In this guide, we’ll be covering English Cocker Spaniel dogs. Perhaps one of the most famous appearances of a Cocker Spaniel dog is the dog Lady from the Disney classic “Lady and the Tramp”. Lady is an American Cocker Spaniel, as opposed to an English Cocker Spaniel. The major difference that will help you tell the two breeds apart is their size. American Cocker Spaniels are smaller because they were bred to be family-orientated dogs, while English Cocker Spaniels are more playful and used to spending time outdoors.
- Height: 15 to 17 inches
- Weight: 26 to 34 pounds
- Life expectancy: 12 to 14 years
- Personality traits: Affectionate, playful, loyal
- Dog group: Sporting dogs
A Short History of the English Cocker Spaniel
One of the oldest breeds of land spaniel dog, the English Cocker Spaniel, dates back to the 14th century. Despite being called the English Cocker Spaniel, the breed’s origins lie in Spain. All types of land spaniels were categorized under the same breed before the 17th century.
Back then, larger spaniel dogs would be used to help humans hunt by the springing game from their hiding places, while the smaller dogs would help with woodcocks. The uses for these two sizes of the breed is where the separation between a “Springer” dog and a “Cocker” came from… The two breeds wouldn’t be divided in Great Britain’s Kennel club until 1892.
Come the 1930s, the Cocker Spaniel was the most popular breed of dog in the country, and it would remain as such for nearly 20 years. During this time, Americans attempted to breed their version of the English Cocker into existence, using the same breeding stock but aiming to create a dog more suitable for being a human’s companion at home rather than a hunting dog.
This is where things get a bit confusing for the Cocker Spaniel breed. The American Kennel Club lists all Cocker Spaniel dog types under one category – “Cocker Spaniel.” Under this category, the three varieties of the spaniel breed exist. However, what is known as the “Cocker Spaniel” in the U.S., is known as the “American Cocker Spaniel” in the rest of the world because the English Cocker Spaniel is considered the true “Cocker Spaniel” everywhere else.
Even though they barely separate the variations of this breed, the American Kennel Club does have two documents for the breed standards of what they call the “English Cocker Spaniel” and the “Cocker Spaniel”. There is also a separate English Cocker Spaniel Club of America alongside the regular Cocker Spaniel Club.
But, back to the English Cocker Spaniels. Often described as “merry” dogs, the breed was recognized by the AKC in 1946, which is around the time British breeders started dividing their spaniel dogs into their own breeds. These breeds were noted from the original land and water spaniels: English Springer, Welsh Springer, Cocker, Field, Sussex, Clumber, and Irish Water Spaniel.
Interesting Facts About this Breed
- English cocker Spaniels are taller than they are long.
- They have strong hunting instincts.
- Despite those instincts, English Cocker Spaniels are heavily affectionate and unwaveringly loyal.
- They’re good at being watchdogs but too small to do much protecting.
- A litter of Cocker Spaniels can produce varying sizes of pups.
- The American variant is more popular in America, while the English Cocker Spaniel is popular everywhere else.
Appearance and Physical Characteristics
For this breed, the male and female tend to be around the same weight, while their height can be slightly different. For example, a male English cocker Spaniel has an average height that is one inch higher than a female from the same breed.
English Cocker Spaniels are considered medium-sized dogs. When an English cocker Spaniel puppy is born, it will have the potential to be several different sizes as it grows. Spaniel puppies have been like this for years, so don’t worry if you have a couple of larger or smaller pups in the same litter. For extremely small pups that seem to be struggling, consider seeking veterinary advice.
Coat Colors and Markings
For coat colors and markings, we turn to the official breed standard as set out by the American Kennel Club. This sets the standard for any English Cockers that are registered with the AKC to take part in their dog shows.
Almost 20 different coat color variations are accepted by the AKC. We won’t list them all here, but they include unique colors and combinations such as Lemon Roan, Blue Roan and Tan, and Liver and White.
The list of acceptable markings is much smaller: Ticked, White markings, and Tan markings. This also explains why white and tan appear so often in the full list of accepted coat colors.
