English Cocker Spaniel

Breed At A Glance


Affectionate, outgoing and sweet

Life Expectancy
12-15 years

Average Height
15-18 inches

Average Weight
28-34 lbs

Coat Color
Solid black, liver or red or parti-colour combinations of white with black, liver or red markings or ticking

Coat Length/Texture
Medium length (field types have shorter coats); texture varies widely

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year round

Also known as Cocker Spaniel

General Temperament

English Cocker Spaniels, much like their American cousins, are known for their lovable and playful natures. They are lively and sweet, welcoming of friends and strangers alike, but tend to become particularly loyal to one human companion. Possessed with a fun-loving attitude and good sense of humor, the English Cocker Spaniel is a wonderful pet for an active family.

The English Cocker Spaniel gets along with other household pets they are raised with, including dogs, cats and other pets. But some individuals, females in particular, can be aggressive towards stranger dogs. They are excellent companions for children, although they are sensitive and do not handle teasing well, so children should be taught to respect the dog. English Cockers enjoy barking, but not excessively.

English Cocker Spaniels are willing to learn and quick to understand what is expected of them, so they are easy to train. Keep in mind however that some individuals, particularly females, may challenge your authority at times. Respectful, firm and consistent training techniques are recommended with this breed.

If given sufficient playtime and exercise, an English Cocker Spaniel can be happy in an apartment, although they do best in a home with a yard. They will enjoy as much activity as you are willing to provide. Although they are considered land spaniels, many enjoy swimming.

Like with many other hunting and sporting dogs, breeders of the English Cocker Spaniel have focused their efforts on differentiating between working versus confirmation lines in their breeding programs. English Cockers bred for work (or “field lines”) tend to be more energetic than those bred for companionship or shows. (Working Cockers also have shorter coats and ears than is seen in the show lines.)

Breed History

The Cocker Spaniel is one of the oldest known spaniels, which originated in Spain before traveling to England. Originally, all hunting Spaniel types were grouped together as the same breed, but eventually were separated into separate distinct groups according to hunting specialty: land Spaniels versus water Spaniels. The land Spaniels were further differentiated and bred along separate lines according to specific hunting ability and size.

Although Springer Spaniels and Cocker Spaniels were considered separate breeds by the mid 1800’s, both could be present in the same litter, only differentiated by size (Cockers are significantly smaller than Springers). Ultimately, the Cocker Spaniel was bred along separate lines from it’s Springer litter mates, leading to specialization of both breeds. The Cocker Spaniel developed as an excellent birding dog, flushing woodcock and other avian game towards their human hunting companions.

As the American version of the Cocker Spaniel began to develop separately from it’s English brother, ardent fans of the original version fought to preserve the English Cocker Spaniel in it’s more traditional form. The English Cocker was granted separate breed status from the American Cocker Spaniel (now referred to simply as “Cocker Spaniel”) by the American Kennel Club in 1946.

Body Structure and Composition

The English Cocker Spaniel is a solid and compact dog, slightly taller than it is long. The eyes are slightly oval and set wide apart on the skull, and the low-set ears are long, reaching at least to the end of the muzzle when pulled forward. The muzzle is equal in length to the skull. The topline slopes downward to the tail, which is docked in show dogs in the United States, but is left natural in field lines. (Tail docking has been banned in many European countries.) The gait of an English Cocker Spaniel is distinctively effortless and powerful.

Medical Information

The English Cocker Spaniel, in contrast to it’s American cousin, has not be subject to overbreeding and suffers from relatively few health issues.

The main concern for this breed is ear infections, which occur as a result of the English Cockers long ears, which tend to pick up burrs, parasites and dirt. Be sure to check their ears regularly to prevent infection and infestation.

Eye abnormalities and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) can also be problems for this breed. PRA is a hereditary disease that causes a degeneration of the retina, which leads to blindness, often beginning with night vision.

Some osteo-related issues, such as Patellar Luxation and Hip/Elbow Dysplasia, occasionally occur in English Cocker Spaniel Lines, but with less frequency than in other breeds.

The coat of the English Cocker Spaniel is often very soft and cottony, and if left natural (untrimmed), they require daily brushing to help prevent matting. As is mentioned above, the ears should be cleaned regularly to help prevent infection.

Anecdotal Information

The American version of the Cocker Spaniel has enjoy much more popularity than it’s English cousin. The American Cocker has ranked in the top 20 most popular breeds with the American Kennel Club (according to registration statistics) for at least the last 10 years, but the English Cocker has consistently ranked around the middle of all 157 dog breeds during the same period.

Former U.S. President Richard Nixon owned an English Cocker Spaniel named “Checkers.”

Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning owned an English Cocker Spaniel named “Flush.”

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