallest of sporting dogs.
Although still considered a proficient hunter and sporting breed, cocker spaniels are more often family pets. Their popularity soared after World War II. In 1984, cocker spaniels were the number one breed registered with the American Kennel Club.
Puppies for Sale
Country of OriginThe Cocker Spaniel originates in England and was brought to North America in the 1800's. Since the 1930's, the American Cocker Spaniel and English Cocker Spaniel are recognized as distinct breeds (the American Cocker Spaniel is smaller). The Cocker Spaniel was reared to flush small prey from the brush for hunters. The name 'Cocker' is derived from woodcock, a bird the Cocker Spaniel was particularly adept at finding. Today, the breed is used to hunt game bird and water fowl. Famous Cocker Spaniels include Richard Nixon's dog Checkers and Lady from Disneys Lady and the Tramp.
SizeThe Cocker Spaniel is 38-41 cm (15- 16.5 in) in shoulder height and weighs 8-13 kg (18-29 lbs). Cocker Spaniels have long, hanging ears and a round head with a square jaw. Their back is short and the body tightly framed. The Cocker Spaniel has straight front legs and the tail is typically docked.
CoatThe Cocker Spaniel has smooth hair of medium length. The hair should never be curly. The Cocker Spaniel coat may be a variety of colors: black, silver, cream, red, or brown, or a mix of another color with white. Non-black coats are known as ASCOB (Any Solid Color Other than Black). White, black, and cream coats are most common.
CharacterCocker Spaniels are intelligent, cheerful, lively and affectionate. They are very loyal to family, and love to play. The Cocker Spaniel is frequently merry and always ready to please. It makes a terrific pet and/or a fine hunting companion. Cocker Spaniels are intelligent, cheerful, lively and affectionate. They are very loyal to family, and love to play. The Cocker Spaniel is frequently merry and always ready to please. It makes a terrific pet and/or a fine hunting companion. Cocker Spaniels get along well with children and other dogs or household pets. They should be exposed to pets and children when young for maximum social potential. The Cocker Spaniel is very joyous and energetic, enjoying play. It sometimes likes to bark. The Cocker Spaniel requires plenty of attention, love, and devotion, and if it feels its not getting enough it will come looking. You can find Cocker Spaniel puppies priced from $105 USD to $4000 USD with one of our credible breeders. Browse through our breeder's listings and find your perfect puppy at the perfect price.
TemperamentCocker Spaniels get along well with children and other dogs or household pets. They should be exposed to pets and children when young for maximum social potential. The Cocker Spaniel is very joyous and energetic, enjoying play. It sometimes likes to bark. The Cocker Spaniel requires plenty of attention, love, and devotion, and if it feels its not getting enough it will come looking.
CareCocker Spaniels must be brushed and combed thoroughly on a regular basis, preferably daily. Cocker Spaniels should be taken to a dog grooming professional two to four times a year to have excessive hair plucked by hand. The Cocker Spaniel is susceptible to ear infections, and sometimes eye infections. The ears should be cleaned frequently and regular eye exams are recommended. Cocker Spaniels have a lifespan of 10-12 years.
TrainingThe Cocker Spaniel is quite willing to learn, so training must be consistent but not overly firm. The Cocker Spaniel may be difficult to housebreak.
ActivityA Cocker Spaniel should be walked three times a day or be given playtime in a yard of sufficient size. When walking, avoid brush that may tangle the coat. This breed also needs to run freely in the countryside on occasion. Most Cocker Spaniels love to swim.
Cocker Spaniel Puppies for Sale
Cocker spaniels are loving, easy-going, and affectionate-a treat to have as part of the family. They are generally smart and easy to train. Thanks to their relatively small size-they grow to about 14-15 inches tall and weigh no more than 30 pounds-they are also ideal for any size home, from apartment to single-family house.
Very loyal pets, they'll follow you from room to room all day long. Cockers also love going on brisk walks and seem to frolic everywhere they go. While they were originally bred as hunting dogs, they now make ideal companions for pet owners young and old.
Cocker spaniels are moderately sized, beautiful dogs. Male pups stand 15 inches tall, and female dogs grow to 14 inches tall. They should not weigh more than 30 pounds-and will need your help in not overeating.
cocker spaniel on bed
A cocker spaniel is happiest when she's by your side. Count her in for couch snuggles, neighborhood walkies, and playtime with kids.
| Credit: New Africa / Adobe Stock
Cocker spaniels have thick, soft, wavy coats of many colors-black, light cream, red, white, and brown-and patterns, all with long, lush ears that people can't resist petting. The term "sweet puppy dog eyes" was likely inspired by cocker spaniels with their big, dreamy, pleading brown eyes. But their looks require constant attention, both at home and with visits to the groomer.
