American Cocker Spaniels are happy, lively, and extremely friendly little dogs. They love people and are ecstatic at making new friends. The American Cocker Spaniel is the smallest dog in the American Kennel Club’s Sporting group, alongside dogs such as retrievers, pointers, and of course, the rest of the spaniels.
There isn’t just one type of Cocker Spaniel, though there are two; the English and the American Cocker Spaniel. Outside of the United States, i.e., the rest of the world, the dog is the American Cocker Spaniel; however, the Americans call them the Cocker Spaniel. The reverse is true of the English Cocker Spaniel.
I will refer to the dog as Cocker Spaniel for the rest of this article; hopefully, there’s no confusion. Cockers make brilliant family dogs; they love children; however, they are smallish dogs, so older children brought up with dogs or their parents have educated them about dogs are perhaps better suited to the Cocker Spaniel.
If you love your dog to be like a “second skin,” then a Cocker would make the ideal choice because your Cocker won’t be far behind wherever you go. If you live in an apartment or small house, a Cocker will make an excellent companion for you, they must get outside for exercise, but as long as you take them for a few walks each day, they’ll be more than happy.
Cocker Spaniel Characteristics
- Playful, affectionate, faithful, quiet, trainable, and friendly
- 10 to 14 years
- Males up to 15.5 inches
- Females up to 14.5 inches
- Males up to 30 pounds
- Females up to 25 pounds
- Long, silky double coat
- Brown roan and tan, buff and white, silver, red and white, red, buff, brown white and tan, brown and white, brown, black white and tan, black and white, black and tan, and black
- Above average
Excellent dog for:
- Children, singles, seniors, and families
American Cocker Spaniel History
Spaniels have been around for thousands of years; the name spaniel seems to originate from Spain (Hispania). Although there’s no definitive evidence, it’s thought that Julius Caesar brought spaniels to Britain when he invaded in 54 BC. What is known for sure is Spaniels have been incredibly popular in England since the time of William Chaucer, 1342 to 1400. Chaucer wrote stories that included Spaniels, as did William Shakespeare two hundred years later.
As most dogs were in those days, Spaniels were working dogs and earned their keep by flushing game for hunters. By the 1600s, breeders had split spaniels into two groups, one specialized in water retrieval and the other on land. English Water Spaniels would retrieve any waterfowl that had the misfortune of getting in the way of the hunter’s arrows.
Land spaniels themselves were also split into two groups one group was known as setters whose job was to point the game for hunters to capture the birds in nets. The second type was springers. Their job entailed springing pheasants, partridges, and rabbits from hiding.
Once firearms became the preferred way to hunt, spaniels were re-trained to become gun dogs. Springing type spaniels became the foundation of all spaniels to follow. Every springer litter born would be divided by size only. Larger dogs became springers; medium-sized became a Sussex spaniel, and the smallest pups Cocker Spaniels. All this became confusing because a dog could enter a show as a Cocker only to enter the following year as a springer when fully grown.
In 1892 the English Kennel Club recognized the Cocker Spaniel at the same time introducing a weight classification. Dogs under 25Lbs became Cockers, and over 25 Lbs became Springers. Up until the 1930s, American and English Cocker Spaniels were the same dog. However, around this time, American breeders wanted to change the standard of the Cocker to be more of a smaller family/show dog with a longer coat and not so much a working dog as the English Cocker Spaniel. The AKC recognized the Cocker Spaniel in 1878 and is the 30th most popular dog in America.
American Cocker Spaniel Temperament
The typical American Cocker Spaniel is lively, outgoing, and sweet-natured, and most are precisely that. However, because of over proliferation and bad breeding by disreputable breeders, some American Cocker Spaniels display some unpleasant neurotic behavior, and some can be downright nasty.
You must choose your breeders very carefully. Try to get breeder recommendations from professional organizations that know these breeders well. Even if you have to put your name down and wait several months for a puppy, please take my word for it; you will save a lot of unnecessary heartache and what might also turn out to be hefty medical bills.
Once you’ve chosen your puppy and brought your new fur family home, ensure your next step is to enroll the puppy in obedience and socialization classes. When you socialize correctly, puppies grow into well-adjusted, friendly, and lovable dogs. Socialization will also prepare your puppy to be around other animals, people and children without being nervous or anxious.
American Cocker Spaniels generally love to please their human family and are therefore pretty easy to train; however, they can be stubborn little guys at times, so owners will need to be patient and kind. Lots of praise and occasional treats work wonders, not harsh commands or punishment.
Where their breeding is suspect, some Cockers are way too submissive. This behavior can manifest in uncontrolled urination when the dog is anxious or afraid. It’s very wise not to confuse this with toilet training. Over time if you treat the dog with kindness and understanding, they will more than likely grow out of it, especially if you don’t punish them.
American Cocker Spaniel Care
American Cockers aren’t big dogs, so they’re at home in a small house or apartment, providing they get exercise several times every day. Suppose you live in a larger home with a backyard, better still. As long as the yard is secure, your Cocker Spaniel can spend time outside playing and burning off their excess energy. However, Cocker Spaniels shouldn’t be left outside on their own. They thrive being around their family and typically will follow their humans around everywhere they go.
Even though the American Cocker Spaniel is not as prey-driven as their English cousins, they still have some prey drive and will chase after small creatures, given half a chance. So, to help them physically and mentally, enroll your Cocker in canine sports. The dog excels at agility and obedience competitions.
Cocker Spaniel Grooming
Grooming is not something you can take lightly when you have a Cocker Spaniel. There is a massive amount of work involved, especially if you want your Cocker to look its best at all times. You’ll need to either trim their hair or take them to a professional groomer every six to eight weeks.
Cockers shed above average amounts, and if you don’t want loose hairs on your furnishings, clothes, and carpets, you’ll need to brush your dog every day. If the thought of all this grooming and expense, if doing it yourself, puts you off, a Cocker Spaniel is the wrong choice of dog breed.
If you’re not too fussy about the Cocker having long hair, one suggestion is to give them a puppy cut. You can teach yourself how to do this cut; there are plenty of Youtube videos demonstrating how to trim a Cocker this way. You’ll still need to trim every six to eight weeks, but you’ll manage it yourself, and once you’ve got confidence using the electric trimmer, you’ll do great.
American Cocker Spaniel Common Health Problems
Every dog breed suffers from genetic illnesses, and the Cocker Spaniel, unfortunately, is no exception. Whenever you buy any puppy, a professional and reputable breeder should furnish you with health clearance certificates for genetic illnesses the breed is susceptible to; I say, reputable breeders. If the breeder you have chosen refuses to show you the clearance certificates for the parents, you should run a mile in the opposite direction. All American Cocker Spaniels in a breeding program should be screened for hip dysplasia and eye health before they are allowed to breed.
The recommended tests you should request details on are hip x-rays by the (OFA) Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and eye examinations carried out by a board-certified opthalmologist. Every reputable breeder will be fully aware of what’s necessary and should be able to produce these documents.
Fun Facts About The American Cocker Spaniel
- Cocker Spaniels are one of the nine original breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club.
- Cocker Spaniels are in the Sporting Group and are also the smallest dog in the group.
- Oprah Winfrey is the proud owner of two Cocker Spaniels.
- One of the most popular so-called designer breeds is a mix of Cocker Spaniel and Poodle – Cockapoo.
- In 1939 CH My Own Brucie won Best American Bred in Show at the Westminster Dog Show. This little Cocker Spaniel was so loved by Americans all over the country when he died, his obituary was published by the New York Times.