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Cocker Spaniel



Cocker Spaniel Breed Highlights

Black-and-white Cocker Spaniel dog standing in the grass

  • There are actually TWO breeds of Cocker Spaniel: the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel. The American Kennel Club officially recognized these two as separate breeds in 1946. American Cockers tend to be smaller, have a rounder head, and sport a thicker coat than their English cousins.

  • Cockers are the smallest breed in the Sporting group.

  • President Nixon owned a Cocker Spaniel named Checkers. The mention of this sweet dog during a televised address helped galvanize support and saved Nixon’s political career in 1952. The speech came to be known as the Checkers speech.

  • You can thank a Cocker Spaniel for the invention of the boat shoe. A Cocker named Prince belonged to Paul Sperry. After watching his dog run across ice, Sperry inspected Prince’s paws to see how he managed not to slip. The pattern and texture of his paw pads inspired the non-slip soles of Sperry Top-Sider boat shoes — a popular brand since their release in 1935.

  • Holding the spot of 30th most popular breed in the U.S. in 2018, Cocker Spaniels have reigned supreme at number one quite a few times in the past. They were the most popular breed for almost two decades, from 1936 until 1952, and again from 1983 to 1990.

  • As expert bird hunters, the breed got its name from being especially useful in hunting Eurasian woodcock birds in English fields.

  • A Cocker’s nose knows! Two Cocker Spaniels, named Tangle and Biddy, were among the first group of dogs trained as cancer detection dogs in 2004 (and came in as the top 2 most successful dogs of the group).

  • Lady from “Lady and the Tramp” is a Cocker Spaniel. The breed’s role in this popular Disney film contributed to its popularity in the 1950s.

Unique Physical Features

Cocker Spaniel dog illustration for Trupanion Dog Breed Guide

  • Soulful almond-shaped eyes

  • Long, silky ears

Unique Personality

Cocker Spaniel dog illustration for Trupanion Dog Breed Guide

Cocker Spaniels are known for their sweet and sensitive nature, along with their constantly wagging tail. Intelligent and eager to please, a Cocker wants to be near their family as much as possible.

Preferred Lifestyle

Energy Level

dog energy level - medium (mall walker)

With Kids

Icon - outline of a little boy and girl

This breed can do well with children. Socialization with kids of all ages as a puppy is essential, as well as finding a reputable breeder that takes care to breed for good temperament.

With Other Pets

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Many Cocker Spaniels love to play with other dogs and can enjoy living with other pets in the home. Like all dog breeds, it’s all about proper socialization as a puppy to set them up for success.

Environment

Icon - outline of a house

Cocker Spaniels are an adaptable breed and adjust to apartment living well, as long as they have enough physical exercise and mental enrichment. They enjoy a moderately active lifestyle, happy to join you on a long walk and other adventures. Just don’t expect them to tolerate long periods of alone time — they want to be near their family as much as possible.

Average Lifespan
(Range)

12 to 15 years

Average Size
(Range)

Small:

  • 20 - 30 pounds
  • 13 - 16 inches tall

Breed Group

Sporting

Similar Breeds

History of the Cocker Spaniel

Brown and white Cocker Spaniel dog laying in the grass with fall leaves

Spaniels have long been a fixture in England, originally imported from Spain (hence the name “Spaniel”). Sporting dogs, more recently referred to as “gun dogs,” helped hunters flush birds from the water or brush. Spaniels weren’t categorized by specific breeds until the 1800s. Toy-sized Spaniels were kept as companion dogs, while medium and larger Spaniels were considered either land or water Spaniels, depending on what they helped hunt. Because breeding was focused on working ability rather than particular looks, each litter could have different sizes of puppies. Their eventual job and their “type” would be determined by their weight when fully grown. Cockers were any spaniel under 25 lbs, while any over 25 lbs was classified as a Springer. The Cocker Spaniel’s name came from their prowess in hunting Eurasian woodcock, a small game bird found in the fields.

It wasn’t until the 1870s that the Cocker Spaniel was bred specifically as a Spaniel breed. James Farrow is credited with breeding a Cocker named Obo in 1882, who is now considered the “father of the modern breed.” The Cocker Spaniel became very popular in both England and the United States through the beginning of the 20th century.

U.S. History of the Cocker Spaniel Over Time

It’s believed that one of the first dogs brought over to America was a Spaniel aboard the Mayflower. Spaniels most certainly played an integral role in helping settlers hunt game birds on the new continent. As Cockers became more and more popular across the pond in England, American interest increased as well, through the 1870s.

