The English Cocker Spaniel
One of two Cocker Spaniel breeds, the floppy-eared English Cocker Spaniel is known for his good-natured spirit and his strong work ethic. The English Cocker Spaniel is an adaptable breed that does well as a family pet and children’s companion, but their true passion is working in the field.
English Cocker spaniel Dog Breed Information
AKC Breed Group
Black, Black & Tan, Blue Roan
Developed as a gun dog, the English Cocker Spaniel is typically divided into two “types” – one for working and one for show. These dogs are larger than the American Cocker Spaniel with a shorter coat, but they are just as funny, friendly, and affectionate as their American counterparts.
If you’re looking for a smart, trainable breed with does well in the ring and in the field but still makes a great family pet, the English Cocker Spaniel is one to consider.
Fun Facts About the English Cocker Spaniel
- The English Cocker Spaniel is one of two Cocker Spaniel breeds – it is larger and has a shorter coat than the American Cocker Spaniel.
- This breed has a gentle personality that may not respond well to harsh training methods but they can be tricky to train, even with positive reinforcement.
- Due to their long, floppy and hair-covered ears, English Cocker Spaniels are highly prone to ear infections.
Coat and Appearance
The AKC describes the English Cocker Spaniel as a compact, solidly built dog with great energy and enthusiasm. This breed has a powerful gait and an ability to cover ground effortless in the field. Males stand 16 to 17 inches tall and weigh 28 to 34 pounds while females stand 15 to 16 inches tall and weigh 26 to 32 pounds.
This breed is strong but softly contoured with a dignified and alert expression. The English Cocker Spaniel has medium-sized oval eyes, a cleanly chiseled jaw, and long, leather fine ears covered in silky hair. The body is strong but not heavy with a deep chest, well sprung ribs, and the tail is traditionally docked.
In comparison to the American Cocker Spaniel, the English Cocker Spaniel is larger in size. There are also key differences in the coat. The English version of the breed has a medium-length, flat or slightly wavy coat with a silky texture. There is feathering on the legs, chest, and belly but not as much as the American Cocker.
English Cockers come in a variety of colors including black, liver, and red as well as parti-color combinations of black and tan, liver and tan, or white with black, liver, or red. Many dogs exhibit tan points on the muzzle, eyebrows, rump, feet, and throat. This breed does not come in the buff color that is so popular among American Cockers.
History of the Breed
Dogs of the spaniel type have been around for nearly 500 years. In England, spaniels were originally divided into two groups – water spaniels and land spaniels – though the different breeds didn’t really start to separate until the mid-19th century.
At this time, dog breeders began to selectively breed their spaniels for specialized purposes and divisions formed within the different types based primarily on bodyweight. At the time, Cocker Spaniels generally weighed 12 to 20 pounds, though it was possible for them to be born in the same litter as Springer Spaniels.
Throughout the 1800s, different types of Cocker Spaniels were developed and used not to retrieve game, but to drive game toward the hunter. Early examples of spaniel breeds include Welsh Springer Spaniels, Sussex Spaniels, and Devonshire Cockers.
By 1874, the kennel club was newly formed and spaniels under 25 pounds were all lumped into the Cocker breeding pool. Because of its larger size and smaller ears, however, the Welsh Cocker was reclassified as a Springer Spaniel in the early 1900s.
The first Spaniel Club was formed in 1885 as the sport of conformation began to gather speed. At the time, Springers and Cockers were shown in the same class – at least, until The Spaniel Club created and published breed standards for the different types. In the years that followed, breed enthusiasts have worked to develop the individual traits they desired in each.
When Cockers were imported to the United States, American breeders began to selectively breed for different traits – this is how the division between the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel developed. Though still bred in the U.S., the English Cocker Spaniel is only ranked 56th by AKC registration statistics whereas the American Cocker Spaniel ranks 29th.
Temperament and Personality
Like most spaniels, the English Cocker Spaniel is a friendly, affectionate, and cheerful little dog. This breed is very devoted to his family, getting along well with children as well as other dogs. He generally does well with cats but may be prone to chasing other small pets.
This breed loves to spend time with family and, though he may be a little reserved around strangers, he warms up quickly. The English Cocker Spaniel makes a good watchdog, likely to bark at intruders, but he is not inherently aggressive or overly territorial.
Early socialization is important for this breed to ensure that he gets on well with all members of the family and that he adapts to life as a family pet. If you plan to keep your English Cocker Spaniel as a household pet and not train him for hunting, it may be a good idea to find a breeder who specializes in pet-quality Cockers.
This breed also doesn’t like being left alone, so consider getting a second dog so they can keep each other company and spend plenty of time with your dog when you are at home.
The English Cocker Spaniel has fairly high intelligence but they can sometimes be tricky to train. These dogs do not respond well to harsh training methods, so be sure to use gentle reinforcement. If you treat your dog harshly, he may respond with avoidance and you may never regain a positive relationship.