The cocker spaniel, also called the American cocker spaniel, is a distinctly different breed than the English cocker spaniel. Though both breeds have similar heritage, there are subtle differences: the cocker spaniel is longer than she is tall, whereas an English cocker spaniel is taller than she is long. The cocker spaniel also has a shorter muzzle than her English cousins, and her eyes are more almond-shaped.
The cocker spaniel is a merry breed. They are also smart and trusting of their owners. While they do have a hunting instinct, they are happiest being a companion at home.
They are up for whatever their owner wants to do, as they are happiest pleasing their human family. Care to snuggle up on the couch? A cocker spaniel is in. Kids want to run around in the yard? They are up for that, too. And while reserved initially, cocker spaniels make fast friends with most everyone they meet.
tan cocker spaniel running
Originally bred to hunt woodcock, cocker spaniels still love time spent outside.
| Credit: Kseniya / Adobe Stock
They have a sweet temperament and can be very affectionate and cuddly dogs. And with proper training, they also get along well with other pets, including cats. But thanks to their hunting instincts, sharing a home with a pet bird is not typically an option.
"Cocker spaniels are a beautiful dog with a very nice size, big enough to be sturdy and able to play with kids, but small enough to be an apartment or condo dog," says Ryan Steen, DVM, medical director at Frey Pet Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As long as your cocker spaniel is raised with kids that are kind and respectful to animals, it's a match made in heaven.
cocker spaniel jumping with ball in mouth
Cocker spaniels will never turn down a game of fetch. These sporting dogs need plenty of playtime and walks to stay healthy.
| Credit: Bill Anastasiou / Adobe Stock
People-oriented by nature, your cocker spaniel will prefer to be with you as much as possible. They enjoy being part of the family and truly thrive when they can be a part of all family activities. They do not do well when left alone and can turn to barking, crying, and other undesirable behaviors when anxious. If left outdoors, they will dig or bark to keep themselves busy.
While your cocker spaniel will certainly like to snuggle up on your lap, you'll need to make sure she gets plenty of exercise, too, thanks to her hunting heritage. While cocker spaniel puppies will be worn out on a short walk, adult cocker spaniels will need 30 minutes of walking twice a day with additional free time to play-they especially enjoy a good game of fetch. This exercise not only helps manage weight-cocker spaniels aren't one to turn down a snack-but also keeps your pup from getting grouchy.
Black and white fluffy cocker spaniel stands in grass
Credit: otsphoto / Shutterstock
If you adopt a cocker spaniel, be aware that consistent grooming will be necessary, Steen says. Regular haircuts keep them looking their best and prevent their hair from matting.
For a style that requires little maintenance, ask the groomer to trim your cocker spaniel's hair the same length all over, called a "puppy cut." Their trademark floppy ears are usually kept with longer hair no matter the style and need to be monitored for mats. Introduce your cocker spaniel to grooming early, because early introduction can make for more successful groomer visits. Be prepared to make regular grooming appointments-about every six to eight weeks-which can be an investment.
Between haircuts, plan to do plenty of brushing. Invest in a metal, professional-quality dog comb with fine and medium spacing for the teeth. If you encounter a tangle while brushing, pick through it gently. Regular baths-where you use a high-quality dog shampoo that you rinse thoroughly-are also essential. Nails should be trimmed regularly and you should wipe out their ears once a week to avoid infections.
black cocker spaniel running
Whether you keep her hair long or shorten it into a puppy cut, a cocker spaniel's ears typically stay long and luxurious. Check them regularly for tangles and matting.
| Credit: Dyrefotografi.dk / Adobe Stock
Take steps to make sure their ears don't get soaked every time they go for a drink of water. Use deep, narrow bowls for food and water, or consider using a snood to protect her ears when your cocker spaniel eats.
Cocker spaniels make great therapy dogs, as they are gentle and very loving. They are a versatile breed and can be trained for agility courses as well-cocker spaniels are skilled at paying attention and following commands.