In 1881, Clinton Wilderming and James Watson formed the American Spaniel Club. The oldest breed club in America, it originally included Spaniels of all types before eventually splitting into more specific groups. The first studbook recorded by the American Kennel Club included a Cocker Spaniel named Captain.

As the breed became a popular companion and hunting dog, American breeders started to favor a smaller body type than the original English Cocker Spaniels. This split within the breed led to the creation of two separate Cocker Spaniel breeds — the American Cocker and the English Cocker. American Cocker Spaniels tended to be smaller, have a thicker coat, more domed head, and shorter muzzle than their British cousins. The American Kennel Club recognized the distinction between the two in 1946.

Cocker Spaniels were incredibly popular during the first half of the 20th century, and later in the 1980s. They were ranked as the most popular breed by the American Kennel Club from 1936 until 1952, and then again from 1983 until 1990. American Cocker Spaniels most recently came in as the 30th most popular U.S. breed in 2018, with English Cocker Spaniels ranking 52nd.

Cocker Spaniel Behavior and Training

A Cocker’s sweet disposition comes with a more sensitive nature. It’s important to train this eager to please breed with positive reinforcement methods that build confidence and a trusting relationship between dog and owner. Cockers love to learn new things and show off their skills — trick training is a favorite pastime for many Cocker Spaniel owners.

Their hunting genes mean they aren’t scared to chase after small animals and birds, so it’s important to keep them in a secure yard or on a leash for safety. They require a good amount of attention — if left alone too long, Cockers can become quite anxious. They love and need company, making them an ideal choice for empty-nesters or elderly owners who have lots of time to dedicate to them.

Plays Well with Others?

  • Cocker Spaniels are quite a social breed. They can enjoy meeting new people and visiting new places as long as they have built positive associations with new things. Proper proactive exposure to new sights, sounds, people, dogs, and other animals as a young puppy is essential for their socialization skills.

TRAINER TIP

Pair meeting new people or animals with high-value training treats or a favorite toy, and keep introductions short and sweet so it doesn’t get overwhelming.

  • Their sturdiness and sweet temperaments make Cocker Spaniels a popular choice for homes with children. If you obtain your Cocker Spaniel from a breeder, be sure they’re known to breed for good temperament and providing exposure to children in a positive way during young puppyhood. Continued socialization with children as a young puppy and adult will set them up for success. Young children and dogs should always be supervised, and it’s helpful for a dog to have their own “safe space” where they can go when they need some quiet time.

  • This breed can enjoy the companionship of other animals in the home, as long as they have been properly socialized and introduced. Due to their tendency for separation anxiety, many Cocker Spaniel owners have more than one so they can keep each other company.
Graphic - bouncing red ball image

Exercise Requirements

Cocker Spaniels have the energy and stamina that Spaniels are known for, and require regular exercise. Not only does this help keep them at a healthy weight, but it also helps prevent separation anxiety. Daily walks and playtime are excellent ways to exercise a Cocker. They especially love playing fetch or chasing after a flirt pole, which works their natural flushing instincts.

Mental Enrichment Needs

Spaniels are intelligent breeds, and Cockers enjoy having puzzles to solve. Daily training for obedience or tricks is a great way to provide enrichment, keep their brain sharp, and build the human-canine bond. Providing food puzzles and interactive toys will also help prevent common Cocker Spaniel puppy behaviors, like chewing or boredom barking.

Common Behavioral Issues

Cocker Spaniels are a breed that often suffers from separation anxiety or isolation distress. They love being around their family, and too much alone time can cause stress and anxious behavior. They need positive exposure to alone time from puppyhood, to prevent or minimize any separation anxiety issues as they get older. It’s much easier to prevent than to treat. Make alone time a positive and relaxing experience for your Cocker Spaniel.

TRAINER TIP

Any time you leave your Cocker alone, pull out a frozen stuffed Kong or other yummy treat toys. When you return (even just thirty seconds later), put it away until next time. This will help your dog learn that when you’re gone, awesome stuff happens, and they’ll make a positive association with your absence.

Spaniels are known for taking off after squirrels, birds, cars, or whatever catches their fancy! American Cocker Spaniels tend to have lower prey drive than the English Cocker Spaniels, but both love to chase. While this prey drive makes them excellent at playing fetch or competing in Flyball, it can make for quite a dangerous situation. It’s best to keep your Cocker Spaniel on a leash or in a securely fenced yard and practice your come-when-called training.

