English Cocker Spaniel: dog breed appearance, character, training, care, health


The English Cocker Spaniel dog breed has very peculiar characteristics. Its body is elegant, harmonious and with soft and silky hair. It has a character cheerful, outgoing and energetic. It is one of the most popular and favourite pets in the world. At Petlifey, we explain everything about the English Cocker Spaniel.


Character of the English Cocker Spaniel

If there is a peculiarity that the English Cocker Spaniel demonstrates, it is undoubtedly its energetic, cheerful and outgoing character, but at the same time sweet and affectionate, it is an excellent dog for children. Enjoy with large families where there is always something to do or someone to be with.

This breed of English dog has a temperament that loves to feel like an integral part of the family, to notice that it is taken into account and to participate actively in the life of the group. It is not a suitable dog for people who spend all day away from home and have to leave their dog alone for many hours. Due to its selection and its historical genetics, it is a dog of people, which needs permanent contact with them to fulfill itself emotionally.

It is quite sociable. It generally has a behaviour that does not present problems in front of strangers, although occasionally it can be somewhat suspicious.

Nor do they usually generate major conflicts in their relationship with other dogs, and even with animals of different species, including cats. Provided that contact with them begins when the dog is still a puppy. It is not very noisy, although it does express its joy by barking and wagging its tail, and it is obedient. Extraordinary companion animal, its adaptability is high, but that does not mean that it is not necessary to do intense socialization work with it starting at a very young age.

Being a dog closely linked to its master and its family, the English Cocker Spaniel produces a curious case of mimicry. So you can know what the temperament of the animal is based on that of its owners.

This particularity sometimes becomes a problem if in their treatment the animal is equated with the rest of the people that make up the family group. There is then what is known as “small dog syndrome”.

This means that the “humanization” of animals leads them to believe that they are at the same hierarchical level as people. This implies the development of behavior problems, maladjustments, conflicts when not assuming their place in the herd or questioning the hierarchy that is being imposed on them and crying.

Thus, this is a suitable dog for all types of families and for all kinds of owners as long as they are able to give a firm education at the same time. Where the rules are clearly established from the start and are consistently and consistently enforced.

Even so, it must be recognized that there is a high rate of stubborn specimens that must be convinced with a little more insistence. They are not particularly noisy dogs, but they are not silent either, since they like to express their feelings or attract attention using their bark, especially if you are not very aware of them.

But it is essential to let them go for a run in the field, the park, the beach or the mountains, because, as a hunting dog that it is, it is active and playful, and it needs to burn all its energy so as not to be invaded by nervousness or boredom. .

If these doses of exercise and outdoor life are sought, the English Cocker Spaniel becomes an excellent companion animal, very affectionate, cheerful and easy to train.

For many decades, this has been one of the favorite breeds of dog lovers around the world, as it is a large animal packed into a small body, which gives it a great advantage over many other breeds.

It is small enough to be considered an eminently domestic dog, since it can live without problems at home or in an apartment and share time and space with its family.

But, even so, it is also large enough that it is not seen as a mere luxury dog, but rather, it is a perfect companion on outings to the field, in the practice of sports and in almost any activity that you want to undertake with them.

By comparison, it is in the same size range as the beagle, the miniature schnauzer and many terriers , but, compared to these, its friendly and balanced character makes it occupy a place of privileged advantage.

  • Energy: high level. You need to practice moderate intensity exercise almost daily, if possible outdoors.
  • Temperament: its nature is cheerful; the tail maintains a constant and characteristic lively movement, especially when following a trail; not afraid of dense thickets. It is an animal full of life and very playful, but also sensitive, docile and obedient.
  • Adaptability: You need a dose of fresh air, but you can live very well in an urban environment. If you get bored, it can be noisy or harmful.
  • Sociability: It is a happy and affectionate dog with its family, which loves to please. With strangers it is sometimes a bit reserved.
  • Health: You may suffer from eye and joint problems, such as dysplasias. You have to watch your weight, as it tends to gain weight.
  • Longevity: Live between 10 and 12 years.
  • Utility: very versatile. Basically a companion and hunting dog, it is also good at therapy, tracking, as a truffle finder, or at detecting explosives and drugs.
  • Use: hunting and companion lifting dog.

Characteristics of the English Cocker Spaniel

Harmonious and elegant, the English Cocker Spaniel has an almost square body structure, since the length of its body measures approximately the same as its height at the withers.

