Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniels

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Breed Notes:

The Cocker Spaniel or American Cocker Spaniel is the smallest of the sporting dog family. His name, according to some authorities, comes from his proficiency at hunting woodcock. He was accepted by the Kennel Club of England in 1892. He was introduced into North America in the 1880s. American breeders desired some changes in certain traits (including size, head, etc.) to the point that the American Cocker Spaniel was recognized as a separate breed from the English Cocker Spaniel by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1940 and by the American Kennel Club in 1946. (see English Cocker Spaniel)
Although he is an excellent gun dog, the American Cocker Spaniel's popularity grew more from his exceptional qualities as a pet and companion. He is intelligent, adaptable, trustworthy and playful. His enthusiasm requires adequate exercise. Due to the texture and length of his coat, regular care needs to be taken to prevent matting.
The American Cocker Spaniel's skull is rounded with a prominent drop (stop) to the muzzle. The muzzle is broad, deep and square. The upper lip is full and extends below the lower lip. The bite is scissors. The eyes are almond shaped and dark brown in color. The expression is one of intelligence and alertness. The ears are long, lobular and placed level to the lower part of the eye. They are well covered with hair. The neck is long and muscular. The chest is deep, reaching to the elbow. The body is short and compact, giving the impression of strength. The back is strong and slopes slightly downward to the tail. The tail is docked and carried on a level with the topline. While working, the tail is constantly in merry motion. The legs are straight, strong boned and muscular. The gait is coordinated, smooth and effortless. The coat is thick and silky with a high sheen. Generally flat along the back, the hair falls to the ground either straight or in waves. Various colors are acceptable including solid jet black, black with tan points, ASCOB (any solid color other than black), and Parti-colored (two or more definite, well-broken colors of which one must be white). Any tan markings should be less than ten per cent of the coat in specific locations on the body. Average height is fourteen to a maximum of fifteen inches. Average weight is between twenty two and twenty eight pounds. of Virginia writes:

A great breed for some, not for all, though.
I've had Cocker Spaniels for the past twenty years. I've had three solid black ones and my current parti-colored tan and white one. Generally speaking, I've had all males. The current one is an alpha male. What does this mean on a day-to-day level? Well, he has to be first, he doesn't like visitors, and has the entire run of the house. He's very high-strung in contrast to the black dogs. He's a sweet dog, but only to the people he loves.

Name withheld by request of New Jersey writes:

One loving companion for fifteen years.
Our lovely blonde Cocker was a purebred AKC dog, but small, which was fine with us. She loved everyone, even mailmen and realtors. Loved all kids, and played well with the children's friends. She was equally at home on the beach, or resting under a ceiling fan. She loved other dogs, and tolerated cats, too. Playful and loving, she was the ideal companion dog when the children left home. Although she loved the whole family, her heart was mine, and she followed me everywhere. She did have hip dysplasia and cherry eye, common to the breed. Shedding was under control as we had her professionally groomed. She did very well while I was at work during the day, but we provided puppy pads in her old age, too. She died just a month ago of cancer and old age at fifteen. She was truly the most wonderful pet I have ever had in 31 years of pet ownership. of Alabama writes:

Affectionate, beautiful, but can be aggressive.
I had a Cocker Spaniel for about six years. He was affectionate and absolutely gorgeous. He was fairly easy to housetrain, and didn't cause any damage once he was past puppyhood. However, he was extremely aggressive to anyone besides my husband and me. It was impossible to have a friend come over to let him out because of his shyness/aggressiveness. If we had company, we had to put him in the bedroom, where he proceeded to destroy the door by scratching non-stop. I have to add that we both worked, and he spent most of the day alone. I often wonder if that was the root of his behavior problems. He also had chronic ear problems, and shed tremendously. We overlooked all the problems, though, for many years because he was just so adorable. The real problem arose when I had my first child. He just couldn't adapt to being "second fiddle," and after he attempted to attack the baby a couple of times, that was it for me. He went to a new home. My advice is to look beyond those adorable eyes and ears before you fall in love, and really investigate whether this is the dog for you.

