Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
If you haven’t already fallen in love with those long ears and expressive eyes, the well-balanced personality of the English Cocker Spaniel will surely win you over! Not to be confused with the American Cocker Spaniel, which is smaller with a different body type, the English Cocker was bred to hunt birds in fields all day long. But they weren’t bred to do it alone. English Cocker’s, no matter what they’re doing, want to be right alongside their humans. And their affection and sweetness matched their stamina. So, if you’re looking for a companion who’ll follow you on any adventure, whether that be traipsing through a rugged terrain, or just lounging on the couch, this may be the pup for you!
Also Known As...
English Cocker. Cocker. Cocker Spaniel. Merry Cocker. "Hey look! It's Lady from Lady and the Tramp's cute British cousin!"
While Spaniels date back almost 500 years, the breeds we know today originated in the mid-19th century. At that time, land spaniels (as opposed to water spaniels) were used to drive game towards guns, rather than retrieve it. Around 1890, the Springer and Cocker were finally separated into different classifications.
The American Cocker Spaniel was eventually developed from the English Cocker Spaniel in the 19th century although were originally only divided based on size. However, over the years, specific traits have been focused on regarding breeding of the two, and the in 1946, the American Kennel Club granted a specific breed designation for the English Cocker Spaniel.
15 - 17 inches tall for males. 14 – 16 inches tall for females.
The average weight range for English Cocker Spaniels is 29 - 35 pounds for males and 26 – 33 pounds for females.
Kind, determined, compassionate, loyal, and cheerful, it’s almost as if the Cocker was bred to be a companion rather than a bird retriever. And while hunting birds remains a priority, it may be second to these dogs spending time with their humans. A great playmate as well as lapdog, English Cockers are a great fit for people of all ages.
Intelligence / Trainability
Though highly intelligent and trainable, English Cockers can also be a bit stubborn if they don’t see a good reason to follow your command. Like all hunting dogs, English Cockers can have a tendency to follow their nose, so obedience training is necessary so that they come when called. Their “soft” personality responds well to positive reinforcement, while negative or harsh treatment can easily alarm them and cause them to shut down. Keep things happy and fun and your English Cocker surely keep up!
Cocker’s will certainly make use of as big a yard as you can give them, yet this adaptable breed can also do well in an apartment as long as they are given plenty of daily exercise. When not in a secured outdoor area, you’ll always want to use a leash, for even though Cockers are highly trainable, their hunting instincts can always take over should they choose to follow their nose rather than your commands.
Good For Families And Kids?
English Cockers make great family pets, and are so affectionate that they hate to be left alone. Whether you’re working in the yard, out running errands, or just watching TV on the couch, they want to be with you. They will especially bond to one person (often the person who feeds them) and will be happiest whenever they’re by their side.
These pups also get along well with children, especially when early socialization is achieved, as they are very kind and good-natured. That being said, they do not respond well to harsh or negative treatment, and young children should be supervised when interacting with english Cockers, or any pet.
The average life expectancy for English Cocker Spaniels is 12 –14 years.
Although physically sturdy and generally healthy, English Cockers, like most breeds, can have a few issues to be aware of and watch out for, including hip dysplasia, congenital sensorineural deafness (found only in parti-colored English Cockers), dilated cardiomyopathy, and eye issues such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy. Renal failure does occasionally occur in English Cockers under 2 years of age, and is thought to be inherited.
This active, intelligent, sporting breed needs plenty of daily exercise and is determined to get it. If you’re looking for a dog to join you on walks, runs and/or hikes, or to play fetch with in the yard, you’ve found one in the English Cocker. Along with that energy comes a strong curiosity and investigative nature. Cockers love to explore and discover which is a great opportunity for creating inventive games that are fun for dog and human alike!
Friendly With... (Dogs, Strangers, Cats, Other Pets?
Both kind and compassionate, Cockers often get along well with other dogs Friendly and loving with people, they can sometimes be reserved with strangers, and will often bark to alert you of someone approaching, although don’t expect to have a guard dog on your hands. These pups are far too trusting and affectionate for that line of work.
Coat & Grooming
While Cockers come in many colors and combinations, they all have medium-long silky coats of wavy or flat hair. Longer hair, or “feathering” cover the belly, legs and chest, which serves to protect them from scratches or other field injuries. You’ll want to brush them every couple of days and can trim the feathering should it start to drag. Frequent care and cleaning of ears is also required due to their long ears being prone to infection.
Toys English Cocker Spaniels Would Like Best
Full of energy and curiosity, English Cockers make great playmates for children and adults alike! Toys that inspire running and fetching or retrieving are sure to be a win.
So check out the Lady Liberty Ball. This BARK original is perfect for rigorous games of fetch. A layer of soft yet durable plush hides the spiky squeaker ball beneath. The small size is perfect for English Cockers to retrieve and carry, and the fabric edge is great for thrashing and throwing.
For a more detailed list, check out the following post: What Are The Best Toys For Cocker Spaniels?
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
Like most dogs, Cockers have a tendency to overeat and will get into anything you allow them to. Several portioned meals throughout the day, made up of as much whole foods as possible, is recommended to promote healthy weight and overall wellbeing for your pup.
If you're interested in supplements, make sure to consult your vet before administering them to your dog.
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your Cocker with joint issues. ($32.99.)
BARK’s Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with joint issues, pain relief, and ease aggression in dogs during stressful situations. ($17.99-22.99.)
For Cockers or other pups who love to lie around - especially after an afternoon of running around! - a nice comfortable dog bed is probably a good idea.
This ultra plush orthopedic dog bed is great for supporting your pup’s small body and giving them a designated place to rest. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your canine companion. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The English Cocker Spaniel Of Your Dreams
- Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue - this non-profit organization is dedicated to the rescue and re-homing of Cocker Spaniels and other dogs in need of loving forever homes. AACSR has saved approximately 3,300 dogs and are a proud member of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals.
- Cocker Spaniel Rescue Of New England, Inc. - this rescue is one of the oldest and largest Cocker rescue groups in the country. By networking with animal shelters, other rescue groups, and veterinarians, CSRNE has saved, improved, and extended the lives of one of America’s most popular breeds.
- Oldies But Goodies Cocker Rescue - this rescue is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of cocker spaniels and mixes in the mid-Atlantic region - primarily DC, MD and VA.
- Adoptable Cocker Spaniels on Petfinder.
Notable Instagram English Cocker Spaniels
Taco is an adorable English Cocker living it up in Australia.
Follow this beautiful pup through her early years as she grows from a princess into a queen. Whether walking, training, or sleeping, this red beauty will brighten your day.
Follow Mocha’s daily adventures in New England, from play dates to snow days to lazy days. This gorgeous pup is climbing stepstools one day, and mountains the next!
Warning! Biscuit gets wet. A lot! If you’re prepared for that level of cuteness, then step inside the adventurous world of this sweet English Cocker.
***Looking for a gift to blow your Cocker's mind? Spoil them with a BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <-- This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! :)
Featured image via TacoTheCocker/Instagram