With strong and robust legs, and a short but powerful back, it is a compact and resistant dog, but without being heavy.The coat is silky, smooth, abundant and with undercoat, it has long fringes on the body, chest, ears and legs. The coat can be of various colors.

English Cocker Spaniel Breed Standard

Let’s take a closer look at the English Cocker Spaniel and the breed standard :

  • General appearance: it is a medium-sized dog, with a strong and vigorous constitution, well balanced, robust, compact, sporty and cheerful; the height at the withers is practically equal to the length of the body until the insertion of the tail.
  • Size: medium.
  • Height at the withers: between 39 and 41 cm for males and between 38 and 39 cm for females.
  • Weight: between 13 and 15 kg for males and between 12 and 13 kg for females.
  • Origin: United Kingdom.
  • Other names: English Cocker Spaniel / Cocker spaniel anglais.
  • Body: it is very strong and compact.
  • Head: harmonious and not very large, it has a well developed and modelled skull, not very fine or very coarse, with a well-marked stop, a square muzzle and a broad nose.
  • Skull: well developed, not very fine or excessively solid.
  • Muzzle: it is square.
  • Nose: quite wide, it is consistent with its developed sense of smell.
  • Eyes: large and expressive, they are not bulging. They are dark brown or hazel, with the only exception of the liver, roan liver and liver and white specimens, whose eyes can be hazel in color, in harmony with the coat. His expression is intelligent and sweet, but always alert, bright and cheerful.
  • Ears: they are lobular and are set low, at eye level. Spread, they reach the tip of the nose. They are well covered with long silky hair, with fringes.
  • Nose-frontal depression (stop): It is well defined.
  • Jaws: the jaws are strong and robust, with a scissor bite (the inner face of the upper incisors is in contact with the outer face of the lower incisors and at right angles to the jaws).
  • Neck: of moderate length, elegant and muscular, lacking a double chin.
  • Chest: deep and well developed, seen from the front it is not too wide or too narrow, and has arched ribs. The top line descends smoothly towards the tail.
  • Back: firm and horizontal, descending slightly from the end of the loin to the insertion of the tail. The loin is strong, short and wide.
  • Forelimbs: straight and with strong bones, they give a good push. Shoulders: They are oblique and thin. Forearms and arms: They are characterized by being short.
  • Hind limbs: they are strong and with good bones. Their legs are wide, well rounded and very muscular. The knees are well angulated. The hocks are short to give a lot of momentum.
  • Feet: they are solid, rounded, the so-called “cat’s feet”, and they are endowed with thick plantar pads.
  • Tail: set slightly lower than the back, it is somewhat curved and of moderate length in proportion to the size of the body, as it does not usually exceed the hock. It is thick at the base and tapers to a fine point, with a good fringe. Cheerful in action, the dog brings her to the same level as the top line, neither higher nor low enough to show shyness. Traditionally it is cut, but in many countries this practice is prohibited.
  • Skin: attached to the body.
  • Hair : double-layered, smooth, soft and silky in texture, dense and of medium length. On the legs, body, chest, ears and tail it has abundant and showy fringes.
  • Color: the English Cocker Spaniel can present various colorations in its coat. The most common colors are uniform black and blonde (sometimes with a white patch on the chest), combinations of black and white, black and tan, white and orange, and also bluish roan.
  • Movement: Natural in action, this dog possesses a powerful drive that allows it to cover quite a bit of ground.
  • FCI Classification: FCI No. 5 GROUP 8 – Retriever hunting dogs, lifting hunting dogs and water dogs. Section 2 – Hunting Lifting Dogs.

English Cocker Spaniel puppy

If you are thinking of adopting or buying an English Cocker Spaniel puppy, there are a number of considerations that you should take into account.

For example, the enormous vitality of this breed of dog translates into an explosion of energy during its puppy stage. Its constant desire to play, its innate curiosity and its immense joy make this dog sometimes noisy and even “devastating”.

Friendly and tolerant, this dog can coexist without problems with other animal species. But the dog must be accustomed to its presence from a very young age.

However, their character has often been poorly disseminated, calling it brusque, irascible and even aggressive, attitudes totally alien to the healthy and balanced specimens of this breed.

This breed loves water. A good alternative to walks in the park or in the mountains is to take it to the river or the beach, where the dog will surely enjoy jumping, swimming and going to look for any ball or object that is thrown into the water.

