Nov 13 2009

American Cocker Spaniels

Though originally bred to hunt game bird in England, since gaining popularity in America, the American Cocker Spaniel has been bred to be the perfect family dog.  And who could resist?  Like the models from romance novels, Cocker Spaniels have looks that make you melt, glorious flowing locks, and the kind of personality girls wish they had in a boyfriend.  Known for their huge brown eyes and cheery dispositions, they come from a larger spaniel family of dogs: including the Brittany, Springer Spaniel, English Cocker and their smaller toy cousins, such as the Cavilier King Charles and English Toy.  What sets American Cocker Spaniels apart from the rest of their spaniel relatives is their ability to be an active outdoor-sy type and equally as comfortable inside snuggling with their human pack. 

They tend to be 15-30 lbs and need regular exercise and playtime with their humans.  And while some Cockers enjoy hikes and runs, others are quite all right with a walk in the neighborhood or time at the bark park.  And their looks are as versatile as their athletic abilities.  Their longs coats come in a variety of colors: parti-colors (dog speak for partially colored or spotted), tri-colored, and solid varieties.  Due to their long hair, that never seems to stop growing, there is a lot of grooming involved to maintain their perfect coif.  But, as with many other long-haired breeds, they look just as cute with an easy to manage “puppy cut.”  In addition to regular trims, they tend to have watery eye’s whose tearstains need to be wiped every other day and long drooping ears that need to be kept clean.  Although this sounds like a lot for one doggie to go through, they get quite use to being combed, cleaned, clipped and bathed. 

And that is really what a Cocker is all about; they live to please their family.  You want to comb their hair?  Go ahead.  Give them kisses?  Absolutely!  Take them on a walk or run?  They’ll do it, because that’s just the kind of dog they are.  They are always sweet, responsive, loyal and don’t mind being silly if it will make you laugh.  For the most part they are great with other dogs, cats and even small animals.  They will tolerate kids that have been taught to be gentle, but they are good at leaving when they are uncomfortable.  They tend to be at ease with all of their family members, and love to follow their people around the house, “helping” in any way they can.

It isn’t hard to see why the Cocker Spaniel has been such a popular breed.  Unfortunately, popularity has come at a cost to the Cocker Spaniel.  When a dog is over-bred for certain characteristics, some other traits fall by the wayside and become problems for the breed.  For the Cocker, their personality and temperament was sacrificed for their looks.  Some Cockers are overly submissive or aggressive.  Submissive urination and un-provoked outburst has become synonymous with the Cocker Spaniel.  Although these are characteristics suiting for some Cockers, for the most part they still remain the merry jester that lives to please.  The best remedy for this problem we humans have created is to adopt not just for looks, but understanding their personalities, socializing them and giving them opportunities to exercise and learn commands and tricks.  Above all else, understanding that with any dog, each has their own personality, like and dislikes.

The Cocker Spaniel has a special place as one of America’s favorite breeds.  Because of their popularity in America, there are many Cockers, from puppies to seniors, waiting for adoption in shelters and rescue organizations.  When looking for a smaller dog with a big personality and looks, consider the American Cocker Spaniel for your next family dog.

Written by Emily Mallot
Vet Clinic Technician at Wayside Waifs
& Mom to an American Cocker Spaniel, Duke a Wayside Alum


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