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English Cocker Spaniel: Breed Information

english cocker spaniel

Breed Introduction

Friendly and affectionate, it’s often hard to imagine that the English Cocker Spaniel is a natural hunter. But don’t let its amiable disposition and heart-melting eyes fool you – this dog has a strong prey drive and known for its ability to chase and retrieve gamebirds. When it’s not out in the field pursuing its next game, it can be happy following you around the house with its wagging tail in tow.


Spaniels have a history that dates back to centuries ago. This type of dog was initially classified as land spaniels and water spaniels. However, in the 19th-century differentiation among spaniels began because of their diverse appearance and specialties. Back then, spaniels of different sizes and uses could come from the same litter.

Spaniels that were less than 25 lbs in weight were originally categorized as Cocker Spaniels, named such because they were used to retrieve woodcock. But dispute regarding this designation arose, so it was later on decided that classification should be based on type and appearance. In 1885, England’s Spaniel Club began to develop a breed standard for the different Spaniel-type dogs.

In the U.S, the development of the breed began to deviate from the English variety. American breeders are more inclined to go for the smaller type, with a heavier coat and shorter muzzle. By 1935, it became apparent that the English Cocker Spaniel and American Cocker Spaniel looks different in appearance and therefore, should be classified as two distinct breeds.


Loyal, devoted, and kind – these are some of the qualities that make the English Cocker Spaniel an amazing family dog. Because this breed is of the working sporting group type, expect boundless energy around the house with this pooch around. If you’re the one in charge of feeding the pup, you should be prepared to have a furry friend tagging along with you every chance it gets.

Due to its friendly disposition and constantly wagging tail, this dog earned its moniker as the “merry cocker”. Some dogs of this breed can be incredible barkers. They can bark at strangers that enter your home. But being the “merry cocker” that they are, don’t be surprised if no one stays a stranger for long.

They are incredibly intelligent, so training them shouldn’t be a problem. However, these smarty-pants are known to also have a stubborn streak; thus, obedience training should start early.


The English Cocker Spaniel sports a compact body, with dark and lovely eyes on a contoured face framed by its fluffy, long ears. They stand at a height of 15-17 inches at the withers and weighs around 26-34 lbs.

Its silky, medium-length topcoat comes in a variety of colors: black, red/golden, black/brown, or liver/brown. They can have distinct markings of roan, parti-colored, and solid type. Roan types have their white-colored part of their coat speckled with the same color as their other patches. Parti-colored types are white-colored dogs with patches of other colors. And solid types have no white or very little white patches on their coat. It also has a fine, soft, and short undercoat.


The English Cocker Spaniel can live up to 12-14 years, which is typical for purebred dogs. However, the breed can be predisposed to some health conditions. As a pet parent, you need to be on the lookout and be vigilant if your fur baby manifests symptoms of these health issues.

Hip Dysplasia 

Hip dysplasia happens when there is a deformity in the ball and socket of the hip joint. This usually occurs during the bone development period of your pup or during old age, when wear and tear of the bones become a prevalent problem.

There are lots of causes of this condition, which could range from genetics, food, and its environment. If you notice decreased activity, hind limb lameness, difficulty getting up, as well as an abnormal gait in your pooch, you need to schedule a visit to the vet immediately. Dogs with this condition can live normal lives with the right intervention. However, in severe cases, your dog may have to go through a hip replacement surgery and you have to limit its exercise.

Kidney Disease

Just like human kidneys, your pup’s kidney’s primary job is to filter and get rid of toxins and wastes from its blood. The dreadful thing about this disease is that kidney tissues don’t regenerate, unlike all other body tissues. Thus, the best time to care for your dog’s kidney is before you hear the worrying diagnosis of “renal insufficiency.”

At the first onset of symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, increased thirst, blood in the urine, increased urination, weight loss, depression, and lack of appetite, visit the vet right away. This may be nothing more than the ordinary canine illness. However, you can’t afford to wait it out a bit since kidney disease could speedily progress to a life-threatening stage if no intervention or change of diet is done.

Eye Problems

The English Cocker Spaniel can be susceptible to certain eye problems like:

Cataracts: This condition occurs when there’s a cloudy film in the lens of your pup’s eye. Most cataracts are hereditary, while there are some that may have been a result of eye injury or a symptom of diabetes. If the cataract affects a small part of the lens, no medical intervention is necessary. However, in mature or hypermature cataracts, your dog’s vision can be severely affected and it may have to go through surgery to remove the cataract if you don’t want your pooch to go blind.

