Cocker Spaniels are handsome and intelligent hunting dogs that are also well-suited to life as a loving family pet.
Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club
Cocker Spaniels at a glance
Lovable, loyal, and playful, the Cocker Spaniel dog breed’s temperament is considered one of the most amiable in the canine world. This adaptable breed combines the hardiness of the hunting dog with the sensitivity of the home companion, making them good pets for singles, seniors, and families of all types. With their soulful eyes, floppy ears, and a lush coat that comes in multiple colors and patterns, it’s not surprising that the Cocker Spaniel dog is one of America’s most beloved breeds.
If you’re considering bringing a Cocker Spaniel into your home or you’ve recently discovered your dog is mixed with Cocker Spaniel, we have all the information you need to make informed decisions regarding their care. We’ve included details about this breed’s physical characteristics, playtime needs, grooming tips, nutrition, and more. You’ll also find a comprehensive list of the genetic health risks Embark tests for that’s particularly relevant to this breed.
About Cocker Spaniels
This breed derives from the Spaniel family, originating in Spain with references dating back to the 14th century. By the 1800s, Spaniels were split between toy dogs and large hunting dogs. The Cocker Spaniel was named after its excellence in hunting woodcock. Although Spaniels were located in England for hundreds of years, they were not considered an individual breed until 1892 when the English Kennel Club recognized the Cocker Spaniel as an official breed. However, before this, English Cockers were being imported to America and were recognized by the AKC as an official breed in 1887. It was not until 1936 that they gained recognition by the AKC as English Cocker Spaniels, which were bigger than the American-type Cocker Spaniels. In 1938, a motion was passed not to breed the two types of Spaniels, which finally led to the distinction of Cocker Spaniels as their own breed.
The Cocker Spaniel is a soft and affectionate breed, that appreciates time and attention with the family.
It should be noted that although they thrive on human interaction, the Cocker Spaniel’s hunting instincts can kick in when out exercising so remember to keep them on a leash in a non-enclosed area. Due to their soft and gentle nature, a Cocker Spaniel can easily become nervous in unknown scenarios or with harsher training methods which can result in barking and sometimes submissive urination (be prepared!). The Cocker Spaniel is a visually impressive breed, whose thick and heavy coat requires constant grooming to prevent knots and tangles from developing. It is common for Cocker Spaniels to seek professional assistance in keeping their pooch well-groomed. This beloved family dog ranks as the 30th most popular breed.
Despite being the smallest member of the AKC’s Sporting Group, Cocker Spaniels have a strong, compact body that’s capable of considerable speed and endurance.
Their hair is silky, slightly wavy, and one of their most distinctive qualities. Cocker Spaniel colors are divided into three varieties in the show ring: black, any solid color other than black (like the popular golden Cocker Spaniel), and parti-color. The breed we call Cocker Spaniel in North America is known as the American Cocker Spaniel throughout the rest of the world. Compared to their cousin, the English Cocker Spaniel, this is a small dog breed with a shorter, wider head, fluffier coat.
The Cocker Spaniel tail can be a point of contention. Tail docking is an elective surgery that involves removing a small part of the dog’s tail in order to adhere to a certain standard. The AKC says the practice is “integral to defining and preserving breed character,” but the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) opposes tail docking and some countries have banned the practice.
If you search for Cocker Spaniels for sale online, you might see mini Cocker Spaniels offered. Be aware that miniaturized dogs are often the result of questionable breeding practices and are not recognized by the AKC.
Keep in mind that all dogs are individuals with singular tastes and needs. Finding the right food may require a bit of trial and error. Always look for quality ingredients and avoid additives. It’s important not to overfeed any dog as canine obesity can lead to a host of health problems.
This breed requires regular, thorough brushing a minimum of two to three times a week to avoid tangles and mats, which can hide skin issues that lead to infections. Use a professional-quality metal dog comb to remove loose hair so you can see through to the skin. Never pull tangles with the comb; pick any snarls apart using your fingers. Their pendulous ears are particularly delicate. This kind of dog should have their hair cut and nails clipped monthly.
Exercise and training
Although Spaniels don’t generally have a lot of excess energy to burn off, they do need regular activity to maintain good muscle tone. Regular walks with their people, retrieving a ball, or romping in a fenced-in yard should suffice.
It may come as a surprise the Cocker Spaniels are sporting dogs, whose ability to adapt to household living may deceive you of their impressive agility and obedience skills. They are strong performers in conformation shows, while also capable of fieldwork, portraying their well-rounded nature.
These dogs enjoy learning tricks and the challenge of performance activities. Praise, affection, and treats are key to getting the responses you’re looking for.
Health and aging in Cocker Spaniels
Your best friend can live a full and happy life with the proper care and activity. American Cocker Spaniels have a lifespan of about 10-11 years.
An Embark Dog DNA Test looks at the following health conditions in Cocker Spaniels:
Want to learn more about your dog?
Do you own this kind of dog or do you think your dog might be part Cocker Spaniel? Learn more about your dog with Embark Dog DNA Tests, the most accurate on the market.
Cocker Spaniels on Embark
Explore some Embark dogs that share Cocker Spaniel ancestry.