The English Cocker Spaniel is a very energetic dog that loves outdoor activities. A highly intelligent breed, English Cocker Spaniels tend to be eager to learn and please. Their happy, playful nature makes them a great family pet.
The English Cocker Spaniel was originally bred in Spain during the 1300s as a hunting and retrieving dog. The dogs then made their way to England, where they hunted on the estates of the wealthy.
English Cocker Spaniels may look somewhat like their American Cocker Spaniels cousins. But they're actually closer to the working dog form of the Field Spaniel and the Springer Spaniel.
The American Kennel Club granted the English Cocker Spaniel specific breed designation in 1946.
The English Cocker Spaniel has a compact, sturdy, well-balanced body. It's often described by fans of the breed as "merry" thanks to its exuberant disposition and bright, happy eyes.
The coat of the English Springer Spaniel is flat with a silky texture. The hair on the top of the head is short and fine, while the hair on the body is medium length. Its forelegs, body, and hind legs above the hocks are well feathered.
The English Cocker Spaniel comes in a range of solid and parti-colors with white. The colors are black, liver, or shades of red, including lemon and orange. Some dogs have a white chest blaze, and tan points are possible. Ticking is also frequently seen.
An English Cocker Spaniel's ears are set low and lie close to the head. The ear leather (i.e., ear lobe) is fine and extends to the nose. Long, silky, straight, or slightly wavy hair keeps the ears well covered.
Their eyes—medium-sized, slightly oval, and set wide apart—are a key feature of their soft, melting expression. Contributing to their prowess as hunters, they have wide nostrils that allow for proper development of scenting ability. And their strong jaws are capable of carrying a bird as large as a duck or pheasant.
English Cocker Spaniels are a good breed for families. Happy by nature, they love human company and are friendly toward children.
Some English Cocker Spaniels can have a high amount of energy. But with proper exercise, most can live happily in cities, suburbs, rural areas—making them a very adaptable family pet. They are also generally outgoing toward strangers and do well with pets and other dogs.
Hunters by nature, English Cocker Spaniels may chase wildlife. For this reason, it's best to keep them in a fenced yard or on a leash when outside.
To meet their nutritional needs, you should feed English Cocker Spaniels a high-quality diet that's appropriate for their current life stage (e.g., puppy, adult, senior). A food formulated specifically for medium-sized dogs is a good option to consider.
English Cocker Spaniels are prone to becoming overweight. Their daily food intake—including treats—must be carefully monitored to help prevent weight gain. Generally speaking, treats should make up no more than 10% of their calories for the day.
To prevent mats and tangles, brush an English Cocker Spaniel's coat at least once a week, if not more. Regular trimming also helps keep their coats looking neat and tidy.
An English Cocker Spaniel's long ears can make them more susceptible to ear infections. So, routinely check and clean their ears to prevent infections from developing.
As with most dogs, overgrown nails in English Cocker Spaniels can lead to pain, splitting, or even problems running or walking. Their nails need regular inspection and trimming to prevent these potential problems.
Dental care is an essential part of any dog's long-term health. In addition to professional cleanings, an at-home dental care routine—including regular teeth-brushing and dental treats or toys—should be established.
English Cocker Spaniels need plenty of physical activity to thrive. Backyard games of fetch, long walks, and hikes are fun ways for them to burn off energy. They also seem to enjoy dog sports such as hunting, tracking, retrieving, agility, rally, and competitive obedience.
Positive reinforcement and a gentle tone are the best way to train this eager to please, obedient breed. English Cocker Spaniels are very food-motivated, which can be helpful during training sessions. Treats can help you manage guarding tendencies and can serve as rewards for giving up inappropriate objects they've retrieved.
Sometimes, English Cocker Spaniels demonstrate fearful behaviors; reward-based training can help to minimize them. Additionally, early socialization will help them develop into well-mannered adult dogs.
Acral Mutilation Syndrome (AMS) causes insensitivity to pain, leading to a tendency to lick or bite paws excessively. This often results in loss of toenails, fractures, and toe amputation.
Phosphofructokinase Deficiency (PFK) is a disorder where an enzyme important in the production of energy from sugars is lacking, resulting in weakness, muscle cramps, discolored urine, anemia, and jaundice.
Familial Nephropathy (FN) is an inherited kidney disorder, that results in abnormal amounts of protein in the urine leading to kidney failure.
Xanthinuria can cause formation of stones throughout the upper and lower urinary tracts, including the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. These stones can result in pain, bloody urine, infection and blockage of the urinary tract.
PRCD is a particularly common form of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and is found in many breeds and mixed breed dogs. PRA is caused by the degeneration of photoreceptor cells of the retina resulting in progressive vision loss and eventual blindness.
Exercise-Induced Collapse (EIC) is a neuromuscular disorder which can cause incoordination and weakness, resulting in collapse, after periods of strenuous exercise.
Knowing if your English Cocker Spaniel is a carrier or at-risk for these conditions can help you and your veterinarian plan for your pup’s lifelong care. With Wisdom Panel™ Premium, you can get results for over 200 genetic health tests.
Reviewed July 26, 2020 by Annette Louviere, DVM