The Cocker Spaniel is a smaller sized spaniel that has wonderful temperament and boundless energy. They are great dogs for families as well as single people and really love being with humans, although they can tolerate moderate lengths of time alone if they are properly exercised and attended to when the family is home. The Cocker Spaniel has a beautiful, silky medium long coat that is relatively easy to care for and maintain, even if the dog is outside.
The head of the Cocker Spaniel is dome shaped between the long, pendulous and well feathered ears. The eyes are very round and positioned towards the center of the muzzle, dark and very soft looking while still giving a twinkle of merriment and interest in their surroundings. The muzzle has a defined stop at the eyes then is rather square and broad in appearance down to the nose. The nose is large and noticeable with black coloration on dark coated dogs and a more brown color on the lighter coat colors. The upper lips are relatively long and hang down beyond the level of the lower jaw but are tight to the mouth. The neck is short and very erect from the shoulders, which are muscular and well developed. The legs tend to be rather short and well feathered, making them appear slightly heavier than they really are.
The body of the Cocker Spaniel has a topline that slopes slightly down from the shoulders to the hips, giving a "ready" appearance when the dog is standing up. The hind legs are strong and relatively straight and the tail is traditionally docked to about 2/5 of its natural length. The Cocker Spaniel has traditionally been used as a gun dog as well as a household pet, and will quickly adjust to whatever is asked of it. They are surprisingly athletic for their smaller size and are natural retrievers.
The coat of the Cocker Spaniel is varied in length with the hair on the head short and sleek and the hair on the ears, neck and chest being moderately long and well feathered. The rest of the body including the legs is well feathered with a silky, fine and flat hair that is easy to care for and very silky to the touch. Hair that is very curly or woolly or cottony in texture is considered a fault. For show purposes the coat can be trimmed to enhance the natural lines of the dog but should not be clipped. For everyday practical purposes may Cocker Spaniel owners completely clip their dogs.
The American Cocker Spaniel was developed by very selective breeding of the English Cocker Spaniel, although the two now look distinctly different. The American Cocker Spaniel is more of a companion dog and less likely to be used for hunting than the original English Cocker Spaniel. Through selective breeding in the United States the Cocker Spaniel has become smaller and showier than the original hunting breed.
The conformation has also changed to a more elegant and stylish dog from the hardy and practical spaniel that is more typical of the English lines. The American Cocker Spaniel was never used as extensively as a gun and hunting dog in the United States although it is excellent in hunting upland game birds such as pheasants, quail and partridges.
The Cocker Spaniel become increasingly popular and was one of the most popular breeds of dogs according to the American Kennel club in the 1940's. At this time the breed was almost exclusively used as a companion dog, much as it now is. Currently the Cocker Spaniel is considered the fifteenth most popular dog breed in the United States and continues to be a favorite around the world.
The Cocker Spaniel is a happy, friendly and enthusiastic dog that is great with families and children. They are more likely to wag their tail and welcome a stranger than they are to act aggressive or territorial, although some Cocker Spaniels are good watchdogs and will bark when someone approaches. They are not a dominant breed of dog and are typically very willing and obedient and have an average ability to learn. The Cocker Spaniel is an excellent companion dog and is rarely dog aggressive especially if socialized properly.
The Cocker Spaniel is not a timid dog; rather they are just easy going and willing to accept other dogs into their space. Cockers that have not been socialized may have a tendency to hid or run when they feel threatened, but with opportunity to go new places and meet new people and animals this problem is quickly overcome. The Cocker Spaniel is typically very good with cats and other pets however socialization will help this process. Many Cocker Spaniels that are raised with cats are very affectionate with the cat, allowing the cat to sleep in the same bed and even share toys.
The Cocker Spaniel loves to be active and does best with a family where there is moderate to high activity, especially when the dog is young. They seem to enjoy interacting with children and are tolerant of even very young kids. The Cocker Spaniel can be left alone for short to moderate periods of time but do not do well when left alone for long periods. They do need human contact and interaction to be happy and content. Without enough attention they may be prone to habits such as chewing and barking, both which can become problematic.
With the popularity of Cocker Spaniel as a pet and gun dog there has been a significant amount of backyard breeding that has lead to some serious health conditions in many Cockers that are not purchased from reputable breeders. Even within some of the purebred lines there are some minor health issue, but these are seen in many breeds of dogs. Some of the more serious health concerns are:
IMHA ( Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia )-the immune system attacks the blood cells, resulting in serious blood loss from the body in the urine and typically death if not treated immediately.