As for the dog’s coat, expect an English Cocker to have a silky coat of medium length. Coats are often longer if the pup takes part in dog shows, while English cockers that are in dog sports will be groomed to have shorter coats for their safety.
Cocker Spaniel Temperament
Because the English Cocker Spaniel has a more sensitive temperament than other dogs, it’s important to realize that they won’t respond to a harsh trainer or owner. Other dogs may appreciate a firm hand, but the spaniel family requires kindness and a gentle touch. You’ll get the best out of your dog if you use positive reinforcement during training, and they’ll learn much faster, too!
At times, it may seem difficult to keep a cool head around your English cocker. This is because they can be pretty mischievous when they want to be and they really like to chew things. You can curb this kind of behavior by taking your English Cocker Spaniel dog to be professionally trained and ensuring that they have a good range of interactive and stimulating dog toys at home.
English Cocker Spaniels are considered high-energy dogs. They’re constantly ready to go, love to play, and are great family pets for want-to-be dog owners out there who live active lifestyles. This dog breed is not for the inactive household. The English Cocker Spaniel requires a lot of attention and playtime throughout the day, as well as a significant amount of exercise. Sharing these responsibilities out with other family members is the best way to handle a high-energy dog like this.
We would recommend socializing English Cocker Spaniel puppies as soon as possible. Like every other dog, the earlier you start introducing puppies to other people and pets, the better. Do remember to allow your new litter time to spend with each other and their mother first, though. Your socialization goals should never get in the way of a puppy’s development and they can start their own socializing with their littermates before you whisk them off to socialize elsewhere.
The English Cocker Spaniel is a very kind and open dog. They won’t become scared or reserved unless something puts them off about a person or situation. When it comes to having children around your English Cocker Spaniel, you’ll be happy to know that they are will play and play until they get worn out. As with all dogs, we can’t recommend leaving your pup and child alone together, particularly if the child is young and doesn’t understand the limits of your dog.
When deciding whether your child is responsible enough to play with and train your English cocker Spaniel, ask yourself if your child respects your dog’s space and understands when to back off. These two things are crucial because they will prevent any mishaps from occurring.
An English Cocker Spaniel will certainly have no issues keeping kids entertained, after all! They love games and are very fast. It would be easy to build a quick obstacle course or get your children involved in training your dog.
To socialize your dog with your children, use a room in your home that your dog can leave if they want to, and oversee the session to check on both parties throughout. Make sure the child lets the dog come to them, and use treats to help your dog recognize that your child is a positive situation to be around.
Like children, English Cockers don’t have issues with other pets unless they have an issue with them. Introduce your new English Cocker slowly, following the standard protocol for pet introductions. This means starting from behind a closed door and moving slowly through the process to get the dog and other pets to eat in the same room together. The goal is to help your new pet assimilate to your home without stressing any of your pets out.
Once your English Cocker Spaniel has gotten to know your other pets and is showing obvious signs of bonding with them (this can take a couple of weeks), feel free to let them roam the house together.
Caring for Your Cocker Spaniel
You’re in luck. The English Cocker is a particularly adaptable breed who will happily live in just about any size of home, provided that they get outside enough for their daily exercise. If you have an apartment and want to adopt this breed of dog, you need to take into account their high levels of stamina. they need long walks and more than a couple of games of catch to be satisfied.
Caring for your English Cocker Spaniel means understanding that this breed used to be a hunting dog. It’s deep in their instincts, and they love to run, chase, and play their way through the day. To supplement their high-energy lifestyle, they’ll need lots of attention, good food, and maybe even a playmate.
The recommended daily allowance for this breed is approximately 1 to 2 cups of high-quality kibble a day, which should be divided into two meals. However, the amount your dog should eat is based on their height, weight, and activity levels. Always consult the food packaging to find out what each brand recommends when it comes to their own dog food.
Unfortunately, English cocker dogs love to eat and they’re small enough that weight gain will show very quickly. Don’t leave food out for them to graze on and don’t overfeed them. Keep their kibble in a high place or inside a cupboard where they can’t reach it. For multi-dog households, consider feeding your canines in separate rooms if you’re having trouble keeping them out of each other’s food bowls.