An eminently sporty animal with great vital energy, the English Cocker Spaniel loves to exercise. In disciplines such as agility, it shows off its great elasticity, its powerful muscles and the elegance of its jump.

The look of the English Cocker Spaniel denotes tenderness and docility, although there are those who see in it hints of melancholy. It is one of the weapons that the animal uses when it wants to get something, especially food. You must not fall into “its plot.”

Many owners choose to mechanically cut their cocker spaniel or even clip it for the summer, but even if it is expensive to groom. It is worth investing the time and effort in this, so as not to act against the natural quality of the coat or negatively affect the aesthetic appearance of the animal.


English Cocker Spaniel education and training

Regarding the training or education of the English Cocker Spaniel, it must be remembered that it is above all a hunting dog.

It is its original work and for which it continues to be genetically predisposed, and, despite the fact that it has lost a lot of ground in this field compared to other breeds, even today there are many specimens that retain this instinct and their intrinsic abilities .

One of the hobbies of this breed that can cause the most headaches for its owners is making holes in the ground. Indeed, if the animal is left confined in the garden, hoping that this is enough for its daily exercise and expansion, the dog may end up getting bored and digging holes.

Other possible “diversions” to look for to hang out include digging for irrigation pipes, searching for plant roots, hiding bones or other objects, or simply digging a tunnel to get to the other side of the fence. These behaviors, if they become repeated attitudes, are difficult to correct.

Characterized by its privileged sense of smell, its training is usually very easy and only a little emphasis should be placed on the subject of obedience. It also has a natural ability to collect, as it has the quality of having a soft mouth, capable of transporting the pieces without damaging or biting them, and in general it likes water a lot.

In short, it can be a perfect companion to the hunter as long as it is assigned to the most suitable lots for his conditions and is not demanded more than it can give.

Another of the fields in which it stands out is that of tracking, thanks to its fine sense of smell and its persistence, which is why it is widely used in specialty competitions, especially in the United States and Scandinavia.

Due to these qualities, it is also one of the breeds most requested by truffle hunters in northern Italy. And, in the same way, the security forces of many countries find it a perfect tool when it comes to controlling borders, searching for explosives or detecting drugs , because, due to its size, it has the ability to reach corners that other dogs larger ones cannot be easily accessed.

In short, it is a very versatile breed and its owners can use it for very different activities. Among which the most important is undoubtedly that of a companion animal, a task in which it excels.

As with other spaniels, it is a very trainable breed and does its best when it receives good care from its owners.

Despite its very simple handling, it is important that it receives a basic obedience education, which will make it become an animal perfectly integrated into modern life and capable of being carried at all times and situations, always remaining under control and without give any kind of problem.

It is a docile dog, but it can be very stubborn if the limits are not clearly marked.

Despite being medium in size, its great joy and tremendous agility give them a plus when it comes to standing out in sports such as agility and flyball, especially since in both modalities there are different categories for smaller dogs.

On the other hand, its smell, its sensitivity, or perhaps an excellent combination of both qualities, have made the English Cocker Spaniel stand out in recent times in an extraordinary work due to its impact and how incredible it is.

It is about the early detection of cancerous tumors, a skill that was discovered by chance but that has been shown to be real and reliable, with results that support the ability of animals to perceive when something is not working well in the body of those who surround.

It is also one of the most widely used breeds in the increasingly recognized and admired field of therapy dogs. In addition to the classic tasks of accompanying and entertaining the elderly and sick, hospitalized children and autistic people, this dog has been included on several occasions in programs for the reintegration of prisoners in prisons and in establishments specialized in the recovery of drug addicts.

The possibility of taking care of a pet, attending to its basic needs, its education and exercise, taking care of its hygiene and even supervising the raising of a litter promotes a series of stimuli in the individual.

They help you to improve your confidence, to relate better to the world and to have one more incentive to regain your status as an integrated citizen in society.

Of course, it goes without saying that one of the fields in which the English Cocker Spaniel has excelled the most since the origin of the breed is in the rings of beauty shows. It has been awarded in the most important competitions in the world and is one of the first five breeds that obtained international recognition.


Feeding the English Cocker Spaniel

To prevent obesity (in addition to caring for and ensuring good health in general), apart from exercise, it is essential to take good care of your diet.