Fun Activities the Cocker Spaniel Enjoys

Cocker Spaniel puppy illustration for Trupanion Dog Breed Guide

Cocker Spaniels do well in many different activities:

  • Rally Obedience

  • Flyball

  • Agility

  • Trick Training

  • Conformation

  • Therapy Work

  • Nosework / Tracking

Cocker Spaniel Coat Type

Both American and English Cocker Spaniels have a double coat. However, the American’s coat tends to be thicker and often longer than its English counterpart. While English Cocker Spaniels can be any color, American Cockers have less variety in their coloring. They can be black, ASCOB (any solid color other than black), parti-color (two solid colors, one being white), and Black and Tan.

Shedding Level

dog shedding level - 3 of 5 piles of fur

3 out of 5 piles of fur

Grooming Requirements

  • Daily Maintenance
  • Professional Grooming Required

Both Cocker Spaniel breeds require intense grooming to keep their coats healthy and tangle-free. If left to grow a long skirt, daily brushing is required to prevent mats, and professional grooming should be done every 6 to 8 weeks. Many owners prefer to have their Cocker in an all-over short haircut, called the “puppy cut.”

It’s not advised to clip a double-coat, as it can result in uneven grow out, damage to the hair follicles, and increases the chance of sunburn and overheating. A double coat, when well-maintained, actually helps keep a dog cool, facilitating airflow across the skin. If you decide to have a double-coated breed clipped, whether per your veterinarian’s advice in dealing with skin issues or personal preference, it’s important to choose a groomer that knows how to avoid damaging the undercoat.

A Cocker should have their ears cleaned regularly, as this breed can be prone to ear infections. The hair on the inside of the ears should be kept short to help promote air circulation and prevent infection. Pair ear cleaning with regular nail trimming and teeth brushing to keep your Cocker fresh and healthy.

Introduce your Cocker Spaniel puppy to the grooming experience from a young age to create a positive association and encourage calm behavior during brushing and bathing. This breed is known for being sensitive at the groomer, but with positive training from puppyhood, the grooming experience can be a good one throughout their life.

Best Brush for a Cocker Spaniel: Slicker brush, Pin comb

Famous Owners of the Cocker Spaniel

  • Oprah Winfrey (Media Mogul)

  • Elton John (Singer)

  • Prince William and Kate Middleton (Royalty)

  • Bing Crosby (Actor)

  • George Clooney (Actor)

  • Lauren Bacall (Actress)

  • Oscar de la Renta (Designer)

  • Naomi Watts (Actress)

  • Richard Nixon (President)

  • Albert Staehle (Illustrator)

The Cocker Spaniel in Books, Movies and TV

Lady from Lady and the Tramp

Non-Endorsement Statement: The social media posts displayed here do not imply any endorsement of these people or products, nor does it imply they endorse Trupanion or our product.

Common Health Conditions for the Cocker Spaniel Breed

Use the chart of Trupanion claims data below to find out what health conditions happen most frequently for Cocker Spaniels. Every Cocker Spaniel is unique, but understanding what health conditions are likelier to occur can help you be a more prepared pet owner.

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Trupanion member Kelly

Kelly

Groton, CT

Condition: Sarcoma

The Trupanion policy paid: $18,522.39

"My golden Kelly was young when I found a softball-sized lump on Kelly’s left hind leg. Four weeks straight of radiation, six rounds of chemo and checkups every three months, including x-rays and full blood panel were needed. Because of Trupanion, I didn’t have to address the biggest deciding factor that most people face—can I afford this? I can honestly say Kelly is alive today because of the financial support Trupanion provided."

- Lori

Trupanion member Axl

Axl

Ontario, Canada

Condition: Pneumonia, Hip Dysplasia, Lameness

The Trupanion policy paid: $2,084.01

"At two, our German shepherd Axl was diagnosed with pneumonia. Trupanion took care of all our financial concerns. At four, his hip issues led to pain medications, rehabilitation and rest, which all resulted in improved pain-free movement. I’m so grateful that we chose a plan that not only covers the cost of his treatment but also any physical therapy or rehabilitation he may need."

- Nanette K.

Trupanion member Bella

Bella

Ellijay, GA

Condition: Cushing’s disease, tumor, cruciate rupture

The Trupanion policy paid: $15,283.83

"Bella was treated for Cushing’s disease and a pituitary tumor with radiation therapy. Had we not had insurance for her, the decision for her medical care would have been more difficult, as each treatment was expensive. However, because we have Trupanion, these decisions were easier. Rather, we could focus our attention on her treatment and recovery instead of the financial impact these procedures would have on our family."

- Jason P.

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