In addition, avoid pet store brand dog food. It’s usually full of filler ingredients and won’t meet the nutrition needs that your dog will have throughout its life span.
Daily Exercise Requirements
From approximately 9 weeks to 4 months of age, you’ll see a huge boost in the energy levels of your English Cocker Spaniel puppies. During this time, spend at least 15 to 20 minutes with them outside, and do that three times a day.
Once they’re 4 to 6 months, this can be changed to one good daily walk (around half a mile), as well as any playtime you can spare them in your yard or at a dog park. You can continue these half-mile walks until they’re a year old. After that, you may find that they want to continue their walk for a little longer. Don’t go over a mile a day at first, though. Let them build-up to it.
Grooming Your Cocker Spaniel
Without looking too closely at the grooming needs of a show dog, the Cocker Spaniel dog breed is a dog whose coat will need a bit of attention. Brush your pup’s coat every other day and after any trip to an open field where they might get the great outdoors tangled up in their fur.
You can trim the feathering of your dog’s medium-length coat by yourself or take them to a groomer to have this done. By trimming the ends of their coat, you’ll stop your dog’s fur from dragging on the ground.
English Cockers also need their ears to be cleaned every week with a good dog ear cleaner. You should ask your vet for recommendations or search for brands that are well-reviewed by other dog owners. Because the ears of this breed hang down, they’re more prone to ear infections.
Do Cocker Spaniels Shed a Lot?
Of all of the separate breeds of spaniels, Cockers have a medium level of shedding. You’ll still find dog hair on your clothes and furnishings, but not to an excessive level that becomes frustrating to deal with – like cats.
Common Health Issues
Generally healthy, these curious dogs don’t have a huge number of common health conditions. In fact, most of what you can expect from your adult dog is the same as any other breed… Though there are a couple of extras that you should be on the lookout for.
Congenital Sensorineural Deafness
Found in particolored English Cockers, this condition is present from birth with the degeneration of their hearing progressing to deafness by 4 weeks old.
A disease where the heart becomes distended. It appears to mostly affect solid-colored Cockers of the English variety. Symptoms include weight loss, weakness, abdominal distention, coughing, fainting, and a rapid heartbeat.
Cockers are prone to a range of eye problems. These include Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Cataracts, Glaucoma, and other abnormalities.
An extremely common condition in various dog breeds, this condition is the deformity of their hip joint. Dogs can still lead healthy lives with Hip Dysplasia, but they will need to be more closely monitored and may benefit from various supplements designed to keep dogs’ joints more flexible and healthy.
Kidneys failure occurs between the ages of 9 months and 2 years in English Cockers. Renal Failure has been investigated as one of the potential genetic health problems that English Cockers have.
Training Your Cocker Spaniel
Historically used for dog sports, English Cockers are extremely intelligent pups that are easy to train, but they do have a high prey drive. It’s possible for a dog owner to train their dog out of their old ways of hunting woodcock and other animals, but if you’re struggling to get your dog to leave potential prey alone, you may want to consider seeking the help of a professional trainer.
Small dogs like English Cocker Spaniels are a joy to train because they can’t do much damage if they get overzealous, and they love to learn when they’re being properly rewarded. If you aren’t sure how well a puppy will take their training, look at that puppy’s parents. Dogs share a lot of the same personality traits and abilities through their genetics and upbringing. You may be able to spot an intelligent pup from an early age, or at least tell if they’re going to be a troublemaker.
Remember to employ positive reinforcement in the form of treats, toys, and the way you interact with your dog while training them.
How to Entertain Your Cocker Spaniel
Keeping your English Cocker Spaniel entertained isn’t as hard as it may sound. If you have a fenced yard and a ball or two to play with, you’ve already got everything you need to keep this popular breed happy for half an hour or so. English Cockers are excellent retrievers, likely thanks to their past in dog sports, and they love to play fetch with their owners. You can also use ball-throwing games as part of your dog’s obedience training, teaching them to come back when called, find an object, and give you that object without turning the action into a game of tug of war.
