The Cocker, as the smallest member of the Sporting Group, should be compact and strong. Their stride is broad, powerful, and smooth. The coat is silky, flat or slightly wavy, and short.
The excessive coat can impede the dog’s performance on the field. The breed’s head and expression are distinctive; the expression is smooth and inviting.
The Cocker should still be able to spend a day on the field and should be athletic and balanced. However, most Cockers today have far too much coat for fieldwork.
See the Complete list of Spaniels All 24.
American Cocker Spaniel Highlights
Because Cockers are so popular, it is extremely important to do your homework and select a breeder that is committed to improving the breed.
Even if he comes from a good breeder and has been properly socialized, the sensitive Cocker Spaniel can be a touch apprehensive. If your Cocker demonstrates submissive urination, don’t be shocked (peeing when excited).
Cockers can be barkers, therefore responding to a “Quiet” command should be part of this dog’s repertory at all times.
The Cocker is eager to please and likes to be close to his family. But remember, he was bred to be a hunting dog. Don’t be surprised when he chases birds or other small animals when you’re out on a walk. Keep your Cocker on a leash whenever you aren’t in a fenced area.
The Cocker has a “soft” personality. Harsh training methods will make him fearful, so be sure to use gentle, consistent training to get the best results.
A Cocker Spaniel’s long ears are both a part of his beauty and a potential health problem. Be sure to check your Cocker’s ears every week for infections.
Keeping the Cocker coat beautiful is expensive and a lot of work. Plan on paying a professional groomer and on brushing the coat every day.
To get a healthy pet, never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs for genetic health conditions and good temperaments.
American Cocker Spaniel Breed Features & Ratings:
Rated base on a 5 Star Scale
ENERGY LEVEL: 3 Star
EXERCISE REQUIREMENTS: 3 Star
PLAYFULNESS: 4 Star
AFFECTION LEVEL: 5 Star
FRIENDLINESS TO DOGS: 5 Star
FRIENDLINESS TO OTHER PETS: 5 Star
FRIENDLINESS TO STRANGERS: 4 Star
WATCHFULNESS: 1 Star
EASE OF TRAINING: 4 Star
GROOMING REQUIREMENTS: 4 Star
HEAT SENSITIVITY: 3 Star
VOCALITY 4 Star
American Cocker Spaniel Breed Profile:
Dog Breed Group: Sporting Dogs
Height: 1 foot, 2 inches to 1 foot, 3 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 24 to 28 pounds
Life Span: 12 to 15 years
Family Name: Gundog, Spaniel
AREA OF ORIGIN: United States
DATE OF ORIGIN: 1800s
OTHER NAMES: Cocker Spaniel
American Cocker Spaniel Health:
The Cocker Spaniel has good longevity. A conscientious breeder can furnish records of the sire’s and dam’s health testing, for example for hips, patellas, and eyes. Breeders often have years of data regarding testing done in these health areas. Learn from the veterinarian proper procedures to clean the Cocker’s ear canals on a regular basis, especially following a bath, in order to avoid infections. Thorough grooming of the Cocker coat will aid in preventing mats, which can precipitate skin problems underneath.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club: Ophthalmologist Evaluation
American Cocker Spaniel Grooming:
Cocker Spaniels require regular, thorough grooming. Sessions missed are not easily made up and may result in tangles or mats in the Cocker’s coat. A metal, professional-quality dog comb with fine and medium spacing for the teeth is a necessity. You can follow combing with a gentle slicker brush, but the comb is key. Loose hair should be carefully removed with the comb, making sure you are clear and can see through to the skin everywhere. If you encounter snarls, do not pull through; rather, pick snarls apart, starting at the tips of the coat and then comb through. Be cautious when combing ears; the skin at the edges is thin and can be pierced by too-vigorous combing. The Cocker requires thorough bathing with quality dog shampoo. Thorough rinsing and re-rinsing are crucial, as soap residue can cause skin irritation. Dry carefully with a blow-dryer on not too hot a setting. Learn the procedure for cleaning and drying the ear canals. During bathing, check the Cocker’s skin for any inflamed spots and get treatment. It is key to learn grooming procedures yourself and/or enlist the services of a professional groomer who likes and is experienced in grooming the breed.
