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Cocker spaniels resting

Breed overview

  • Breed group – Sporting
  • Height – 13 to 15 inches tall
  • Weight – 17 to 30 pounds
  • Coat length & texture – Flat, luxurious, silky, long
  • Coat color – Cocker spaniels come in several colors depending on breed type. The four base colors associated with this breed include liver, red, brown, and black. Colors shown in the puppy stage may not translate to the exact shade that the adult will show.
  • Exercise needs – Playful
  • Intelligence – High intelligence
  • Barking – When necessary or scared
  • Life span – 12 to 15 years
  • Temperament – Playful, sweet, energetic, sociable, trusting
  • Hypoallergenic – No
  • Origin – England

Cocker spaniel fun facts 

  • President Richard Nixon had a cocker spaniel named Checkers, named for his rich black and white spotted coat.
  • Cocker spaniels are the smallest sporting breed according to the American Kennel Club.
  • There are two recognized types of hunting spaniels: the American cocker spaniel and the English cocker spaniel.
Black and white cocker spaniel

Cocker spaniel temperament and characteristics 

Cocker spaniels are known for personality traits such as playfulness, fun, high-energy, and intelligence. They are fearless dogs that enjoy going on adventures and finding new ways to play with their people. They are sweet and well-tempered, making them a great choice of breed if you have kids or other pets. They get along well with cats and other animals in the home, especially if you socialize them at a younger age. Despite their friendly nature, however, they will defend the home against visitors or strangers and may bark at any incoming houseguests who they don’t recognize.

Cocker spaniel

Common cocker spaniel health problems

Cocker spaniels are typically healthy breeds with fewer genetic risks for health issues when compared to other dog breeds. However, cocker spaniels are at higher risk for certain medical conditions. These include:

  • Eye problems. These may include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) or cataracts.
  • Epilepsy. Neurological conditions, such as seizures, are common.
  • Joint issues. Hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, and joint strain or injuries may occur.
  • Gastrointestinal problems. These may include chronic pancreatitis or gastric torsion.

Cost of caring for cocker spaniels

As with any pet, it’s important to consider any medical costs that can come from caring for your cocker spaniel. The problems that cocker spaniels are prone to are somewhat common, excluding more serious concerns such as gastric torsion and severe joint injury.

Pet insurance is a great way to reduce your out-of-pocket costs as a pet parent and give you the peace of mind you need to care for your pet in an emergency. For costs not covered by insurance, set up a pet savings account. These tools go a long way when pre-planning care for your pet. The ultimate goal of these supportive programs is to help you be as prepared as possible in case of an emergency.

History of the cocker spaniel 

Cocker spaniels originated in England and quickly became an established hunting dog. They were used over decades in some of the top hunting rings, catching small and mid-sized seasonal game. Some of the most common catches were woodcocks, an agile bird that was difficult to catch, hence the name. Cocker spaniels continued to surprise hunters with their ability to hunt the bird and became a regular addition to households and hunting parties around the region.

Caring for your cocker spaniel

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. We can even help you puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething. Here are some other basics specific to cocker spaniels.

Exercise

Cocker spaniels are energetic pets that enjoy playtime with their favorite people. A mid-sized home is ideal for this breed and will give them the space they need to run, jump, and play. If you plan to purchase a cocker spaniel, you’ll want to set aside at least one to two hours of playtime per day to meet the breed’s energy requirements.

Cocker spaniels love attention and spending time with their pet parent(s). Talking to, playing with, and interacting with your cocker spaniel will help meet their emotional needs and support them daily — giving them the stable environment they need to thrive.

Cocker spaniel running in grass

Grooming

Cocker spaniels have a long, silky coat that often requires a bit of weekly upkeep and grooming. They are not hypoallergenic, which means that frequent brushing will be key to keeping dander at bay and keeping your dog’s skin and coat as healthy as possible. You can expect finer fur in thick layers, having a slight curvature that can easily be kept up with a brush or comb.

👉 No dog is 100% hypoallergenic. Those with severe allergies should seek medical advice to find out which pets are safest for them. 

Cocker spaniels also require semi-regular nail trimming to keep their paws and pads healthy. Regular walks and playtime outside on the concrete can help to naturally file the nails down and reduce the number of nail appointments you’ll need to keep their feet in check.

Regular maintenance such as ear cleaning and teeth brushing are also great ways to support your cocker spaniel’s health. Consider rewarding your pet with extra playtime or a fun new toy to help them recover from any not-so-fun experiences.

Diet and nutrition

Cocker spaniels are high-energy dogs that love to play, which means they’ll need a complete, balanced diet with adequate protein, vitamins, minerals, and carbs. Quality dog food, either wet or dry, should be just fine to meet your cocker spaniel’s dietary needs.

If you have questions about portioning food for your spaniel based on their energy requirements, it’s important to speak to your vet. Every dog is different, and your vet will be able to help you determine the right amount of food for your pet’s unique temperament and lifestyle.

Training your cocker spaniel 

Cocker spaniels are highly trainable and incredibly intelligent, making them fun additions to any family. Their loyalty helps them to be quick students, giving you their undivided attention as you train them on a new task or trick.

When training dogs, it’s best to operate within a reward-based system. This helps you satisfy their emotional needs with positive reinforcement and also encourages repetition with the new skill or talent you’re teaching. Although cocker spaniels are intelligent, be sure not to let training lessons go long. It’s best to train in short periods and take time after the lesson to play and blow off some of their excess excited energy.

Training a cocker spaniel

Breeds similar to the cocker spaniel 

Not quite sure that a cocker spaniel is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  1. American water spaniel. A lesser-known breed few in number, the American water spaniel is known as a hunting dog, family dog, and an all-around happy, smart (though sometimes stubborn) pet.
  2. Boykin spaniel. Like other spaniels, the Boykin spaniel is a companion and hunting dog. They may be best known for their deep reddish-brown coats.
  3. Labrador retriever. Generally larger than spaniels, Labs are also family dogs and hunting dogs.

Frequently asked questions

Do cocker spaniels need a lot of exercise?

Yes! Cocker spaniels are high-energy dogs that love to play (all day!). Getting enough exercise is key for energy and stress management. We recommend a minimum of one to two hours of playtime per day for this popular breed.

Are cocker spaniels hard to take care of?

Cocker spaniels have certain health concerns, are incredibly high energy, and are extremely close to their owners. This can lead to cases of separation anxiety, which are difficult to deal with if you aren’t prepared. Compared to other breeds, cocker spaniels aren’t considered high-maintenance. However, they are not a passive breed to own and do require a certain amount of support to have the quality of life that they need to thrive.

Can cocker spaniels swim?

Cocker spaniels love swimming, which is a great form of exercise for their high-energy personality and preferences. Try pool toys and treats to lure them into the water and get them acclimated with play, experience, and lots of love throughout the process. Just be sure to clean those long ears to avoid any risk of irritation or ear infection.