Cocker Spaniel – Everything You Need To Know

One of America’s favorite breeds and the smallest AKC Sporting group member, the Cocker Spaniel is a lovable, easy-going therapy dog with big, dreamy eyes and a mischievous personality. They were initially bred for flushing woodcocks from foliage for hunters, but now these purebreds gained wide popularity as all-around companions. This smart, dedicated, intelligent breed would be excited to connect with your active family. You will be rewarded with a fun-loving adventure partner who will always be up to wander and mesmerize you with their very infectious goodwill and unconditional devotion.

Cocker Spaniel Overview

Sweet, kind, and warm in disposition, Cockers are the most sought-after dogs worldwide. They are people-oriented and very friendly. Compared to other canines in the Sporting Group, they are small, fitting comfortably into an apartment or a small home. These energetic dogs love playtime with kids and brisk walks—they also excel at agility and obedience.

Today, Cockers enjoy lounging on the couch with their family rather than hunting, but squirrels should still be cautious as these breeds relish a good chase.

Cocker Spaniel Pros and Cons

Obedient and devotedCan be difficult to housetrain
Energetic, active, and athleticCan be aggressive, fearful, or snappy if not socialized properly
Outgoing and friendly personalityProne to separation anxiety

Cocker Spaniel Basic Information

  • Name: Cocker Spaniel
  • Origin: England
  • Group: Sporting dogs
  • Size: Medium
  • Height: 14.5 – 15.5 inches (male); 13.5 – 14.5 inches (female)
  • Weight: 25 – 30 pounds (male); 20 – 25 pounds (female)
  • Coat: Long, wavy coat
  • Color: Varies depending on variety, ranging from solid (black, brown, roan, cream, white, tan, red) to combinations with merle and roan markings
  • Energy: High
  • Activities: Walking, hiking, playing fetch, agility, companion dogs, conformation, obedience, herding.
  • Barking Level: Medium
  • Shedding Level: Occasional
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Litter Size: 1-8 puppies
  • Another Name: Cocker
  • Original Pastime: Bird flushing, retrieving
  • Life Span: 10 – 16 years

History of Cocker Spaniel

The modern Cockers are descended from the Spaniel family, a large group that dates to antiquity. Spaniel means “Spanish dog,” and it’s believed that they originated in Spain. Spaniels were divided into two groups by the 1800s: toys (mainly companions) and large hunting dogs. Hunting dogs were further divided into water and land Spaniels. The Cocker was named so for her excellence in the field hunting woodcock.

The name “Cocker” comes from a game bird, the woodcock, that these breeds efficiently flushed out for hunters. In the late 1800s, Cockers were introduced initially to the U.S. and were still regarded as the same breed as the English Cocker Spaniel. However, American enthusiasts selected for smaller size, coat, and rounded head; the Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel are considered two distinct breeds. Although regarded as a proficient hunter and sporting breed, Cockers are family pets.

Cocker Spaniel Highlights

  • Cockers can be barkers, so responding to the “Quiet” command should always be part of their repertoire.
  • Cockers were bred to be hunting dogs. So, don’t be surprised when they chase squirrels, birds, or small animals when you’re out on a walk. It’s better to keep them on a leash whenever you aren’t in a fenced area.
  • The Cocker has a “soft” disposition. Therefore, harsh training methods will make them nervous, so use gentle, consistent training to get the best results.
  • A Cocker’s long ears are a part of her beauty and can be a potential health problem. Ensure to check their ears every week for infections.
  • Avoid buying a Cocker puppy from a puppy mill, backyard breeder, or pet store for a healthy pet. Instead, get from a reputable breeder who tests breeding dogs for genetic health disorders and good temperaments.

Cocker Spaniel Personality

Cocker Spaniels are the smallest sporting dogs that grow up to 14 to 15 inches and weigh about 25 to 30 pounds. They have a solid, sturdy, well-balanced body with a round head, broad muzzle, big, pleading brown eyes, smooth gait, long-feathered ears, and docked tails. However, their long, wavy coat with feathers can be seen on the ears and the chest, legs, and underside. They come in various colors: red, tan, white, solid black, bi-colored, or tri-colored. The AKC divides Cockers into three varieties for show purposes: parti-color, black, and ASCOB (Any Solid Color Other than Black).

