The Cocker Spaniel

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American Cocker Spaniel
Weight: 24 — 28 lbs
Height: 15” — 16”
AKC Rank 2008 #21
Lifespan: 12—15 yrs
Group Sporting
Origin United States

Dog Breed Info - Cocker Spaniel

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Breed Overview

The Cocker is a happy dog that wants to learn and please his owner. He comes in various colors such as brown, brown and tan, black. Black and tan, and cream.

The American version of the Cocker Spaniel was derived from the English version. In the late 1800’s, many English Cockers were brought to America, but American hunters preferred a slightly smaller dog to hunt quail and other small game birds.

It’s not clear how this smaller Cocker Spaniel was developed. Some credit a small dog named “Obo 2nd,” born around 1880, as the first true Cocker. Initially, the English and American Cocker Spaniels were considered varieties of the same breed, but they were officially separated by the AKC in 1935. Although Cocker's were already popular after the separation, the American Cocker surged in popularity and has remained one of the most loved breeds in America.

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"How To Train Your Cocker Spaniel" is a 96 page hardcover book that helps you decide if you want to get a dog, ideas for caring for the dog and training it. This is a 5-star customer approval rated document.

How to Train Your Cocker Spaniel (Tr-106)


Intelligent, easy to train for hunting and general obedience. Use clicker training for excellent results. Dogs love it and it's easy to do/ Pick up a clicker at any pet store for around $3.

Crate Training

Want to crate train your American Cocker Spaniel? It's easy and if you're interested, take a look and you'll see what to do. Crate training your puppy will save many headaches and problems.

Potty Training

Most Cocker Spaniels are fairly easy to house train, potty train, toilet train, housebreak or whatever you want to call it. If you have a puppy, decide if you want to crate or paper potty train it. For the best results, we have a page at Crate vs Paper Potty Training which will help you decide and from there you can get all the information you need to get the job done. Always praise the pup profusely when she goes potty in the RIGHT PLACE so she knows she has done a good thing. Either method will work for this breed.

If you have an older dog, take the dog outside every two hours until she gets the idea which door leads to her potty area. Older dogs catch on to the potty or housebreaking pretty fast once they are shown what to do.

6 week old Cocker Spaniel puppy
waiting for her master to return.

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The Cocker Spaniel is playful, friendly, cheerful, willing to please and responsive to it’s family. The dog is not known for retaining it's hunting instincts.

Some bark a lot, some are overly submissive. The Cocker Spaniel is a highly social dog but some can be temperamental.

If you happen to get a Cocker Spaniel with a separation anxiety problem, that can be dealt with by investing a few hours of work on your part and some "tough love."

Friendly Toward Other Dogs

Yes. Generally good with other dogs.

Friendly Toward Other Pets

Good with other pets in the house. Be careful with cats.

Friendly Toward Strangers

Pretty good. Likes people, generally accepting.


Yes. Very playful dog.


Very affectionate. Cocker's need lots of attention and human contact.

Good with children

No. They can be temperamental and don’t tolerate the nonsense kids throw at them.

Good with Seniors over 65?

Yes. Lovable, quiet and loyal as well as a very good watchdog. As long as the senior can walk, this dog is good to go. It craves attention and needs plenty of brushing which a senior would have the time to offer. Find a Cocker Spaniel rescue or local kennel for a more mature dog if longevity is a problem for the senior.

Living environment

The Cocker Spaniel needs a house with a medium size yard. It's also a great farm dog. Needs room to roam and snoop around as well as chase balls and play fetch.

Energy level

Energetic. Likes to play, walk and run.

Exercise needs, daily

Needs to keep busy. Play, walks. Can get into trouble if not exercised enough.A long daily walk, or a good romp in the yard should suffice for the Cocker Spaniel.


Yes. Barks at strange noises and doorbells.

Guard dog



Some. (low)


You can trim this dog back to a standard “dog” cut or leave the fur long as in the photo above for a show dog.

If you leave the fur long on your Cocker Spaniel, brush it out daily and see a professional groomer every 4-8 weeks.If you cut it back, brush it weekly.

The ears need cleaning weekly with a cotton swab.


Suggested Reading - The Cocker Spaniel

The book on the right is by the American National Red Cross and deals with dog illness, emergencies and injuries. It's a valuable reference manual for all dog owners. Vol 2, 2008, includes a DVD.


Cocker Spaniel Breeders

In the event you decide to go looking for Cocker Spaniel puppies, be SURE to find reputable breeders that really know what they are doing. Be sure the puppy has been well socialized and started in obedience training. It's not often that Cocker Spaniel puppies turn up in dog pounds and shelters but you might check anyway as sometimes they raid illegal breeders and come up with surprises.
American Cocker Spaniel Breeders with puppies for sale.