Training will require patience and repetition. Make sure to address barking early on. You'll spend considerable time on potty training as cocker spaniels are notorious for marking their spot indoors when excited or nervous. Lots of positive reinforcement over time will do the trick. Cockers are sensitive and don't respond well to harsh treatment, so be kind and gentle to bring out the best in their personality.
cocker spaniel closeup on windy day
Credit: chrisgandy / Adobe Stock
Generally a healthy breed-typically living about 12-15 years-there are a few common conditions cocker spaniel owners should be aware of.
"Allergies and chronic ear infections are some of the most common ailments I see in cocker spaniels," Steen says. Their diet may be to blame, with common allergies to beef, chicken, corn, wheat, soy, milk, and eggs. Check with your veterinarian for suggestions on changes to their diet.
And ensure you aren't overfeeding your pooch. They will overeat and use their big, brown eyes to convince you they need a second helping at feeding time. But an overweight cocker is an unhealthy cocker.
As they get older, cocker spaniels are prone to heart, liver, or kidney failure, as well as cancer. Cocker spaniels are also sometimes affected by epilepsy, progressive retinal atrophy (which causes blindness), and cataracts (which requires expensive surgical correction).
cocker spaniel from lady and the tramp
The cocker spaniel originated in Spain and has been mentioned as far back as the 14th century. By the 1800s, they were divided into two groups: toys (for companionship) and hunting dogs. Named for their excellence in field hunting the woodcock, they were recognized as an official breed in England in 1892. Cocker spaniels are thought to have been brought to North America with the pilgrims. In fact, the American Spaniel Club was created in 1881 and is the oldest breed club in America.
cocker spaniel vintage collage
Many famous figures have chosen cocker spaniels as furry companions. Clockwise from top: President Richard Nixon, President Grover Cleveland, actors Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and President Harry Truman.
| Credit: Bettmann / Library of Congress / Archive Photos / Getty / presidentialpetmuseum.com
Cocker spaniels quickly became popular dogs both with pet owners and breeders, and they did particularly well in the show ring. In 1921, a cocker spaniel took home Westminster Kennel Club's Best in Show for the first time. In 1946, the American Kennel Club recognized the American cocker spaniel and the English cocker spaniel as two distinct breeds.
- Cocker spaniels were one of the first nine breeds recognized by the AKC.
- Cocker spaniels are the smallest member of the sporting dog category.
- Brucie, a black cocker spaniel, also helped popularize the showy breed by winning Westminster's Best in Show back to back in 1940 and 1941.
- Cocker spaniel popularity in the U.S. significantly increased when the breed was featured in Disney's Lady and the Tramp in 1955.
- Media mogul Oprah Winfrey owns two cocker spaniels, Sophie and Solomon.
- Breeding a cocker spaniel with a poodle produces the intelligent, loving cockapoo.
Spaniel puppy cocker black
English Cocker Spaniel
The English Cocker Spaniel is a breed of gun dog. It is noteworthy for producing one of the most varied numbers of pups in a litter among all dog breeds. The English Cocker Spaniel is an active, good-natured, sporting dog standing well up at the withers and compactly built. There are "field" or "working" cockers and "house" cockers. It is one of several varieties of spaniel and is the foundation of its American cousin, the American Cocker Spaniel. The English Cocker is closer to the working-dog form of the Field Spaniel and the English Springer Spaniel.
Outside the US, the breed is usually known simply as the Cocker Spaniel, as is the American Cocker Spaniel within the US. The word cocker is commonly held to stem from their use to hunt woodcock. The breed can have litters of anywhere from 3–12 puppies.
Spaniel type dogs have been found in art and literature for almost 500 years. Initially, spaniels in England were divided among land spaniels and water spaniels. The differentiation among the spaniels that led to the breeds that we see today did not begin until the mid-19th century. During this time, the land spaniels became a bit more specialised and divisions among the types were made based upon weight. According to the 1840 Encyclopedia of Rural Sports, Cockers were 12–20 lb (5.5–9 kg). At this time it was not uncommon for Cockers and Springers to come from the same litter. Even a puppy from a "Toy" sized lineage could grow to be a springer.
There is no indication from these early sources that spaniels were used to retrieve game. Rather they were used to drive the game toward the guns.
During the 1850s and 1860s, other types of Cockers were recorded. There were Welsh Springer Spaniels and Devonshire Cockers. Additionally, small dogs from Sussex Spaniel litters were called Cockers. In 1874 the first stud books were published by the newly formed kennel club. Any spaniel under 25 lb (11 kg) was placed in the Cocker breeding pool, however the Welsh Cocker was reclassified as a Springer in 1903 due to its larger size and shorter ear. "...in those days only those dogs up to a hard day’s work and sensible specimens were allowed to live, as absolute sporting purposes were about their only enjoyment and dog shows were hardly heard of...".
