Breed of the Month: American Cocker Spaniel

Attentive Cocker Spaniel

Description: The Cocker Spaniel is a medium sized dog and is the smallest of the Spaniel family. It has a broad and deep muzzle with an upturned nose and long and low-set ears. The Cocker has large, round, dark colored eyeballs. The legs are straight and tail is most always docked. The coat comes in a wide variety of colors from all black, tan, red, brown, and nearly any color combination with or without white accents.

History: The Spaniel family of dogs can trace their ancestry back to the mid 1300’s where selective breeding divided the Spaniels into water and land Spaniels. In 1620 the first Spaniel made its way to America with the pilgrims on the voyage of the Mayflower.

Back in England in 1801, a new breed of Spaniel was being bred for purposes of flushing and retrieving small game birds called woodcock, leading to the name, the “Cocker Spaniel.” In 1878, a dog named Captain was recorded as the first Cocker Spaniel in America, and was registered by the American Kennel Club. Shortly thereafter in 1881, the American Cocker Spaniel Club was formed. By the 1920’s the American Cocker Spaniel, with its smaller size and softer coat, became a visibly different breed from that of its cousin, the English Cocker Spaniel.

From 1940 to 1952, the Cocker Spaniel was the most popular dog in America. The breed again saw a swell in popularity and was the most owned breed in America from 1984 to 1990 but has since decreased in popularity.

Size: Males: 14–15.5 inches at the withers, weighing 15-30 pounds. Females: 13–14.5 inches at the withers, weighing 15–30 pounds.

Temperament: These dogs are very friendly and happy dogs and always seem to possess a wagging tail. They can be good family dogs if they realize their place within the family pack. The Cocker Spaniel can live comfortably in an apartment if properly exercised. This breed has a lot of stamina and requires exercise in order to avoid a racing mind and behavior problems. While this breed is moderately easy to train, they can have a hard time being housebroken. If the socialization, exercise, and training needs are not met, the Cocker can tend to aggressively guard objects, bark excessively, and roam. However, if the Cocker Spaniel is trained and understands his place in family pack, it will be a great addition to any family.

Grooming: The Cocker Spaniel often tears and their eyes should be wiped frequently. Daily to weekly brushing is required to maintain the Cocker Spaniels beautiful coat. Within the Cocker Spaniel breed there are field lines and show lines which have shorter and longer coats, respectively. Shorter coats are more practical for the hunting purposes of the field lines. Their fur is silky smooth and lays flat or is slightly waved.

Health: Main health concerns are cataracts, glaucoma, and patellar luxation, also known as a dislocated knee cap. Cocker Spaniels may also possess a trait which can lead to progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) which is characterized by progressive loss of vision. Unfortunately there is no cure or treatment for this disease. Also ear infections and hip dysplasia may affect this breed.

Lifespan: 10 – 13 years. The English Cocker Spaniel tends to live an average of one year longer than the American Cocker Spaniel.

Trivia: Popular Cocker Spaniels: Sophie and Soloman,  Oprah Winfrey’s dogs. Checkers, Richard Nixon’s dog. Feller, Harry S. Truman’s dog. Lady of the classic Disney film, Lady and the Tramp was an American Cocker Spaniel as well as the iconic Coppertone dog seen in advertisements for the sunscreen.