American Cocker Spaniel Exercise:
The Cocker Spaniel is a sporting breed and should maintain good muscle tone, although the breed is not one that needs a lot of exercise for the purpose of discharging an abundance of energy. Cockers often enjoy getting their exercise by means of retrieving a ball or other toy, or accompanying their people on a walk. They very much enjoy spending time with their people, so walking is a good exercise option. If the Cocker has a canine companion, they can play to exercise each other. The Cocker Spaniel wants to please people and enjoys play, so these are tools you can use to encourage exercise.
American Cocker Spaniel Training:
Regarding training the Cocker Spaniel, the good news is that in general this is a people-pleasing breed. They want to be ‘good’ in order to please their people, and they are generally sensitive and responsive to correction and a disapproving tone in their owner’s voice. Harsh means of correction are not usually warranted, nor are they productive in the Cocker. The breed enjoys the challenge of performance activities, and it is a good idea to try out the available activities and events to see what interests your individual Cocker and follow through with training. Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended. Cockers are rather easily motivated with food rewards and with play and praise.
American Cocker Spaniel Food and Nutrition
Choosing the perfect nutrition for your dog might be a trial and error process. The key is to read food labels for excellent ingredients. The owner might seek assistance from their dog’s veterinarian if the Cocker has any special sensitivities or needs. Select a high-quality food and give it a fair trial. A chicken and rice’“based cuisine has traditionally been a suitable starting point for Cocker food testing, but take into account individual allergies, preferences, and needs. Maintain a healthy weight, but avoid overeating. Overweight Cockers are frequently seen by groomers and vets.
American Cocker Spaniel Temperament and Personality
This breed is known as the “merry” Cocker, and the name is most fitting. He is playful, cheerful, amiable, sweet, sensitive, willing to please, and responsive to his family’s wishes. He is not known for retaining his hunting instincts, but he is inquisitive and will appreciate a country outing. He is equally at home in the city and will happily walk on leash for his exercise needs. Some bark a lot; some are overly submissive.
The well-bred Cocker Spaniel has a sweet temperament. He is affectionate and cuddly and loves to participate in family activites. He is playful, alert, and active, enjoying any exercise from a brisk walk to hunting in the field.
The Cocker is known to be a sensitive dog, mentally and physically. He has a “soft” personality and does not respond well to harsh treatment, sometimes turning to growling or snapping when he’s in pain or afraid. Early socialization and training is essential to teach the Cocker appropriate canine manners. He needs to be handled carefully and kindly to bring out the best in his personality.
American Cocker Spaniel Care/Upkeep
The Cocker Spaniel is well suited to living in an apartment or condo — though of course he loves to share a house and yard. Although he doesn’t need vast space to roam, he does need daily activity. A daily romp in the yard along with a brisk 30-minute walk can keep him happy and trim. Then bring him inside with you — the Cocker is not pleased to be left alone outdoors for the day, and he may respond by digging or barking to keep himself amused. He’s most content when he’s with his family, participating in the group’s activities.
Despite his beautiful locks and cute, round eyes, the Cocker Spaniel is a hunter at heart. He is also a good candidate for many canine sports, especially agility and obedience competitions, hunt tests, flyball, or tracking. Like most dogs, the Cocker is better behaved when active than when he’s allowed to get bored, which can lead to such behavior problems as barking, digging, and chewing.
American Cocker Spaniel Relationship with Children and Other Pets
One of the reasons the Cocker Spaniel is so popular is that he makes a good family dog. He gets along well with children — as long as he is raised with them and the kids are kind and respectful to animals. But because he is a sensitive dog, all interactions between the Cocker and children should be supervised by a responsible adult.
The Cocker Spaniel also gets along with other family pets (given proper training and introductions), including dogs, cats, and small animals.
All About American Cocker Spaniel
The smallest member of the American Kennel Club Sporting Group, the Cocker Spaniel is the darling of many U.S. pet owners. Remember the female lead in Lady and the Tramp? It’s no accident that the movie’s model of an affectionate and pampered pet was a Cocker Spaniel. From the late 1930s to the 1950s, the Cocker was the number-one breed registered with the AKC. Then his popularity declined for almost 30 years, but he shot to the top of the charts again during the mid-1980s, and only in 1992 was his number-one status taken over by Labrador and Golden Retrievers. Today, the Cocker remains within the top 15 registered breeds.