The sport of conformation showing began in earnest among spaniels after the Spaniel Club was formed in 1885. When showing, the new Springer and Cocker, both were in the same class until The Spaniel Club created breed standards for each of the types. The Kennel Club separated the two types eight years later. Since then, the Springer and Cocker enthusiasts have bred in the separate traits that they desired. Today, the breed differ in more ways than weight alone.
At Crufts, the English Cocker Spaniel has been the most successful breed in winning Best in Show, winning on a total of seven occasions between 1928 and 2009, with wins in 1930, 1931, 1938, 1939, 1948, 1950 and 1996. In addition, the breed make up three of the four winners who have won the title on more than one occasion with all three coming from H.S. Lloyd's Ware kennel. Due to World War II, the English Cocker Spaniel managed to be the only breed to have won the title between 1938 and 1950, although the competition was only held on four occasions during that period. The most recent best in show was Sh. Ch. Canigou Cambrai in 1996.
In the late 19th century with the increase in popularity of dog shows and the creation of standards for various breeds, the Spaniel family began to split into various different breeds. A group of enthusiasts decided to create a large black spaniel breed. Four dogs would act as progenitors for this new breed, of which two were Cocker Spaniels, one was a Cocker Spaniel/English Water Spaniel cross and one was a Norfolk Spaniel. This new breed was named the Field Spaniel, and was recognised by the Kennel Club in 1892.
American Cocker Spaniel
The American Cocker Spaniel was developed from the English Cocker Spaniel in the 19th century to retrieve quail and woodcock. They were originally divided from the English Cocker solely on a size basis, but were bred over the years for different specific traits. The two Cocker Spaniels were shown together in America until 1936, when the English Cocker received status as a separate breed. The American Kennel Club granted a separate breed designation for the English Cocker Spaniel in 1946. The American breed has a shorter snout, is more likely to get ear infections, and is groomed differently from the English Cocker.
The English Cocker Spaniel is a sturdy, compact, well-balanced dog. It has a characteristic expression showing intelligence and alertness. Its eyes should be dark and its lobular ears should reach "a bit past" the tip of the nose when pulled forward. Today, a significant difference in appearance exists between field-bred and conformation show-bred dogs. The Cocker's tail is customarily docked in North America. In countries where docking is legal, the tail is generally docked at about 4–5 inches (10–13 cm) in field-bred dogs while show dogs are generally docked closer to the body. Docking is now illegal in Australia and South Africa. In England and Wales, docking can only be carried out on dogs where the owners have proved that the dogs will be used as working or shooting dogs.
The breed standard indicates that the males of the breed are on average between 15.5 and 16 inches (39 and 41 cm) at the withers with the females a little smaller, growing to between 15 and 15.5 inches (38 and 39 cm). Both males and females of the breed weigh approximately 13–14.5 kilograms (29–32 lb).American Cocker Spaniels are smaller, with the males being on average between 14.25 and 15.5 inches (36.2 and 39.4 cm), and females again being smaller on average at between 13.5 and 14.5 inches (34 and 37 cm), both weighing approximately 11–13 kilograms (24–29 lb). The closely related English Springer Spaniels are larger than either types of cockers, growing to between 19 and 19.75 inches (48.3 and 50.2 cm) for the females, and 19.25 and 20 inches (48.9 and 50.8 cm) for the males, and weighing between 23 and 25 kilograms (51 and 55 lb).
The English Cocker Spaniel is similar to the English Springer Spaniel and at first glance the only major difference is the larger size of the Springer. However English Cockers also tend to have longer, and lower-set ears than English Springers. In addition Springers also tend to have a longer muzzle, their eyes are not as prominent and the coat is less abundant.
Breed standards restrict all breeds of dogs to certain colours for the purposes of conformation showing (dependent on country). For example, the breed standard of the United Kingdom's Kennel Club states that in solid colours, no white is allowed except for a small amount on the chest, and the American Kennel Club has standards for features including the expression, neck, topline, and body. In working Cockers, breeders value working ability over the color of the dog.
They come in solid (or "self"), parti-coloured, and roan types of markings. Solid dogs have no or very little white. Parti-coloured dogs have spots or patches of colour on a white dog. Parti-coloured dogs can have freckles of color on their nose and legs called "ticking." Roan is an extreme version of ticking and consists of the white dog parts of a dog being speckled with the same colour as the solid patches. Roan puppies are born white with coloured patches and the white becomes roan as they grow up, similar to the spots on Dalmatians.
