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Cocker Spaniel or the English Cocker, not to be confused with his American Cocker Spaniel cousin, is believed to have descended from the popular Spaniel breed in the 13th century. He is an intelligent dog with a happy disposition and loves being in the company of people.
The Cocker Spaniel can be high-maintenance in the grooming front, especially the show type which needs to be professionally groomed at least every two to three months. Although he was bred as a gun dog and would thrive in the countryside, he can do well in apartments too, as long as he gets plenty of exercises daily.
Here is a brief background of this cute and endearing dog.
Cocker Spaniel is simply known as the Cocker. He is a descendant of the Spaniel breed that was present in thirteenth-century England. The breed was often depicted in various literary works, including masterpieces of Chaucer and Shakespeare.
Some believed that the Cocker Spaniel existed as early as 54 BC. The breed is one of the oldest land Spaniels. The land Spaniel is divided into two groups: larger Spaniels that were more effective for springing and retrieving game and smaller Spaniels that were better suited for hunting woodcock.
The English Cocker Spaniel falls under the latter. The name Cocker comes from woodcock, which is a bird the breed usually flushes out for hunters.
It was common for the Spaniel breed to have differently-sized Cocker Spaniel puppies in one litter. It was up to the breeders to decide which job was appropriate for each Cocker Spaniel pup based on his size, intelligence, and stamina.
This changed at the end of the 19th century. The Spaniel breeders decided to classify the Spaniels into separate specific breeds. These were the Cocker, English Springer, Field Spaniel, Sussex Spaniel, Clumber Spaniel, Welsh Springer, and Irish Water Spaniel.
In 1874, a Spaniel under 11 kilograms was considered a Cocker by the Kennel Club. In 1885, a breed standard for the Cocker Spaniel was officially set. The Cocker Spaniel was officially recognised by the Kennel Club in 1893.
American Spaniel breeders chose the smaller varieties with rounder skulls, shorter muzzles, and thicker coats. A Cocker Spaniel named Obo is considered the predecessor of the modern English Cocker Spaniel, whilst another Cocker Spaniel called Obo II is known as the father of American Cocker Spaniels. However, traditional English Cocker Spaniel fanciers objected to this.
The two variations of the breed were shown together until the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America was established in 1936. The club did not allow the interbreeding between English and American Cocker Spaniels.
This led to the separation of the two Spaniel breed varieties in 1946. In the same year, the American Cocker Spaniel is officially recognised by the American Kennel Club. These two varieties are simply referred to as Cocker Spaniel in their respective countries.
The English Cocker Spaniel’s popularity skyrocketed worldwide over time, whilst his American counterpart gained more fame in the United States. Today, the English Cocker Spaniel is one of the most popular show dogs and family pets in the UK.
The Cocker Spaniel is even a cherished canine companion by several famous personalities. Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge received Lupo, an English Cocker Spaniel, as a wedding present from Kate’s brother. John F. Kennedy owned a Cocker Spaniel named Shannon, whilst Harry S. Truman had a Cocker Spaniel named Feller.
The English Cocker Spaniel is a sturdy, compact, and magnificent-looking dog. Larger than his American cousin, he weighs 12–16 kilos and stands 36–43 centimetres at the withers. His body resembles the working-dog form of the English Springer Spaniels and Field Spaniels.
An English Cocker Spaniel reaches his full height once he gets 12 months old. However, after that, he will still continue to develop in muscularity. By the time he turns 18 or 24 months old, he has already reached his full maximum weight. Through proper exercise and a balanced diet, he will be able to maintain this weight throughout his life.
The Cocker Spaniel has a square muzzle with a well-developed skull. His head is well-proportioned to his sturdy body. He has dark brown/brown eyes that are full but not prominent. He has charming lobular ears that are set low on a level with his eyes.
The coats of a working Cocker Spaniel and a show Cocker Spaniel are distinctively different. The working Cocker Spaniel has a finer coat with less feathering, whilst the show Cocker Spaniel has a flat and silky coat with plenty of feathering. Both should not be wiry, wavy, or curly. Feathering is found on the body, forelegs, and hind legs above the hocks.
The Cocker Spaniel breed comes in many colour varieties. Solid colours include black, golden, liver, and red. Bicolours include black and white, black and tan, liver and tan, orange and white, lemon and white, and liver and white.
The Cocker’s tricolours include black, white, and tan and liver, white, and tan. Roans include blue roan, lemon roan, liver roan, orange roan, blue roan and tan, and liver roan and tan.
English Cocker Spaniel does shed. Contrary to popular belief, all dog breeds shed as it is a natural process of getting rid of old hairs and replacing them with new ones. However, the amount of shedding can vary from breed to breed.
Cocker Spaniel is a moderate to heavy shedder due to his double coat. This makes the breed have demanding grooming needs, with the show Cocker being more high maintenance.
