Cocker Spaniel in Grass

Cocker Spaniel Dog Breed

Other names:
American Cocker Spaniel
Merry Cocker

The cocker spaniel is a popular small dog breed which is known for their cheerful attitude and beautiful coat. The breed is the smallest dog in the sporting group category, which makes them an easier dog to travel with and keep indoors than many other sporting breeds.

Cocker spaniels are intelligent, loving, trusting dogs. They have a strong desire to please and are excellent with children and other pets. The breed enjoys playing, but since they are a sporting breed they retain strong hunting instincts and will go after any bird, squirrel, or other small animal they see in the yard. In fact, the breed was named after their excellence at hunting the woodcock bird.

Cocker Spaniel Breed Details

Below are the characteristics and traits of the cocker spaniel dog breed.

12 - 15 yrs.
14 - 15 in.
24 - 28 lbs
OverallFamily FriendlyChild FriendlyPet FriendlyStranger Friendly
Easy to GroomEnergy LevelExercise NeedsHealthShedding Amount
Barks / HowlsEasy to TrainGuard DogPlayfulnessWatch Dog
Apartment DogCan be AloneGood for Busy OwnersGood for New OwnersIntelligence

Cocker Spaniel Breed Description

Fully grown the cocker spaniel stands 15 inches tall and weighs 24-28 pounds which makes them the smallest breed in the sporting category. Their smaller size makes them ideal for apartments and condos as well as a great companion dog for the elderly.

Cocker spaniels are known to have a loving sweet temperament. They love being involved with family activities and do well with children, other pets, and strangers. The breed is considered to be overbred so it's recommended to pay careful attention to the breeder's reputation as cocker spaniels coming from unprofessional breeders tend to have different temperaments as the breed's standard.

The cocker spaniel is well known for their beautiful coat. While the thick wavy coat looks fantastic, it can be a burden to groom. The breed requires daily brushing and coat maintenance as well as a thorough bath, clipping, and brushing every six weeks. Due to the heavy maintenance, many owners opt for a professional groomer, which can be costly. Cocker spaniels need daily exercise, but since they are a smaller breed they can meet their exercise requirements with a 30 minute walk.

Cocker Spaniel Breed History

True Cocker Spaniel origin, though well-documented, can be a bit murky. It is known that these dogs are part of the Spaniel family (with "spaniel" as the word for "Spanish dog"), and this breed's ancestors originated in--you guessed it--Spain. There, Spaniel dogs were divided into smaller companion dogs and larger hunting ones.

Around 1800, Spaniel dogs began being exported to England, and a smaller type became known as the "Cocking Spaniel" because of its ability to hunt woodcocks. "Cocking" eventually became "Cocker," and by the 1890s the Cocker Spaniel was recognized by Britain's official Kennel Club.

And this is where accounts of the history of the Cocker Spaniel begin to diverge some. Most historians, though, agree that sometime in the late 19th century, Americans began importing Cockers to the U.S. Around 1880 the American Spaniel Club was formed (which originally recognized several types of Spaniel dogs). Over the next few decades, breeders began refining these breeds, and the American Cocker Spaniel became a show ring favorite. By the mid-1940s, the American Kennel Club recognized the English Cocker and the American Cocker as two separate breeds. (This is why "Cocker Spaniel history" and "American Cocker Spaniel history" are often interchangeable.)

Today, various clubs define the American and English varieties differently: some say they're two varieties of the same breed, others don't. For the most part, though, the American variant is what people think of as simply the Cocker Spaniel.

So the questions "Where are Cocker Spaniels from?" or "Where do Cocker Spaniels originate from?" could be answered with Spain, England, or the U.S.--and oddly enough, all three answers are correct!

Cocker Spaniel Appearance

The Cocker Spaniel is the smallest Spaniel breed. Though only about 25 pounds in weight, these dogs are sporty and muscular--but compact too.

The Cocker Spaniel head is usually pretty rounded; Cocker Spaniel neck size is moderate. The ears are long and hanging (which means owners will need to stock up on Cocker Spaniel ear cleaner!), and the Cocker Spaniel face is narrow and fairly long. Cocker Spaniel eye color can vary too: blue-eyed Cocker Spaniels, red eyes in Cocker Spaniels, green eyes, brown, and more are all possible. The body is long and streamlined, and the legs are medium in length.

