The Cocker Spaniel is a small hunting dog originally used for hunting the Eurasian woodcock in the United Kingdom. Closely related to Field and Springer Spaniels, the only original differences among these breeds were the eventual weights of the dogs, as each were littermates whose purpose was determined based on their size. The Cocker Spaniel did not become wholly distinct from other Spaniels in the UK until 1901, and in 1970 a further distinction was made between the American and English versions. Although the Cocker Spaniel was recognized formally by the American Kennel Club in 1878, the breed has changed considerably since that time. What has not changed is its popularity, as it has always been among the most commonly owned and bred dogs in America.
The Cocker Spaniel is a happy, gentle, and smart dog that is known for its ability to coexist peacefully within a familial setting. Equally content to cuddle on the couch or to run around the yard, much of the Cocker Spaniel’s popularity is due to the fact that this dog is eager to please and is full of affection. They are easy to train and do well with other dogs, but may not be suitable companions for households with small pets such as cats or birds due to their hunting instincts.
Cocker Spaniels are widely renowned for their beautiful long coats that feature feathering at the legs and tail. Their coats are high maintenance and require regular grooming at home, as well as professional grooming appointments every 6 – 8 weeks. Their floppy ears make them prone to ear infections, so regular preventative care is necessary. Cocker Spaniels typically weigh 24 – 28 lbs and are moderately energetic, but regular exercise and a healthy diet are of utmost importance to ensure a normal weight is maintained. There are thirteen colors that are acceptable for Cocker Spaniels, including solid colors such as black, brown, silver, buff, or red, as well as mixtures including black and tan, black and white, and brown white and tan. Roan and merle markings are also permissible. The American and European Cocker Spaniels differ slightly, with the main difference being that American Cocker Spaniels were purposely bred smaller, due to a similar size discrepancy between the American and Eurasian woodcocks.
The most common cause of death among Cocker Spaniels is cancer, with mammary tumors being among the most likely to occur. In addition, ear and eye problems plague this breed, which is primarily due to their aesthetic, with long ears, small skull, and large eyes. Otitis externa is particularly common, which is inflammation of the ear canal that has a number of causes, including parasites, trapping of dirt or debris, and fleas. Owners should frequently check the ears of their dogs for signs of inflammation or infection. Common eye problems include progressive retinal atrophy, particularly progressive rod-cone degeneration, and canine glaucoma. If either condition is left untreated blindness is likely to occur. The average life span for Cocker Spaniels is 10 – 12 years.