Cocker Spaniel Rescue

In the event you are seriously considering the adoption of a Cocker Spaniel and are looking for a Cocker Spaniel rescue group or groups in your state, here are several links that might help:
Petfinder - Dog Rescue - (Nationwide)Be sure to check into dog health and any past issues before you adopt a dog.
Adopt A Pet This is an interesting site that may give you some ideas. There are more Cocker Spaniel rescue sites online and of course check locally for Cocker Spaniel rescue kennels, dog breed rescue groups etc.

Dog Health Issues For The Cocker Spaniel
Below: The dog illness / illnesses or medical problems listed for the Cocker by various vets.

This is basically a healthy breed. Don’t let the list below scare you! Your own dog will probably never have ANY of these problems. These are dog illness / medical issues this breed is prone to that have been listed by various veterinarians at different times over the past decade or so and some pertain to puppies and very young dogs that a breeder would deal with.

The information contained herein has been gathered from numerous books by veterinarians and is intended as general information only. Every dog and situation is different. You must see your vet. Our information is for general interest only and not intended to replace the advice provided by your own veterinarian.

  • Cataracts - Hazy or cloudy vision, as in humans and can cause blindness if not treated.

  • Dermoid sinus—Hereditary—An infection and inflammation noticed at birth in the sinus, or tubes running along the spine from the rear end to the neck of the Cocker Spaniel. These are a thick-walled tubes with skin cells, fiber tissue, hair and oils. When the sinus becomes infected with bacteria and inflamed, it can cause swelling and infection in the spinal cord which causes encephalitis and abscesses.. Surgery is the remedy.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy—An inherited, untreatable disease of the retina affecting one or both eyes causing blindness. It’s in the genes of the dog and is not painful. Starts with night blindness and progresses as the retina gradually deteriorates.

  • Patellar luxation—Limping, Hind Leg Held Up, Can’t straighten back leg. Caused by an unusually shallow spot on the femur, weak ligaments and misalignment of tendons and muscles that align the knee joint and allow the knee cap (patella) to float sideways in and out of position. This can be caused by injury or be present at birth and can affect both rear legs. It’s most common in small and toy dogs like the Cocker Spaniel. If your dog has trouble straightening the leg, is limping, or is walking on three legs and holding one hind leg up, look for patellar luxation. Several of my dogs have had the problem and all I’ve done is reach down, massage the knee a little until they drop their leg, and we’re good to go for another 3 or 4 months. Severe cases require surgery for a fully lame leg.

  • Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament - The tearing of the Cruciate ligament and NO weight can be applied to the affected leg with the torn ligament. Even sitting can be a painful problem This will cause lameness that may be severe. Knee surgery with total restriction of activity is the only answer.

  • Hip dysplasia - Hind end limping, back legs act lame. Wear and time causes the femur to fit poorly into the pelvic socket with improper rotation causing great pain and difficulty walking. You may notice the dog “hopping”” like a rabbit when running plus hesitating to climb stairs, all due to pain in the hind quarters. The problem actually starts as a very young puppy with an abnormal formation of the hip joint and grows progressively. A vet can locate this with a diagnostics test.

  • Ectropion—A hereditary medical problem. The lower eyelid grows outward leaving a gap between the eye and the eyelid. Excessive tearing and conjunctivitis are common signs of the disease but some dogs will have no symptoms. Blunt trauma and/or nerve damage can also cause the problem. If the cornea becomes damaged or if the conjunctivitis becomes chronic, surgery will be necessary.

  • Entropion—Eye irritation caused by the eyelids and lashes rolling inward. The problem is usually inherited and found in young, adult dogs. It can come from an eyelid spasm. Affected eyes will be held partially shut and tear excessively. Both eyes will usually be affected the same. Treatment for the condition requires eye surgery.

  • Intervertebral disc disease—Biochemical changes in a young dog of certain breeds such as the Cocker Spaniels can cause at least one diseased or mineralized disc in the spine of a dog. A disc that is not functioning properly will cause pain, problems walking, stumbling, severe neck pain and even paralysis. The Dachshund has an 80% chance of having this problem. Treatments can go from non-invasive doses of anti-inflammatory steroids, muscle relaxants and bed-rest to surgery. Pain meds are also given as needed. Mess with the spine and you have a serious situation and it’s tough on the dog!

