These loveable little darlings have carved a place for themselves as the ideal family pet. Their physical beauty remains undeniable. With lush locks, soulful eyes, and a longing expression that can melt the coldest of hearts, the Cocker is canine eye-candy at its best.
While their origins remain unknown, Spaniels receive mention in literature from as early as the 15th century when hunters used them as field hunting dogs. However, we can assume Spaniels were used for game hunting much sooner in Europe.
Before 1892, the only requirement for a “Cocker” spaniel was to be a Springer Spaniel less than 25 pounds. The English Kennel Club did not recognize it as a separate breed, nor did breeders breed dogs specifically to be “Cocker Spaniels.”
An average litter of Springer spaniels produced three types of dogs (springers, Sussex, and cockers), the latter often used for Woodcock hunting, hence the name Cocker (or Cocking) Spaniel.
In the 19th century, the rise of dog shows and Victorian England’s obsession with classification led to designating the various spaniel types as official breeds. Thus, the English Springer Spaniel, Field Spaniel, English Cocker Spaniel, and so on.
Cocker Spaniels Evolved in the US
Later as Cocker Spaniels became more common in the US, a new breed arose, the American Cocker Spaniel. The difference between English and American cocker spaniels is that the latter is more for show than hunting.
As author Jeff Griffen wrote, “the American variety became smaller and more beautiful” while the “English version grew rangier and stronger.” Today, English cocker spaniels more closely resemble their springer spaniel ancestors.
Finally, in 1946, the AKC officially recognized the Cocker Spaniel (the US type and more the focus of this video) and English Cocker Spaniel as separate breeds.
Fun Fact: When Paul Sperry watched his cocker spaniel, Prince, running on ice without a problem, he wondered how the dog’s paws had such excellent traction.
Upon closer inspection, he noticed the dog’s paw pads had wave-like grooves. These groves inspired his 1935 patent for a shoe sole featuring what he called “Razor-Siping.”
Sperry’s Top-Siders became the first boat shoes, boasting excellent traction and white soles that didn’t mark up the boat. Today, one can find Sperrys on and off the deck in several different styles.
Size and Appearance American Cocker Spaniel and English Cocker Spaniel
Few breeds exist as handsome as a well-groomed Cocker Spaniel – the smallest member of the AKC Sporting Group. It boasts a sturdy, compact body and a cleanly chiseled and refined head.
The Cocker Spaniel’s gorgeous, thick, sometimes wavy coat lies short on the head and back while long on the ears, chest, belly, and legs. The coat has a solid color (black or light cream to red to brown) or parti-color (two or more colors, one white).
While the English Cocker Spaniel weighs between 26 and 35 pounds and stands 14-17 inches tall at the shoulder, the smaller American Cocker Spaniel weighs between 15 and 31 pounds and stands about 14 to 16 inches. It’s a small but noticeable size difference.
Grooming Your Cocker Spaniel
Grooming the Cocker Spaniel’s luxurious coat is no small endeavor. It is potentially expensive, with many families opting to have a professional groomer work their magic every 6-8 weeks at a bare minimum.
Your Cocker Spaniel will require daily brushing to keep its coat tangle-free.
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Scientists now know that dogs can identify cancerous samples by scent, although they are still unsure what the dogs are smelling. Scientists confirmed the idea with a study done with six dogs in England in 2004. In that study, a Cocker Spaniel named Tangle had the best success rate at detecting cancer, with 56 percent accuracy. Researchers continued to work with Tangle, and his success rate improved to a whopping 80 percent.
Temperament Family Life
The Cocker Spaniel is a gentle, loving, and trustworthy family companion who is good with children, other pets, and the elderly.
However, the Cocker has a reputation as a sensitive dog, mentally and physically. It has a “soft” personality and doesn’t respond well to harsh treatment, sometimes turning to growling or snapping when in pain or afraid. Which also means the Cocker may best suit older children than smaller ones.
Early socialization and training are essential in teaching the Cocker appropriate manners. The Cocker needs careful and kindly handling to bring out the best in its personality.
Cocker Spaniel Trainability and Intelligence
According to canine psychologist Stanley Coren, like most Spaniels, both the American and English Cocker Spaniels are highly intelligent dogs. For obedience and working intelligence, the English Cocker Spaniel is the 20th smartest dog breed, whereas the American Cocker Spaniel is 23rd.
Coupled with the Cocker’s desire to please, you have a relatively easy dog to train, as long as you begin training early and socialize it as a puppy. If not, they can become stubborn or overly sensitive.
Be gentle, and use calm repetition of commands, rather than reprimanding them when they don’t respond right away. They don’t have the longest attention span. So short, fun sessions a few times a day will provide better results than longer sessions.
Cocker Spaniels make excellent therapy dogs because of their loving nature. Nursing homes and other medical institutions enjoy having dogs come in and visit the people, especially the ever-friendly Cocker Spaniels.
Cocker Spaniel Exercise Needs
Cocker Spaniels are very energetic, making them very active and playful dogs. They love hiking, swimming, or participating in any activity their family engages in.
Their small size and adaptable nature make them suitable for apartment living if they get enough time to exercise outdoors. Long daily walks will work, but more vigorous exercise can make a happier, calmer dog. Cocker Spaniels are natural retrievers and love to fetch any chance they get. Keeping your Cocker Spaniel active and engaged is vital, or you may end up with a fully bored Cocker. Never go fully bored Cocker.
Health and Lifespan
The Cocker Spaniel generally lives between 12 to 15 years, about average for a dog its size. In general, the Cocker is a healthy dog, but they are prone to specific ailments like any breed.
Some serious health problems affecting the breed include progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, patellar luxation, and glaucoma. Diseases like elbow dysplasia, gastric torsion, and epilepsy can occasionally affect the breed as well.
The Cocker Spaniel is just one of the Spectacular Spaniel Breeds. Find out more about some of the other breeds.
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