Cocker Spaniel Breed Traits & Facts

Last Updated on September 20, 2023

The friendly and cheerful Cocker Spaniel, with his big, bright eyes and cheeky personality is one of America’s most beloved dog breeds. Although originally used for hunting, Cocker Spaniels have gained a large following as beloved family pets.

Cocker Spaniels are medium-sized dogs that stand about 15 inches tall, so they fit comfortably into any size home. Cocker Spaniels are easy to train and can make great playmates for children. The Cocker Spaniel is sporty and hardy, and loves to spend time on the trails with his owners.

This informative article will tell you everything about the Cocker Spaniel breed. Learn about the origins of the Cocker Spaniel, the health risks that the breed may be susceptible to, and what you can expect as a pet. Let’s learn all about the adorable Cocker Spaniel!

Cocker Spaniel


The origins of the Cocker Spaniel are thought to go right back to the “Spanyells” of the 14th century. Over the following years, the Spaniel breed diversified and evolved into many different forms that all had different jobs. Some Spaniels were used to flush game and retrieve shot birds upon command. The name “Cocker” actually derives its name from the dog’s ability to hunt woodcock.

Spaniels were initially grouped by their size. So, different types of Spaniels could be born in one litter. In the end, all types of Spaniels were recognized as distinct breeds.

By 1946, the Cocker Spaniel was recognized as a separate breed. Thanks to the 1955 Disney movie, Lady and the Tramp, the popularity of the breed saw a massive boost.

Until 1990, the Cocker Spaniel was the breed of choice for families in the U.S., according to American Kennel Club records. These days, the Cocker Spaniel is ranked down at #25, but his jolly personality, versatile size, and intelligence still make him a popular choice for people looking for a family pet.

Like the Golden Retriever or the Labrador Retriever, the modern Cocker Spaniel is the smallest member of the Sporting Group.

As well as being a terrific family pet, the Cocker Spaniel still enjoys a working role in field sports. You’ll also see Cocker Spaniels participating in dog agility events.


Cocker Spaniels are well-known for their calm and prudent nature. They are loving, gentle, playful, and trustworthy companions. Cocker Spaniels make great family pets and get along well with other animals.

They are often anxious, even after proper socialization. This sensitive personality means harsh training methods should not be used. Consistent and gentle training is the best way to prevent your Cocker Spaniel from being afraid.

Barking can be used to communicate with dogs, and Cocker Spaniels love trying to send messages to humans. Teaching them the “quiet” command can be helpful to deter this behavior.

Cocker Spaniels are bred to hunt and have a strong prey drive. It is best to keep your dog on a leash when you’re out and about. They are also eager to please their masters because of their hunting instinct.

Size & Appearance

Cocker Spaniels are classified as medium-sized dogs, standing between 14 and 15 inches at the shoulder and weighing in at around 30 pounds. Female Cocker Spaniels tend to be slightly larger than their male counterparts.

Their heads are elegant and graceful, with a square muzzle and a wide, square crown. Their backs slope toward the tail, giving the pup an appearance fit for royalty. Their distinctive feature is their long, feathered ears. They flop on both sides of their heads. These lush ears are a magnet for people who can’t resist touching them!

The Cocker Spaniel’s big and dreamy brown eyes . is what likely inspired the term “puppy dogs eyes”. This puppy glimmer is there for them no matter how old they are, whether they’re four months old or fourteen.

Coat & Colors

Cocker Spaniels have medium to long silky coats that can be straight or slightly wavy. Long, luxurious feathering is used to decorate the legs, chest, and belly of Cocker Spaniels.

Cockers are available in a variety of gorgeous colors, including:

  • Golden
  • Red
  • Chocolate
  • Black
  • Black and tan
  • Liver and tan
  • Orange and white
  • Liver and white
  • Lemon and white
  • Black and white
  • Black, white, and tan
  • Liver, white, and tan

You can also find roan colors, including blue, orange, liver, lemon, blue roan and tan, and liver roan and tan. It’s not uncommon for Cocker Spaniels to have coats that are spotted.


