Cocker Spaniel Dog Breed Information
Cocker Spaniel Puppies: The Cocker Spaniel is primarily a beloved companion dog breed, though he remains a capable bird dog at heart. Beautiful to look at (and labor-intensive to groom), the Cocker’s amenable, cheerful disposition also makes him a treat to have in the family. Nevermore pleased than when he’s pleasing you, he’s as happy to snuggle on the couch with his favorite adults as to romp in the yard with the kids.
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.
Cocker Spaniel Puppies
Before the Golden Retriever and Labrador set the modern bar for the “great with kids” family companion, no breed was more beloved or popular than the Cocker Spaniel. Beautiful, sweet-natured and moderately sized, the Cocker’s popularity bounded happily forward after World War II with the two-time Westminster Best in Show winner Ch. My Own Brucie. At his best, the Cocker is a gentle, affectionate and healthy dog with soft, dark eyes.
Weighing less than 30 pounds (albeit with a tendency to gain more) with a soft, wavy coat in many colors and patterns, long ears and the most expressive eyes in dogdom, the Cocker is an excellent family pet — lively, affectionate, sweet and trainable. But at his worst, he’s a nightmare. Popularity has truly been a curse to the Cocker Spaniel, and he’s one of the favorite breeds of puppy millers, Internet retailers, and pet stores, who sell sad-eyed, floppy-eared, adorable puppies that too often grow up to be unstable, noisy, nervous dogs who are difficult to housetrain and have a tendency to snap and even bite.
If you’re lucky enough to find a puppy from a good breeder, get him off on the right foot with gentle and consistent training right from the start. A well-bred Cocker should be easy to housetrain, happy to be with you, and eager to experience new things even if it means walking on a leash, riding in the car or going to puppy classes.
Because Cocker Spaniels are extremely people-oriented, even the best-bred and socialized dogs tend to be a bit unhappy when left alone. For some, this takes the form of full-blown separation anxiety, with the barking, crying, and destructive behavior that usually accompanies it. Accustom your dog from puppyhood to being left alone from time to time. However, if you expect long hours left on his own to be part of your dog’s usual routine, this is probably not the breed for you.
Cocker Spaniels are typically friendly with other dogs and with cats. They are moderate shedders, and their coats require brushing several times a week. They can also be kept clipped, in which case they’ll need to be professionally or home-groomed every four to six weeks.
While the Cocker Spaniel is on the small side, don’t forget that he is a Sporting breed. Although he doesn’t need the hard-core exercise of some of the other sporting breeds, he still needs to burn off a lot of steam as he could run all day – after all, he’s bred to do so. However, a half-hour walk or a game of fetching the ball once or twice a day is appropriate, although he’d love to go on long walks with you. You could also substitute a solid 15 minutes per day of obedience training, which stimulates his mind as well as his body. He’s a busy little guy, sniffing all day to follow a scent.
The different colors within the breed are considered separate varieties. A Black Cocker includes solid black as well as black and tan. The acronym ASCOB stands for “any solid color other than black,” which can include buff, brown, silver, and so on. The parti-color Cocker is either black and white, brown and white, red and white, or tri-color.
Cocker Spaniels are first and foremost companion dogs and should not live outdoors. They need to live in the house with you and your family.
Other Quick Facts
- Loving, affectionate and gentle, a well-bred Cocker is a terrific family pet and fits comfortably into any size home.
- A poorly bred Cocker is snappy and afraid of people. This breed is one in which it pays to work with a responsible, experienced breeder.
- The Cocker can compete in field trials, hunt tests, obedience, rally, agility, freestyle, and other forms of dog performance activities. He makes a good therapy dog.
- The Cocker tail is typically docked or cut short when puppies are three or four days old. This is a point of controversy to some because it is a cosmetic procedure, although people in the breed note that it helps protect the tail from injury in the field.
- Even well-bred Cockers are sensitive, so it’s important to use positive reinforcement and praise during training.
Working Cocker Spaniel Puppies
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 fieldwork. 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.
- Because Cockers are so popular, it is especially careful to research breeders and find one who is dedicated to improving the breed.
