The Cocker Spaniel dog breed belongs to the Sporting Group, and probably got their name from their role as hunters of woodcock in England where this breed originated. There are two related breeds, one known as the English Cocker Spaniel, and the other, the American Cocker Spaniel which is often referred to as just Cocker Spaniel. These dogs are extremely popular as both family pets and show dogs, but they are good working dogs too.
The original Cocker Spaniel breed from England has been around for about 4-5 centuries. They were working dogs, mainly used as gun dogs to flush out fowl and small game, and probably as retrievers of birds too. The breed bifurcated into the two variants in the late 19th century following its introduction to the United States and its rapid rise in popularity that followed it.
Initially, their main difference was in their sizes, since the American hunters preferred smaller sized dogs for hunting quail. But selective breeding over generations precipitated several differences between the two types, and they were finally accepted as two breeds by AKC. The American Cocker Spaniel remains very popular even today, but they had consistently topped the list of favorites in the mid 20th century.
The American Cocker Spaniel dog breed is the smallest in the Sporting Group, measuring not more than 15 ½ inches at the withers and weighing 30 pounds or less. The dogs have a well proportioned body with long silky hair all over, including the floppy ears. They have a rounded and dome-shaped head, a feature that distinguishes this breed from the English Cocker Spaniel. They have comparatively shorter muzzles too.
The silky coat comes in several solid colors and in bicolor. The variations are grouped as ‘black or black and tan,’ ‘ parti-color,’ and ‘any solid color other than black.’ The first group has either a solid black coat or a predominantly black coat with tan patches. The second group is predominantly white with colored patches. The last group can have solid coats of various shades of cream, tan, red or brown. Merle coats too occur, but it is not favored by AKC.
The Cocker Spaniel dog breed has a cheerful nature, and strives hard to please the family members in every way possible. Being playful, they are best buddies for kids. This extremely affectionate and gentle breed is safe to have in households with even small children. They are equally friendly with other pets too.
Even though these dogs are a bit difficult to housebreak, they are not too difficult to train. It is essential for the dog to have a pack leader in the owner so that it doesn’t assume dominance. Early socialization is also necessary to avoid shyness in this otherwise friendly dog.
Grooming and exercise
The very long, flowing coat of the Cocker Spaniel dog breed naturally takes quite a bit of grooming. It goes without saying that these dogs need thorough brushing every single day to maintain the coat in good condition. They need professional trimming at least once a month. Even though this makes the cost of ownership quite high, Cocker Spaniel enthusiasts enjoy trying out various styling options with their dogs. There is a field type of the Cocker Spaniel dog breed which has a shorter coat, and consequently easier to groom, compared to the show type.
These sporting dogs typically need some amount of daily exercise to keep them happy and healthy. Their daily walks on the leash should provide ample opportunities for socializing with other people and their pets because this friendly breed needs plenty of such interactions. While they enjoy their outdoor adventures, they would rather live indoors with their human family.
Common health issues of Cocker Spaniel dog breed
The Cocker Spaniel dog breed has a few health issues such as patellar luxation, hypothyroidism, urinary stones and cardiac problems. The eye problems commonly encountered in the breed include glaucoma, cataract, progressive retinal atrophy, cherry eye, and entropion.
Cocker Spaniel dog breed is particularly prone to seborrhea and a genetic metabolic disorder called phosphofructokinase deficiency. Immune mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) is another potentially fatal disorder this breed is prone to. However, these dogs have a fairly long lifespan ranging from 12 to 15 years. With regular health checkups and timely medical attention and treatment for potential disease conditions, they may lead a reasonably healthy life.