Breed Group: Sporting
Height: 14 to 15 inches at the shoulder
Weight: 20 to 30 pounds
Life Span: 12 to 15 years
The Cocker Spaniel will happily go hunting for birds or hang around the house. He is easily trained, gentle, and playful, and loves splashing around in water. His tail is always wagging whether he’s following a scent or checking to see what’s under the couch.
Did You Know the Cocker Spaniel Makes An Excellent Family Pet?
Former talk show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey owns two Cocker Spaniels, Sophie and Solomon. In 2010, designer Ralph Lauren custom designed a cashmere sweater the color of Oprah’s Cockers, which she gave away to audience members at her “Favorite Things” extravaganza.
Before the Golden Retriever and Labrador set the modern bar for the “great with kids” family companion, no breed was more beloved or popular than the Cocker Spaniel. Beautiful, sweet-natured and moderately sized, the Cocker’s popularity bounded happily forward after World War II with the two-time Westminster Best in Show winner Ch. My Own Brucie. At his best, the Cocker is a gentle, affectionate and healthy dog with soft, dark eyes.
Weighing less than 30 pounds (albeit with a tendency to gain more) with a soft, wavy coat in many colors and patterns, long ears and the most expressive eyes in dogdom, the Cocker is an excellent family pet — lively, affectionate, sweet and trainable. But at his worst, he’s a nightmare. Popularity has truly been a curse to the Cocker Spaniel, and he’s one of the favorite breeds of puppy millers, Internet retailers, and pet stores, who sell sad-eyed, floppy-eared, adorable puppies that too often grow up to be unstable, noisy, nervous dogs who are difficult to housetrain and have a tendency to snap and even bite.
If you’re lucky enough to find a puppy from a good breeder, get him off on the right foot with gentle and consistent training right from the start. A well-bred Cocker should be easy to housetrain, happy to be with you, and eager to experience new things even if it means walking on a leash, riding in the car or going to puppy classes.
Because Cocker Spaniels are extremely people-oriented, even the best-bred and socialized dogs tend to be a bit unhappy when left alone. For some, this takes the form of full-blown separation anxiety, with the barking, crying, and destructive behavior that usually accompanies it. Accustom your dog from puppyhood to being left alone from time to time. However, if you expect long hours left on his own to be part of your dog’s usual routine, this is probably not the breed for you.
Cocker Spaniels are typically friendly with other dogs and with cats. They are moderate shedders, and their coats require brushing several times a week. They can also be kept clipped, in which case they’ll need to be professionally or home-groomed every four to six weeks.
While the Cocker Spaniel is on the small side, don’t forget that he is a Sporting breed. Although he doesn’t need the hard-core exercise of some of the other sporting breeds, he still needs to burn off a lot of steam as he could run all day – after all, he’s bred to do so. However, a half hour walk or game of fetching the ball once or twice a day is appropriate, although he’d love to go on longer walks with you. You could also substitute a solid 15 minutes per day of obedience training, which stimulates his mind as well as his body. He’s a busy little guy, sniffing all day to follow a scent.
The different colors within the breed are considered separate varieties. A Black Cocker includes solid black as well as black and tan. The acronym ASCOB stands for “any solid color other than black,” which can include buff, brown, silver, and so on. The parti-color Cocker is either black and white, brown and white, red and white, or tri-color.
Cocker Spaniels are first and foremost companion dogs and should not live outdoors. They need to live in the house with you and your family.
Other Quick Facts About the Cocker Spaniel
Loving, affectionate and gentle, a well-bred Cocker is a terrific family pet and fits comfortably into any size home.
A poorly bred Cocker is snappy and afraid of people. This breed is one in which it pays to work with a responsible, experienced breeder.
The Cocker can compete in field trials, hunt tests, obedience, rally, agility, freestyle, and other forms of dog performance activities. He makes a good therapy dog.
The Cocker tail is typically docked, or cut short, when puppies are three or four days old. This is a point of controversy to some because it is a cosmetic procedure, although people in the breed note that it helps protect the tail from injury in the field.
Even well-bred Cockers are sensitive, so it’s important to use positive reinforcement and praise during training.