Name withheld by request of California writes:

Very smart, attention getting, and soft-hearted.
My American Cocker is a five-year-old female. To tell you the truth I never considered owning a Cocker, but my ex-girlfriend wanted one, I never considered an American Cocker a "manly dog." To make a long story short, I ended up with the dog. First, this breed is very, very smart and easy to train. As I researched more about this breed I realized that I made a big mistake by living in an apartment and getting this type of dog. Just like any sporting breed that was meant to flush and retrieve, they need a yard to run in, to burn off their energy, or they will get destructive. They need attention constantly. She was able to learn to fetch and retrieve (ball and Frisbee), roll over, play dead, give me "high five," and many more tricks with incredible ease, plus loves to swim. I'm currently trying to teach her to bird hunt, but I have a feeling it might be a little late (with the gun shyness and all). I'm hoping her instincts will kick in as soon as she flushes a live bird one day. My advice, unless you plan on having a lot of time to groom and exercise this breed, please don't ruin its true potential, which is to hunt birds. Don't let those big brown eyes take you in.

Name withheld by request of Belvidere, IL writes:

Best companion.
We recently lost our female Cocker and while trying to gain an understanding of the breed I came upon this webpage and felt I should share her incredible story. I looked through the rest of the commentaries and came to realize that all Cockers have the same trait: love for their owners. My Cocker followed me everywhere and never once was a nuisance. She led a very healthy life until one day she became very ill. Within 24 hours she was gone. As I searched through different types of animals I came to realize that the only breed for me is the Cocker. The time you spend with them will make an impression on the rest of your life.

Name withheld by request of California writes:

The best family dog!
I own two Cocker Spaniels, both black. One is eleven and the other is nine. These are the best dogs in the world if you want a great companion animal. They are total cuddle bugs! Very sweet and gentle and always willing to please. If you want a wonderful addition to your family, a Cocker Spaniel is the way to go. The only hard part of owning Cockers is the ear infections, the skin problems, and grooming. They are a little high maintenance at times but worth it. I can't imagine my life without these little treasures! They're my little buddies. of Portland, OR writes on 8.14.01:

Sweet, cuddly, fuzzy baby! Looks like Grover with black fur! Couldn't be cuter!
I LOVE my Cocker Spaniel! She is the BEST companion I could ever ask for. I own two dogs, a Boston Terrier and my Cocker Spaniel. She and I bonded fairly quickly - and we have stayed the best of buds ever since. She has the sweetest doggie eyes and absolutely LOVES her tummy to be rubbed! She's really a sweetheart. She's like a real live stuffed animal - just waiting to be cuddled. She'll do anything for a treat - or people food. She's more into food than my Boston. My Boston goes more for the toys. My Cocker Spaniel is about 1 and 1/2 yrs old. She has gotten to be quite calm - she was somewhat of a hyper pup (but nothing like the energy of my Boston). In comparison, I would say she is less intelligent than my Boston - but intelligence is not my number 1 priority in a dog - I just want a cuddle-bug - and I definitely have that in my Cocker Spaniel! She is also more grooming than my Boston Terrier. This can be kind of a pain - but sooo worth it for me - her sweet personality makes up for any thing! She is VERY gentle when playing - much more so than my Boston Terrier. (These are the first 2 dogs I've ever owned in my life - so I can only compare them to each other). Her fur is stinky than my Boston Terrier - although my Boston has incredibly stinky gas - which my Spaniel does not! Peeew! My Boston is absolutely FEARLESS - while my Cocker Spaniel is much more timid. I haven't had any problems with "submissive pissing." I've heard this can be common with Cockers. She did a little when she was a pup - but grew out of it quite quickly! Also, she isn't the type of Cocker that will jump back if you try to pet her... I've heard this can be a common Cocker Spaniel problem as well... But my cocker has none of these problems. I believe I ended up with all the good stuff of the cocker and none of the bad! I definitely have a keeper! She's a little on the small side - only 18 lbs - and sometimes gets a little grumpy - gets a bit growly if she's sleeping on my pillow and I try to move her! But I am NEVER afraid to put my nose right up against hers and do a rubba-nose! She would NEVER bite at my face... I believe she is very good with children as well, although I don't have any of my own - when I've seen her with kids - she is gentle and lets them pet her... My Boston is more of a spazz... Of course, my Boston is only at 9 months right now - so I guess she still has puppy behavior! My Boston has been a more destructive puppy than my Cocker Spaniel. I would recommend a Cocker Spaniel to anyone! She is a wonderful, loving dog! I'm so glad I have her in my life - she is VERY special to me.