*Cocker Spaniels were originally bred as working dogs. They are energetic and lively and need to be exercised. Your Cocker Spaniel will need to be taken for at least two walks every day, and you should give him plenty of play time.

That said, most Cockers are more than happy to spend a rainy afternoon just chilling out on your lap in front of the fire.

Living Conditions

While you can theoretically keep a working Cocker Spaniel outdoors overnight, there are many reasons this might not be a good idea.

  • Howling and barking: Cockers that are used to living indoors with their human family tend to develop separation anxiety that leads to howling and barking if they’re put outside overnight.
  • Digging: Cockers will dig if they become anxious while confined away from their owners. You can be sure that your Cocker Spaniel will dig a hole if it is partly on grass.
  • Chewing: Cockers will chew and destroy their overnight accommodation if they become anxious when suddenly finding themselves alone. Cocker Spaniels can chew their own paws until it’s raw when they are stressed.

Isolating your Cocker Spaniel-loving family member can cause a lack of trust within your family. You may notice your pet becoming more aggressive and less willing to follow you.


Cocker Spaniels can be a pleasure to train. However, the breed is quite sensitive, and you’ll accomplish more if you use positive training techniques. You’ll get much further with lots of praise, treats, and a clicker than you will with a choke chain and a disciplinarian attitude.

Note that the breed is well-known for urinating when they are made to feel intimidated or submissive. If you are too harsh or heavy handed, your puppy could become anxious and wet.

Some Cocker Spaniels are stubborn and can be difficult to train. Aim for a balance between providing kind, gentle guidance, and being firm, persistent, and consistent in the directions that you give.

One potential problem when training Cockers is their very strong senses of smell l. This means that they can wander off-leash following a tempting scent and ignore your requests to return. You must teach your Cocker Spaniel a strong recall command. Also, it is important to keep him on a leash while out on walks. Only allow him to run free in a fenced off-leash area.


Cocker Spaniels, like all pedigree breeds, are susceptible to some genetic health issues, such as

  • Eye disorders: cataracts, glaucoma
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patella luxation
  • Disc disease
  • Liver problems
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart disease

Eye Disorders

Cocker Spaniels are especially prone to developing eye disorders, ranging from “cherry eye” that can be corrected through surgery to conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma that can be sight-threatening.

Many Cocker Spaniels lose their vision completely in their senior years. It’s not unusual for younger dogs to start suffering from sight loss after a few years, as a result of progressive renal atrophy.

Cocker Spaniels can also be susceptible to keratoconjunctivitis sicca. This is dry eyes in which the dog’s eye doesn’t produce enough tears. This condition can cause corneal problems.


Hypothyroidism is a condition that causes the underproduction of thyroid hormone. This can cause weight gain, lethargy, and skin infections. It can also lead to hair loss.

Ear and Hearing Problems

Some white, blue-eyed Cocker Spaniels are affected by congenital deafness. These problems are caused by the merle gene and are incurable. These characteristics are why it is best to not buy a puppy.

Long Spaniel ears trap dirt and moist air in the ear canals. That creates the ideal environment for the proliferation of yeast and bacteria, leading to chronic ear infections. Regular cleaning of the ears is a good way to prevent future problems.

Poor ear health and recurrent infections can lead to permanent damage, so keep a weather eye on your Cocker’s ears, and consult a vet right away if you spot a problem.

Autoimmune Diseases

Cocker Spaniels are susceptible to autoimmune diseases such as autoimmune hemolyticanemia (AIHA). Affected dogs with AIHA have their red blood cells , attacked by the immune system, resulting in acute anemia. The condition is treatable, but the death rate in Cocker Spaniels with the disease is high.

Good breeders screen their breeding stock for genetic diseases and only breed from the strongest and healthiest. Sometimes, even the best-bred puppies can get one of these diseases. So, if you’re buying a puppy, always ask the breeder about the ages of the puppy’s relatives and find out what they died of.

The average lifespan for a Cocker Spaniel is between 12 and 15 years.


When choosing food for a Cocker Spaniel puppy, look for a brand that supports healthy growth and development of teeth and bones, as well as providing something for a glossy coat, healthy skin, and plenty of energy.

