Other names: Cocker, English Cocker Spaniel
Cheerful and playful, the English Cocker Spaniel must always been considered a hunting dog and never a decorative ‘cuddly toy’ which adorn one’s living room. His natural personality suffers if you treat him as a toy only. This dog is both a game retriever and gun dog, and it is in these two categories that he is Man’s best helper. He is capable of coming up with the smartest strategies to trick bird game into rising. Very popular as a companion dog, this role can only make the English Cocker Spaniel happy if his other needs have been respected (plenty of exercise and outdoor living). Otherwise, he is at risk of becoming an anxious and overweight dog.
Key facts about the Cocker Spaniel
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Origins and history
It’s a ‘Spaniel’- but does that mean ‘Spanish’ or ‘English’? He is undeniably English, can’t be more so in fact: the breed as we know it originated in the United Kingdom in 1879, but the English had been using this type of Spaniel for hunting already since the 18th century. His more distant roots are, however, likely to be Spanish, as described by Dr. Cajus in 1570 in his De Canibus Britannicis. We can even find references to the English Spaniel in publications dating back to the end of the 14th century. His name springs from ‘Woodcock’. The Cocker is namely a real expert in hunting for the latter bird.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 8 - Retrievers - Flushing Dogs - Water Dogs
Section 2 : Flushing Dogs
Physical characteristics of the Cocker Spaniel
Female : Between 15 and 15 in
Male : Between 15 and 16 in
Female : Between 29 and 31 lb
Male : Between 29 and 31 lb
The Spaniel can be: a solid colour (black, red, chocolate), barring white, which is not admissible; parti and bi-coloured (black and white, black and tan, brown and tan, orange and white, brown and white, lemon and white) with or without flyspeck; tricoloured (black, white and tan, or brown, white and tan); or roan (either blue, brown, lemon, orange, blue and tan or brown and tan).
Type of coat
The coat is medium-long.
The coat lies flat throughout the dog’s body, is of silky texture without ever seeming wirehaired. The hair should not be wavy, curly, nor too abundant.
The eyes must be brown or dark brown, never light.
The English Cocker Spaniel is a cheerful, robust, athletic and compact dog. The frame’s length is more or less proportionate to the height of the shoulders. The head is chiseled, with a nicely formed skull, a square muzzle and well defined stop. The eyes are large, but not prominent; they give off a smart and gentle expression. The ears are set low, lobe-shaped and pendant: they should be set at the level of the nose, but no lower. The body is strong and compact, the limbs are rather big-boned and upright. The tail is ever so slightly tucked in under the ridge line; it is always in movement (a signature trait of the breed).
Good to know
For several decades now (since the 70s), the English Cocker has been reputed to being a mean dog. But this, unfortunately, is nothing more than the result of incompetent breeding undertaken by unscrupulous breeders riding on the wave of the breed’s popularity. Many dogs were thus bred and sold without any consideration for the repercussions. Since the 90s, passionate and conscientious breeders have fought hard to restore the ‘blazonry’ of this incredibly well-rounded breed.
Gentle and very demonstrative of his affection, this hunting dog is an everyday companion full of life, very pleasant to cohabitate with on account of his contagious joy.
Very cheerful and animated, this dog is endlessly playful and enjoys spending time with children above all else.
When still a pup, the English Cocker Spaniel is tricky to handle on account of his insatiable energy and enthusiasm. It is only with age and proper training that he arrives at a calmer demeanour.
The English Cocker Spaniel is very intelligent, he very quickly grasps what is expected of him and adapts to various situations and lifestyles remarkably well. In this sense, he is an impressive hunting dog and an ideal life companion to many different types of owners.
Often considered to be a companion dog, we tend to forget that he is an excellent hunter. Initially bred for the purpose of woodcock-hunting, he is in fact very versatile and can just as well hunt for hares as for pheasants, and other small game (feathered or otherwise).
Fearful / wary of strangers
When it comes to his approach to strangers, differences in temperament tend to depend on the variety (even if, of course, exceptions may always exist). To wit: the multi-coloured Cocker Spaniels tend to be friendly with everyone, and welcome guests with cheer and enthusiasm. On the other hand, solid-coloured Cockers tend to be more introverted and possessive of their families, thus proving to be more distant towards strangers.
Very loyal, the English Cocker Spaniel is a great companion, a partner in crime at times, but above all else- an excellent work assistant. He is as a result always very dependant on his owner, and would move heaven and hell to please him.
Behaviour of the Cocker Spaniel
The Cocker Spaniel is only happy when he is surrounded by family. He tolerates his owners’ absences very badly and should not be subjected to prolonged moments of solitude (five hours max.)
Easy to train / obedience
It is said that the multi-coloured subjects get more easily distracted than the solid-coloured variety but, on the flipside, question their owners’ commands much less. This in direct opposition to the solid-coloured specimens, that are perhaps more focused, but also occasionally more stubborn.