  • Otitis externa—Infection and inflammation of the outer ear canal. Dogs with floppy ears or long floppy ear canals are prone to this because of the soil and moisture that builds in the ear canal. This creates a tempting environment for yeast and bacteria infections. It is treatable and is sometimes called “stinky ear syndrome” due to the odor produced.

  • Pancreatitis—A life-threatening disease commonly affecting middle age and older Miniature Schnauzers, Miniature Poodles and Cocker Spaniels. The pancreas produces enzymes that help process food. With the disease, the pancreas begins digesting it’s own tissue. Vomiting, loss of appetite and abdominal pain follow in most cases. Some dogs will die from lack of response to treatments PREVENT the disease by not allowing the dog to become obese, and not giving high-fat foods to the dog Info thanks to

  • Patent ductus arteriosis—Canine congenital heart failure. Before birth, blood from the heart passes the lungs by a small vessel called the ductus arteriosis. That small vessel is supposes to vanish after birth and the infant breathes on it’s own With this disease, the vessel does not go away resulting in improper circulation of blood.

  • Glaucoma - Painful pressure builds in the eye and eventually causes total blindness.

  • Lens luxation—Hereditary. Weak fibers holding the lens of the eye allow the lens to dislocate. The eye can not focus. This leads to painful, red eyes that tear a lot and can lead to Uveitis or Glaucoma if not treated right away. If detected early, surgery and medication might solve the problem.

  • Phosphofructokinase deficiency—(PFK) Inherited. A recessive gene that inhibits a spaniel’s ability to convert sugar into energy. The Cocker Spaniel will show a lack of desire to exercise. PFK destroys the red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body and take away waste, thus causing a generals weakness in the dog. This should be the breeders problem and you should never get a Springer Spaniel or Cocker Spaniel with this problem from a reputable source.

  • Urolithiasis—Excessive crystals (urinary stones or bladder or kidney stones) can form in the urinary tract or kidney, bladder or urethra, blocking the flow of urine. The crystals or stones irritate the lining of the urinary tract in the Cocker Spaniel. They cause blood in the urine and pain and in severe cases make urination impossible. Symptoms are frequent urination, urinating in odd places, blood in urine, dribbling, depression, weakness, straining, pain, vomiting and loss of appetite. Dogs can be treated by diet, medications and surgery, depending on the dog, severity and other circumstances of the individual case.

  • Distichiasis—An eye condition involving the cornea. Eyelashes, growing improperly on the inner surface of the eyelid cause corneal ulcers due to the constant rubbing and irritation. The problem is fixed by having the vet remove the lashes if the ulcers don’t heal.

  • Demodicosis—Demodectic mange—A skin disease known as “Red Mange.” Loss of hair, itching, reddening of skin and areas can become crusty. Sometimes cured with topical creams. May spread. Treatment is in the form of medications.

  • Anal sac adenocarcinoma—A malignant tumor in the tissue of the anal sac. Very aggressive in nature. Small tumors of this cancer are located by rectal exams by the vet. If not treated, these tumors will metastasize to lymph nodes and spread quickly to other organs. If this develops into hypercalcaemia, you’ll see increased thirst, urination, loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting and a slow heart rate plus “scooting.”. The larger the tumor, the poorer the prognosis. See your vet immediately upon suspecting any kind of problem.

  • Cherry eye—One of a dog’s tear glands is in the third eyelid. The gland contributes a significant amount of fluid to lubricate the eye so it can not be removed. A congenital defect, breed related, allows the gland to bulge out because it is not held strongly in place. Thus, the gland prolapses out to a visible position as a reddish mass. Out of position, the gland does not move blood properly and so may swell. Since the gland is needed for lubrication in the eye, vets now do a “tuck and stitch” procedure that pouts the gland back in place and preserves the original function of tear production.

  • Corneal ulceration—Caused by eye injury and common to dogs whose eyes are prominent. Corneal ulcers can easily become infected. Keep all dogs with prominent eyes like Pugs and Boston's away from dirty, polluted, dusty areas. Infections are very hard to treat.

  • Corneal Dystrophy—An inherited disease of the eye. A fluid buildup causing the outer part of the cornea to appear white and move inward toward the center.. A very painful and difficult to treat ulcer will develop.

  • Deafness—Hereditary or caused by: Excessive loud noise, Intolerance to anesthesia, drug toxicity, and Otitis (middle ear infection), In some cases, one ear can have no hearing from birth and the other ear can be losing the ability to hear over time, undetected, then suddenly one morning the hearing is totally gone. There is no reversing once that happens.

  • Valvular heart disease—Usually older dogs. A progressive disease. Heart valves thicken and degenerate. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, reluctance to exercise, fainting, excessive coughing, no appetite, constant fatigue. See vet immediately for treatment program!

