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English Cocker Spaniel

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The English Cocker Spaniel is a medium sized purebred dog bred to hunt woodcock and other game birds. Outside the US it is simply called the Cocker Spaniel, and the US have their own version which outside the US is called the American Cocker Spaniel, but in the US they call that one just a Cocker Spaniel. It is talented at hunting, tracking, retrieving, agility and competitive obedience. There are two types of cockers, field and show. Field can also be known as working cockers.

Here is the English Cocker Spaniel at a Glance
Name English Cocker Spaniel
Other Names Cocker Spaniel,
Nicknames Cocker, Merry Cocker Woker
Origin United Kingdom
Average size Medium
Average weight 26 to 34 pounds
Average height 15 to 17 inches
Life span 11 to 14 years
Coat type Short to medium, silky
Hypoallergenic No
Color Red, black ,tan, blue, brown
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 60th by the AKC
Intelligence Very intelligent
Tolerance to heat Good – can handle some warmth but nothing too hot or extreme
Tolerance to cold Very good – can handle cold weather but not extremes
Shedding Average, can expect some loose hair around
Drooling Low – not known for lots of slobber or drool
Obesity High – very prone to weight gain. Food needs measuring and it needs plenty of exercise
Grooming/brushing Moderate – brush regularly
Barking Occasional
Exercise needs Fairly active – must get regular daily activity
Trainability Easy to train
Friendliness Excellent – social dog
Good first dog Very good – when from a good line
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Good with socialization – has high prey drive
Good with strangers Excellent with socialization
Good apartment dog Excellent due to size
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Quite a healthy dog but some issues include eye problems, hip dysplasia, kidney problems and heart problems
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $635 a year for miscellaneous costs, toys, license and basic training
Average annual expense $1240 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $900
Biting Statistics None reported

The English Cocker Spaniel's Beginnings

There have been varying types of Spaniels around for many hundreds of years. In Shakespeare and Chaucer works there are references to this type of dog. In England these were grouped into two categories, the water spaniels and the land spaniels. The English Cocker Spaniel was a land spaniel.

The English Cocker Spaniel is one of the oldest spaniel breeds around and comes from several spaniel types who were imported to England hundreds of years ago. For a long time litters from spaniels were divided more according to size and what they were suited for. Eventually though they were then divided into seven individual breeds, the Cocker being one of them.

It was developed along with the Springer Spaniel and for a while and they were seen as just two different sizes. Both were used as hunting dogs, the Cocker Spaniel being more of a flushing dog, driving the or flushing out the birds for the human hunters to shoot down. While its name indicates one of the main birds it was to hunt was the woodcock, in fact it was also used for other bird hunting too.

In the late 19th century a growing interest in dog shows and conformity with breeds occurred. In 1885 the Spaniel Club was formed and eventually in 1892 the English Kennel Club recognized that the Springer and Cocker were two different breeds.

New Lease on Life

Meanwhile in the US around the late 19th century the American Cocker Spaniel was bred from English Cocker Spaniels that had been bought over. American breeders were more focused on having smaller dogs with more rounded heads, a heavier coat and smaller muzzle. Both the English and American Cocker Spaniel were shown as one breed in America until 1936 when the English Cocker was recognized as a separate breed. It was given a breed designation in 1946 by both the American and Canadian Kennel Clubs.

In the US the American Cocker Spaniel is more popular but the English Cocker is more popular in the UK. Because it is not as wildly popular there have not been too much damage done to its health with poor breeding in the US. It is currently ranked 60th in popularity by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The English Cocker Spaniel is a medium sized dog weighing 26 to 34 pounds and standing 15 to 17 inches tall. It has a compact body with a deep chest and straight front legs. In places where it is still allowed the tail is docked but in the UK and most of Europe this is now against the law. Its coat is medium length on the body but shorter on the head and feathering happens on the legs, chest, stomach and ears. Common colors are black, tan, red, brown and blue with sometimes white markings.

Its head is arched but from the side looks a little flat. The head and the muzzle are the same length and at the end of the muzzle is a brown or black nose. It has oval shaped eyes that are hazel or dark brown and medium sized. Its ears hang down and are long and set low down. They are covered in wavy and silky hair. There are two types, field and show cockers and the show ones have coats that are longer.

The Inner English Cocker Spaniel


The English Cocker Spaniel is a very affectionate, cheerful and social dog. It is alert and will bark to let you know of an intruder but it does not have very strong protective instincts so is not likely to act against them. Otherwise its barking is occasional and it is a dog that even new owners can consider owning. With socialization it is a sweet dog, gentle and happy, affectionate and loyal. Without socialization and if from a poor line it can be more aggressive and snappy. Also some lines can have more timidity in them.


It is an intelligent dog, very lively and perky and it likes to play. It make a great companion and a great family dog. It is important though that it gets enough exercise and mental stimulation so that it does not start to act out and get destructive from boredom. It is also important to treat it as a dog with you as the alpha otherwise cockers that are spoiled can become very difficult, and overly clingy.