Being a dog developed to withstand long hunting days, it needs a large amount of energy that allows it, on the one hand, to keep its entire muscular system in condition and, on the other, to provide itself with enough glycogen reserves to resist working for many hours.

For this reason, your diet should include a good proportion of proteins, a studied balance of carbohydrates and a supply of quality fats that will strengthen your eyesight and take care of your skin and hair, so that it is protected against the elements. atmospheric.

In addition, the size of the animal and its inability to eat very large portions must be taken into account. A tip for all owners of the breed is to divide the amount of food into several meals throughout the day .

As a general rule, two servings are enough, both for dogs that are in the growth phase and those that are subjected to a period of certain physical stress (hunting, exhibitions, breeding). They can eat three or four times a day, so that there are no hunger peaks or hypoglycemic episodes throughout the day.

When dogs are developing intense physical activity, it is advisable not to feed them either in the hours before or immediately after the exercise.

Nowadays, it is very easy to control a dog’s diet, as it has reached a point where there is a wide variety of foods available on the market adapted to all moments of the dog’s life.

These perfectly meet their nutritional needs and, administered in the appropriate doses, contribute to maintaining the good physical condition of the animal.

Some brands have even developed purposely designed foods for the breed, studying the ingredients and formulation that best suit their needs and digestive system and giving the kibble the best shape for the specific type of jaw of the English Cocker Spaniel.

Another of the great evils that haunt canine breeds in today’s society is obesity, and the English Cocker Spaniel does not escape it. On the contrary, the cases of overweight specimens are so numerous that it could be spoken of a true epidemic.

There are several reasons that have led to this situation, perhaps the most important being the transformation that this breed has undergone in recent years.

Well, it has gone from being a working dog, dedicated almost exclusively to hunting, to becoming an urban companion animal, which spends its days alternating short walks on a leash with long hours dozing comfortably at home.

This change in their lifestyle has not been accompanied by a change in the genetic parameters of the breed, so their restless and curious temperament and their voracious appetite have been modified, with the aggravation that, in addition, one of the Behavioral disorders that these dogs usually develop when they are bored is a tendency to binge eat.

Therefore, it is very important to monitor the evolution of the animal’s weight from day one and adapt its daily feed ration to its living conditions. The fundamental advice is not to deprive this eminently sporty breed of the possibility of exercising daily and intensively.

Any type of activity that allows you to develop physically and mentally. If the owner makes the effort to work with its dog, in the long run it will have a healthier, happier and better animal to live with with it and their entire family.


English Cocker Spaniel health and diseases

The English Cocker Spaniel is an active and healthy dog ​​that usually lives between 10 and 12 years, but in good conditions it can even exceed 15 years of life.

Although to a lesser extent than in other breeds of greater weight and size, perhaps the result of intense breeding at the end of the 20th century, it presents an incidence of joint diseases. Basically hip and elbow dysplasia, higher than expected for an animal of its characteristics.

Although it is not a worrying condition, the most conscientious breeders control their specimens very well to prevent the disease from spreading, as it has already happened with other breeds.

Likewise, the eyes are somewhat problematic, since they tend to suffer from certain internal conditions, such as cataracts and retinal atrophy , or some external or morphological pathologies of the eye.

Finally, there are other diseases that affect these dogs more or less with the same incidence as other spaniels.

The best way to prevent its transmission is by resorting to responsible breeders, who, knowledgeable about the breed, are aware of its importance when it comes to eradicating the most common problems, a simple task since their inheritance mechanism is well known.

And it is that obesity is the main cause of many diseases, because, in addition to the problem it poses for the joints, with the consequent development of pathologies such as osteoarthritis and dysplasias , excess weight causes skin diseases , various heart ailments and others serious problems affecting kidneys, liver, metabolism , etc.

Therefore, the English Cocker Spaniel must be kept within its ideal weight throughout its life and especially during the growth period and during old age, stages in which the dog’s body is much more vulnerable.

In regular visits, the veterinarian must take care of controlling the weight of the animal and assessing the evolution of its growth, as well as completing the vaccination and deworming programs .

Especially with dogs that participate in activities that involve regular contact with different dogs and environments, such as hunting, exhibitions and even frequent interaction with many other dogs in the park.