A growing puppy should receive around 150g to 250g of specialized puppy food per day for the first six months of his life. Over the next five months, reduce the ration to around 130g to 190g per day.

When feeding an adult Cocker Spaniel, you’ll need to adjust the ration, depending on the weight of your pet. You can find the guidelines on how to feed your dog on the packaging. Talk to your vet if you aren’t sure what food or how much to give him.


Show-ring Cocker Spaniels have floor-length silky coats. It takes a lot to keep them shiny and tangle-free. So, most people who have a Cocker as a family pet like to take their dog to a groomer for a short cut all over, known as a puppy cut.

However, even dogs with puppy cuts must be brushed, bathed, and trimmed every couple of weeks. Cocker Spaniels with long flowing hair will require bathing, trimming, and brushing every other week. Although Cockers shed more than other breeds, they shed less than others.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

Always choose a reliable breeder to match you with the perfect puppy. Good breeders will have had all the necessary health screening carried out on the puppy’s parents to ensure that the puppy doesn’t inherit any genetic health conditions.

A good breeder will care more about finding homes for their puppies that making a profit selling them. It’s not a good idea to purchase a cheap puppy. When it comes to pedigree dogs, the old saying “You get what you pay” is true. You can budget anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 for a purebred Cocker Spaniel puppy.

Look for a breeder who is a member of The American Spaniel Club, Inc., and who abides by its Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics prohibits the sale of puppies to pet shops. The breeder must be willing to assist you in training and raising your puppy.

Puppy mills have deservedly received much bad press recently. A puppy mill is basically a commercial enterprise that exists to produce as many puppies as it can for as little cost as possible.

Often, the breeder has not bothered to have the puppies’ parents health screened, and usually, their dogs are kept in deplorable, unsanitary conditions. Puppy mill puppies are often sickly and can succumb to various illnesses within weeks of their arrival in their new homes. Puppy mills are often the source of puppies for pet shops.

Rescues & Shelters

If you’re happy to offer a forever home to an adult dog, you could check out Cocker Spaniel shelters and rescue organizations in your region. Check out this link and search online for an adult Cocker Spaniel.

Just be aware that an adult rescue Cocker Spaniel may come with behavioral problems, depending on the dog’s history. Before rehoming a dog, it is important to learn as much as possible about him.

Some rescue organizations offer a “try before you buy ” arrangement in which potential owners can bring their dogs home for a test drive to make sure that they are compatible before making a commitment.

For all purebred dogs, it seems it’s common these days to mix them with other purebreds, and the Cocker Spaniel isn’t any different. There are many popular mixes with the Cocker Spaniel, with theGolden Cocker Retriever being a popular option.

As Family Pets

  • Cocker Spaniels are medium-sized dogs, making them ideal for a small home or apartment.
  • The Cocker Spaniel is a friendly, loving dog that makes an ideal companion.
  • Cockers are energetic and full of fun, making them ideal for a family who enjoys the outdoor lifestyle.
  • Most Cockers are very trainable, although you do need to be gentle, firm, and persistent as these are sensitive souls who can be easily upset. This breed is known for its stubborn nature, which can make training difficult.
  • A well-socialized Cocker Spaniel will be great around kids and will play for hours.
  • Cocker Spaniels do require quite a lot of grooming to keep their coats looking good. The breed does not shed.
  • The sensitive Cocker Spaniel can suffer from separation anxiety, which could be a problem if you’re out at work all day.

All in all, the Cocker Spaniel makes an excellent pet for a lively household where plenty is going on, and ideally where he’ll have company during the daytime. After all the exercise and fun, your Cocker Spaniel will be content to curl up on your lap and sleep on your chest.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a small, loving dog with a friendly personality and a good temperament, a Cocker Spaniel might be the right choice for you. The Cocker Spaniel enjoys spending time with his family but he also has a lot of energy so you’ll need to take the time to exercise him.

The Cocker Spaniel’s silky, long coat will keep you busy if you love to groom your dog. The Cocker Spaniel sheds moderately so regular visits to a professional groomer are a good idea.

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