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Family gundog, spaniel
Life Span 12-15 years
Avg Size of Male: 14.5 – 15.5 inches, Weight: 24 – 28 pounds
Avg Size of Female: 13.5 – 14.5 inches, Weight: 24 – 28 pounds
Original Function: bird flushing and retrieving
Overall Rating (out of 5)
Playful and sweet, the American cocker spaniel is known as the "merry" cocker. It is a breed that is happy to please its family. It is very good with children and friendly to other pets. Socialization at an early age is suggested to help prevent timidity.

The Cocker Spaniel originated in the United Kingdom and was brought to Canada and the United States in the late 1800's. Cockers were given their own AKC Stud Book in the early 1900's. By 1946, the English Cocker Spaniel was distinct enough in type from the "American" variety, that the American Kennel Club established it as a breed separate from the Cocker Spaniel. It was given its own Stud Book and that left the "American" type to be known as the Cocker Spaniel in the United States.

The signature trait of the Cocker Spaniel is is its dark, expressive eyes that reflect a happy, loving, and active nature. Cockers are a dropped eared breed (pendulous ears)and the mature Cocker is shown in a full feathered, silky coat. After its show career ends, the fur is is often trimmed into a "puppy cut," shortened on the legs, sides and belly, that is easier to keep whether as a pet, performance dog, or hunting companion. It is important to keep the hair clipped from both sides of the ear about one third down the ear flap. This helps to keep air flowing through the ear canal and reduce risk of ear infections from bacteria, injury or parasites.

Cockers weigh an average of 15 to 30 pounds. The ideal height of an adult female at the withers is 14 inches; the ideal height for males is 15 inches. An adult male who is under 14.5 inches, or an adult female under 13.5 inches would be penalized in a show. Bone and head size should be in proportion to the overall balance of the dog.

Cockers are divided by the breed standard into three varieties: Black, ASCOB (Any Solid Color Other than Black),and Parti-colors. Black Variety includes, solid blacks, black and tan. ASCOB includes solid colors ranging from light cream (buff) to dark red and brown. Panti-colors have white spots and must be have at maximum 10% coloration. Tri-colors have white spots and are considered panti-colors. They include, black, tan and white, brown, tan and white, and red, tan and white (often difficult to discern because the tan is difficult to distinguish from the red.) Roans are shown in the Parti-color variety and can be black with white hairs mingled among the solids, or red with white hairs. Sable coloring is seen in solids or Parti-colors, but are not a recognized color by the American Spaniel Club.


Their temperament is typically joyful, trusting, and intelligent. The ideal Cocker temperament is merry, outgoing, and eager to please everyone. They tend to be "softer" dogs who do not do well with rough or harsh training. The popularity of the American Cocker Spaniel led to a considerable amount of irresponsible breeding in an attempt to keep up with the demand. They are all different colors including black and white. The results have included fearful or aggressive behavior in some of the dogs, submissive urination, and resource guarding. Responsible breeders have worked diligently to eliminate these negative characteristics while trying to educate the public regarding responsible breeding. Temperament of the American Cocker Spaniel should always be the primary concern when breeding these dogs. As with all puppies, owners are advised to choose their breeder carefully.


The coat care of the cocker spaniel can be time consuming. If the dog is not going to be shown, the coat can be clipped short for easy care. In cases where the coat is not clipped, the dog must be brushed or combed three times a week in order to maintain a nice coat. Professional clipping and scissoring every two to three months is also suggested. If the coat is left long, debris can become tangled. Bathe as necessary. Be sure to pay special attention to the cleanliness of the ears and eyes. This breed is considered to be an average shedder. While it loves to romp and play, the American cocker can meet its exercise needs with a long daily walk on leash. Be sure to provide enough exercise for this lively dog, because it may have a tendency to become overweight. Apartment dwelling is fine for this breed as long as it gets enough exercise. It is quite active indoors, and a small yard is suggested.


Cocker Spaniels are susceptible to a variety of maladies, particularly infections affecting their ears and, in some cases, their eyes. As a result, they may require more medical attention than some other breeds. Common eye problems in Cockers include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), glaucoma, and cataracts. The American Spaniel Club recommends annual eye exams by a veterinary ophthalmologist for all dogs used for breeding. Autoimmune problems in Cockers include autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) and ear inflammations. Less common are luxating patellas and hip dysplasia. Dogs used for breeding can be checked for both of these conditions, and dogs free of hip dysplasia can be certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).


Cocker Spaniels are the smallest of the sporting spaniels. Their name cocker is commonly held to stem from their use to hunt woodcock in England, but today this breed is used to hunt a variety of upland gamebirds and water fowl.

In the United States the breed is known officially by the [American Kennel Club], as the Cocker Spaniel. Outside the US, it is often referred to as the American Cocker Spaniel, but it was the creation of the English Cocker Spaniel that triggered the breed split in the 1930's.

On June 20, 1936 a group of English Cocker fanciers met at the home of Mr. And Mrs. E. Shippen near Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. They formed a specialty club for English Cocker Spaniels known as the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America. After this meeting, AKC recognized the "English" variety and people began to import Cockers bred in England, to the United States more frequently.

By 1938, 24 Cockers had completed their championships from the "English" classes, but six of them were American-bred Cockers and only one of those had an English import in the first five generations of their pedigrees. There was an advantage in the point system then to show in the English-variety classes. For instance, in California, a male ECS had to defeat five other dogs to earn a five point major; a solid Cocker male (American type) had to win over 19 dogs to win the same major, and some people used the advantage, after all, the types were bred together and a litter could have both varieties and all were registered as "Cocker Spaniels."

Then in 1938, the ECSCA Board of Directors met at Giralda Farms, Madison, New Jersey, and Mrs. Geraldine Dodge made the motion that the owners of ECS studs would not allow them to be bred to American type bitches as a policy and requirement of membership in the ECSCA.

They also resolved to object to showing American type Cockers in English Cocker classes and went on to define an English Cocker Spaniel as "a dog or bitch of the Cocker Spaniel breed whose pedigree can be traced in all lines to dogs or bitches which were registered with the English Kennel Club (or eligible for export pedigree) on or before January 1, 1930." (Jubilee, 1986).

American type Cocker popularity surged during the 1940's and ECS fanciers knew they needed their own AKC Stud Book recognizing the English Cocker Spaniel as a separate breed. Mrs. Dodge began the work of sorting out the pedigrees not only in the United States, but in England and Canada. The project was done by Josephine Z. Rine, Mrs. Dodge's curator of art and former editor of "Popular Dogs."

That accomplished, Mrs. Dodge then began the process with AKC and in June 1946, the English Cocker Spaniel was officially recognized by AKC as a breed different from the Cocker Spaniel. (ECSCA Jubilee, 1986)

Cocker Spaniels and English Cocker Spaniels are the only spaniel breeds allowed to compete together in Cocker Field Trials in the United States. Among the ECS breed, there is a further type distinction of "show bred" and "field bred" that does not exist in the Cocker Spaniel breed.

Today's Cocker Spaniel is as always, a versatile small dog. It remains popular as a pet, but is also known for its workmanlike attributes that make it a stunning show dog, lively companion hunter, competitive gaming dog, or gentle therapy dog.






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