In this way, the appearance of any possible infectious or contagious disease is prevented and the dog’s immune system is strengthened. Other routine actions that the veterinarian must carry out periodically are the control of the mouth, ears, mucous membranes, skin and hair, the main indicators of the dog’s state of health.

In fact, one of the weak points of the breed is the ears, since the long hanging ears and abundant hair contribute to poor ventilation of the ear canal, which can be the first step towards the appearance of infections.

With dogs that go out to the field, it is also very important to pay attention to the spikes, especially in spring and summer, as they can get into the ears, nose, genital area and even the eyes and cause very serious secondary infections.

Cases of familial nephropathy, a liver disease that can lead to the death of the animal, are rare. Fortunately, the transmission mechanism of this disease is currently well known and responsible programming for the rearing and control of the reproducers has resulted in the fact that today this condition is in clear decline.


Specific care of the English Cocker Spaniel

Like all living things, the English Cocker Spaniel requires a series of specific care. Sports breeds are often too utilitarian, too practical, and on the other hand, they are not very aesthetically attractive, but this is not what happens with the English Cocker Spaniel, whose silky hair with quite long fringes on the body, chest, legs ears and paws gives it a lot of class and great appeal.

In fact, this beautiful appearance is another reason that explains the enormous fame of this breed. In addition, this beautiful coat is quite easy to keep in perfect condition, as it is enough to give it frequent brushing and some simple hairdressing session.

If these minimal attentions are not provided, then it can become a real problem. Molts are important and the possibility of the mantle knotting is also high. It could lead to the need to shear the animal to avoid unnecessary suffering, a drastic solution that must always be avoided, since the aesthetic result is disastrous.

Aesthetic arrangement of the English Cocker Spaniel

The English Cocker Spaniel requires a proper grooming to keep its coat in perfect condition. This task is not exactly easy, so a good option is to seek the advice of a specialized breeder or hairdresser who teaches how to do it, or to directly hire the services of a professional.

English Cocker Spaniel brushing

This is the first part of the routine, and perhaps the most important, as it helps prevent knotting. On the other hand, it is better never to do it dry, as it can break the hair, so before starting it is advisable to spray a little water or a specific product that helps in this work.

The animal should be brushed at least twice a week, increasing the frequency in the shedding periods. With the hand, the hair in the fringed areas and the lower part of the body and legs is opened, and the metal bristle brush is passed, working from the inside out and always in the natural direction of hair growth.

Once this part has been brushed, the mantle and ears are combed with a metal card, and then with the comb, fringes, ears and the rest of the body can be finished grooming. For areas with shorter hair, such as the head and hindquarters, it is advisable to use a horsehair brush.

English Cocker Spaniel Bath

The bath is always done with the dog well brushed and having removed all the knots, as the water cakes them even more, turning them into a plate and making it necessary for them to have to be cut with scissors or even to shear the dog.

For the bath, you must use a shampoo that is appropriate to the natural pH of the dog’s hair, focusing on the genital area, which, due to the abundance of fringes, tends to stain and oxidize more than normal.

Afterwards, it should be thoroughly rinsed, making sure that there are no traces of soap, which could cause itching and very annoying flaking.

And to finish, you can apply a special conditioner in the areas where it is needed. With the dog well drained, towels or blotting paper are applied to remove excess moisture. Then, using an air blower or a powerful blow dryer, all the hair is dried with the help of a card and a comb, to avoid the formation of knots.

English Cocker Spaniel grooming

First, with the hair clipper and a suitable blade (number 10, for example), the areas where the hair should be shorter are reviewed, such as the skull, face, muzzle, upper part and inside of the ears, the front and side of the neck and the crown or nape area.

Then, with the scissors to sculpt the rest of the neck, shaping the front angulation. If you want to leave a more natural and uniform finish, you can work these areas using only your fingers, protected with rubber thimbles. This action of removing dead hair from the dog with your fingers is called plucking.

With the same technique, possible jumps or excess hair in the dorsal area and in the hindquarters are eliminated. It can be finished matching with a pumice stone for a perfect finish. With the scissors of sculpting the hair of the tail is also trimmed until it is very clean and with the fringes even.

The general arrangement of the body is also done by hand, trying to make the finish as natural as possible. And, that the transition between the areas with different lengths occurs almost imperceptibly.

Finally, with the smooth scissors, the fringes of the ears are evened and the hair of the lower part of the body and the fringes are arranged. Trying to accentuate the angles and shape the feet and hands.


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