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Cocker Spaniel dog breed profile

Do you know where the “cocker” comes from in their name?

Whether your dog is a Cocker Spaniel or a Cocker Spaniel mix, learning about the breed can explain a lot about your pet’s personality, habits and overall health. Or maybe you’re interested in adopting a Cocker Spaniel, but you want to do some research first — we can help.

Cocker Spaniels make wonderful companions. And if you fell in love with Lady from Disney’s “Lady and The Tramp,” perhaps this is the perfect dog breed to adopt into your family. But you should know some key characteristics about these pups before welcoming one into your home.

The history of Cocker Spaniels

According to Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch by The Dodo’s on-staff veterinarian, the Spaniel breed originally came from Spain. 

“But Spaniels, in general, have been mentioned as far back as the 1300s,” Dr. Singler adds. “At some point, this breed was divided into land Spaniels and water Spaniels, and the land Spaniel group was then broken into larger-and-smaller-sized dog groups, with Cocker Spaniels in the latter group.”

As for their two-part name (with “Spaniel” making sense since the breed originated in Spain), the word “cocker” is derived from Spaniels’ work back in the day as bird hunters, specifically hunting woodcocks.

What do Cocker Spaniels look like?

Cocker Spaniels are as soft as they look thanks to their double coat and long, silky fur, Dr. Singler explains. Their hair length, particularly along their undersides and around their ears, results in long “feathers” that can look similar to human locks.

These pups come in many colors like brown, red, silver, buff and black. Dr. Singler adds that they can have tan or white markings and be a mix of color combinations. 

And Cocker Spaniels are medium-sized, commonly weighing between 20 to 30 pounds and standing 13.5 to 15.5 inches tall. 

What's the difference between an English and American Cocker Spaniel?

If you’re already familiar with the breed, you may have heard of both English and American Cocker Spaniels.

“Both dogs are very similar, but the English Cocker Spaniel is typically taller with a longer head and a shorter coat than the American Cocker Spaniel,” Dr. Singler explains.

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What are Cocker Spaniels’ personalities like? 

When considering adopting a new pet, it’s always important to know their general temperament and activity level to determine if that specific dog will be a good match for your world. “The decision to adopt any dog should involve an evaluation of a family's lifestyle and schedule and particular dog's needs,” Dr. Singler says. 

With that said, if you’re looking for more of a couch-potato, low-maintenance type of dog, Cocker Spaniels might not be the right match for you. 

“Cocker Spaniels are typically high energy, happy, easy to train and affectionate, but with some alarm-barking tendencies,” Dr. Singler explains. “They’re smart dogs that generally do well with young kids but may do better with calm children. Pet parents should also be prepared for regular grooming, high exercise needs and early and consistent socialization.”

What health issues do Cocker Spaniels face? 

Cocker spaniels are predisposed to eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy and dry eye. They can also be at an increased risk for hip dysplasia, patellar luxation (where the kneecap moves out of place), congenital deafness, hypothyroidism, skin allergies and ear infections.

Asking your vet for advice on preventing these conditions is a great way stay proactive about your pet’s health. And as your Cocker Spaniel ages, keep an eye out for symptoms of the above conditions — the sooner your pet is diagnosed and treated by a vet, the happier they'll be.

Do Cocker Spaniels shed?

If you have dog-related allergies, Cocker Spaniels are likely not the right match for you. “These dogs are definitely not hypoallergenic, and they do shed,” Dr. Singler says. That also means that if you want minimal fur around your home, a breed with a different or shorter coat will be better suited for you.

Tips for adopting a Cocker Spaniel rescue dog

If you think a Cocker Spaniel is the right breed for you, consider adopting from a breed-specific shelter — or check out our shelter partners to find your new best friend.

Once your pet is home, it’s best to bring them to the vet so you start their health journey off right, Dr. Singler recommends. Puppies, especially, will need frequent vet visits at first for vaccines and exams.

When bringing a Cocker Spaniel (or any pet) home and around small children or other animals, it’s important to introduce them slowly and carefully. You should also ensure your new pup has a space to go to where they feel safe, like a crate or bed. If you plan on crate training your dog, feel free to include toys and soft blankets to make them more comfortable. 

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo.

Photo by Marina Grynykha on Unsplash

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