The English Cocker Spaniel, also known as the Cocker and the Merry Cocker, is one of the oldest known land dogs descended from the original spaniels of Spain as one of a family of breeds destined to become highly diversified in size, type, color and hunting ability. This breed is distinguished from the American Cocker Spaniel, and there are two types of English Cocker Spaniels: the working spaniel and the show spaniel, which look very different from one another.
The English Cocker Spaniel has an extremely happy, affectionate and loyal personality, which gives it the nickname “the Merry Cocker.” This is a terrific breed for families, particularly the show type, as they get along extremely well with children. The average mature male English Cocker stands 16 to 17 inches at the withers, and mature females of this breed are between 15 and 16 inches in height. Males typically weigh between 28 and 34 pounds, while females typically weigh between 26 and 32 pounds. Their coat should be brushed regularly.
English Cocker Spaniel Dog Breed Quick Facts
English Cocker Spaniel – Appearance & Grooming
English Cocker Spaniels are a very handsome breed with long ears, round heads and a feathered coat. They are slightly larger than their American cousins, have shorter hair (even where feathered) and their heads lack the abrupt stop of the American version. Additionally, their muzzles are a bit longer than those of the American Cocker.
The upper lip should hang down, covering their lower jaw and the preferred bite is a scissor. Black Cockers will always have black noses, but lighter colored dogs may have brown noses. They have round eyes with oval eye rimes that appear to look straight forward. The English Cocker has cat-like feet with arched toes and dewclaws should be removed for showing purposes or if the dog will be participating in outdoor activities.
They come in colors of black, buff, cream, red, tan or brown and may be parti-color. A Cocker Spaniel’s tail should be docked to 2/5 of its original length, except in Europe, where docking is illegal.
Size and Weight
The ideal size for a Cocker Spaniel is 15 to 17 inches at the withers for males and 14 to 16 inches for females. Males generally weigh in between 28 and 34 pounds whereas females average 26 to 32 pounds.
Coat and Color
Cocker Spaniels have a thick, sometimes wavy coat that is shorter on the head and back than it is on the ears, chest, belly and legs. On these areas there is distinct feathering, though the hair is not as thick and long as that of an American Cocker. They can be solid black, cream, red or brown or they may be parti-color which is two or more colors, one of which is always white.
Owning an English Cocker Spaniel means a lot of maintenance, though they require less than the American Cocker. Many owners opt to clip their Cocker to reduce the need for brushing and maintenance. For those who keep the long hair, brushing the feathers every other day can prevent tangles and matting. Because Cocker Spaniels require regular grooming, it is important to train puppies to be handled by humans at a young age.
Cocker Spaniels are prone to ear infections because their long, heavy ears do not allow for air to circulate into the ear canal. Veterinarians can recommend a cleanser that can be used on a regular basis to keep the ears dry and free from wax and bacteria.
It is important to brush a Cocker Spaniel’s teeth on a regular basis to prevent tartar buildup and promote healthy gums.
English Cocker Spaniel – History and Health
Before the seventeenth century, all members of this group of dogs were classified as “spaniels,” regardless of whether they were large or small, long-bodied or short, fast or slow, long-coated or short. Gradually, the size differences made an impression on hunters, and the larger dogs became used more so for springing game, while the smaller ones were used to hunt woodcock and other birds.
The names Springer Spaniel, and Cocker or Woodcock Spaniel, naturally followed the skills of the developing breeds. The Kennel Club (of England) officially recognized them as distinct breeds in 1892. However, both types were found in the same litters even after their official separation by the English Kennel Club, with size being the dividing line between them.
The Cocker and the Springer developed side by side, with the same heritage, coloring, hunting skills and general type. They were valued as great work and companion dogs during the 1900s. The larger dog developed as the English Cocker Spaniel, and the smaller dog developed into the American Cocker Spaniel.
During the late nineteenth century, two other distinct lines of Cockers developed. One involved dogs known as Field or Cocker Spaniels, which eventually branched out to become the Sussex, Field and Cocker Spaniels, with the latter being primarily black and weighing less than twenty-five pounds.
The other line involved spaniels from the House of Marlborough, of which there were two types: a small, round-headed, short-nosed, red-and-white dog and a slightly larger dog with shorter ears and a longer muzzle. The Marlborough Cocker eventually became the English Toy Spaniel, but before they became a distinct breed they were crossed with smaller Cockers, and from those two lines came the American Cocker Spaniel known today.
The English Cocker Spaniel Club of America was founded in 1936, at which time the breed already was recognized as a variety of the Cocker Spaniel by action of the American Kennel Club Board of Directors, but not as a separate breed in its own right. The parent club’s aim was to discourage interbreeding of the English and American varieties of Cocker Spaniels.
Fanciers of the English Cocker thought that this would be detrimental to their breed, and much controversy ensued. In 1940, the Canadian Kennel Club recognized the English Cocker Spaniel as a distinct breed, as did the American Kennel Club in 1946. Thereafter, reputable breeders recognized that this confusion in breed history was detrimental to the breed.
The English Cocker Spaniel has an average life expectancy of 11 to 12 years. Breed health problems can include a number of cardiovascular conditions, skin disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, immune-mediated hematological / immunological disorders and infectious conditions.
English Cocker Spaniel – Temperament & Personality
English Cocker Spaniels are happy, easy going animals that make excellent companions for families of all shapes and sizes. Their personalities are more consistent than those of their American Cocker cousins, as puppy mills aren’t as attracted to the larger English Cocker Spaniel. They are polite to strangers, tolerant with children and easy to train, making them an excellent choice for first time dog owners and families with kids. They love the company of people, and will be thrilled to accompany family members anywhere they go.
Unlike their American counterparts, English Cockers need a good deal of exercise to remain happy and healthy. They are small, but are generally not happy living an apartment or condo lifestyle. Instead, this breed prefers a home with a large fenced-in yard to run in, preferably with a sturdy fence to keep him from chasing birds or small animals into traffic.
If possible, Cockers can do well when enrolled in agility and tracking activities. They are not the most intelligent or agile breed and may not steal the show, but they enjoy the activities none the less.
Cockers are easy to train, especially when the reward system involves food. This breed is incredibly sensitive and takes it personally when someone treats them harshly, which results in avoidance behaviors, or in some cases, retaliation. Positive reinforcement is always the best road to take when training a Cocker Spaniel.
The biggest mistake people make with English Cocker Spaniels is not exercising them enough. When this breed isn’t allowed to properly burn off energy, they can develop severe anxiety which results in barking, howling and destructive chewing when left alone. English Cockers crave companionship, and even if properly exercised can still develop severe separation anxiety. For this reason, Cockers are better suited for families with a stay at home parent, or for people who do not work long hours.
Barking is a common problem with Cockers, even when they aren’t alone. They are alert little watchdogs and will sound the alarm when there is an incoming biker, jogger, car, truck, cat, dog, rabbit or bird. Training them to obey a stop barking command can maintain the sanity of the neighborhood.