English Cocker Spaniel

The Cocker Spaniel is a medium-sized, long-haired dog with a merry, sound temperament whose name derives from this breed excellence at hunting woodcock, a type of wading bird. It is believed that this dog was first bred in the United Kingdom for hunting purposes and that the breed came to the United States on the Mayflower in 1620 but was not registered until 1878. 

FUN FACT: The first Cocker Spaniel registered by the American Kennel Club in 1878 was called Captain.

English Cocker Spaniel


15-17 in (38 - 43 cm)

English Cocker Spaniel


26-34 lb (12-15,4 kg)

English Cocker Spaniel


Great Britain

English Cocker Spaniel

Life Expectancy:

10-14 years

Breed History

The exact origin of these dogs is still anybody’s guess, the so-called "spaynels" were first described as early as the 14th-century. It is widely speculated that these dogs originated in Spain, hence the name spaniels. The 2nd Duke of York, Edward wrote a book called “The Master of Game” and in that book, he describes these dogs as being hounds that specialized in hawk hunting. He also mentioned that “their kind” comes from Spain but is widely spread across many countries. This book by the Duke was mostly a translation work by the original French book written by Gaston the III of Foix-Béarn and its original name was “Livre de Chasse”.

The first separation of the so-called “Land Spaniels” was mentioned in a book dedicated to dog nomenclature called “Cynographia Britannica” and was written by Sydenham Edwards. He divides these dogs into two types: the springers and the cockers. Springers were mostly used for hawk hunting while cockers were mostly used for hunting woodcocks. At that time, the name Cocker Spaniel referred to many different dog breeds that were small Field Spaniels. Breeds that were called by this name include Norfolk, Sussex, and Clumber Spaniels. Those specific dog breeds either did not exist or were most likely called by other names. Cockers that did exist at that time were called Welsh and Devonshire Cockers.

cocker spaniel

Up until the 1870s a dog would be considered as a Cocker Spaniel only if they weighed under 11 kilograms (25 lb). The breeders already started dividing Cockers from the King Charles Spaniels since they were noticeably smaller than their successful, hunting cousins. In 1900, official Kennel Clubs decided that the weight limit will remain the same but the bigger specimen will be classified as Springer Spaniels. The first written distinction of Welsh and Devonshire Spaniels from the Sussex Spaniel was described in many details by John Henry Walsh. He mentioned that Welsh and Devonshire were colored a darker shade of liver then the Sussex Spaniel.

The official United Kingdom Kennel Club was formed in 1873 and breeders started keeping more detailed pedigrees and stud books for bot English Cocker Spaniels and English Springer Spaniels and that resulted in these two breeds being separated and registered as unique dog breeds. 

Two formidable dogs are considered to be the foundation for the modern-day English Cocker Spaniels and the first one was named Obo. Obo had a son called Obo the 2nd and as his father is considered to be the “father” of English Cocker Spaniels, Obo the 2nd is considered to be the “father” of the American Cocker Spaniels. Obo was a son of a Sussex and a Field Spaniel and at that time, for Obo to be registered as Cocker, the only condition he had to conform by was the size. The mother of Obo the 2nd was moved to the United States of America and her son was born in the new world. Her son is credited to be an ancestor of nearly all prized American Cocker Spaniels.

Dog Breed Characteristics

Energy Level
Grooming Needs
Exercise Needs
Kid Friendly
Dog Friendly
General Health

These dogs have a sweet temperament, are affectionate, cuddly, and eager to please. They are alert, active, and enjoy exercise. Cocker Spaniel's personality is soft and sensitive. Harsh treatment won't do the trick with this breed; they need to be handled carefully and kindly. Gentle treatment will bring out the best in your Cocker. As we already mentioned, these dogs have a long history and are one of the first dog breeds that were officially registered by The Kennel Club shortly after they started their work in 1873. With that being said, all major cynology associations have an official breed standard and the two main ones we focus on are the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) and the AKC (American Kennel Club) standard.

FCI standard

The FCI standard describes these dogs as being merry, sturdy, athletic and sporty, and well balanced with a compact build. They also mention that the length from the ground to their withers is about the same as the length from their withers to the tip of the tail. The FCI standard also mentioned that these dogs are constantly wagging their tail and have a Cocker-typical bustling movement. They have a great nose and are great at following a scent. These dogs should be full of life and energy and should often demonstrate exuberance. They are a part of Group 8 (Retrievers, Flushing Dogs, Water Dogs), Section 2 (Flushing Dogs). The standard says that the male dogs should be between 15,3-16,1 in (39 and 41 cm) high and the females should be about 14,9-15,3 in (38-39 cm). Both sexes should weigh between 28-32 lb (13 and 14,5 kg).

This breed was registered by the FCI on a definite basis on the 10th of April 1963.

adult cocker spaniel

Grooming and shedding

The Cocker Spaniel has a thick, beautiful, sometimes wavy coat that can be a solid color (black, light cream, red, and brown) or parti-color (two or more colors). They, like most breeds, shed. Some of them shed constantly, while others shed in spring and fall. But, if you own a Cocker Spaniel, the smart thing to do, is to brush your Cocker daily for dead hair to fall out and to keep the coat free of tangles and mats. It is important to keep that long Cocker coat in good order. Grooming is important! It can also be expensive.

