By Heather Venkat, DVM, MPH, DACVPM
Say hello to the Cocker Spaniel, the darling of the Sporting Dog group!
This beautiful and cheerful breed will be a loving and fun addition to your life, no matter your housing or family situation!
Gentle with children and loyal to a fault, Cockers are well-known hunting dogs that also excel as companion and therapy dogs.
Cocker Spaniels are known for their long, silky coats, which require regular maintenance through combing and brushing.
Hard-working and affectionate, the Cocker is a pleasure to train.
He will do whatever he can to please you!
This breed has a lot of hunting instincts, so don’t be surprised if your pup wants to pursue squirrels and birds when out for a walk.
The Cocker Spaniel is generally healthy but does have some breed-specific health concerns you should be aware of.
Cockers are one of the oldest documented breeds.
His history began in Spain and meandered through Europe before coming to the United States.
The Cocker Spaniel is now one of the top fifteen breeds in the US!
These sweet, doe-eyed pups will steal your heart and breath away.
Let’s get to know the Cocker Spaniel!
The Cocker Spaniel is known, first and foremost, for his beautiful, sleek coat.
He comes in several colors including black, tan, white, brown, buff, red, and silver.
Cocker Spaniels also can exhibit merle or roan markings.
There is a lot of variety in the colors found in Cocker Spaniel breeding.
You can be sure, there is a look for every individual style!
His thick and silky coat requires regular grooming to ensure there is no matting or skin irritation.
Additionally, a Cocker’s tasseled ears need cleaning once a week to avoid infection.
This breed is medium-sized, standing between 13.5 and 15.5 inches tall and weighing anywhere from 20-30 pounds.
Your pup will need regular play and exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight.
Cocker Spaniels are generally very social and are quick to play with children and other animals.
Make sure to socialize your Cocker as a puppy so he’s fully prepared to interact with other people and dogs.
Cockers are infamous for their large, pleading eyes, the very epitome of ‘puppy-dog eyes!
As a result, you may need to schedule your pup for regular eye checkups as this breed is especially susceptible to cataracts.
The average lifespan for Cocker Spaniels is roughly 10-14 years.
This breed is one of the most popular companion dogs.
Energetic but mild-mannered, Cockers are perfect for homes with children or elderly residents.
Socialization is an important skill to train your dog in, but Cocker Spaniels are already predisposed to happily interact with other animals.
They love companionship, so this might not be the breed for you if you are typically gone from home a majority of the time.
Your Cocker Spaniel will do everything in his power to make you happy, which makes them easy to train.
This breed was originally developed as a hunting dog, so your Cocker will have a lot of natural hunting instincts.
You should always have your pup on a leash if he isn’t in a fenced-in area.
You never know when he might decide to chase a squirrel!
Cockers are a medium-sized breed, which makes them ideal for apartment and condo life.
Even though they are energetic, Cocker Spaniels don’t need a lot of exercise.
These dogs are typically not destructive provided they are well-taken care of and loved.
The Cocker is a delicate soul and is sensitive to harsh tones and punishment.
You can be sure your pup will flourish under positive reinforcement and encouragement!
A love for hunting runs deep in the Cocker Spaniel.
Not to mention, he is the smallest breed in the Sporting Dog group.
That means he loves both being outdoors and being active with his person!
However, Cockers don’t need a lot of exercise.
He will be more than happy hanging out around the house with you.
As long as he is with his person, your Cocker Spaniel will be living his best life.
Playing fetch in the backyard or going for a quick walk around the block will keep your pooch well-exercised and happy.
Do note: it is important to watch your Cocker’s diet and food intake.
Like any breed, the Cocker Spaniel can become overweight from eating too many calories or not getting the proper amount of exercise.
A moderate amount of exercise each day will help keep your Cocker in a good and healthy mood.
Your Cocker will look like a million bucks if you take the time to groom him properly.
Known for their long, sleek coat, Cocker Spaniels are among the royalty of dog breeds.
So plan to comb and brush your Cocker every other day or even every day.
If tangles are allowed to remain in your pup’s coat, the coat will rapidly mat and cause skin issues.
Pro tip: if you do encounter a tangle, make sure to start detangling it from the ends of the hair rather than the top or center of the knot.
Gently work out the tangle until the hair is smooth and can be brushed with the rest of the coat.
When you bathe your Cocker, it is important to thoroughly rinse all shampoo and soap from his coat.
Otherwise, you might end up dealing with nasty skin irritations.
When bathing, give special attention to your pup’s ears.
The hair on the ears must be brushed gently since the ear is very delicate and could be punctured by rough brushing.
In addition, to avoid ear infections, always dry out your Cocker’s ears after a bath to make sure no moisture is left inside the ear.
Taking the time to properly groom your Cocker Spaniel will pay off with a beautiful, engaging companion.
You can be sure your pup will be the envy of your neighborhood!
Cocker Spaniels are people pleasers.
They want to do what you ask of them and are motivated by positive feedback.
This makes them relatively easy to train.
Of course, individual personalities should be taken into account.
Be wary of shouting at your Cocker or being overly stern during training.
This breed is known for its sensitivity and unless properly cared for, may develop fear-driven habits, such as submissive peeing.
As with all dogs, socialization at a young age is important.
Take the time to enroll your Cocker in a puppy kindergarten so he can get accustomed to other people and dogs at an early age.
In addition, Cocker Spaniels are predisposed to hunting instincts.
These are behaviors that will likely never completely disappear, even with extensive training.
So instead of trying to remove the behaviors, find a creative outlet for your Cocker.
This breed loves fetching and may go through a nipping phase.