Cocker spaniels are gentle, easy-going, and affectionate yet lively. They get along well with kids — as long as they are raised with them; kids are kind and respectful to canines. However, as Cockers are sensitive dogs, all interactions between the Cocker and kids should be supervised by adults. In addition, they tend to be non-aggressive toward people and other animals, which signifies they are not exceptionally good watchdogs.

Friendliness Overview

Affection levelHigh
Kid-friendlyMedium to high

Adaptability Overview

Good for apartment livingHigh
Good for new ownersMedium
Sensitivity levelHigh
Tolerates being aloneLow 
Cold toleranceMedium to high
Heat toleranceMedium

Cocker Spaniel Physical Features

Head: Cockers are alert, intelligent, soft, and appealing. Their eyeballs are round and directly forward. Their eye rims give a slightly almond-shaped appearance. Their iris is dark brown with lobular, long, well-feathered ears placed not higher than a line to their eye’s lower part. Their skull is rounded with clearly defined eyebrows and a broad muzzle.

Neck: The neck is long enough to let the nose reach the ground quickly, firm, and free from pendulous “throatiness.”

Topline: Topline-sloping narrowly toward muscular quarters.

Tail: Docked tails set on slightly lower than the back line. 

Forequarters: Their shoulders are clean-cut and well laid back at approximately 90 degrees, allowing the dog to move his forelegs quickly with forward reach. Forelegs are straight, parallel, strongly boned, and muscular, set close to the body under the scapulae.

Feet: Firm and cat-like thickly padded feet.

Hindquarters: Hips are wide with well-rounded and muscular quarters. The hind legs are boned strongly and muscled with medium angulation at the stifle and have powerful, clearly defined thighs.

Coat: Short and fine head with medium-length body undercoating to give protection. The chest, ears, legs, and abdomen are well feathered but not so overly as to hide the Cocker’s lines and movement or affect his appearance as a moderately coated sporting dog. The coat is silky, flat, or wavy and of a texture that permits easy care.

Color: Solid colors: Black, red, golden; liver (chocolate); black and tan; liver and tan. 

Gait: Cocker possesses a typical sporting dog gait. A prerequisite to good movement is balancing the front and rear assemblies. They drive with strong, powerful hindquarters and are correctly constructed in the shoulders and forelegs to reach forward without compression in a full stride to neutralize the driving force from the rear.

Cocker Spaniel Temperament

Cocker Spaniels are known for the following temperaments: 

  • Loving and loyal 
  • Energetic and smart 
  • Affectionate and intelligent 
  • Calm and eager to please 
  • Excitable and quick learner 
  • Caring and playful 
  • Confident and adaptable 

Cocker Spaniels are happy, energetic gundogs that are also perceived as friendly and hyperactive. These breeds are sportive and excel in any canine game, mainly in field trials and conformation shows. However, they are good-natured canines and get along with pets and other puppies. They are affectionate, prefer to be around humans, and make perfect companion dogs. They will quickly get along with kids, provided they are socialized as pups and were raised with them. 

As they have herding instincts, they might attempt to herd smaller animals. So, sharing a home with a pet bird is not typically an ideal option. 

Cocker Spaniel Training

Cocker Spaniels are intelligent, lively, and respond quickly, making training sessions more accessible. Like any other canine, they require early socialization and puppy training classes. The activity demands patience and consistency during the period. They are susceptible to any unfavorable reactions and need positive reinforcement while training. They adore being around people and treats, and cuddling does wonder while training. 