Most Cocker Spaniels’ owners tend to have a professional groomer to take care (bathe, brush, trim) of their dog every six to eight weeks. But, keep in mind that most of the Cockers have a reputation with groomers that are not cooperative during treatment. To avoid inconveniences, train your Cocker to be still on the grooming table. The nails should be trimmed regularly.

Training and socialization

Cockers have medium to high prey drive, but consistent training can curb this trait. Teach your Cocker some basic rules and boundaries while the dog is still a puppy, and you will reduce the risk of your Cocker taking off while exploring around or running after another animal. These dogs love water and will jump in whenever they can. They are excellent therapy dogs. They also love to participate in all sorts of canine sports and a lot of them still show a natural ability and great potential to work with hunters. 

These dogs are suited to live in an apartment, but daily walks and exercises outside are a must – after all, this breed was bred as a hunting dog. The Cocker Spaniel enjoys spending time with his family. He loves to be a part of the team and is not pleased to be left alone. This breed gets along well with children and other family pets and this is one of the reasons why these dogs are so popular. Another reason for their popularity is the fact that they are incredibly loyal characters.

These dogs can become shy and will keep to themselves, and in worst cases can develop destructive behavior and aggressiveness if they are not properly socialized. Like every other dog breed, these dogs should be exposed to many different sights, sounds, people, and situations so they get used to them and learn the proper behavior. If you do not provide them with socialization they will not know how to react in new and unfamiliar situations. That can be a huge source of stress for your Cocker Spaniel and unsocialized dogs can have a lot of problems later in life.

cocker spaniel dog

American Cocker Spaniel vs English Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniels are dogs belonging to two breeds of the spaniel dog type: the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel. They share a similar heritage, but there are a few differences between these types. They have a distinctive, but similar appearance. The American Cocker ears are places higher on the head and the snout is short. English Cockers' ears are more low-slung. Another difference is the coat length. American Cocker Spaniel has a longer and more lustrous coat. English Cocker Spaniel is slightly heavier and larger than American Cocker Spaniel. Also, English Cocker Spaniels tend to be more active.

Health issues

The lifespan of this dog is 10 to 14 years. These dogs are, like all breeds of dogs, prone to certain health conditions. Eye problems are common with this breed. Progressive retinal atrophy that can cause blindness, cataracts, glaucoma… Cocker Spaniel owners are familiar with all these conditions. The breed is also prone to autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), which is a condition when a dog’s immune system attacks its blood cells; Familial nephropathy (FN) is a fatal hereditary condition that affects a Cocker's kidneys. Hypothyroidism is a thyroid gland disorder that can cause conditions such as epilepsy, lethargy, all kinds of skin conditions. Cockers are prone to allergies, too.

Cocker Spaniel ears

Pay special attention to Cocker's ears. While sniffing around, their ears often sweep things off the floor. A common problem is a grass that gets tangled in the fur and pushed down the ear canal. This causes infections, which this breed is prone to.

TIP: It is very important to pay close attention to your Cockers' ears – check them weekly for dirt, grass seeds, redness, or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. Make sure air can circulate in a dog’s ears, dry them whenever they get wet, and remove build-up wax regularly because wax can also trigger an infection.

cocker spaniel puppy

FUN FACT: Cosmetic tail docking has been banned in many countries because the procedure is unnecessary and compromises the welfare of dogs.

The Cocker Spaniel - movie

Is there anyone that is not familiar with the 1955 Disney film named Lady and the Tramp?! A dog named Lady is a female American Cocker Spaniel and that dog was the movie’s model for an affectionate and pampered pet. In those times, the Cocker Spaniel was the number one breed in America. There is also this dog called Charkie in the Curious George – a popular children's book and TV series. The Coppertone sunscreen? Yes, that is a Cocker Spaniel on the bottle.

FUN FACT: George Clooney owns a Cocker Spaniel called Einstein that he rescued from a shelter back in 2010.  

FUN FACT: Former talk show host Oprah Winfrey owns two Cocker Spaniels, Sophie, and Solomon.

Cocker Spaniel breeders

If you are considering purchasing this dog, keep in mind that these dogs are pricey, especially when you calculate in all the costs of the groomer, good quality food that Cockers need to be fed, nutritious diet, etc. Also, when picking out a Cocker, you should avoid buying one with a docked tail because there are very heavy fines for having that done to a where permission has not been officially granted.

Also, keep in mind that you find a reputable and registered Cocker Spaniel breeder that is taking good care of their breeding dogs as well as puppies. Try to see the environment that puppies were brought up in and take a look at how dogs are interacting with each other and their owner. Dogs that are being taken care of should never be shy or afraid of their owner. We strongly recommend using the World Dog Finder website when looking for a reputable breeder and that way you will make sure you are talking to someone who is registered and has all the necessary licenses.


World Dog Finder team


Updated at05.06.2022.