Early socialization and training is recommended for this breed whether you plan to keep him as a pet, train him for hunting, or show him in the ring. Because this breed doesn’t like being left alone for long periods of time, you should avoid doing so – if you do, you shouldn’t be surprised if your dog develops destructive behaviors out of boredom or anxiety.
In terms of their exercise requirements, English Cocker Spaniel are fairly active – they are generally more active than their American counterparts. These dogs need at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise per day to work off their energy and to remain fit.
Because this breed has a solid, compact body structure, he is also prone to obesity which may necessitate additional exercise. In addition to a long daily walk, your dog will appreciate having a fenced yard in which to play and follow scents.
The English Cocker Spaniel has a medium-length coat that is silky in texture with some feathering. In terms of shedding, this breed sheds a little more than the average dog but you can control it with regular brushing and grooming.
Brush your dog two to three times per week to prevent mats and tangles, and to keep his coat in good condition. Bathing is only needed every six weeks or so and occasional trimming (about once a month) will keep your dog’s coat neat.
In addition to caring for your dog’s coat, keep an eye on his ears because they are prone to infection. Make an effort to brush your dog’s teeth on a daily basis and trim his nails once or twice a month.
Nutrition and Feeding
The English Cocker Spaniel is a medium-sized breed and, unfortunately, most dog food brands don’t offer formulas designed for medium-sized breeds. When choosing a diet for your dog, consider his activity level as well as his age.
English Cocker Spaniel puppies can be fed a general puppy food or a small-breed puppy food but switch to an adult diet once he reaches about 80% of his expected adult size.
Be sure that any food you offer your dog lists a high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient with moderate fat content to provide for your dog’s energy requirements. Any carbohydrates in your dog’s diet should come from digestible ingredients and limit his fiber intake to about 5%.
In terms of how much to feed your dog, follow the feeding instructions in the package according to his age and weight. If you plan to use your English Cocker Spaniel for hunting, he may need more calories than a dog kept as a pet.
Still, follow the feeding recommendations but keep an eye on your dog’s bodyweight and condition. If he seems to be gaining too much weight, scale back his daily portion a little bit. Your vet will be able to help you determine a healthy bodyweight for your dog.
Common Health Problems
For the most part, the English Cocker Spaniel is a healthy breed. These dogs are prone to obesity, however, so be careful how much you are feeding your dog and make sure he gets plenty of exercise. Other conditions to which the breed may be prone include progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, hip dysplasia, renal failure, dilated cardiomyopathy, congenital sensorineural deafness, von Willebrand’s disease, and hypothyroidism. Here is an overview of these common health conditions:
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy – A degenerative eye disease, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is often inherited in dogs. This condition leads to eventual blindness but, fortunately, most dogs adapt well to a loss of vision.
- Cataracts – A cataract is simply a cloudy film or opacity that forms over the lens of the dog’s eye, obstructing his vision. Cataracts are not painful unless they luxate, or slip out of position and block the tear duct. Cataracts can be surgically removed, if needed.
- Hip Dysplasia – Generally an inherited condition, hip dysplasia occurs when the femoral head (the head of the thigh bone) doesn’t sit properly within the hip joint. As the femur slips in and out of place, it may cause your dog to develop arthritis and he may exhibit an altered gait when the bone is displaced.
- Renal Failure – Kidney failure usually affects older English Cocker Spaniels and it is thought to be an inherited condition. Signs of renal failure may include changes in thirst and urination, loss of appetite, vomiting, weight loss, and blood in the urine. Left untreated, this condition can be dangerous or fatal.
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy – A heart condition in which the heart becomes enlarged, this condition usually affects solid-colored English Cocker Spaniels. Symptoms include weight loss, distended abdomen, weakness, coughing, fainting, and rapid heartbeat.
- Congenital Sensorineural Deafness – A condition that typically affects parti-colored English Cocker Spaniels, this disease is present at birth and usually results in deafness by the age of 4 weeks. It can’t be prevented except through selective breeding.
- Von Willebrand’s Disease – A bleeding disorder characterized by insufficient von Willebrand Factor (vWF), this condition leads to profuse bleeding with even minor injuries. It can also lead to frequent nose bleeds, blood in the urine or feces, and bleeding from the gums.
- Hypothyroidism – A condition in which the thyroid gland produces an insufficient amount of hormone, hypothyroidism may cause low energy, irregular heat cycles, poor growth, obesity, and mental dullness. This condition can be managed with daily hormone treatments.
The average lifespan for the English Cocker Spaniel is 12 to 14 years which is on-par for breeds of his size. Responsible breeding is incredibly important for this breed to reduce the risk for hereditary conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia as well as PRA and von Willebrand’s disease.
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