- The sensitive Cocker Spaniel can be a bit nervous, even when he’s from a good breeder and has been properly socialized. Don’t be surprised if your Cocker exhibits submissive urination (peeing when excited).
- Cockers can be barkers, so the response to a “Quiet” command should always be part of this dog’s repertoire.
- 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.
Cocker Spaniel Puppies Health
Cockers are generally healthy, but, like all breeds of dogs, they’re prone to certain conditions and diseases.
- Eye problems can strike the Cocker in a number of ways, including progressive retinal atrophy, a degenerative disease of the retinal cells that progresses to blindness; cataracts, a cloudy film that forms over the eye; glaucoma, a condition in which pressure builds up inside of the eyeball; and eye abnormalities. If you notice any redness in your Cocker’s eyes, or if he starts rubbing his face a lot, take him to the vet for a checkup.
- Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) is a condition in which a dog’s immune system attacks its own blood cells. Symptoms include pale gums, fatigue, and sometimes jaundice. A swollen abdomen is also indicative since it signals an enlarged liver. Most affected Cockers do well with treatment, but they should not be bred.
- Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland that’s thought to cause conditions such as epilepsy, hair loss, obesity, lethargy, dark patches on the skin, and other skin conditions. It’s treated with medication and diet.
- Primary seborrhea is a skin problem caused by the overproduction of skin cells, including the sebaceous (oil) cells. The skin becomes greasy and scaly and has a foul odor. Treatments include medication and medicated baths.
- Allergies are a common ailment in dogs, and Cockers can be especially prone to them. The three main types are food allergies, which are treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog’s diet; contact allergies, which are caused by a reaction to a topical substance such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos and other chemicals; and inhalant allergies, which are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, mildew. Treatment varies according to the cause and may include dietary restrictions, medications, and environmental changes.
- Idiopathic epilepsy is often inherited and can cause mild or severe seizures. It’s important to remember that seizures can be caused by many other things than idiopathic epilepsy, such as metabolic disorders, infectious diseases that affect the brain, tumors, exposure to poisons, severe head injuries, and more. Therefore, if your dog has seizures, it’s important to take him to the vet right away for a checkup.
- Canine hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that can cause pain and lameness. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you’re buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
- Patellar luxation involves dislocation (luxation) of the kneecap (patella). In this condition the knee joint (often of a hind leg) slides in and out of place, causing pain. This can be crippling.
Cocker Spaniel PuppiesCare
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.
There are few breeds as handsome as the well-groomed Cocker Spaniel. His thick, sometimes wavy coat is short on the head and back and long on the ears, chest, belly, and legs. The coat is a solid color (black or light cream to red to brown), or parti-color (two or more colors, one of which is white).
Grooming is an intense — and potentially expensive — proposition for the Cocker Spaniel. Most owners opt to have a professional groomer bathe, brush, and trim their dogs’ coats every six to eight weeks, and prices are high for this time-intensive breed. Daily brushing at home is also necessary to keep the coat free of tangles and mats. If you are hesitant about a breed that requires substantial grooming, the Cocker is not for you.
Some owners opt to clip the coat short to make care easier. Even so, trimming and bathing every six to eight weeks is necessary to keep the Cocker clean and the coat short.
The Cocker Spaniel must be introduced to grooming early so he will grow up to accept it as a normal part of his life. Given his sensitive personality, an early introduction is advisable so that he learns to accept the handling, brushing, noise of electric clippers, scissoring, ear cleaning, and all the rest of the tasks involved in keeping him looking good.
Unfortunately, the Cocker has a reputation with groomers (and veterinarians) as being less than cooperative. This touchy attitude usually stems from a lack of training to accept handling. Positive, kind lessons on how to act on the grooming table or at the veterinarian’s office are needed.
The nails need to be trimmed once a month (or at grooming sessions), and the ears checked once a week for dirt, redness, or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. The Cocker Spaniel is prone to ear infections, so it’s essential to be vigilant. Wipe the ears out weekly with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to prevent problems.
It also helps to use deep, narrow bowls for the Cocker’s food and water. This way he can eat and drink without getting his ears damp or soiled with food. Some owners even put a snood on the Cocker while he eats, for extra ear protection.