Eyes-glaucoma, Cataracts, Entropion and ectropion, Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) resulting in eventual blindness.
Skin-allergies, seborrhea, lip fold pyoderma all which can lead to irritations and skin infections as the dog scratches and rubs the area.
Otitis externa-ear infections, common in any dog with a folded ear.
Phosphofructokinase deficiency-destroys red blood cells and leads to anemia and muscle degeneration and pain in movement.
Cardiomyopathy-heart conditions such as disease or muscle development problems.
The Cocker Spaniel requires regular care and ideally daily or every other day brushing to stay in top shape. Their long, silky coat is prone to tangling and matting but is easy to maintain with a quick five minute grooming routine each day. These dogs love the attention so grooming really is simple and easy. If the dog is being used for hunting or in the summer seasons many people clip the Cocker Spaniel in a sport or puppy cut for easy care. The Cocker Spaniel is one breed that can tolerate frequent bathing and seems to really enjoy the whole process. Use only good quality dog hair products to avoid allergies and skin irritations.
To groom the Cocker Spaniel start with a pin brush or wide toothed grooming comb and begin at either the neck or the rump area. Groom only in the direction of hair growth never up or forward. Try to section the hair and thoroughly groom each section before moving on to the next. Once all the long hair on the body and legs has been groomed finish with a slicker brush to get out any fine tangles. In rare cases it may be necessary to clip out a particular tangle, but try to do this as infrequently as possible to keep the coat looking even. The head and ears should be groomed with a soft bristle brush and with great care to avoid causing the dog any discomfort.
The eyes and ears of the Cocker Spaniel will need special care. The eyes should be carefully cleaned with a water dampened cotton cloth. Do not use soap or any other products unless approved by your vet. Tearing is commonly a sign of an eye problem such as entropion or ectropion (rolling in or drooping of the lower eyelid) that causes eye irritations leading to excessive tearing. Removing any debris from the eye will help fight any infections. The eyes should be checked for any sign of wax build up or foul smelling discharge that can indicate an ear infection. Always take care when cleaning the ear and ever clean past the outer ear. The vet can flush out the ear if required.
Be sure to check the toenails and clip or trim when necessary and brush the teeth using dog tooth products on an every other day basis for good dental health.
The Cocker Spaniel is, by nature, a very active dog, especially when they are young. As they mature the need for long, sustained exercise is much less, but they still enjoy a brisk walk or a run through the park on a daily basis. The wonderful adaptability of the Cocker Spaniel means that they can adjust to various levels of exercise and although they are an active dog, can tolerate periods of inactivity without becoming hyper and destructive in the house as long as the inactivity is not prolonged.
One of the best ways to exercise a Cocker Spaniel is to simply spend time playing with these lovable dogs. They are usually natural retrievers and will spend hours either inside or out retrieving balls, sticks and Frisbees. Remember that it is important to avoid encouraging the Cocker Spaniel to jump as this can lead to joint problems as the dog ages. Ensure that the objects you are tossing are either close to the ground or are on the ground rather than having the dog jump up to try to catch them.
Cocker Spaniels are also great at obedience and agility type classes, although they will need lots of practice to understand what you are requesting. Field lines of Cocker Spaniels that are actively used as hunting and gun dogs are typically more athletic than the show lines and will need additional exercise time. As with all breeds of dogs leaving the dog to its own devices for exercise is not usually productive as the dog will likely find a cool spot in the shade and take a nap.
Often the best way to keep a Cocker Spaniel exercised in a busy family is to involve the dog in day to day activities of the family, or to get a companion dog that will encourage play and exercise. Two dogs will naturally keep each other busy as well as decrease the likelihood of problematic boredom behaviors beginning especially if they are alone during the day.
Training the Cocker Spaniel should begin at the earliest possible age, especially in regards to socialization. A very friendly and affectionate breed, the Cocker Spaniel can become shy or nervous around new people if it doesn't become accustom to new people and places. Typically a Cocker Spaniel will have no trouble interacting with new dogs or other pets such as cats or rabbits or even livestock. They have little prey instinct although, like any dog, are more than willing to chase other animals just for the fun of it.