And no wonder — a well-bred Cocker Spaniel is a pleasure to own. He is known for a merry, sound temperament. His flowing coat is extremely handsome, he’s loving and gentle, and he wants nothing more than to make his family happy.
Compared to other dogs in the Sporting Group, the Cocker is small (20 to 30 pounds), fitting comfortably into an apartment, condo, or a small home. He is primarily a companion but is easily trained for the conformation show ring, obedience and agility competitions, and field work. He is also an excellent therapy dog.
The Cocker Spaniel resembles the English Cocker Spaniel, one of his peers in Sporting Group, and formerly the two breeds were considered one. However, a number of Spaniel fanciers noticed the different strains of Cocker and sought to preserve separate breeds and discourage the interbreeding of the English and American varieties. The American Kennel Club recognized the two breeds as separate in 1946.
The typical Cocker Spaniel is gentle, a loving and trustworthy family companion who is good with children, other pets, and the elderly. Unfortunately, his extreme popularity leaves him open to the bane of all favorite breeds: unscrupulous people who breed with no regard for temperament, health, or conformation.
As a result, some Cocker Spaniels have serious health and temperament problems. If you are considering a Cocker Spaniel, you must be extremely careful from whom you buy or adopt a puppy. Buy only from a reputable breeder. Never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Reputable breeders breed with temperament in mind and perform various health tests to ensure that their breeding dogs don’t pass on a predisposition to genetic diseases.
American Cocker Spaniel History:
The modern Cocker Spaniel is descended from the Spaniel family, a large group that dates to antiquity. The word spaniel means “Spanish dog,” and it’s generally believed that they indeed originated in Spain. By the 1800s, Spaniels were divided into two groups: toys (primarily companions) and large hunting dogs. Hunting dogs were further divided into land and water spaniels. The Cocker Spaniel was named so for his excellence in the field hunting woodcock.
In England, spaniels were a functional category, rather than an individual breed of dog, for several hundred years. The first kennel to gain recognition for the Cocker Spaniel as a distinct breed in England was the Obo Kennel of Mr. James Farrow. In 1892, the Cocker Spaniel was recognized as a breed in England.
Shortly before, in the late 1870s, American fanciers began importing English Cockers to the United States. A liver-and-white Cocker Spaniel named Captain was registered in the first studbook of the National American Kennel Club (later called the American Kennel Club). The second volume of the studbook, printed in 1885, registers a black Cocker named Brush II. This dog was imported from England by Commings Cocker Spaniel Kennel of New Hampshire.
Right around this time, in 1881, Clinton Wilmerding and James Watson formed the American Spaniel Club. The oldest breed club in America, it originally included breeders of many types of Spaniels. Eventually, however, breeders split off into separate organizations as differences among the Spaniel breeds were refined.
Cocker Spaniels quickly gained popularity both with breeders and the public. In time, some breeders started favoring a smaller type of Cocker Spaniel with a slightly different conformation than the original English Cocker. These smaller dogs were especially flashy in the show ring.
In 1936, a group of English Cocker breeders formed a specialty club known as the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America, and they gained recognition from the AKC for an English type of the Cocker Spaniel. Two years later, to strengthen its position, the club passed a motion that English Cocker Spaniels should not be bred to American-type Cocker Spaniels. The club also resolved to oppose the showing of American-type Cockers in English Cocker classes.
In 1939, a Cocker Spaniel named CH My Own Brucie won the Best American Bred in Show at the prestigious Westminster Dog Show, a feat that he repeated the following year. Brucie, a black Cocker Spaniel, won the hearts of the American public, clinching his popularity in the 1940 show when, as his owner/handler removed Brucie’s leash as they entered the ring, the little dog gaited proudly along his side, wagging his tail. Brucie was so beloved that when he died, The New York Times published his obituary.
Brucie’s success in the show ring led to a spectacular rise in the popularity of Cocker Spaniels. It also encouraged American breeders to concentrate more on breeding for the show ring than for the field, further widening the gap between American and English Cockers. In 1946, the American Kennel Club recognized the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel as two distinct breeds.