Cockers are active and look forward to the training sessions, which help in conditioning regarding behavioral modification. They do not respond to offensive commands, and lots of praise work wonders during the session. Obedience training and early socialization help with behavioral correction and bring out the best in any canine. They can be easily trained in field trials, agility, obedience, and flyball. Their training can include the following:

Trainability Overview

Easy to trainHigh
IntelligenceMedium to high
Prey driveHigh
Mouthiness tendenciesMedium to high
Barking and Howling tendenciesMedium 
Wanderlust tendenciesMedium to high

Cocker Spaniel Exercise Needs

Depending on their age and energy levels, the Cockers will need around 15 – 20 minutes of daily exercise or interactive play sessions. Also, take them on short brisk walks as this is an ideal way to fight their tendency to become obese. They may become restless or destructive without proper exercise. You can meet your Cocker’s daily exercise essentials by: 

  • Teaching new tricks 
  • Walking 
  • Fetching 
  • Chasing 
  • Playing with puzzle toys 
  • Frisbee 
  • Herding trials 
  • Agility training 
  • Hiking 
  • Dog park 

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy levelMedium to high
Exercise needsMedium
IntensityLow to medium
PlayfulnessMedium to high

Cocker Spaniel Grooming

Grooming is an integral part of the Cocker Spaniel’s life as it is an intense and potentially expensive proposition. Unfortunately, they have a reputation with groomers as being less than cooperative. This touchy attitude usually stems from a lack of training to accept handling. Therefore, positive lessons on how to act on the grooming table are required. 

Cockers require regular, thorough grooming. Daily brushing at home is also necessary to keep the coat free of tangles and mats. Cocker’s grooming needs are as follows:  

Grooming Overview

Easy to groomLow
Drooling tendenciesLow
Amount of sheddingMedium

Cocker Spaniel Health

Cocker Spaniel is a healthy and active dog. Yet, it’s always wise to be mindful of their health conditions. To maintain your dog’s health, take them for regular veterinarian check-ups and keep them updated with their vaccines.

Health Overview

General healthMedium to high
Weight gain tendenciesMedium to high

Cataract: A disorder seen as cloudy spots on the eye lens that grow gradually. This condition can develop at any age and often doesn’t affect vision; however, rare cases cause vision loss. Fortunately, you can remove cataracts surgically with good results.

Cancer: This condition can be cured by surgically removing tumors and chemotherapy. However, it is essential not to ignore the symptoms and diagnose them earlier. 

Spay or Neuter: In spaying, the uterus or ovaries in female dogs is removed, and in the neuter, the male dog’s testicles are operated. It is done to eliminate the chance of pregnancy or fathering unwanted puppies and lessen the likelihood of cancer types.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Degeneration of the heart muscle is known as cardiomyopathy. The muscle, mainly the thick muscular membrane of the left ventricle, becomes delicate. These membranes expand because of the blood pressure inside the heart, which directs to a much bigger heart. 

Obesity: Cockers are prone to obesity and worsening hip and elbow dysplasia. This disease negatively hits a dog’s fitness and durability. Obese dogs exhibit an increased risk of heart disease, digestive conditions, diabetes, joint problems, and hypertension. 

Patellar Luxation: When the dog patella (kneecap), which commonly lies in the cleft of the femur (thighbone), slips out of position, it is referred to as the luxating patella. Your puppy may feel periodic hind limb “skipping,” lameness, or locking up the leg at an irregular angle if the patella luxates. 

Glaucoma: A deadly eye disease that needs medical attention. Symptoms such as squinting, pain, watery eyes, and redness can display glaucoma, leading to blindness. 

Dental Disease: It affects 80% of dogs, generates tartar build-up on the teeth, causes infection of the roots and gums, and in complex situations, causes loss of teeth and damage to the kidneys. 

Parasites: Cockers can be infested with fleas, worms, bugs, and ticks that can get into their systems through polluted soil, unclean water, or an infected mosquito. Signs include pain, discomfort, and even death. 

Hip dysplasia: A hereditary condition in which the thigh bone fails to fit into the hip joint. One or both legs of your dog may become lame or ache. X-ray is the best way to analyze the situation. It is not advisable to breed dogs with hip dysplasia.