It is a resilient and determined dog but it does not like to be left alone and can suffer from separation anxiety. Often though it is affectionate with the whole family it will bond more closely to one person.

Living with an English Cocker Spaniel

What will training look like?

This is an easy dog to train, it is likely to listen and obey and because it is intelligent it may even need less repetition than other breeds. It is sensitive though so cross tones and impatience are less likely to reach it than being positive but firm and using treats, encouragement and consistency. Make sure along with training it gets early socialization so that it becomes more confident and able to deal with different situations, places and people. Try to make sessions engaging and fun, you will get better results.

How active is the English Cocker Spaniel?

The English Cocker Spaniel is of a size where living in an apartment is fine but it will be better off if it has access to some kind of a yard, even if it is just a small one. It is a fairly active dog and will need at least two good walks a day, it is worth noting that being more lively the English Cocker needs more exercise than the American. It has a lot of stamina and will be happy to go to the dog park, run off leash, play doggy games with you, and take long brisk walks. Being smart it is also important you make sure it gets some mental stimulation too.

Caring for the English Cocker Spaniel

Grooming needs

There will be a moderate amount of shedding so that will need vacuuming up fairly regularly. Brush the coat every other day to get rid of some of that loose hair and to get rid of debris and keep the coat healthy. Also some coats have more of the wispy hair that tangles easily and needs combing daily to prevent this. Bathing should only be done when it needs it as this can dry out its skin. Always only use a dog shampoo otherwise you could damage the natural oils it needs. The coat will also need trimming and stripping on a regular basis, this can be done by a professional groomer.

Its ears should be checked for infection once a week and then wiped clean. It teeth should be brushed two to three times a week. You will also need to have its nails clipped when they get too long. Take care not to nick down too low as there will be bleeding and pain. Have a professional groomer do it for you if you are not experienced or knowledgeable.

Feeding Time

How much your dog will need to eat will depend on its level of activity, its metabolism, size and age. About 1 to 2 cups of a good quality dry dog food is about right though. Make sure you keep the food where it cannot get it as it will try to! Also see that you feed it in at least two meals so it does not overeat in one sitting. It will have problems with obesity if it is allowed to eat too much and does not get enough exercise.


How is the English Cocker Spaniel with children and other animals?

When around kids the English Cocker Spaniel is playful, lively and energetic, happy to have a partner to play with. It is also very affectionate with them, with socialization and especially when raised with them, this is a very good dog with children. It is true though that there are some lines that are overly timid and react poorly to sudden loud noises or being startled, both things children are likely to do so take care of where you buy from too.

Cockers that have grown up not experiencing children and need to be re-homed should be sent to homes with older children not younger. Make sure too that the children are taught how to touch and play nicely. If raised in a home with cats and other pets and with socialization a Cocker is fine with them. It is also good with other dogs when socialized and from a good line. Ones that are overly spoiled, from poor lines and not well socialized though can be aggressive towards them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The English Cocker Spaniel should have an average life span of 11 to 14 years. It is somewhat healthy, there are issues it can be prone to, with some lines being more prone than others. Those issues include ear infections, deafness, obesity, cancer, heart problems, allergies, skin problems, eye problems, hip dysplasia, rage syndrome (more a problem in show dogs), hypothyroidism, von Willebrand's and kidney problems.

Biting Statistics

In reports that cover attacks against people in the US and Canada over the last 34 years the English Cocker Spaniel is not mentioned directly. However it is known to have an aggressive streak and there are poorly bred lines so while it may not have caused bodily harm in any reports, it has been known to attack for seemingly no known reason. Where it is a more common pet in the UK there are more reports of problems. Supervise it in dog parks and out walking, and around strange people. Make sure you train and socialize it and that it gets all the exercise, care, mental stimulation and attention it needs.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

An English Cocker Spaniel is going to cost about $900 for a puppy though possibly that could go up to $1200 depending on where you are. A shelter or rescue dog is going to be lower, $50 to $300 but is also likely to be an adult dog not a puppy. There are other places you can buy from, ads you could check out, pet shops, backyard breeders. But many of these are either ignorant, bad, mistreating the animals or getting their dogs from places like puppy mills which are not something you want to fund. If you want a show dog from a top breeder that is going to be several thousand dollars.


When you have an English Cocker Spaniel you will need to have it examined by a vet, have blood tests done, deworm it, give it shots, micro chip it and have it spayed or neutered. That will cost about $300. There will be a need for certain items like a carrier, collar and leash and crate. These will cost about $200.

Medical yearly costs for pet insurance and basic care like check ups, vaccinations and flea and tick prevention will come to $460 or more. Food and treats will cost another $145 a year. Miscellaneous costs for grooming, license, basic training, miscellaneous items and toys will start at about $635 a year. This gives a total yearly cost of around $1240.


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The English Cocker Spaniel from the right line and with the right raising is eager to please, a polite, happy, social, loving and great dog. But it can be prone to separation anxiety which can lead to it being destructive. There is also a chance it will dribble urine when it gets over excited or nervous and some can also bark a lot.

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