Speaking of tug of war, get yourself a good quality rug toy because there’s nothing a dog with an active prey drive likes more than being on the hunt. Tug helps simulate these instincts in your pup, which may make them feel like they’re out to hunt woodcock just like their ancestors did. Cockers have a delightful personality, and it really lends itself well to great play and obedience sessions, which will make your dog feel like they’re truly bonding with you while they learn.
Of course, you can also take them on a long walk, or meet up with other dog owners at the local dog park. Cocker Spaniels are extremely friendly, even towards strangers. They shouldn’t have many behavioral issues when meeting new people or other breeds of dogs.
Adopt (Don’t Shop)
Instead of buying from a breeder, ask yourself if you’d be happy to adopt an English Cocker Spaniel from a shelter or rescue organization. Thousands of dogs need rehoming every year in the United States, alone. You could try contacting local shelters to see if they have any English Cocker Spaniels that need a new forever home, but you may find that you come across other distinct breeds that catch your attention instead. Where possible, try to visit a shelter and see which dog you connect with. Is their breed really that important in the end?
The English Cocker Spaniel Club of America
This club, dedicated to the wellbeing of English Cocker Spaniels in the U.S., also has an established Health and Rescue Organization that was founded in 2021. The mission of this branch of the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America is to advance the health and welfare of this particular dog breed in the United States, ensuring that there is a focus on the breed’s physical, mental, and social well-being. Part of their purpose is also to provide funding for the rescue and rehabilitation of displaced Cockers.
It is on the website for this branch of the club that you can find information about adopting a dog from their rescue. An adoption contract is signed and there is an interview process, as well as a fee to support the costs of the dog’s care and the rescue program. The fee is between $150 to $500, depending on the age and medical needs of the dog.
Where to Find Cocker Spaniel Puppies
One of the best and safest places to find English Cocker Spaniel puppies is the American Kennel Club’s own marketplace. The AKC Marketplace only lists puppies from registered litters that were submitted by breeders also registered with the organization. Breeders affiliated with the AKC must follow a set of rules and regulations established by the American Kennel Club to become registered breeders, and they must care for and raise the puppies in the manner set out by those rules.
Alternatively, you can look for other reputable breeders online. Avoid marketplaces and social media groups when looking for puppies to purchase. Scammers and backyard breeders are both huge problems in the pet industry, after all.
Depending on their pedigree, the breeder, and some other factors such as coat color, the price of a Cocker Spaniel puppy can range from $800 to $2000. Most puppies average around $1000 each when they’re still young, so an older Cocker Spaniel may cost less – some older puppies can be found for as little as $300.
Q: Why Do Cockers Have Docked Tails?
A: All Cocker Spaniels are born with full-sized tails, so it’s no wonder that people are confused about the docked tail that most of the breed carry around with them. Cockers have their tail docked just days after being born, and the reason is that Cocker Spaniels are often used as working dogs. Docking their tail helps prevent it from being snagged or injured when working outside as hunting dogs, though they are also sometimes docked to adhere to the breed standards of dog shows.
Q: Do Cocker Spaniels Bark a Lot?
A: You can expect a bit of excessive barking with your Cocker Spaniel. The great thing is that this type of barking can be trained out of a dog by taking them to a decent dog trainer and helping them learn when it’s appropriate to bark and when to stop. You’ll be able to teach your dog commands to quiet them down and help them relax, too. Some dogs may also benefit from behavioral training. American Cocker Spaniels are quieter than English Cocker Spaniels.
Q: Are Cocker Spaniel aggressive?
A: Despite the English Cocker Spaniel often being used as a hunting dog, neither breed of Cocker Spaniel is known for being particularly aggressive. They’re actually one of the most intelligent dog breeds out there, and they love to be challenged. These extremely trainable dogs are very unlikely to attack humans or other animals unless they’re provoked into defending themselves.
- English Cocker Spaniel – AKC