The Cocker’s long hair needs daily brushing to remove dirt and distribute natural oils. Use a wide brush to brush his fur with ease and keep it free from tangles. The coat also needs to be hand- or knife-stripped.
It is recommended to trim the Cocker Spaniel’s hair around his eyes, ears, neck, belly, and toes using grooming shears. Never use a shaver on him, as it will keep his coat from growing back correctly.
Taking your Cocker Spaniel to a professional groomer every three months will make your life much easier. Bathing can be done as needed.
Apart from keeping your Cocker Spaniel’s coat clean and healthy, also make sure that his nails are trimmed regularly. His pendant-shaped ears can easily collect dirt and bacteria and are highly prone to ear infections. Regularly clean them by using dog-safe ear drops or solutions and cotton wool.
Regularly check the Cocker’s skin and fur for ticks and fleas as these parasites carry deadly diseases. Also, make sure that his teeth and gums are clean by brushing them regularly, and give him chew toys that can prevent tartar build-up.
Tear stains are a common problem in the Cocker Spaniel breed. It is characterised by brownish or reddish discharge underneath the dog’s eyes. The colour of the stain is caused by porphyrin, which is a pigment found in tears.
Avoid using rough or course materials such as paper towels or napkins to remove the tear stains. This will only scrape and irritate his eyes further.
Use a clean cotton ball or a soft washcloth. Dip it in lukewarm water and squeeze it until it’s damp, not soaking wet. This will keep water from dripping into the Cocker’s eyes. Begin by gently wiping from the inner part of the eye towards the outer part and repeat until the tear stain is gone.
Clean one eye at a time. Make sure to swap the used cotton ball/washcloth with a new one when you proceed to clean the other eye. Avoid using the same cotton ball/washcloth for both eyes. This is to prevent passing on the bacteria from one eye to the other. Trim the hair surrounding the Cocker’s eyes to avoid causing more irritation.
The Cocker Spaniel breed is not a hypoallergenic dog. He is a moderate to heavy shedder, so he is more likely to produce allergens, specifically dander, on his coat. For this reason, the Cocker Spaniel is not recommended for dog enthusiasts with allergies.
However, if you are set on getting an English Cocker Spaniel, there are a few things that can help you to reduce dander in your home:
Cocker Spaniel is known to be happy, endearing, charming, intelligent, resilient, and alert. He is always happy to be in the presence of people and will continuously wag his tail to express it.
The Cocker Spaniel breed’s friendliness and love for people make it easy for him to befriend strangers. Thus, he is not the best choice for a guard dog. However, since he is highly trainable, he can be moulded into an effective watchdog.
English Cocker Spaniel is a great family pet. He can happily live on a farm and in an apartment as well, but you have to remember that he was originally bred as a gun dog.
Cocker Spaniel’s daily exercise needs must be met. When he is left to his own devices without getting regular exercise, he can be destructive and may even develop separation anxiety.
Cocker Spaniel dog is friendly and patient; hence he gets along well with children especially when they are raised together. The breed is a great companion to other pets as well. Needless to say, early socialisation is essential to mould him into a warm and amiable dog.
Another thing to be aware of is the Cocker Spaniel breed’s high prey drive, which comes with him being a hunting dog. He can run off and chase after small animals. Working Cocker Spaniels are more prone to this behaviour than their show counterparts.
The Cocker Spaniel’s intelligence is paired with his eagerness to learn and please his humans, making him quite easy to train. It is also worth noting that the breed is sensitive and does not respond well to physical punishments. Positive reinforcements in the form of praises and treats will work best.
Although the Cocker Spaniel is a sweet dog, he can be stubborn and dominant during training. So, enforce firm leadership to ensure that your dog understands that you are the leader of the pack. Aside from basic obedience, include canine sports in your training, like agility and fly ball.
If you choose to feed your Spaniel with dry dog food, a typical serving for an adult Cocker Spaniel is one to two cups of excellent-quality complete dry dog food per day. The amount may vary from dog to dog, depending on his age, size, build metabolism, and activity level.
An adult Cocker Spaniel’s typical daily calorie needs are:
Whether it is commercial dog food or home-made dog food, the main ingredient should be high-quality animal protein. Protein helps him to build healthy muscles and strong bones. The fat found in meat and fish is also essential to keep his coat healthy and shiny.
Since the Cocker Spaniel is prone to bone issues, to help him to maintain healthy joints, you can give him natural dog treats that are glucosamine-rich, such as raw beef knucklebones. Never give him cooked bones to avoid choking accidents. Bone broth is also a good way to add natural glucosamine into his diet.
On average, the Cocker Spaniel can live between 12 and 15 years.