  • Wrong exercises  
  • Excessive weight gain  
  • Injuries  


  • Reluctance to rise, jump, run or climb  
  • Enlarging shoulders  
  • Pain  
  • Stiffness  
  • Reduced activity and movements  
  • Reducing thigh muscle mass  
  • Grating in the joint during movement  
  • Lameness in the hind limbs  

Epilepsy: This is the most prevalent neurological disorder in canines, affecting about 0.75 percent of the population. Epilepsy is a broad name for diseases indicated by repeated, uncontrollable seizures generated by a brain defect.

Hypothyroidism: A dog’s metabolism is slowed due to insufficient thyroid hormone production. Signs are:  

  • Lethargy  
  • Gaining weight  
  • Reluctance to work out  
  • Hair Loss 

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): In between the vertebral column’s bones, IVD allows vertebral movements, which usually work like shock absorbers. They are formed with two layers, the inner soft jelly-like layer and the external fibrous layer. This condition happens when the inner jelly-like layer forces the spinal cord, resulting in spinal cord compression; signs include paralysis, neck and backache, and loss of bladder, sensation, and bowel control. 

Portosystemic Liver Shunt: A disorder in which the liver does not get sufficient blood supply to purify it. As the name indicates, blood flow to the liver will be shunted. You can fix this condition through surgery. 

Dry Eye: In this painful disorder, there’s lacking production of the tear glands. This leads to the affected eye seeming dry or having a blue haze. The therapies for dry eyes include medication like eye drops.   

Malassezia dermatitis: A condition caused by a kind of yeast. When this yeast infects their ears, it causes redness, itching, and an accumulation of brown, waxy discharge. On the skin, this yeast directs to greasy, hairless areas, mainly on the neck and throat, with a distinctive odor. 

Seborrhea: This condition can cause flaky, dry, or greasy, oily skin. Skin disorders make your pet itchy and uncomfortable. Bathing with prescribed shampoos and rinses may be helpful. The earlier you call to have your dog’s skin problems checked, the less likely you will end up with an itchy, bald, smelly puppy. 

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA): A condition in which a Cocker’s immune system strikes its blood cells. Signs include pale gums, fatigue, and occasionally jaundice. A swollen abdomen is also signifying since it signals an enlarged liver. Most affected Cocker Spaniels do well with therapy but should not be bred.

Primary seborrhea: A disorder caused by the overproduction of skin cells, such as sebaceous cells. The skin becomes slick and scaly with a foul odor. Remedies include medication and medicated baths.

Recommended Tests for Cocker Spaniels

  • Eye Evaluation
  • Hip Evaluation

Cocker Spaniel Diet and Nutrition

A Cocker Spaniel will consume 1.5 to 2.5 cups of high-quality dry food daily, split into two meals, depending on their size, build, age, activity level, and metabolism. They have a hearty appetite and might overeat if given a chance. However, as they are prone to obesity, overfeeding must be avoided. You can seek advice from their vet regarding any sensitivities or needs the Cocker has.

Cocker Spaniel Living condition

Cockers are serene dogs well-suited in tiny houses and apartments with fenced backyards. Living indoors with the family keeps them comfortable and engaging. However, they are not suited for extreme heat or cold conditions. Bored, lonely Cockers may find an undesirable medium to keep themselves active, like barking or chewing.

Did you know?

  • Cocker spaniels were among the first 9 breeds recognized by the AKC.
  • A black Cocker Spaniel, Brucie, aided in popularizing the show breeds by succeeding Westminster’s Best in Show in 1940 and 1941. 
  • Cocker’s popularity in the United States increased when it was featured in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp
  • Oprah Winfrey has two Cocker Spaniels: Sophie and Solomon.
  • If you breed a Cocker Spaniel with a Poodle, it delivers an intelligent, loving cockapoo.

Cocker Spaniel Club Recognition

  • American Kennel Club (AKC)
  • American Spaniel Club

Adding a Cocker Spaniel to Your Family

A Cocker Spaniel costs range from $800 to $2000, not including miscellaneous costs.

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