If you want to welcome a bundle of joy into your life, look no further than the Cocker Spaniel. These affectionate dogs love everyone (including children, other dogs and even cats) and everyone loves them! With their silky coats, long wavy ears and dark soulful eyes, how can you not? Friendly, affectionate, smart and eager to please, Cocker Spaniels are absolute delights and ideal family pets. They’re pretty energetic though and need plenty of daily exercise to keep them happy, so they suit active owners best.
A small sporting dog, that has an English and American version. English Cocker Spaniels are the larger of the two with a longer head. They stand up to 43cm tall and weigh up to 15kg. While the smaller American Cocker Spaniel stands up to 39cm tall and weigh up to 13.5kg. Both have a stunning silky double coat and you’ll also love their long crinkly ears and always wagging tail.
We’ll just say it: a Cocker Spaniel looks absolutely gorgeous. Thanks to their dark soulful eyes and long crinkly, swinging ears, these small dogs are lovely to look at. Another distinctive feature is their medium-length silky coat, which comes in a wide range of colours and patterns.
Small they may be, but compact Cocker Spaniels are solidly built, they’re sporting dogs after all, bred to work with hunters. They’re also great runners. Check out their stub tails, Cockers are such happy little dogs that their tails are rarely still.
It’s pretty impossible to not fall in love with an Cocker Spaniel. These small pups are eager to learn and please. Smart and playful, they make friends wherever they go, both 2 and 4 legged. They’ll happily live with a playmate at home, whether that’s another dog, cat or a little human. Cockers are great with kids as they’re so affectionate and aren’t known for being biters or aggressive.
Bred to flush game (woodcock, hence their name!) out of the bush, Cocker Spaniels are energetic dogs who love nothing more than long games of fetch and lengthy walks. With their history of sporting service to humans, Cockers will do anything to please you. This, combined with their smarts, makes them pretty easy to train. You’ll have a well mannered Cocker in no time.
Sporting dogs used to working in the fields, these small dogs are surprisingly hardy. Like all dog breeds though, there are a few health issues they’re prone to.
Not really surprising given the length of their floppy ears, Cockers can drag their ears and pick up dirt and other nasties, which can lead to ear infections. Check their ears weekly for signs of infection (like a bad smell or crustiness) and look out for head shaking or pawing at their ears. Ear infections can be treated with ear cleaners and medication, see your vet.
Cocker Spaniels can experience a few joint problems, including patellar luxation and hip dysplasia. Patellar luxation is the formal name for when your pup’s kneecap slips out of the joint. It can cause them to limp or hold their leg up when moving. Depending on how bad it is, medication or surgery can treat it. Hip dysplasia causes the ball of the hip to not fit the socket well, resulting in lameness and pain. It can be treated with surgery.
Kidney failure, or familial nephropathy, stops Cocker Spaniels’ kidneys from getting rid of waste. This can cause a range of symptoms, including thirstiness, weight loss, poor appetite and vomiting. Although it can’t be cured, there are ways to manage it, including fluids and antibiotics.
Like a lot of dog breeds, Cocker Spaniels can develop progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). It causes the retina to break down which leads to blindness. Although there’s no cure currently, most blind dogs still live long, happy lives.
AON is a type of progressive weakness that can cause Cocker Spaniels to wobble when walking. There’s no cure but there are ways to manage it to ensure your dog is comfortable. As it’s hereditary, responsible breeders will ensure their breeding dogs are screened for this. Ask for a copy of the test if you’re buying a puppy.
One look at their long silky coat and you’ll know that the Cocker Spaniel needs some maintenance. You’ll also have to devote around 1 hour each day to exercising them. Think of all this time as bonding between you and your adorable furry friend.
Cocker Spaniels’ long double coats need regular grooming to keep mats and tangles at bay. At least once a week, they need a thorough brushing followed by a comb to detangle their coat. Then monthly, they need a trim, especially around their feet, on their face and under their neck, ears and tail. You can do this yourself with scissors or clippers or visit a groomer. A monthly bath should be enough to keep them clean and smelling sweet.
Keep a careful eye on those ears. They’re so long they can drag on the ground and pick up dirt, so cleaning will be needed. Check every week for wax and signs of infection, like areas of redness.
Energetic and active, your Cocker Spaniel will do well on top quality dog food that’s suitable for their life stage (puppy, adult or senior) or specific to their breed such as the Royal Canin Cocker Spaniel Dry Dog Food. Because of their small size, Cocker Spaniels are prone to getting overweight which can lead to an increased risk of health issues. Keep an eye on portion size, ensure they’re getting enough exercise and if you’re worried about their weight, have a chat with your vet.
Although training a Cocker Spaniel is normally pretty easy, treats can sweeten the deal. Treat calories can add up though, so make sure you count those towards their daily calorie intake or choose a low calorie option like the Royal Canin Educ Treats.
Keeping your Cocker Spaniel physically and mentally happy requires daily exercise of around 1 hour. This can be with long walks or hikes with you, plus some playtime, chuck a ball for them and they’ll enjoy fetching it. Try launcher toys to get some extra distance.
With their upbeat, active nature, they love exploring the great outdoors so make great beach companions. Used to speed, they also enjoy being your running buddy. Once the walking / hiking / jogging / adventuring is done, it’s playtime. Play to their strengths by letting them hunt out treats. Fill a toy with a delicious treat, hide it and let them track where you’ve stashed it, hours of fun to keep them mentally fit!
Although they’re good with cats, the hunting instinct is still strong in a Cocker so keep them on a lead and only let them off in a safe, fully fenced area.
The Cocker was bred to follow instructions from humans and they’re still eager to please (and learn) today. This makes training them a breeze, especially because they love working with their human. However, training methods must be positive, Cocker Spaniels must love and respect their humans, not fear them. Use positive reinforcement to reward their hard work in the form of treats, praise and play breaks.
Always make sure you’ve got a stash of training treats and a calm voice. They don’t respond well to harsh or negative training. Once they love and respect you (which is pretty much hard-wired in an Cocker), you’ll have a lovely, friendly, social pup in return. Although friendly by nature, early training and socialisation is important for all dog breeds.