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy—A serious heart disease. The muscle of the heart loses it’s ability to pump blood properly causing a backup of blood, an enlarged heart, and an improperly functioning heart. Prognosis is generally 4 weeks to 2 years, depending on the Cocker Spaniel and how advanced the problem is. The vet may try medications to alter the heart function, but this one is a killer.

  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca—(Keratitis) A fancy way of saying “dry eye.” Inadequate tear flow causes painful eye infections of a chronic nature. Causes vary from distemper to certain medications to removing the third eyelid tear gland.. Often treated with cyclosporine drops. or an ointment called cyclosporine topical therapy.

  • Atopic dermatitis's—Atopy. Hereditary. Shows at 1 to 3 years age in a few Cocker Spaniels. Rare. Skin allergy triggered by dust mites, pollen, poor quality foods and other garbage we put into the dog’s environment. Many breeds are prone to this. The dog will lick, rub, chew and scratch the infected areas. Allergens can also come from fleas, bacteria and yeast infections. See your vet. There are many treatments ranging from medicines, antihistamines, diets, bathing, cleansing the house of dust mites and so on.

  • Sick sinus syndrome—A disturbance in the rhythm of the heart. Common visible symptoms are weakness and fainting. Treatment can be by medicine but that is often only temporary. More likely will be a pacemaker if the condition is chronic and severe. Implanted pacemaker prognosis is good. This procedure is not inexpensive. Common to Miniature Schnauzers, Boxers, Pugs, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds and Pomeranian's.

  • Epilepsy - A seizure disorder appearing from 2 to 4 or 5 years age.

  • Otitis externa—Inflammation and infection of the outer ear, especially dogs with long, floppy ear flaps. Dirt and moisture collect and breed yeast and bacteria. Ear hair and wax contribute to the infection environment. If left untreated it can become a serious infection. If at home treatments with cleaning and meds don't work and the problem worsens, surgery might be the last resort.

  • Chronic hepatitis - An inflammation of the liver, likely caused by an excess of toxins in the system. The liver help[s digest food by producing bile. A virus is the causes. By the time the illness is noticed, the eyes, liver, kidneys, brain and lungs will be affected by the virus. The dog will mope around, have no appetite and develop a bluish color in the eyes over the next two weeks and will either give in to the disease or develop chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. This is a very incomplete article. For more info, please go to the library or investigate the Internet.

  • Malassezia dermatitis—A highly itchy skin infection, usually around the ears, muzzle, inner thighs, eyes or feet. The Cocker Spaniel may become frantic, chewing and scratching the ears and feet. If an ear infection, there might be a waxy discharge and smelly odor. The dog will be rubbing and pawing at the ear. Look for Malassezia in the summer, humidity and allergy seasons. Your vet will treat this with appropriate medications and bathing after a diagnosis.

  • Hypothyroidism—An underactive thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone which reduces the Cocker Spaniel's metabolism level. Hypothyroidism stems from the dog’s immune system attacking the tissues of the thyroid gland. Bottom line is the dog becomes symptomatic. The cause can be a predisposition for thyroid problems, air pollution and allergies. A FEW symptoms of the disorder include lethargy, weight gain, skin infections, dry skin, hair loss, slow heart rate, ear infections, depression. See your set right away.

  • Gastric Torsion—Sometimes called Dog Bloat or “Twisted stomach.” Mainly in larger, deep-cheated dogs. Here's a brief description of the problem: Symptoms include excessive drooling, nervous pacing, agitation, weakness, attempt to vomit, bulging stomach area, heavy breathing, retching and gagging, shock or total collapse.

  • Patent ductus arteriosis—Canine congenital heart failure. Before birth, blood from the heart passes the lungs by a small vessel called the ductus arteriosis. That small vessel is supposes to vanish after birth and the infant breathes on it’s own With this disease, the vessel does not go away resulting in improper circulation of blood.

  • Seborrhea—Hereditary. Skin disease. Itching and scratching. Usually dry, flaky coat with the familiar “dog” odor. Sebaceous glands will produce a waxy, oily substance in the armpits, in the ears, under the dog and around the elbow joints. Secondary ear and skin infections are common too. There are many, many causes and IF the vet can identify one and treat it, you’re lucky. It’s a tough disorder to pinpoint. Springer and Cocker Spaniels, Westies and Retrievers are among the most susceptible.

The Cocker Spaniel is basically a healthy dog. As with all dog breeds, there are certain inherent health problems that arise as time goes on. Some breeds are prone to one disease more than others.


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