Solid English Cocker colours can come in black, liver/brown, red/golden with black or brown pigmentation, and Parti-coloured cockers come in blue roan, liver roan, orange roan with black or brown pigmentation, lemon roan with black or brown pigmentation, black and white ticked, liver and white ticked, orange and white ticked with black or brown pigmentation, lemon and white ticked with black or brown pigmentation, black and white, liver and white with brown pigmentation, orange and white with black or brown pigmentation, lemon and white with black or brown pigmentation. All of these colors can also have Tan-points, although you probably won't see it on any red, gold, or lemon Cocker because it will blend in.
Of the solid colours, sable is considered rare and controversial, and is classified by some countries as being a type of parti-colour on account of its mixed hair shafts. While some have claimed this colour is from a cross with a different breed, geneticists have discovered English Cocker sable is unique to this breed. In addition, a silver/ash colour, usually associated with the Weimaraner breed of dog, is considered genetically possible but is yet to be recorded by the United Kingdom's Kennel Club. Of the roan varieties, lemon roan with a light brown pigmentation is the most recessive of all the roans. Plain white Cockers are rarely born, and are thought to be more prone to deafness than those with more pigmentation. As such they are generally not encouraged in the breed.
A light Blue Roan and Tan English Cocker Spaniel
Orange and white Cocker Spaniel
Young Blue Roan Working Strain English Cocker Spaniel
Cockers are compassionate, determined, kind, intelligent, athletic, alert and resilient and make great family pets. The breed does not like being alone, and will bond strongly to an individual person in a family, usually the one who feeds it. Known for optimism, intelligence and adaptability, the breed is extremely loyal and affectionate. The English Cocker Spaniel has a cheerful nature. They rank 18th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, being of excellent working/obedience intelligence. Due to the breed's happy disposition and continuously wagging tail, it has been given the nickname "merry cocker". They can also be dominant but loyal to their companion.
With a good level of socialisation at an early age, Cocker Spaniels can get along well with people, children, other dogs and other pets. This breed seems to have a perpetually wagging tail and prefers to be around people; it is not best suited to the backyard alone. Cockers can be easily stressed by loud noises and by rough treatment or handling. When trained with a soft hand and plentiful rewards, the Cocker Spaniel will be an obedient and loving companion with a happy, cheerful nature.
English Cocker Spaniels in the UK, USA and Canada have an average lifespan of 11 to 12 years; this is a typical longevity for purebred dogs, but a little less than most other breeds of their size. The English Cocker Spaniel typically lives about a year longer than the smaller American Cocker Spaniel.
In a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey, the most common causes of death were cancer (30%), old age (17%), cardiac (9%), and "combinations" (7%).
In 1998 and 2002 USA/Canada Health Surveys, the leading causes of death were old age (40%) and cancer (22%).
Common health issues with English Cockers are bite problems, skin allergies, shyness, cataracts, deafness (affecting 6.3% of the dogs of this breed), aggression towards other dogs, and benign tumours.
Some uncommon health issues that can also have an effect on English Cocker Spaniels include canine hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, canine dilated cardiomyopathy, and heart murmurs. Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip joint which is the most common cause of canine arthritis in the hips. Patellar Lunation, also known as luxating patella, refers to the dislocation of the kneecap. Canine dilated cardiomyopathy is an adult onset condition which occurs when the heart muscle is weak and does not contract properly. It can lead to congestive heart failure, which is where fluid accumulates in the lungs, chest, abdominal cavities, or under the skin. Dilated cardiomyopathy is often accompanied by abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias which can complicate treatment. Cocker Spaniels can present with a nutritional form of dilated cardiomyopathy that is associated with low blood concentrations of the amino acid taurine. This form of dilated cardiomyopathy is in many cases reversible if the dog receives taurine supplementation.
Rage syndrome is most often associated with the Show Cocker Spaniel breed, although, cases have been found in other breeds and cases are relatively rare even within the Cocker Spaniel breed. Rage syndrome is described as when a dog attacks suddenly and often savagely, without any warning and during the attack the dog often has a glazed look and appears to be unaware of its surroundings. Rage Syndrome can affect any and all breeds. Though not a common ailment, studies have found it is more common in solid coloured Cockers than in parti-colours and also more common in darker coloured Cockers than lighter coloured Cockers, being most common in solid gold and black coloured spaniels. Their health issues are typical for a purebred dog breed; however they are closely associated with rage syndrome even though cases are really quite rare. Rage syndrome cannot be accurately predicted and can only be diagnosed by EEG or genetic testing and these tests are not conclusive.