When this happens, simply provide your pup with plenty of appropriate chew toys and lots of opportunities to play fetch.
If you want to train your Cocker Spaniel as a hunting dog, make sure to research appropriate training methods.
Cockers are extremely intelligent, energetic, and people-pleasing.
Training them and learning to live together can be a joy for both you and your canine pal!
Just like any breed, Cocker Spaniels have a few specific health concerns to keep an eye out for.
A Cocker’s beautiful big eyes can develop several different ailments.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy, glaucoma, and cataracts are all potential issues.
If you notice redness or irritation in your Cocker’s eyes, take them to get checked out by your local veterinarian.
Another common issue with Cocker Spaniels is allergies.
Be aware of the three different categories of allergies; food, contact, and inhalant.
Talk with your veterinarian about possible allergies along with how to deal with them.
A Cocker Spaniel’s ears are breeding grounds for bacteria and/or yeast.
As a result, always dry out your pup’s ears after a bath, plus clean them out once a week.
For the Cocker Spaniel specifically, a lot of potential health risks are inherited.
So before selecting a puppy, talk with your breeder.
A reputable breeder will have details on tests and medical issues from your Cocker’s heritage.
Do note: puppy mills and pet stores will not be able to provide trustworthy information regarding their puppy’s parentage and medical history.
The only way to ensure you are getting a legitimate and healthy Cocker Spaniel is to work with a verified and reliable breeder.
The overarching breed group of Spaniels is thought to have originated in Spain.
Not to mention, Spaniels as a breed have existed since antiquity.
As dog shows and breed standardization spread, Spaniels were split into different breeding groups.
The Cocker was named as such because of his specialty in hunting woodcock.
Plus, he’s the smallest in the Sporting Dog group.
When the Cocker Spaniel made his way to the United States, the breed split into the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel.
The American Cocker Spaniel is distinct because it is smaller, has a shorter head, and has a more profuse coat than the English Cocker.
The popularity of Cocker Spaniels rocketed in 1955 with the advent of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp.
This led to a lapse in safe and ethical breeding, thanks to the high demand.
Since then, breeders have worked hard to reestablish the purity of the Cocker Spaniel bloodline.
It is imperative that you confirm the reputation and methods of any breeder you plan to purchase a Cocker Spaniel from.
To date, the Cocker still remains an incredibly popular and accessible breed.
Where can I find Cocker Spaniels?
Cocker Spaniels can be genetically predisposed to eye problems, hip dysplasia, and allergies.
Personality can also be a big factor in choosing a puppy.
Subsequently, make sure to only consider Cocker puppies from trustworthy breeders.
Any high-quality breeder will be able to provide documentation of both your puppy’s parentage and any health concerns that exist in his medical history.
You can also ask your breeder for a personality description of the puppy you are looking at along with his parentage.
Since the breeder has been raising your puppy since birth, they will have info, stories, and data about your puppy that will help you make an informed decision.
Pet stores, questionable breeders, and puppy mills will not be able to produce reliable paperwork and medical history for you to double check.
In fact, no one except a reputable breeder can successfully answer your questions about a puppy and his forebears’ personalities.
Confirming your Cocker Spaniel comes from good breeding stock and is 100% healthy will give you peace of mind.
Q: Are Cocker Spaniels good for apartment or condo-life?
A: Yes! They are medium size and have a loving personality, which makes them perfect for smaller living accommodations.
Q: How often do I need to groom my Cocker Spaniel?
A: Give him a thorough brushing at least once a week and check his coat daily for snarls or tangles.
Q: Will a Cocker Spaniel behave well with my small children?
A: Yes! Cockers are very good with both children and the elderly; they love to play but are gentle and small enough not to hurt those they are playing with.
Q: Do male or female Cocker Spaniels make better pets?
A: As with any breed, there are pros and cons to both options. Weigh your own lifestyle and ask the advice of the breeder you are working with.
Q: Can I get a Cocker Spaniel if I don’t want to use him as a hunting dog?
A: Absolutely! Cockers are one of the most popular companion dog breeds out there!
Q: Do I have to exercise my Cocker Spaniel every day?
A: Yes, but a Cocker doesn’t require a lot of exercise. He will be more than happy going on a quick walk or playing fetch in the backyard; as long as he gets to hang out with you!
Are you ready for a fun-loving, adoring companion?
Cocker Spaniels are ideal for a laidback lifestyle.
They flourish when they get to be social with people or other animals.
Plus, a Cocker’s lush coat and soulful eyes are attractive to everyone they meet.
Now you have the information you need to decide if a Cocker Spaniel is right for you!
If you want a companion who will cheerfully walk with you through life, the Cocker is for you!
American Kennel Club. (2021, 11 2). Cocker Spaniel. Retrieved from American Kennel Club: https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/cocker-spaniel/
Daily Paws. (2021, 11 2). Cocker Spaniel. Retrieved from Daily Paws: https://www.dailypaws.com/dogs-puppies/dog-breeds/cocker-spaniel
Dog Time. (2021, 11 2). Cocker Spaniel. Retrieved from Dog Time: https://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/cocker-spaniel#/slide/1
Vet Street. (2021, 11 2). Cocker Spaniel. Retrieved from Vet Street: http://www.vetstreet.com/dogs/cocker-spaniel#overview
Dr. Heather Venkat has been a veterinarian since 2013, working in companion animal medicine with dogs and cats, as well as veterinary public health. Her passion is in prevention, One Health, and strengthening the human-animal bond. A bonafide animal-lover, she competes in dog sports and currently shares her home with a border collie mix named Luna, three cats, and two leopard geckos.