The Cocker Spaniel is a very willing learner and truly wants to please the owner. Unlike some of the hunting breeds they do not have a strong streak of independence and are generally very compliant. Housetraining may be a problem for this breed and crate training is recommended to help with the process. They are very sensitive to the tone of voice used by the owner so it is very important never to raise your voice or use overly harsh tones when correcting the Cocker Spaniel. Crate training helps alleviate the need to try to correct the dog, as most experts agree that punishment is the least effective housetraining method for any breed.
The Cocker Spaniel does best when trained basic commands with lots of rehearsal and practice. They do need time to learn the basics and do best when not overwhelmed with a lot of different commands all at the same time. Start with come and sit, move on to lie down and stay, then on to the more advanced levels of commands. Barking may be a problem so start early in encouraging the Cocker Spaniel to bark once or twice and then stop, don't let them get into the habit of lots of barking.
Lead and collar training is important for this breed at an early age. They are generally very easy to train to heel, and a puppy obedience class can assist with all training requirements plus with socialization.
Standard of the American Cocker Spaniel
The Cocker Spaniel is the smallest member of the Sporting Group. He has a sturdy, compact body and a cleanly chiseled and refined head, with the overall dog in complete balance and of ideal size. He stands well up at the shoulder on straight forelegs with a topline sloping slightly toward strong, moderately bent, muscular quarters. He is a dog capable of considerable speed, combined with great endurance. Above all, he must be free and merry, sound, well balanced throughout and in action show a keen inclination to work. A dog well balanced in all parts is more desirable than a dog with strongly contrasting good points and faults.Size, Proportion, Substance
Size -- The ideal height at the withers for an adult dog is 15 inches and for an adult bitch, 14 inches. Height may vary one-half inch above or below this ideal. A dog whose height exceeds 15½ inches or a bitch whose height exceeds 14½ inches shall be disqualified. An adult dog whose height is less than 14½ inches and an adult bitch whose height is less than 13½ inches shall be penalized. Height is determined by a line perpendicular to the ground from the top of the shoulder blades, the dog standing naturally with its forelegs and lower hind legs parallel to the line of measurement.Head
Proportion --The measurement from the breast bone to back of thigh is slightly longer than the measurement from the highest point of withers to the ground. The body must be of sufficient length to permit a straight and free stride; the dog never appears long and low.
To attain a well proportioned head, which must be in balance with the rest of the dog, it embodies the following:Neck, Topline, Body
Expression -- The expression is intelligent, alert, soft and appealing.
Eyes -- Eyeballs are round and full and look directly forward. The shape of the eye rims gives a slightly almond shaped appearance; the eye is not weak or goggled. The color of the iris is dark brown and in general the darker the better.
Ears -- Lobular, long, of fine leather, well feathered, and placed no higher than a line to the lower part of the eye.
Skull -- Rounded but not exaggerated with no tendency toward flatness; the eyebrows are clearly defined with a pronounced stop. The bony structure beneath the eyes is well chiseled with no prominence in the cheeks. The muzzle is broad and deep, with square even jaws. To be in correct balance, the distance from the stop to the tip of the nose is one half the distance from the stop up over the crown to the base of the skull.
Nose -- of sufficient size to balance the muzzle and foreface, with well developed nostrils typical of a sporting dog. It is black in color in the blacks, black and tans, and black and whites; in other colors it may be brown, liver or black, the darker the better. The color of nose harmonizes with the color of the eye rim.
Lips -- The upper lip is full and of sufficient depth to cover the lower jaw.
Teeth -- Teeth strong and sound, not too small and meet in a scissors bite.
Neck -- The neck is sufficiently long to allow the nose to reach the ground easily, muscular and free from pendulous "throatiness." It rises strongly from the shoulders and arches slightly as it tapers to join the head.Forequarters
Topline -- sloping slightly toward muscular quarters.
Body -- The chest is deep, its lowest point no higher than the elbows, its front sufficiently wide for adequate heart and lung space, yet not so wide as to interfere with the straightforward movement of the forelegs. Ribs are deep and well sprung. Back is strong and sloping evenly and slightly downward from the shoulders to the set-on of the docked tail. The docked tail is set on and carried on a line with the topline of the back, or slightly higher; never straight up like a Terrier and never so low as to indicate timidity. When the dog is in motion the tail action is merry.
