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Cocker Spaniel

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A highly energetic and playful dog, the cocker spaniel partners athleticism with a friendly nature. Originally working dogs but now hugely popular show dogs and pets, cockers easily capture hearts with their appealing looks and sense of fun. They are good with children and easy to train but require a copious amount of exercise and constant attention.

Which breed group is the cocker spaniel in?

Breed group: none – Gundog

Cocker spaniel breed history

The word spaniel means Spanish dog and it is believed that spaniels originated in Spain. They have been with us for hundreds of years and by the 19th century were divided into two groups – large hunting dogs and smaller companion dogs. The dog that we now know as the cocker was so called because it was skilled at retrieving woodcocks.

The cocker spaniel was first recognised as an individual breed in England during the 1870s. This was largely due the Obo kennel of James Farrow. At that time, any spaniel weighing less than 11kg was considered to be a cocker. The breed was already recognised in America and the dogs were becoming hugely popular across the pond.

A breed standard was established in England in 1885. Cockers have remained working dogs to this day. But they have also proved to be popular pets and have been hugely successful at dog shows including Crufts.

Cocker spaniel breed characteristics

Sturdy and compact, cocker spaniels are bundles of energy and always eager to please. Working cockers tend to be smaller than show dogs and to boast finer coats with less feathering. Their endearing looks are largely due to their square muzzles and they always appear alert. Their long, pendulous ears lie close to their heads and they have toplines which slope gently from their withers to their tails. Cockers benefit from muscular legs, cat-like feet and very waggy tails which are carried level with their bodies.

These characterful little dogs are also notable for their flat, silky coats. Their legs and bodies are feathered and their coats can be wide variety of colours including black, chocolate, golden, liver and orange.

Generally gentle by nature, cocker spaniels are bursting with life and incredibly loyal. They can be sensitive to loud noises and must be given constant stimulation. They are adept at tackling diverse terrain when in the great outdoors and they usually love water.

  • Lifespan: 11-13 years
  • Height: up to 41cm
  • Weight: up to 14.5kg
  • Flat, silky coats in a variety of colours
  • Feathered bodies and legs
  • Compact and sturdy
  • Square muzzles
  • Large, pendulous ears
  • Tails carried level with bodies
  • Energetic
  • Friendly
  • Easily bored
  • Straightforward to train
  • Adaptable

Health issues with cocker spaniels

This appealing breed is known to suffer from several hereditary ad congenital health issues as follows:

  • Cancer
  • Skin allergies
  • Benign tumours
  • Deafness
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Retinal Pigment Epithelial Dystrophy (RPED
  • Primary cataracts
  • Persistent pupillary membrane
  • Distichiasis
  • Entropion
  • Ectropion
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation
  • Canine dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Heart murmurs
  • Familial nephropathy (FN)
  • Acral Mutilation Syndrome

What is the cocker spaniel bred for?

The cocker spaniel was originally bred as a hunting dog and would retrieve ground dwelling birds including quails and woodcocks.

What sort of owners does the cocker spaniel suit?

Playful, full of life and loving, cocker spaniels are wonderful pets and are excellent choices for first time owners. Intelligent dogs, they are easy to train but can require a firm approach to learning. These dogs are easily bored and form strong bonds with people. They are not suited to being left home alone and will become noisy and destructive very quickly. They need a huge amount of exercise and so are happiest with active owners who enjoy very long walks! Cocker spaniels adapt well to apartment life as long as they can spend plenty of time adventuring outdoors.

Tolerant and patient with children, cockers are ideal for family life and can live happily with other animals including cats. They tend to enjoy the company of other dogs as long as they have been socialised from an early age.


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