The Cocker Spaniel breed is generally healthy but is known to suffer from specific health issues like:
Hepatitis is common in Cocker Spaniels, especially young males. The adverse effects of this chronic liver disease can range from mild to severe. Symptoms to look out for are swollen belly, increased thirst, lethargy, excessive urination, jaundice, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
If your Cocker Spaniel shows these signs, get him diagnosed by the vet immediately. Timely treatment ensures that he will get to live a longer life with you.
Purebred dogs, including Cocker Spaniels, are highly prone to developing hip dysplasia. It is a hereditary condition wherein there is an abnormality in the formation of the hip socket. This can eventually lead the dog to experience lameness and arthritis at an early age.
English Cocker Spaniel dogs older than a year will be X-rayed, and the results are going to be scored by experts. The maximum score is 106. The lower the score result, the lesser the signs of hip dysplasia.
Congenital Sensorineural Deafness
This disease is common in white-haired, blue-eyed Cocker Spaniels. It may occur during puppyhood and lead them to go deaf when they are a month old. This is caused by the lack of proper blood supply to the ears.
A Cocker Spaniel puppy that only has one infected ear may end up suffering from partial hearing loss.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
The Cocker Spaniel is one of the most affected breeds of this ocular disorder. PRA is a group of degenerative diseases that cause the deterioration of photoreceptors.
A Cocker Spaniel with PRA may show signs of nervousness at night, bumping into things if the light is dim, and reluctance to walk into dark rooms. Since this condition has no cure, determining affected dogs is crucial. Doing so will prevent the spread of PRA within the breed.
Familial nephropathy is a hereditary disease that can cause sudden kidney failure in young Cocker Spaniels. Those between 6 months to 2 years of age are at risk of developing familial nephropathy.
This renal issue is caused by the abnormal structures in the kidney tubules’ walls. It prevents the elimination of waste from the blood and disrupts the production of urine. By implementing careful breeding programmes, breeders can lower the number of dogs affected with this disease.
By getting a Cocker Spaniel puppy from a trustworthy and assured breeder who had the parent dogs health-screened, you can be sure that your pup is less likely to develop these health conditions. The suggested health tests that the breed should undergo are eye, hip, knee, thyroid evaluation, and DNA testing.
Cocker Spaniel dogs that are tested for canine hip dysplasia will receive an OFA clearance number, and those that are tested for PRA will have a CERF clearance. For particoloured Cocker Spaniels, they need to undergo BAER tests, which can determine if a dog is deaf before breeding.
The English Cocker Spaniel is more energetic than the American breed. Meanwhile, the English Cocker Spaniel that was bred as a working dog tends to have a higher energy level than the one that was bred as a show dog or a companion dog.
Generally, the Cocker Spaniel breed needs at least an hour a day of exercise and mental stimulation. Lack of exercise can push your dog to find other means of entertaining himself and learn destructive behaviours. Because of his need for ample amounts of exercise, the breed is more suited for families with active lifestyles.
Fun activities that the Cocker Spaniel would love include fetch, jogging, and swimming. Long walks, puzzle toys, and playtime in the garden can effectively burn out his energy as well.
Since the Cocker Spaniel has a high prey drive, he should be kept on a lead during walks if he does not have an excellent recall or he may end up chasing small dogs.
The Cocker Spaniel breed’s thick coat makes him more likely to suffer from heatstroke or overheating. To keep him safe from these conditions, schedule your walks during cooler parts of the day, such as in the evening or early morning. Do not forget to provide your dog with fresh water to keep him hydrated.
On average, a Cocker Spaniel puppy cost between £600 and £1500 or even higher. Look for a reputable breeder to ensure that you’ll get a healthy Cocker Spaniel puppy. To find one, you can ask for recommendations from fellow dog owners, the vet, and your friends and family.
Inquiring from local Cocker Spaniel breed clubs and visiting professional dog shows are also good ideas. Also, consider getting a Cocker Spaniel from animal shelters or rescue organisations.
The Cocker Spaniel is a moderately expensive dog to maintain. It costs £500 a year to feed him with good-quality dry dog food. Grooming expenses with a professional groomer cost an average of £30 to £40 per session, which can go higher if your dog requires stripping.
Routine vet visits for an annual booster vaccination and flea/worming treatments can cost around £130. Basic pet insurance costs £240 per year.
Pet insurance varies greatly, depending on the package you take out. A basic time-limit package will cost around £20 and a lifetime insurance can cost well over £80, so be sure to shop around. Some dog owners choose to ‘self-insure’ their dogs.
Know more about it in our article on Pet Insurance vs Self-Insurance for Pets.
Overall, the annual expense of caring for a Cocker Spaniel is in the range of £1,000 to £1,500 for the first year and minus the cost of castration and initial vaccines for the following years.
Are you sure the Cocker Spaniel is the best breed for you? Take the Pet Breed Selector Quiz to find your perfect breed match.Dog Breed Selector Quiz
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