Name withheld by request of Canada writes on 3/31/01:

An excellent breed for any family.
We had our Cocker Spaniel for 14 years. He was the perfect pet. His gentle disposition was an attraction to all children and visitors to our home. Jack was blond colored and had a longer than usual snout. He was bigger than most male cockers, but these odd characteristics is what made him a very 'good looking' dog. Jack was a shadow dog ... followed mom everywhere. I would strongly recommend this dog for any family. Problems noted: ear inffections, skin disorders, grooming is a constant job, shedding is excessive [you need a good vacuum cleaner]. As a puppy, he chewed the upholstery completely of an arm chair while we were at work.

Name withheld by request of Stouffville, Ontario writes on 11/25/00:

The best dog I've owned.
I have had many dogs, usually several at a time, including a Sheltie, Yorkie, Maltese, Keeshond, Poodle, Cocker Cpaniel, etc. The only negative about Spaniels is they tend to easily get ear infections, and sometimes hot spots. My wonderful Cocker Spaniel was one in a million. He was obedient, loyal, loving, and could read my mind. He was so smart, he could figure out what I was going to do next before I even knew! If I got out a suitcase, he would run outside and lie by the car so he could come with us. All he ever wanted in life was to be with me. Yet he was always affectionate with all members of the family. He recently died at age 13 1/2 and I feel like I've lost my best friend. We miss him terribly. of Henryville, IN writes on 10/9/00:

More than meets the eye.
My two girls are as close to Cocker perfection as they get. They do not hold true to the standard that the loving Cocker seems to be getting now a days. They are very gentle and loving, and want nothing more than to be the center of attention. With weekly care we have seemed to void the historic, "Cocker Ears." In almost two years only 1 ear infection. Of course this does come from constant care so that their ears stay clean and dry , all it takes is a little devotion. Although the cocker is not for everyone , they are for people who have the time to raise them right, My two girls are wonderful with my 4 yr. old , because they were raised in the way they should , they were always with people and other pets. They need alot of socialization early on in life. If early on in life or even later as long as someone has the patience to work with this fantastic breed, they really do make wonderful pets. of Delaware writes on 8./19/00:

Fun and loving.
I've had Brittany Spaniels and English Springer Spaniels and don't get me wrong they are great dogs and I loved each of them dearly, but my 18 month old Parti-color male Cocker Spaniel is my best friend. He likes to cuddle next to me or sit on my lap to watch tv. He's very smart and learns each and every trick I can think of to teach him. He anticipates my every move, so I have to outwit him. He talks to me with his eyes and body to let me know just what he wants. I don't know what I did without him, he's brought so much fun and joy to my life. He howls when I tell him it's time for his bath. He sleeps with me at night starting at the foot of the bed, but somehow by morning he's cuddled up along side me. He is the first Cocker Spaniel that I have ever had, I used to hear stories of how they could be snippy or bad natured so I never even considered the breed. This little guy loves everyone, young or old. I haven't seen anyone that he doesn't like. He just wiggles his butt whenever anyone comes up to him. I guess you can say he's not much of a watch dog, but if the garbage truck ever trys anything watch out! of Tulsa, OK writes on 3/2/00:

Wonderful, intelligent, loving companions.
The American Cocker Spaniel is a wonderful companion that will excel at anything you may ask of it. Agility, conformation, obedience, field trials, therapy work or even lap warmers! As a testement to their willingness to please they can even excel at herding work with the proper direction. Being the proud owner of three of these beautiful, loving dogs keeps me busy if not in pursuing agility & obedience titles we are making several therapy visits each month.
Being the most popular breed in American history has brought some drawbacks to the breed. Due to overbreeding in years past there are some health defects common to the breed. Most common are diseases of the eye such as cataracts, glaucoma and retinal degeneration and problems of the skin manifesting from allergies. All of the afore mentioned disorders can be successfully treated with surgery or medication with the exception of retinal degeneration which will over time eventually render the animal blind. Breeders are working very hard to decrease or eliminate genetic disorders such as these. With careful screening of a potential companions breeder and lineage you can be confident you will receive a companion that you can enjoy for many years to come.

Name withheld by request of Tulsa, OK writes on 11/8/99:

Wonderful, loving companions with beautiful coats that take time to maintain.
There is never a dull moment living with American Cocker Spaniels. They are day in and out very loving companions and are very intelligent. They very happy and are eager to please which enhances their ability to excel at almost anything they do whether it is athletic competition, pet therapy or even chasing the squirrels away from the bird feeder! Having grown up in the country with Setters as a child then moving to the city and having to choose a companion more suited for a smaller space, the Cocker Spaniel was my choice. It still retains the admirable qualities of the larger sporting breeds in a smaller package. They come in a variety of colors that, as with other breeds, can generally indicate the personality "type" of the pet. You may find a Parti color to be more active and ASCOB and Black more laid back. As with any breed indiscriminate breeding does put many puppies out there that can bring true heartache to their families.
They are prone to various diseases of the eye, glaucoma and cataracts (both are treatable by medication and/or surgery) and retinal degeneration and/or dysplasia - conditions that are permanent and may render the pet blind. Also, allergies and on rare occasions hip dysplasia. [Reputable breeders (as with any breed) do their best to produce quality stock that are not predisposed by heredity to these conditions.] I myself have owned Cocker Spaniels for 10 years and am hooked on the breed, currently sharing my home with 3 of them. All of my Cockers compete in obedience events, are therapy dogs and the younger of the clan are learning the ropes of agility. Even though these loving companions are capable of almost anything you may ask of them they require a lot from you. Having fine, thick, fast growing coats, they will require daily care to avoid matting. Daily brushing of the coat is a necessity along with regular bathing. You will either need to become adept at home grooming or plan to make a monthly trip to the groomer to keep a managable lenth coat for the average pet. If you are active outdoors and intend for your dog to join you the attractive long show coat is not recommended! Although it is possible to keep a beatiful show coat on a dog that is active outdoors it will require anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour of care daily to keep it in good condition. A shorter coat, more along the look that the larger sporting dogs carry, can be cared for in 10 to 20 minutes a day depending on the days activities. Regular nail trimming and teeth brushing are also a necessity.
Cocker Spaniels are very social and will demand much of your time and attention. If you are considering a Cocker Spaniel for your family and have children, do not let stories you may hear of "snippy cockers" sway you from considering a Cocker. Although I did not have the luxury of witnessing the behavior of most of my Cockers parents and littermates for temperment they have all gotten along well with children of all ages. However, you should have that luxury if considering a puppy and most breeders, if they are concientious, will want to meet the entire family before releasing one of their charges into your care. Just remember to ask questions about the health related issues I mentioned earlier and ask to see proof of certifications of health as well as contacting any organizations/breed clubs that the breeder claims to register with, many keep record if complaints have been registered against the breeder, they can also verify pedigrees. If you are reading this review I'm sure you'll be the dedicated, loving owner that this Wonderful, "Merry" breed is looking for - here's to a lasting loving relationship! of Virginia writes on 10/25/99:

Friendly, gentle, affectionate, easy to train.
Like most sporting breeds, Cocker Spaniels are friendly and gentle. They are also smaller than other sporting dogs, making them a good size for a house dog. They have been extremely popular, which means that many have been poorly bred and inherited health problems abound. It is important to contact a reliable breeder who tests for health conditions. Some Cockers can be snappish, and often they piddle when excited. Therefore it is important to be well informed before choosing your dog. Cockers are very affectionate to people, not good watchdogs! Cockers do well in obedience training and are eager to please. There are several rescue grouprs for Cockers; do consider giving a home to aneedy adult dog. They are much easier to care for than puppies, and will love you just as much! of Minneapolis, MN writes on 10/12/99:

I love them, but they are not for everyone.
Cockers are a most lovable breed! The Cockers I have had the opportunity to know over the last 40+ years have been outstanding companions, trainable, and willing to please at all costs. As household pets, they are loyal, gentle with children, not too wild or destructive in the house, relatively easily house trained, and quite loyal. Their size makes them ideal when a small-medium sized dog is required.
Trainable? Yes! Cockers can be trained to excel at obedience for either home living or for competition. Cockers are willing learners, who can be readily trained by any of the current training methods ... anything for treats, and anything for the human who loves them!
Versitility? Absolutely! Cockers can fill many roles. They will be happy and fulfilled with just being a household pet, but can also enjoy participation in many sports from hunting (they work ahead of the handler to find birds, put the birds to flight so the hunter can shoot, then retrieve them), to agility (a timed obstacle course which includes jumps, tunnels, ramps, and more) or flyball (a team relay race where dogs jump over hurdles to a box with a tennis ball, push the lever to release the ball, then return over the hurdles again).
So then, why is it that a Cocker may not be for everyone? Cockers require a great deal of grooming. If you own a Cocker, brushing must be a part of the usual routine. A Cocker will quickly develop matts - felted together wads of hair - without daily grooming. In addition to this, Cockers require clipping every 3-6 weeks. Using a professional groomer can cost of $20-$30 per visit.
If you have considered the cost, and still want to go ahead with a Cocker, what should you look for? Choose the person from whom you will get your Cocker puppy carefully. There are many places you can get a dog, but did they take the time to insure the health of the parent dogs? Did they care enough to reduce the possibility of inherited conditions in their puppies by having the parents checked for cataracts and other eye diseases (if so, they will have a CERF number)? Did they check the parents for bone structure soundness by X-raying and registering the results (an OFA number would be a good thing)? Did you have the opportunity to meet the parents of the puppy you are considering? If so, did you like their appearance, personality and activity level? A good breeder is a resourse worth their weight in gold.
Perhaps an adult dog is more to your liking. Try a humane shelter, or rescue group. Sometimes, breeders also have adult dogs available.
Cockers are a wonderful pet. They will be a part of your family for 13-16 years. They are adorable, gentle, friendly, trainable, loyal companions. They do however require more grooming than many other breeds. Are you willing to deal with that? If so, then a Cocker may be for you. If not, then choose another breed. of New York writes on 10/10/01:

Who could ask for anything more?
Nine years ago a bought a Cocker Spaniel puppy and my life hasn't been the same since. He is the greatest dog I've ever had. He's kind, gentle, friendly but cautious and extremely intelligent. Because of him I've given up a lot of selfish behavior and I feel that he has prepared me for motherhood.
In spite of the medical problems he has, such as skin allergies, ear infections and arthirtis, he's always ready to play a game of fetch or volley ball. He's the perfect size for an apartment and to ride in a Honda Civic, not too big, not too small.
If anyone were to ask me if I would recommend having a Cocker as a memeber of their family, I would tell them, "You get a whole lotta dog in a little package ... who could ask for anything more?"

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