Glaucoma: This eye problem occurs when there’s a buildup of fluid, increasing the pressure in the eye. If you notice watery discharge and soreness in the eye, or your furry pal keeps on rubbing its eyes, schedule a consultation to the vet right away. This condition may lead to blindness if something’s not done to reduce the pressure. The usual treatment for glaucoma includes medication or surgery in severe cases.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy: This hereditary condition is when the retina, which is the image-forming part of the eye, deteriorates. This progressive disease would eventually lead to blindness. However, a recent study shows that speedy intervention and antioxidant supplementation before the occurrence of substantial vision loss helps keep at least the day vision of dogs. Thus, the moment you notice your pooch having difficulty seeing at night, consult a veterinary ophthalmologist immediately.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle, which results in an enlarged heart that’s too weak to pump blood. Due to the decrease in circulation of blood, oxygenation is also affected leading to symptoms like weakness, lethargy, increased breathing or panting, labored breathing, and collapse. The vet may prescribe medication to slow down the progression of this disease.

Congenital Sensorineural Deafness

This is hereditary deafness in dogs that are associated with the genes responsible for the white pigment in parti-colored English Cocker Spaniels. This condition is permanent and is already present at birth. The full progression of deafness occurs at around 4 weeks of age in pups.

Tips for Taking for of an English Cocker Spaniel

Having this furry pup spread some cheer around the house can be very satisfying. However, to keep your pooch perpetually in its merry ways, you have to take care of its needs. Here are key things you have to keep in mind:

Choosing a Puppy

Ensuring that your four-legged friend lives a long and happy life starts with choosing the right breeder. Ask the breeder for health clearances and if the pups’ parents were genetically-tested to make sure they’re not predisposed to congenital diseases mentioned above.

For this specific breed, health clearances you should be looking for from the breeder include those from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as dilated cardiomyopathy; and Canine Eye Registry Foundation for eye problems.


An English Cocker Spaniel consumes 1-2 cups of dry dog food, divided into two meals a day. This breed can be a voracious eater and won’t be able to say no to extra servings of treats and food. To keep it in prime health, you need to monitor its food intake. Of course, if your pup has been on its feet all day, its dog consumption should be more than when it’s keeping the couch warm most of the time. Treats are great training rewards but you should limit giving them.


Grooming your English Cocker Spaniel takes a little bit of practice. This pup has a lush coat that needs regular brushing, preferably every other day. The feathering of its coat tends to drag to the ground so you have to trim it constantly to keep it clean.

Ideally, you should start brushing using a slicker brush to get rid of loose hair. Then, a detangling rake can work wonders removing the mats. Finish the task using a soft-bristled brush to keep your pup’s silky soft coat naturally shiny.

Aside from brushing, you also need to clean its ears regularly. Spaniels have long ears and it can be prone to infections. Nail and dental care should also be part of its routine weekly grooming session.


Aside from getting your pup to behave appropriately, training also gives it mental stimulation since this breed loves to learn. If you’re raising the pooch to be a regular family dog, obedience training and early socialization is a must. If you’re raising it to be a hunting dog, tracking, agility, and field retrieving training are necessary. It must be trained to come to you whenever it’s called.

Training is an essential aspect of a well-balanced dog, and that’s particularly true with this breed. However, your training method should be consistent yet gentle for this sensitive dog. Since they are an affectionate and energetic as puppies, it’s vital that you don’t crush your pup’s spirit in the process of training.

Ideal Living Condition

Although the English Cocker Spaniel is originally bred to work in the field as a hunting dog, it has come a long way and adapted well to apartment living. It can also thrive well with kids and other dogs. Just make sure to provide the exercise it needs by taking it out jogging or brisk walking with you. And being the agile dog that it is, it’s always up for a game of fetch.

This pup loves to be around people. So make sure not to leave it alone for an extended period of time. If you work from home or you can take your pooch in the office, that would be ideal. As far as this fur baby is concerned, paradise is wherever you are.

The English Cocker Spaniel makes an excellent companion – they have their own cheery way of lifting up your spirit. And this kind and devoted chum has a mischievous side too. So whenever you need a good laugh, this goofball can also step up to the role.

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