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Cocker Spaniel: An owner's guide

Updated on April 8, 2015

The Cocker Spaniel: An overview

The Cocker Spaniel consists of dogs that can belong to one of two breeds, with these being the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel. In either of these regions they are known simply as a ‘Cocker Spaniel’.

Vital statistics of the average Cocker Spaniel

ACS: 14.5–15.5 inches (37–39 cm)
ECS: 15.5–16 inches (39–41 cm)
ACS: 13.5–14.5 inches (34–37 cm)
ECS: 15–15.5 inches (38–39 cm)
13 - 14Kg

The Cocker Spaniel: A brief history

Cocker Spaniels were first bred to be used as hunting dogs. They originated from England and were previously well known as ‘Cockers’; originally they were used to hunt down Eurasian Woodcock, although they were also used to keep small rodents and other vermin at bay.

Once the breed reached the US it its physical characteristics changed over time due to the different breeding aims and standards.

The Cocker Spaniel: A video guide

Are you ready for a Cocker Spaniel puppy?

Before going ahead full steam with a Cocker Spaniel puppy purchase you should carefully consider whether you’re ready for what is both a super challenging, as well as super rewarding, experience. Puppy rearing requires commitment, love and attention. Those who haven’t experienced puppy care tend, for the most part, to be surprised at just how much work is involved and for the uninitiated the days of toilet training and behaviour correcting can seem never ending.

Nevertheless despite all of the challenges puppies also provide plenty of positives to their new home and with the right owner Cocker Spaniel puppies can excel and become a cherished companion within your household.

Cocker Spaniel Puppies: Characteristics of this breed

Cocker Spaniel puppies are notoriously people friendly, with their many positive characteristics forming during puppy hood and lasting for a lifetime. Specifically this includes the following characteristics of a typical Cocker Spaniel’s temperament:

  • Playful
  • Loyal
  • Friendly
  • Reserved
  • Affectionate to their owners

It’s pretty clear from this list that Cocker Spaniel Puppies have many endearing qualities however like all breeds they also have less attractive qualities that you must be equally as open to. This includes excessive barking (particularly if left alone for extended periods) which is particularly prevalent within the American Cocker Spaniel breed.

Training Cocker Spaniel Puppies

Training Cocker Spaniel puppies should be considered as no more or less difficult than training most other puppies. This is a breed that benefits from a relatively good level of trainability and as long as you follow good training practices (such as providing an impetus to learn, such as praise and treats) then all that is then required is time and effort.

Cocker Spaniel Puppies
Cocker Spaniel Puppies | Source

Cocker Spaniel: Well known health issues

All pedigree dogs can suffer from certain health problems due to the nature of breeding and the fact that focusing on attractive characteristics has resulted in genetic dispositions becoming more pronounced. For the Cocker Spaniel this can include the following health issues: progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, patellar luxation and glaucoma. Whilst these illnesses and conditions are not to be underestimated it must be said that when compared to many other pedigree breeds that the number of illnesses are far fewer.

Other less common ailments that Cocker Spaniels can be open to (as the majority of dog breeds can) include: ectropion, urinary stones, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), hypothyroidism, seborrhea, entropion, "cherry eye," liver disease, allergies, and congestive heart failure.

Caring for your Cocker Spaniel

Due to their long coats Cocker Spaniels require frequent eye, ear and feet cleanings and care to ensure that they are dirt free as well as free from infection or other issues which may otherwise be hidden. Their coat also requires a thorough brushing ideally two to three times a week which should then be complemented with a monthly trim and nail clip.

Exercising your Cocker Spaniel

Cocker spaniels are known to love the indoors and their creature comforts, however despite this they love outdoor walks all the more. Generally speaking you should be prepared to exercise your Cocker Spaniel for at least thirty minutes a day. However they don’t require strenuous activity, and so are quite suited to the older of owners who can only manage a walking pace.

The diet of a Cocker Spaniel

A Cocker spaniel has no special dietary requirements and the choice of dog food before you is therefore extensive; this includes dry food, canned ‘wet’ food and human quality food. You should however note that this is a breed that has a predisposed to obesity and as such a balanced diet is all the more important, particularly as your Cocker Spaniel gets older and their metabolism slows down.

I personally feel that a mixed diet of dry, wet and human grade food is the ideal combination, although I must admit that if I were able to afford it I would most likely not feed my dog upon canned dog foods at all, particularly as the meat contents on offer continue to get ever lower.

Cocker Spaniels have a range of colour coats, including: black, golden, red, brown, blue roan and the mixed colours that you see in this image.
Cocker Spaniels have a range of colour coats, including: black, golden, red, brown, blue roan and the mixed colours that you see in this image. | Source

The Cocker Spaniel as a rescue dog

If you’re considering a rescue dog, rather than buying a Cocker Spaniel puppy, then you need to consider all of the usual factors related to rescue dog ownership. This should specifically include:

  1. Choosing a reputable rescue centre which will, as far as possible, provide a full background on the dog’s history along with any relevant medical information.

  2. ensure that you can meet your potential dog on at least three occasions to get to know each other as much as possible.

  3. Ensure that you follow the procedures for introducing your rescue dog to any other pets who are already within your home. Responsible rescue centres will insist on their being present for the initial meetings if you have an existing dog as a pet.

Puppy training: Housebreaking a puppy


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    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Interesting hub. I dimly remember having a Cocker Spaniel mix (in other words, mutt) in our family when I was very young. I don't remember details about that dog, but having it left me with a soft spot in my heart for the breed.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      I know there are nice Cocker Spaniels, but as you have said they are very loyal to their owners and sometimes unfriendly to others, which I suppose is not necessarily a bad thing. My sister's Cocker wanted to bite everybody who was not part of the household, and the one dog I have been bitten by was, in fact, a Cocker Spaniel. A person told me that for many years there were some shady breeding practices with this breed that was causing the dog to be of a bad disposition. Nevertheless, I recognize that there are friendly ones too, although they are reluctant to be petted by people who don't belong to their pack. Great hub.