English Cocker Spaniel
English cocker spaniels have been some of the most beloved, most recognizable faces in media and advertising for decades. And it's easy to see why: Their expressive, doe-like eyes and floppy ears make them very hard to resist.
English cocker spaniels are a tad smaller than their springer spaniel cousins; males grow to be 16–17 inches tall and 28–34 pounds, while females stay around 15–16 inches and 26–32 pounds.
English cockers have a long, squarish nose, dark-colored eyes, and pendant ears. Their silky coats are long and soft, traditionally with feathering at the ends, according to the breed standard. Working dogs will often have their hair trimmed much shorter than show dogs or family pets so their fur doesn't become tangled or collect dirt. English cocker spaniels are most commonly found in color combinations of black, red, liver, tan, orange, lemon, and/or white.
An English cocker's tail will grow to a length of 8–9 inches when left to its own devices. However, as a hunting dog who spends time in thick underbrush, it's been common practice for centuries to dock their tails down to about 4 inches. Proponents say this is to avoid injury while working, but today, docking is completely optional and often skipped, especially for family dogs. (The practice is also controversial, per the American Veterinary Medical Association).
Despite the similarities in name and appearance, the English cocker spaniel is a different breed than the American cocker spaniel. The American cocker is longer than he is tall, while the English cocker is taller than he is long. Another way to tell if a dog is an English cocker spaniel vs. American cocker spaniel is by looking at his face: The English cocker's muzzle is longer than his American cousin's, and his eyes are rounder.
There's a reason this breed bears the nickname "merry cocker." English cocker spaniels are cheerful, playful dogs with a delightful personality. They're also extremely loyal to their people. They make good pets for families with children thanks to their friendly disposition and compact size. However, smaller children should still be supervised and taught how to properly interact with pets during playtime.
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They are natural explorers and excellent retrievers who love to play fetch with tennis balls or sticks. But with all that energy and intelligence, English cocker spaniels can get bored easily.
"When you've got an athlete dog like that, you've got to make sure you're getting them out to burn off that energy," says Dennis Riordan, DVM, of the Riordan Pet Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. "If you're not doing that, you'll get a frustrated dog."
English cocker spaniels are extremely adaptable pets. They're right at home in a spacious backyard, but they're also cool with apartment living. They have the energy and intelligence to play well with children and younger adults, but also can be trained to serve as calm, reliable companions for seniors. They become fast friends with other dogs, and even cats if they're introduced at an early age.
Their medium-long fur enables English cocker spaniels to do well in colder climates, but the lighter texture of their hair, combined with lack of an undercoat, make them well-suited to warmer areas. So basically, they can live happily anywhere (but still keep an eye out for heat exhaustion on extra-hot days and hypothermia when it's cold).
Add all this up, and it means that an English cocker spaniel can thrive wherever you live, as long as you are able to tend to his exercise and companionship needs. Daily activity will be a welcome addition to any English cocker's life. A game of fetch, a trip to the dog park, or some supervised backyard time will keep this breed happy. They are also natural runners with a high level of stamina and, once they are over a year old, English cockers would be happy to go for a jog with you.
English cocker spaniels tend to be low-maintenance dogs … except when it comes to brushing. English cockers have a double coat, which means under that long, silky hair is a thicker, dense undercoat that needs a lot of TLC. Give your English cocker a good but gentle brushing at least two to three times a week to keep their hair free of mats and tangles—and to keep the majority of the hair they shed off your floor.
Beyond that, your English cocker will be ready for a trim every six to eight weeks, depending on how long you like their hair, and a bath every month or two. They'll need regular nail trimming and tooth brushing, and this breed is prone to ear infections, so be sure to clean their ears at least once a week.
You'll need to make sure your English cocker is well-trained from an early age. Spaniels are sensitive dogs, so you need to be consistent but gentle when training and reward them with plenty of treats and positive reinforcement. Start training your English cocker spaniel puppy early—with the proper motivation and reinforcement, these smart dogs will learn fast.
Here's one of the most important things you need to know about English cocker spaniels: They can get chunky. They're not afraid of the dinner bowl, and they will sneak (or straight-up steal) any food they can get close to. And if they aren't exercised properly, those extra calories will add up. So as the responsible one in this relationship, it's up to you to monitor their diet and to keep them moving and active throughout their life. As your pup ages and activity levels drop, it'll be important to adjust his food intake. Talk to your vet to ensure your dog is reducing calories without sacrificing nutrients.
Aside from obesity, Riordan says the most common health issues for English cocker spaniels include progressive retinal atrophy, renal failure, and hip dysplasia. But that doesn't mean your pup will develop these conditions. With an eye towards a good diet, regular exercise, and regular checkups, you can help keep your dog happy and healthy.
There have been spaniels recorded since at least the 1300s, according to the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America (ECSCA). For most of that time, springers and cockers came from the same litter stock, the names being more of a size and job distinction. (Springers were the larger litter mates, chosen to "spring" fowl from the brush. Smaller cockers specialized in hunting a bird called the woodcock.) But by the turn of the 20th century, selective breeding had created distinct breeds, with springers and cockers becoming cousins on the family tree, rather than direct littermates.
With the creation of the American Spaniel Club in 1881, both springers and cockers began to be bred for shows and competitions, rather than just as purely sporting animals. Springers and cockers were shown as the same breed of dog, until the Kennel Club created separate breed standards in 1903.
Since then, English cocker spaniels have become show and competition favorites, and they are the breed with the most wins in the history at the Crufts dog show, winning Best in Show seven times.
- Arguably the first superstar English cocker spaniel was a dog named My Own Brucie, who won back-to-back Best in Show awards at Westminster in 1940 and 1941. Upon Brucie's death in 1943, his obituary was carried in newspapers around the world and he was regarded as the "most photographed dog in the world."
- When commercial artist Joyce Ballantyne Brand was creating her now iconic ad for Coppertone sunscreen, the dog pulling at the little girl's bathing suit was based off her neighbor's English cocker spaniel.
- The most famous animated English cocker spaniel was brought to life by Walt Disney in 1955, with the release of Lady and the Tramp. Lady was based on a real dog who was learning to deal with a new baby in the house.