A Cocker Spaniel with a tail is the breed's natural look--but it's common to dock the tail of a Cocker Spaniel. (The docked tail is an old custom, done so to keep the dog's wagging tail quiet as it hunted in tall brush.)

Cocker Spaniel coat type: medium to long, with shorter hair on the head and back; Cocker Spaniel dog coats usually have longer, thicker hair on the ears, chest, underbelly, and legs.

Cocker Spaniel Colors

The images below represent the coat colors and patterns associated with Cocker Spaniels.

Black and Tan
Black and White
Blue Roan
Brown Roan
Buff and White
Red Roan
Additional Coat Colors
Black, White, and Tan
Blue Roan and Tan
Brown and Tan
Brown and White
Brown, White, and Tan
Red and White
Sable and White

Cocker Spaniel Variations

Common belief is that there are two breeds of Cocker Spaniel: the American and the English. Both are simply referred to as "Cocker Spaniels" in their countries of origin, and different national clubs separate the breeds in different ways, if at all. There are slight differences in these Cocker Spaniel dog breeds' physical traits too: the English is slightly larger, while the American has a shorter muzzle and rounded head.

The two different Cocker Spaniel types can have slightly differing coats as well. The English Cocker Spaniel hair is usually not as full. while American Cocker Spaniel breeds have longer hair on the legs and sides. Overall, though, each type of Cocker Spaniel has a medium to long, straight to wavy coat.

As to size, these dogs are pretty consistent: 14-15 inches in height, and 24-28 pounds in weight. These size ranges are simply averages, though: the smallest Cocker Spaniel could be only about 11 inches and 20 pounds, while a big Cocker Spaniel might weigh in at 35 pounds or more.

Beware, too: irresponsible breeders offer very small-breed Cocker Spaniel dogs for sale. A Teacup Cocker Spaniel (full grown, only about 7 inches and 10 pounds) might be advertised--but these "micro Cocker Spaniels" are usually the result of untrustworthy breeding practices, or even crossbred dogs.

Cocker Spaniel Temperament

Sweet, cuddly, sensitive, and playful, the Cocker Spaniel temperament is one of affection and delicacy. While normally energetic and fun-loving, the Cocker Spaniel personality is quite a "soft" one; suffice it to say that these dogs don't respond well at all to harsh treatment, and will turn defensive or "snappy" when they are hurt or afraid. Also among the characteristics of Cocker Spaniels is submissive urination (peeing when excited). As to overall Cocker Spaniel behavior, though, these dogs are very affectionate and happy.

Another aspect of the American Cocker Spaniel temperament: they're pretty intelligent and eager to please, so they'll usually respond well to positive, gentle, reward-based training. Cockers may need a few repetitions to learn tasks and commands, but normally learn things well.

And because of this "soft" Cocker Spaniel nature, they're not very good watchdogs. Cockers may bark at an unknown sight or sound, but are not good at all at confronting potential threats.

Living Requirements

Having a Cocker Spaniel as a pet can be difficult--but owning a Cocker Spaniel, pros and cons notwithstanding, is usually a wonderful experience. Even so, these dogs have a few issues that can make living with a Cocker Spaniel a bit frustrating: they're extremely sensitive and need a lot of attention, and their high prey drives mean they might instinctively chase cats and other small pets.

Cocker Spaniel owners can live in most size dwellings (house or apartment), as long as the dog gets some daily outdoor exercise. Regardless of the Cocker Spaniel living situation, owners should be prepared for a bit of excessive barking, along with frequent submissive urination (or peeing when especially excited or nervous).

And are Cocker Spaniels hypoallergenic? In short, they're not. For the American Cocker Spaniel, hypoallergenic tendencies are near zero; while they don't shed profusely, these dogs leave enough hair and dander around the house that allergy sufferers will need to look for another breed.

Cocker Spaniel Health

Below are health issues and concerns most common in Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniel Health Concerns

Below are potential health concerns associated with Cocker Spaniels.

Hip dysplasia
Patellar luxation
Progressive retinal atrophy
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
Primary seborrhea
Idiopathic epilepsy

Related Pages

About this Article