The English Cocker Spaniel is a medium-size, working breed from the Gundog group. The name ‘Cocker’ comes from their origins of hunting woodcock in England. They are hardy, adaptable, fun dogs for just about every circumstance. The breed standard notes their temperament as "Gentle and affectionate, yet full of life and exuberance". It says a "Merry nature with ever-wagging tail shows a typical bustling movement, particularly when following scent, fearless of heavy cover" is typical of a Cocker. There are two strains of English Cocker Spaniel, the Show Cocker and the Working Cocker. The Working Cocker is significantly more energetic than the Show Cocker. This profile is about the Show/Pet Cocker.
A well-bred, well trained and well brought up Cocker Spaniel is an absolute delight and joy to have in your household. I say they are like chips–you can’t just have one. They are happy, funny, gentle and playful. They are also very lively, exuberant, excitable, intelligent and sometimes naughty little rascals with a flair for the dramatic. They can't just lie down. Oh no, they've got to collapse in a graceful heap and then give a loud, dramatic sigh for all to hear, to ensure that everyone around them knows just how much they're suffering. They are also very sensitive little dogs, who need to be with their people. They don't do well as outside only dogs.
HISTORY: The English Cocker Spaniel’s name comes from the purpose for which they were originally bred-to hunt woodcock. They were not recognised as a separate breed until 1893. Up until that time, all the spaniels, collectively known as Land Spaniels, were bred together. Prior to1901, Cocker Spaniels were only separated from Field and Springer Spaniels by weight. One dog is believed to be the foundation sire of the modern English Cocker, his name was Ch. Obo.
The English Cocker Spaniel is the most successful breed at the most popular dog show in the UK, Crufts, with seven best-in-show wins since the prize was first awarded in 1928.
While they still excel in the show ring, Cockers are much more likely to be acquired as pets these days. They are very popular, and were on the top 20 list of favourite dog breeds in Australia in 2016, as found by the University of Sydney, after analysing data recorded by the Australian National Kennel Council.
General Appearance: Merry, sturdy, sporting; well balanced; compact; measuring approximately same from withers to ground as from withers to root of tail.
Temperament: Gentle, soft, affectionate, lively, excitable, nosy.
Size: Males 39-41cm (15.5-16in). Females 38-39cm (15-15.5in)
Weight: 13-15kg (average)
Colour: English Cockers come in many and varied coat colours and patterns. They come in solid colours such as Black, Gold, Liver (chocolate) and Red. There are also black and white, gold and white, liver and white and red and white. These colours also come in roan patterns–blue, gold, liver (chocolate), red, lemon and orange roan. There is also the Black and Tan, Blue Roan and Tan and your Tri-colour (black, white and tan).
Suitability: Cockers are happy, healthy, fun-loving dogs and adapt well to just about any home. They can live happily in a townhouse or unit, as long as they are able to be taken out every day for a good romp in the park and to meet new people and dogs. They are beautiful with children and adults alike and love most of all to be inside with their family.
Personality: Cockers can have a stubborn streak, and be a little bossy. If they're not taught good manners from a young age they will try to take over and run the house. They can be “talkers” and like to have the last word. Being Gundogs, they are easy to train and respond very well to positive reinforcement. They excel at sports like Agility and Flyball due to their high energy levels and excitability.
Cockers make great watchdogs, but given their love of people, anyone who enters their home is considered a friend and playmate. Guard dogs they are not. They are perennial puppies and are known for their uncanny ability to wag their tail from the waist down. They enthusiastically greet you upon your return home, with the classic cocker wiggle bum dance–even if you’ve only been to the letterbox.
The other thing that Cockers are famous for is their love of food. They would eat all day if they were allowed to and can be prone to obesity if their food intake isn’t monitored. I personally feed my Cockers a raw, whole food diet with a wide range of foods, but as they are so adaptable your Cocker would do also well on a good quality, premium dog food from your local pet store.
Like all breeds of dog, the English Cocker Spaniel has a couple of things that prospective owners need to be aware of. They are prone to Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), an inherited disease of the retina in which the eyes are genetically programmed to go blind. PRA is usually first noticed when the dog is around 5-8 years old.
Another disease that prospective owners need to be aware of familial Nephropathy (FN)or AHRN (Autosomal Hereditary Recessive Nephropathy). While it is still rare in Australia, there are carriers, but registered, ethical breeders always have their potential breeding dogs DNA tested for both FN and PRA.