The shoulders are well laid back forming an angle with the upper arm of approximately 90 degrees which permits the dog to move his forelegs in an easy manner with forward reach. Shoulders are clean-cut and sloping without protrusion and so set that the upper points of the withers are at an angle which permits a wide spring of rib. When viewed from the side with the forelegs vertical, the elbow is directly below the highest point of the shoulder blade. Forelegs are parallel, straight, strongly boned and muscular and set close to the body well under the scapulae. The pasterns are short and strong. Dewclaws on forelegs may be removed. Feet compact, large, round and firm with horny pads; they turn neither in nor out.Hindquarters
Hips are wide and quarters well rounded and muscular. When viewed from behind, the hind legs are parallel when in motion and at rest. The hind legs are strongly boned, and muscled with moderate angulation at the stifle and powerful, clearly defined thighs. The stifle is strong and there is no slippage of it in motion or when standing. The hocks are strong and well let down. Dewclaws on hind legs may be removed.Coat
On the head, short and fine; on the body, medium length, with enough undercoating to give protection. The ears, chest, abdomen and legs are well feathered, but not so excessively as to hide the Cocker Spaniel's true lines and movement or affect his appearance and function as a moderately coated sporting dog. The texture is most important. The coat is silky, flat or slightly wavy and of a texture which permits easy care. Excessive coat or curly or cottony textured coat shall be severely penalized. Use of electric clippers on the back coat is not desirable. Trimming to enhance the dog's true lines should be done to appear as natural as possible.Color and Markings
Black Variety -- Solid color black to include black with tan points. The black should be jet; shadings of brown or liver in the coat are not desirable. A small amount of white on the chest and/or throat is allowed; white in any other location shall disqualify.Gait
Any Solid Color Other than Black (ASCOB) -- Any solid color other than black, ranging from lightest cream to darkest red, including brown and brown with tan points. The color shall be of a uniform shade, but lighter color of the feathering is permissible. A small amount of white on the chest and/or throat is allowed; white in any other location shall disqualify.
Parti-Color Variety -- Two or more solid, well broken colors, one of which must be white; black and white, red and white (the red may range from lightest cream to darkest red), brown and white, and roans, to include any such color combination with tan points. It is preferable that the tan markings be located in the same pattern as for the tan points in the Black and ASCOB varieties. Roans are classified as parti-colors and may be of any of the usual roaning patterns. Primary color which is ninety percent (90%) or more shall disqualify.
Tan Points -- The color of the tan may be from the lightest cream to the darkest red and is restricted to ten percent (10%) or less of the color of the specimen; tan markings in excess of that amount shall disqualify. In the case of tan points in the Black or ASCOB variety, the markings shall be located as follows: 1) A clear tan spot over each eye; 2) On the sides of the muzzle and on the cheeks; 3) On the underside of the ears; 4) On all feet and/or legs; 5) Under the tail; 6) On the chest, optional; presence or absence shall not be penalized. Tan markings which are not readily visible or which amount only to traces, shall be penalized. Tan on the muzzle which extends upward, over and joins shall also be penalized. The absence of tan markings in the Black or ASCOB variety in any of the specified locations in any otherwise tan-pointed dog shall disqualify.
The Cocker Spaniel, though the smallest of the sporting dogs, possesses a typical sporting dog gait. Prerequisite to good movement is balance between the front and rear assemblies. He drives with strong, powerful rear quarters and is properly constructed in the shoulders and forelegs so that he can reach forward without constriction in a full stride to counterbalance the driving force from the rear. Above all, his gait is coordinated, smooth and effortless. The dog must cover ground with his action; excessive animation should not be mistaken for proper gait.Temperament
Equable in temperament with no suggestion of timidity.DISQUALIFICATIONS
Height -- Males over 15½ inches; females over 14½ inches.
Color and Markings -- The aforementioned colors are the only acceptable colors or combination of colors. Any other colors or combination of colors to disqualify. Black Variety -- White markings except on chest and throat.
Any Solid Color Other Than Black Variety -- White markings except on chest and throat.
Parti-color Variety - Primary color ninety percent (90%) or more.
Tan Points -- (1) Tan markings in excess of ten percent (10%); (2) Absence of tan markings in Black or ASCOB Variety in any of the specified locations in an otherwise tan pointed dog.
American Spaniel Club
Approved May 12, 1992
Effective June 30, 1992