Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel picture

The English Cocker Spaniel

General Description

The Cocker Spaniel is a relatively small, compact dog, with a height of between 15 & 16 inches at the shoulder and an approximate weight of around 30 lbs. The Cocker is classed as a medium sized dog. The average life span of a well cared and healthy Cocker is approximately 10 years although there are many dogs who live to sixteen plus.

The Cocker was originally developed from its larger cousin the Field Spaniel. Cockers were bred to flush out birds from under bushes and hedgerows etc.

Cocker Spaniels come in seventeen colours, the solid colours: Black, Red, Golden, Black & Tan, Liver and Liver & Tan. In parti colours there are: Black & White, Black, White & Tan, Tri-Coloured, Blue Roan, Blue Roan & Tan, Liver Roan, Liver & White, Liver, White & Tan, Orange Roan, Orange & White and Lemon Roan.

Cocker Spaniels make brilliant family pets due to their wonderful temperament. The Cocker's reputation goes before him as a friendly, happy and well-mannered dog. They are easy to train, eager to please and make devoted companions. A Cocker likes to be with the family and will follow you from room to room, if allowed. Cocker's are merry and happy dogs, they are happy to work and happy to play.

The Cocker Spaniel is a gundog, and he will enjoy (given the opportunity!) many happy hours investigating interesting smells and looking for the opportunity to flush out wildlife from the surrounding countryside. Equally a Cocker is at home on his master's lap or in front of the fire. Most Cockers (although not all) like water and relish the occasional swim. Cockers are adaptable dogs and can be easily trained to retrieve as well as flush.

There are a number of diseases seen in the breed such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and familial nephropathy (FN). Selected breeding is helping to eradicate these problems and in recent years, the situation has improved, thanks to responsible breeders and the BVA/KC health schemes & the OptiGen/Antagene DNA testing schemes.

Coat Care

The Cocker Spaniel has a long and silky coat. The Cocker coat, if not clipped will require regular and thorough grooming in order to prevent matting and to keep the dog comfortable. A well-trimmed Cocker is a pleasure to look at, however it does take time.

New owners should take time to familiarise themselves (your breeder should be a good source of information, they will perhaps be willing to advise you or in some cases they will trim dogs for a living) with the coat care of their Cocker or if you wish to have your Cocker professionally trimmed, find a grooming parlour who know about Cocker Spaniels. The average Cocker will require trimming on a six to eight week basis.

Buying a Puppy

If after a lot of thought you have decided that the Cocker is the breed for you, the next step is to find a reputable breeder. Contact breed clubs or go along to a Championship Show in your area, where you can assess breed type and talk to breeders. Remember that a lot of good breeders have no need to advertise, they have waiting lists of two years or more.

Once you have chosen your breeder, ensure that both sire and dam have current KC/BVA eye certificates and that at least one parent of the litter has been DNA tested “Clear” for prcd-PRA & FN (or is genetically “Clear” via parentage) to ensure that they are free of hereditary problems. Ask about temperament, as this is essential in the Cocker. Make sure you see the dam with her pups and don't be afraid to ask questions.

Dog or Bitch ?

Unlike other breeds there is very little in temperament etc. to choose between a dog or a bitch. Bitches are quieter, and can be easier to house train but they do have seasons approximately every six to ten months. During a season you will need to keep your bitch away from male dogs for approximately three weeks and possibly alter your normal exercise routine in order to keep interested dogs away from your home. A bitch in season will also have a bloody discharge, which can stain furniture etc.

Dogs grow slightly larger than bitches and can be a bit stronger, however dogs generally are more loving and faithful than bitches but they can take a little longer to house train and at around the time of puberty can get a bit full of their own importance and need slightly firmer handling.


A Cocker puppy should not be over exercised, in fact when you first acquire your pup the exercise he gets from playing with you and his visits to the garden for toileting will be adequate. From six months your puppy can have twenty minutes free running and half an hour walking on the lead daily. When your dog gets to eighteen months old, he will be able to endure as much exercise as you are able to give him.

All dogs require training to a greater or lesser degree. This depends on what you expect from your pet. As a family pet, lead training, toilet training and basic obedience is a must. This will ensure the animal has a happy co-existence with the family and will behave in a manner acceptable to members of the public who come in contact with him.

Cocker Spaniel Rescue

If you feel you would like to give a good home to a rescue dog please contact your local Rescue Officer, details can be obtained from the Secretary of The Cocker Club. Many dogs require re-homing due to many different reasons, death of the owner, break-up of marriage, moving abroad etc.

Main points to remember

  • Buy from a reputable breeder
  • Ensure the dam and sire have current eye certificates
  • Follow the breeders feeding instructions
  • Let puppy have its rest. Educate your children to this end.
  • Keep in touch with the breeder, they can always offer you help and advice
  • Buy a good book on the breed and follow advice on coat care and ear care
  • Locate a good vet. Ask locals for their advice
  • Ensure your dog is trained, be firm but kind
  • If using a grooming parlour, try and find one with a good reputation
Cocker Spaniel breed guide written by : Chris Pritchard - Powerscourt Cockers