The American cocker spaniel is an active hunting dog, a family companion pet, and is great with children and other pets.

1. Key Characteristics

  • AKC Group: Sporting
  • Height: 13.5–15.5 inches
  • Weight: 15–30 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 15 years

The cocker spaniel is one of the most popular dog breeds, according to the American Kennel Club’s registration statistics. They are medium-sized, active sporting dogs, the smallest spaniel breed and the smallest dog in the sporting group.

The coat can be silky, wavy or flat; it comes in colors of black, black and tan, parti-colored or any other solid color. Field breed lines are bred for work and have shorter coats. Show or pet breed lines typically have longer coats.

The eyes are round and dark, and the ears are low-set and feathered. The tail is usually docked, although this is illegal in much of Europe for any non-working dog.

2. Where They Came From

Cocker spaniels’ name is derived from their accuracy and efficiency with woodcocks, a game bird. The breed entered English dog shows in 1883 as a single breed and was later added to their kennel club in 1892.

The breed has changed since being developed in America in the early 1880s, evolving with differences in size and coloring. For these reasons, the breed is called the American cocker spaniel to differentiate it from the original English cocker spaniel. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1878.

Cocker spaniels’ name comes from their proficiency at hunting woodcocks. By: PaylessImages (Top: Sergii Mostovyi)

3. How Friendly Are They?

This breed of spaniel is intelligent, gentle, playful, devoted, dependable and can be amusing. They have a strong desire to hunt and are happy to work.

They can suffer from separation anxiety so should not be left alone for long periods of time. They can also be shy; thorough socialization is required. They are good with children and other pets and are easy to train. Consistent training is strongly recommended to prevent negative behavior.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

MEDIUM: The cocker spaniel is a well-balanced, medium-sized dog capable of great speed and endurance. Daily exercise is a must, even though they’re active indoors. They’re fine in apartments as long as daily exercise is provided.

Grooming Needs

MEDIUM: Brush this average shedder daily to prevent matting. The coat needs trimming every few months if kept long — less so if the coat is shorter. The eyes need regular cleaning — they tear often and can stain the facial hair. Bathe as needed.

Perform regular maintenance: Brush the teeth, keep the nails trimmed at a comfortable length and clean the ears regularly. Ear cleaning is especially important for working breeds who frequent wooded areas, and their coats should also be checked for debris.

Health Problems

VERY HIGH: American cocker spaniels have several health problems common to the breed:

Because of the long list of potential health problems, ask for health certificates and clearances on your dog or their parents. When adopting from a shelter or rescue, these records are unlikely to be available.

The American Spaniel Club Foundation, Inc. offers a health and research section for additional information about health problems that affect cocker spaniels. They are also involved in grants and research given to organizations and universities for the purpose of studying specific health problems common to this breed. The organization also offers a list of rescue groups throughout the U.S.

Somehow, I don’t think this “bad puppy” is going to get punished…

5. Where to Adopt One?

Purebred dogs end up in shelters and rescues every day, so start your search with those resources or check our adoptable dog search and cocker spaniel rescue groups.

If using a breeder, make sure the breeder is legitimate and has no signs of running a puppy mill. And remember: Ask for health clearances or any other tests performed on the parents of the dog you intend to bring home.

Additional Resources

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