A link between coat colour and temperament has been proposed. This link could be the colour pigment melanin, which is biochemically similar to chemicals that act as transmitters in the brain. A study made by the University of Cambridge involving over 1,000 Cocker Spaniel households throughout Britain concluded that solid colour Cockers were more likely to be aggressive in 12 out of 13 situations. Red/golden Cockers were shown to be the most aggressive of all, in situations involving strangers, family members, while being disciplined, and sometimes for no apparent reason. A study by Spanish researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona revealed a similar link between golden Cockers and aggression. Males were also more likely to be aggressive. The study found the English Cocker Spaniel to have the highest level of owner- and stranger- directed aggression compared to other breeds.
This breed, like many others with origins as working dogs, has some genetic lines that focus on working-dog skills and other lines that focus on ensuring that the dog's appearance conforms to a breed standard; these are referred to as the "working" (or "field-bred") and "conformation" strains, respectively. After World War II, Cocker Spaniels bred for pets and for the sport of conformation showing increased enormously in popular appeal, and, for a while, was the most numerous Kennel Club registered breed. This popularity increased the view that all Cockers were useless as working dogs. However, for most dogs this is untrue, as even some show-bred Cockers have retained their working instinct.
Today, this breed is experiencing a resurgence in usage as a working and hunting dog. Dogs from working lines are noticeably distinct in appearance. As is the case with the English Springer Spaniel, the working type has been bred exclusively to perform in the field as a hunting companion. Their coat is shorter and ears less pendulous than the show-bred type. Although registered as the same breed, the two strains have diverged significantly enough that they are rarely crossed. The dogs that have dominated the hunt test, field trial and hunting scene in the United States are field-bred dogs from recently imported English lines. Working-dog lines often have physical characteristics that would prevent them from winning in the show ring. This is a result of selecting for different traits than those selected by show breeders. The longer coat and ears, selected for the show ring, are an impediment in the field. Cuban authorities train and use English Cocker Spaniels as sniffer dogs to check for drugs or food products in passengers' baggage at Cuban airports.
A field-bred cocker spaniel is first and foremost an upland flushing dog. In performing this task there are some skills the dog must be trained to perform.
- Hup This is the traditional command to sit and stay. To be an effective hunter the dog must comply with this command absolutely. When this command is given, the dog can be given direction called to the handler. The ability to hup a dog actively working a running bird allows the handler and any gunners to keep up without having to run.
- Retrieve to Hand The majority of hunters and all hunt test or field trial judges require that a dog deliver a bird to hand, meaning that a dog will hold the bird until told to give it to the hunter directly.
- Quarter Dogs must work in a pattern in front of the hunter seeking upland game birds. The dog must be taught to stay within gun range to avoid flushing a bird outside of shooting distance.
- Follow Hand Signals Upland hunting involves pursuing wild game in its native habitat. Gun dogs must investigate likely covers for upland game birds. The dog must be responsive to hand signals in order for the hunter to be able to direct the dog into areas of particular interest.
- Steady When hunting upland birds, a flushing dog should be steady to wing and shot, meaning that he sits when a bird rises or a gun is fired. He does this in order to mark the fall and to avoid flushing other birds when pursuing a missed bird.
In literature and film
Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote two poems to her red cocker spaniel Flush, "To Flush, My Dog" and "Flush or Faunus".
Flush: A Biography is an semi-fictional biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's red cocker spaniel written by Virginia Woolf and published in 1933.
The Barretts of Wimpole Street and The Barretts of Wimpole Street also have Elizabeth Barrett Browning's red cocker spaniel as a central character.
Jasper is a cocker spaniel which features in the 1938 Daphne du Maurier novel Rebecca (novel)
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge owned an English Cocker Spaniel called Lupo, and Lupo was bred from Ella, a dog owned by her parents Michael and Carole Middleton. He was a working-type English Cocker Spaniel. Lupo was born in a litter just prior to Christmas 2011, and was given to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
Following the birth of Prince George of Cambridge, Lupo was featured in one of the first official photographs. He was subsequently featured in a family portrait with the Duke and Duchess and Prince George in March 2014.
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