The Cocker Spaniel’s training must in fact be cemented at a young age. As soon as he integrates the household, certain boundaries must be established to prevent the pup from developing bad habits.
The handler must be strict, gentle, conscientious, consistent and fair if he wants to ensure a seamless cooperation with this dog.
When this dog barks, it is mainly to solicit the attention he may be lacking. It is his way of making a point that he is here, and he needs to be taken care of.
Be careful, however, not to endorse this attitude, at risk of the barking becoming excessive.
Tendency to run away
Amidst all hunting dogs, the English Cocker Spaniel is by far the least prone to running away. Given how loyal he is to his master, he would only be tempted to leave his side by an extraordinarily intriguing trail.
Such is the extent of his attachment to his owner that he could prove to be destructive and a nuisance if he is left alone for too long without having been gradually and positively exposed to solitude.
The Cocker’s signature attention-seeking gesture is gnawing at his family’s slippers!
Greedy / Gluttony
Quite the eater, it is important not to give in to all of this dog’s whims lest he procure excess weight.
Very sociable and friendly with guests, this Spaniel is under no circumstances a good watchdog. Rolling over and demanding to be patted may, indeed, not be the most effective deterrent to a potential intruder.
The English Cocker Spaniel is a perfect companion dog to many prospective owners: single people wishing for uplifting company, a family with children, or very active individuals who need a jogging partner… He brings joy to the little and big ones alike and seamlessly adapts to his handlers’ moods.
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Cocker Spaniel in a flat
He can absolutely live in a flat if he is provided with several walks a day to dispense of his large energy stores.
Whatever his living situation (a flat or house with garden), his biggest priority is to be at his owners’ side, inside the warm comfort of their home. It is therefore inconceivable to have him spend most of his time outside, in which case he would rapidly develop behavioural issues.
Need for exercise / Sporty
You must never forget that the English Cocker Spaniel is, first and foremost, a working dog. As a result, he does require much stimulation in the way of physical and mental exercise, sense of smell, and social interactions to fully live out his potential and be fully content.
In addition to being a very good hunting companion, he is a top choice for the most athletic of owners who yearn for canine company during the various activities they undertake.
Travelling / easy to transport
This medium-sized dog is relatively easy to transport, but must have mastered basic discipline and be very well socialised to keep his owners’ company wherever they may venture.
Cocker Spaniel and cats
A cross-species, canine/feline exchange can be very successful, especially if both individuals have grown up together and if the Cocker’s predatory instinct is kept in check.
Cocker Spaniel and dogs
The fact that the Cocker is rather sociable with fellow dogs does not dismiss you from having to start socialising him as soon as he is a few months old, and ensure that he develops and reinforces his ‘canine code of conduct’. Encounters must be supervised, regular and, most importantly, positive.
Cocker Spaniel and children
Quite the joker, this hunting dog loves to play and spend time with children. Endowed with a huge amount of energy, he proves to be tireless, especially in assisting the children with mischief around the house!
Cocker Spaniel and the elderly
Even though he does adapt to his environment easily, the English Cocker Spaniel is not a lapdog! Those who live a more sedentary lifestyle- the elderly and all those who would not enjoy going out for a run with the dog, should sooner consider his cousin- the American Cocker- who has a calmer personality and is less stressful to handle.
The price of a Cocker varies depending on its origins, age, and sex. You have to count an average of £790 for a dog registered at the Kennel Club.
With regards to the monthly budget required to meet the needs of a dog of this size, you have to estimate an average of £30 per month.
Grooming may prove to be strenuous for show dog Cocker Spaniels, in which case you may want to resort to a professional dog groomer.
Otherwise, simple weekly brushes will suffice in maintaining the beauty and cleanliness of his coat.
The pendant ears must of course be closely monitored and cleaned regularly.
Hair loss is generally moderate throughout the year, but more pronounced during autumn and spring, the yearly moulting seasons. Brushes will have to be daily during the latter.
Nutrition of the Cocker Spaniel
Very gluttonous, this dog is not difficult to feed- high-quality kibbles purchased in specialised shops will be more than enough, even if he would rather have whatever his owner is having!
For a dog of this particular size, one meal a day- preferably in the evenings- will be enough. Since this dog is very active, it is crucial to have him be at rest an hour before and after the meal, to avoid the risk of gastric torsion.
Health of the Cocker Spaniel
Life expectancy is 13 years on average.
Strong / robust
He is robust and enjoys a long life; you must simply make sure to clean his eyes, and more particularly, to check his ears often (especially if he lives in the country) to make sure they have not become a nest to foreign, infection-causing pathogens.
Though he is resilient and passionate about working, this hunting dog should not be overly stimulated during heatwaves.
Despite his robustness, it is not recommended that he sleeps outside during challenging weather (cold and rain).
Tendency to put on weight
If he gets enough exercise, there is no reason why the English Cocker Spaniel would gain excess weight. Having said this, since he is quite greedy, be careful not to give into all of his whims, and spoil him with too many snacks.