English Cocker Spaniel

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Get the facts about the delightful English Cocker Spaniel in our complete 101 guide.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
12 to 14 years
Size:

Small

Maintenance Level:

High

Shed Level:

High

Temperament:
PeppyAffectionateFaithful
Coat Color:
Parti-coloredBlackLiverRed

Best For

English Cocker Spaniels are best for active pup parents, either singles or families with children and other dogs and those who are willing to brush—and brush—lots of fur.

English Cocker Spaniel Traits

What makes the English Cocker Spaniel an English Cocker Spaniel? Let's find out how they stack up.

English Cocker Spaniel Temperament

The English Cocker Spaniel temperament is truly delightful as this little pup is eager to learn and please. With a playful personality and loads of smarts, an English Cocker pup gets along well with other dogs in the home and can even mix with cats.

And if you’re thinking of adding an English Cocker Spaniel to the mix with kids, you can rest easy. Biting and aggressive tendencies aren’t expected or the norm with this sweet breed. English Cocker pets aren’t huge barkers and can live well in small homes and apartments, which means your neighbor won’t bang on the wall to complain. (Instead, she’ll ask to come over and pet your pretty pooch!)

Still, as with all dogs, early socialization is a must. If you start early, you’ll get your pup used to their new environment, which means they’ll react in a friendly way in unfamiliar situations, with strangers and other canines. In general, the English Cocker Spaniel puppy is typically easy to train since they’re both motivated and intelligent.

As a long-time member of the Sporting group of dogs, the English Cocker Spaniel worked hard alongside bird hunters as they hunted woodcock to flush game from dense underbrush. This means playing fetch in the backyard is a walk in the park for this energetic animal. First-time pet parents won’t struggle much to teach and train their English Cocker Spaniel puppy as their years of service and can-do attitude make learning a pleasure.

How to Care for a English Cocker Spaniel

The English Cocker Spaniel breed is one high-maintenance pooch, and they’re worth it. Their coat will lead you down the brush and comb aisle at the pet store in order to maintain their luscious locks. And their exercise needs aren’t too far behind in terms of a time commitment. But this just gives you ample time to bond with your loving and adorable pup.

English Cocker Spaniel Health

English Cocker Spaniels have a lifespan of 12 to 14 years, but as with any breed, are prone to some health issues. Some are genetic in nature, and responsible breeders will test their pups and parents to ensure these health problems are not passed to the next generation.

  • Ear Infections: Because the English Cocker’s ears are so long and floppy, they may drag and collect dirt and debris, which could lead to an infection. Check the ears weekly and note any signs of pain such as whining, head shaking, odor or crustiness. Your vet may prescribe a special ear cleanser and/or topical or oral medication to treat the infection.
  • Hip Dysplasia: This genetic condition is a malformation of the hip joint and occurs when the ball of the hip doesn’t sit well in the socket. Lameness and pain may be apparent, but treatment with surgery is possible.
  • Patellar Luxation: A knee cap that slips or “floats” rather than sits snugly in the joint is called patellar luxation, and it may cause your pup to limp or hold the leg up when walking. Medication may be prescribed, but in some dogs, surgery is recommended.
  • Eye Disease: PRA, or progressive retinal atrophy, is an eye condition that may develop in English Cocker Spaniels, leading the retina to degrade and resulting in blindness. While there’s currently no cure, many dogs adjust rather well to sight loss.
  • Kidney Failure: Also known as familial nephropathy, this congenital malformation prevents the kidneys from excreting waste, causing your dog to exhibit increased thirst, weight loss, poor appetite and vomiting. While no cure is available, treatment includes fluid therapy and antibiotics to manage the condition.
  • Adult Onset Neuropathy: AON, a hereditary disorder, is a type of progressive weakness and may lead your pup to wobble when walking. This condition also has no cure, but supportive care is available so that your dog can remain comfortable.

English Cocker Spaniel History

As some of the oldest dogs in the American Kennel Club’s Sporting group, spaniels, along with setters, pointers and retrievers, were bred to assist bird hunters, mostly those hunting grouse and woodcock. The English Cocker Spaniel’s history has its origin in England and was developed hundreds of years ago from dogs with Spanish roots—hence the name “spaniel,” which comes from the word “Spanish.”

Of the various spaniel types, each had their own role to perform during the bird hunt, including water and land spaniels and springer spaniels and field spaniels. English Springer Spaniels and Cocker Spaniels were originally the same dog. Springers were the larger pups of the litter and were used to spring (flush) birds from the brush. The English Cocker Spaniels were the smaller pups of the litter, and their mission was to flush out woodcock, a quail-like bird, from its hiding place in dense thickets.

In the early 20th century, American breeders decided to create their own Cocker Spaniel, albeit a smaller one with a rounded, shorter head and a more lavish coat. In 1946, the AKC recognized both the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker as separate breeds.

Today’s English Cocker has left birding behind and lives the good life as a popular family pet. If you’d like to purchase an English Cocker Spaniel breed, the AKC lists breeder information. Typically English Cocker Spaniel puppy prices run between $1,200 and $1,500. But for that price, you’re likely getting a pup who’s been screened for health and temperament issues and may come with pedigree papers. You can also contact the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America for information on rescuing a pup or you can keep an eye out for the breed at your local shelter.

FAQs

What is the difference between English and American Cocker Spaniels?

The difference between the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel comes down to their size, head shape and the amount of fur they have. American Cockers were developed as a smaller companion to the English dog breed with a shorter head, a more rounded skull and a more abundant coat. In 1946, the AKC recognized the English Cocker and the American Cocker as separate breeds.

How long do English Cocker Spaniels live?

English Cocker Spaniels live on average between 12 to 14 years, which means a puppy can grow up to become a faithful pal for your children from kindergarten through the high school years.

Are English Cocker Spaniels good family dogs?

Yes, the English Cocker Spaniel makes a wonderful family pet, especially when early socialization is in place. As an easy-to-train breed, this canine cutie is also quite friendly and gets along well with children and other animals in the home.

Do English Cocker Spaniels bark a lot?

An English Cocker Spaniel’s barking level is moderate, which means this pup won’t be the loudest one in the dog run. Still, every animal lets out a yip or three when startled or excited, so stick to consistent training to modulate your English Cocker’s barking tendency.

Do English Cocker Spaniels shed?

Yes, English Cocker Spaniels shed a lot. With such a profuse coat comes a high level of shedding, so be ready to brush your English Cocker Spaniel every week or more to maintain the glossy sheen and remove knots and matted fur.

What are the most common English Cocker Spaniel mixes?

The most common English Cocker Spaniel breed mixes are:

  • English Cocker Spaniel-Poodle mix
  • English Cocker Spaniel-Golden Retriever mix
  • English Cocker Spaniel-Labrador mix
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Top Takeaways

An English Cocker Spaniel’s qualities are numerous indeed, from their shiny coat and delicious droopy ears to their readiness to frolic and play in any type of setting. As long as you’re game to brush (and brush!) their long fur and give a doggy hair cut now and then, your efforts will be rewarded with loads of love and sloppy kisses.

Expert input provided by veterinarian Stephanie Liff, DVM, of Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York City and Russell Harstein, certified dog behavior consultant and trainer in Los Angeles and founder of Fun Paw Care.

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