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Cocker Spaniel (English)

History

The English Cocker Spaniel (ECS) – generally known simply as the Cocker Spaniel in the US – was originally bred to flush out ducks and other game during the hunt. For many people, the idea of being out “with dog and gun” conjures an image of the Cocker. The breed was developed from the smaller puppies found in many Spaniel litters, as these were thought to be better at flushing out the game, their diminutive size enabling them to go deeper into the undergrowth. Until the mid-19th century, there were simply two types of Spaniel – Land Spaniels and Water Spaniels, the differentiation based on features that made them suitable for certain habitats when out with their owners on a hunt.

It was in 1892 that the smaller sized Land Spaniels were officially classed as a separate breed to the larger ones, marking the “birth” of the Cocker Spaniel as we know it today. They are still popular gundogs today, and they are great at locating, flushing, and retrieving game through dense cover. The ECS is one of the most popular gundog breeds in Britain and Europe, and is popular as a household pet too. It is relatively less common in the US.

Behaviour

Cockers are friendly and full of energy, their tails always wagging, and they love human company. They are good with children and make great pets – as long as you can spend lots of time with them, and as long as they have lots of access to the outdoors. The ECS dislikes being left alone for long periods, and is comically classed as the world’s worst guard dog, as they seem to love everyone! The breed’s high energy levels mean that they need lots of long walks, involving plenty of running. They are clever and easy to train – something assisted by their desire to please their owners at every opportunity. They excel at obedience training and agility tasks, and make great therapy dogs, due to their affectionate nature. They are also greedy dogs, though, and will steal food from your hand if they sense the opportunity. This eye for the quick snack means you have to watch their weight, something that plenty of exercise usually sorts out. A long daily walk, with runs in the garden in the meantime, should be enough. They will then be happy to curl up in your lap for a sleep.

Regular grooming and clipping are required, especially for an ECS used as a working dog, to prevent the fur getting tangled in the undergrowth. The ears need regular cleaning too, as the breed sometimes develops problems here due to their heavy, floppy nature. The ears can become caked in food, too, and you can buy specially designed Spaniel bowls that allow the dog’s ears to hang outside of the bowl.

Temperament

English Cocker Spaniels are loyal to their owners, but with a playful temperament that makes them love everybody – even strangers, so this is definitely NOT a good guard dog! Cockers love human contact and become devoted to their families, including the children. Their love of play means that regular exercise is essential, and firm training will prevent them from being too excitable.

Cocker Spaniels get on well with other dogs, and as long as they have early exposure and training, they will be able to live happily with cats, too.

Health Problems

The ECS is prone to canine hip dysplasia (CHD) – a condition commoner in dogs of a single color, rather than multicolored individuals. It can also suffer elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (degeneration of the retina that can lead to blindness), and ear infections. Deafness can occur in multicolored ECSs.

Breed Details

  • Status: Common
  • Life Expectancy: 11 - 14 years
  • Weight: 26 - 35 pounds
  • Height: Male 16 - 17" Female 15 - 16"
  • Rare: No
  • Coat: Medium
  • Grooming Requirements: Everyday
  • Town or Country: Either
  • Minimum Home Size: Small House
  • Minimum Garden Size: Small to Medium Garden
  • Breed Type: Gun Dog
  • Size: Medium
  • Energy Level: Medium
  • Exercise Required: Up to 1 hour

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