With a name that signifies their traditional use in hunting woodcock in England, the English Cocker Spaniel is a renowned bird hunting dog. However, their affectionate nature and fun loving spirit over the years has converted them to a loving family dog as well.
These dogs can trace their history to a time before guns were used in the hunting of birds and hunters relied more heavily on their dogs to locate, catch, and retrieve game. Staying true to its hunting roots, the English Cocker retains more of the original breed traits than the American Cocker Spaniel, which was bred with companionship in mind beginning in the early 20th century.
English Cocker Spaniel Appearance
The English Cocker is slightly larger than its American cousin. At 15-17 inches tall and up to 34 pounds in weight, it is classified as a medium sized breed. It has a longer, less domed head than the Cocker Spaniel, retaining more of its original appearance traits. These dogs are well balanced both when they are moving and when they are still, standing very upright. Their pendulous ears add character, and their oft-docked tail almost never stops wagging! The long hair of the English Cocker Spaniel comes in a multitude of colors, from liver to sable to black-and more- and in a variety of color combinations as well. They are not seen in the buff color that is so popular in their American cousins.
A very devoted dog, the English Cocker Spaniel is very oriented to his family. His friendliness extends to other people as well, which doesn’t make him the best protector and watchdog-their charisma has been known to be offered to burglars as well! Nevertheless, they are generally social with other dogs and fine with other pets, including cats. This breed can be a great choice for a family with children, because these dogs are large enough that they won’t be accidentally hurt by children, but not so large that they themselves will be likely to accidentally hurt anyone! Still, children should always be taught to treat pets with respect and care.
According to VetStreet, English Cockers occasionally have the tendency to act like an “airhead”-part of their fun loving, goofy personality.
Caring for an English Cocker Spaniel
Though they require less maintenance than their American counterparts, the English Cocker Spaniel does have a few unique care needs, particularly in the areas of exercise and grooming. The good news is, these dogs have a low tendency to drool, dig, bark, and snore.
The English Cocker Spaniel does not have any specific dietary needs, though each individual dog should be fed appropriately for his age. Canned or dry food may be fed at the discretion of the owner or the dog’s food preferences. Specific questions about food should be referred to the dog’s veterinarian, especially if there is concern about obesity or food allergies (though these are more rare in English Cockers). Every dog should have 24/7 access to cold, clean water.
Table scraps should be avoided in favor of nutritionally complete treats. Treats should be used sparingly and with purpose, such as for training.
These hunters require moderate exercise on a daily basis. They like long walks or hiking at a moderate pace. 20-40 minutes daily is a good guideline for walking. Fetch is a favorite game. It is recommended that English Cockers remain in a fenced in area when off leash, as their hunting instincts still remain strong. Outside the yard, they should be on a secure leash with a collar or harness.
Mental fitness is important to the intelligent English Cocker as well. Puzzle toys or other challenges will help keep their mind engaged, especially when their people are otherwise occupied. This breed is skilled in field trials and agility competitions.
The training of the English Cocker should begin early and often, even if it is just socialization from a young age. They are very eager to please, but do not react favorably to harsh discipline. A better approach is positive reinforcement and a gentle hand. These dogs should love and respect their handler, but not fear them.
English Cocker Spaniels face susceptibility to a few health issues. Like other spaniels, eye problems can be common, such as cataracts or retinal atrophy. Thyroid issues can be prevalent in these dogs, though they can often be well-managed on medications. Patellar luxation, a knee issue, can cause problems in English Cockers.
Although it is impossible to see into a puppy’s future, some health problems can be minimized by purchasing puppies from reputable breeders. Breeders are able to get hip, knee, thyroid, and eye clearances from organizations such as the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals that help prove the lack of these issues in puppy parents.
English Cocker Spaniels should be seen by their veterinarian at least once a year, or more frequently if concerns arise. Vaccinations should be updated at this time. Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention are necessary throughout the course of the year.
Grooming is a consideration for the English Cocker owner. A moderate shedder, brushing these dogs regularly will be necessary to keep their coat not only mat-free, but the home less hairy as well. Brushing 2-3 times a week is recommended. Bathing every 6 weeks or so will keep the dog in good condition, as will nail trimming every few weeks or as needed.
- Cocker Spaniel: This American cousin of the English Cocker was designed as a companion pet, while still retaining some of the favorite traits of the classic English version of the breed.
- Clumber Spaniel: Somewhat larger than the English Cocker, the Clumber Spaniel is a mellow, heavy jowled bird dog also native to England.
- Sussex Spaniel: This low-slung, front-heavy Spaniel is said to be the chattiest of all the Spaniels-they not only bark, but use their own babbling “language” while tracking birds.
- English Springer Spaniel: These dogs are polite and exceptionally people-oriented, hating to be left out of whatever their family is involved in.
- Basset Hound: A small dog in a little package, the Basset stands no more than 14 inches at the shoulder, though his massive paws look as if they belong to a much larger canine!