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English Cocker Spaniel

Our guide to the breed

My ideal owner | Exercise | Temperament | Health | Appearance | Cost | History

Key facts

Height: 35cm – 41cm

Weight: 12 – 15 kg

Life Expectancy: 12 – 14 years

Exercise Needs:  High

About English Cocker Spaniels

Hey there! I’m an English Cocker Spaniel. I’m a popular dog breed here in the UK and around the world and our breed is the only one to have won Crufts seven times. We were bred to hunt woodcocks but many of us are now cherished companions instead. Our breed can be split into ‘show’ line and ‘working’ line dogs with each type being quite distinct. We’re affectionate, intelligent, love to please and we thrive with consistent training, exercise, and companionship.

My ideal owner

We’re adaptable dogs that’ll fit into many households – that’s one of the reasons we’re so popular after all! Even so, there are a few types of owners that are pawfectly suited to us. We’re great with kids, so long as we’re raised with them and they understand our boundaries. We love your company, so would prefer you to be around most of the time – long days waiting for you to come home from work aren’t our kind of thing.

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Active lifestyle

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Families with kids

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Constant companionship

Fun Loving Homes

Fun loving home

Temperament

There’s all sorts of personalities amongst English Cocker Spaniels – some of us are friendly, whilst others are more shy, some of us are independent whilst others are reliant. It all comes down to our experiences, especially in our early years.

It’s in our nature to be affectionate and cheerful little pups. We love being part of the family so don’t forget to include us in your activities. We learn quickly, so time spent training is a fun game to us!

Cock Spaniel Scales

Health

We’re a hardy breed, but like many purebred dogs there are a few issues which are more likely to affect us. Many can be tested for at birth, or easily managed throughout our lifetimes.

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition affecting many different dog breeds, including some English Cocker Spaniels. It’s described as a genetic malformation and occurs when a dog’s thigh bone doesn’t fit into the hip socket.

In mild cases hip dysplasia can cause inflammation, eventually leading to arthritis. In the most severe cases, a dog could lose all use of their rear legs.

How is it diagnosed?

Hip dysplasia cannot be evaluated by a vet until a dog is two years of age. Even then the dog will need x rays to determine whether they have inherited the condition. If you buy a Cocker puppy, check that the breeder has had both parents tested, which should reduce the risk of inheriting the condition.

What are the treatments for hip dysplasia?

The only absolute treatment for hip dysplasia is a total hip replacement. This would usually only be used in the most serious of cases. Otherwise, vets may recommend a range of treatments to give relief, including physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, weight management, painkillers, supplements, and brace supports.

*This information should not be considered to be veterinary advice. Please always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

What is atopy?

Atopy describes a skin condition caused by allergies to something in the environment, such as pollen, mould, grass, or dust mites. Dogs of any age and breed can develop atopy, but it is particularly prevalent in certain breeds, such as the English Cocker Spaniel, and younger dogs. 

How is it diagnosed?

Atopy can manifest itself in a number of different ways but is always best diagnosed by a vet. If your dog shows any of the following symptoms, your vet may wish to carry out a skin test for allergies:

  • Itchy skin
  • Ear infections
  • Rubbing on your furniture or the floor, including dragging their bottom along the floor
  • Excessively licking or chewing themselves
  • Saliva staining on their fur
  •  Rashes
  • Hair loss
  • Skin infections
  • Weepy eyes

What are the treatments for atopy?

Atopy is a lifelong condition that will affect your dog for the rest of its life. Your vet will recommend treatments for the atopy depending on the severity of your dog’s condition. This may include:

  • Medication to treat the symptoms, such as steroids
  • Antibiotics or drops to treat skin and ear infections
  • Immunotherapy to reduce the allergic reaction your dog has

Reducing the contact your dog has with their environmental triggers is key to preventing regular and severe allergic reactions. Depending on their specific allergies there are certain steps you can take, such as:

  • Reducing exercise outside when the pollen count is high
  • Rinsing your dog after walks, especially if they’ve run through long grass or bushes
  • Avoiding the use of sprays in the home where possible
  • Regular vacuuming and dusting
  • Ensuring your dog never misses their flea treatment

*This information should not be considered to be veterinary advice. Please always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

What are ear infections?

Ear infections can occur throughout a dog’s life and are often the result of a build-up of bacteria, yeast or mites. English Cocker Spaniels are at a higher risk due to their long ears, especially those bred from show lines.

How are ear infections diagnosed?

There are a few major symptoms of an ear infection that you can look out for. If your dog displays any of these symptoms, you should visit your vet as soon as possible to confirm the diagnosis and get treatment.

  • Your dog starts itching their ears more than normal
  • Your dog is shaking their head
  • Their ears become red and inflamed
  • Their ears develop a strong smell
  • A black or yellowish discharge is seen coming from their ears 

Once at a vet, they will use an otoscope to look into your dog’s ear canal to assess if an infection is present, and if it has been caused or exacerbated for foreign bodies, such as a grass seed, that have become wedged in the ear.

Your vet may also take a sample of ear wax and/or discharge for assessment in a laboratory. This will help your vet understand the type of ear infection and the appropriate treatment.

What are the treatments for ear infections?

Treatment for ear infection will depend on the type of ear infection your dog has, and its severity. At your first vet’s appointment, they will often clean and syringe the ear canal, and if possible, remove any foreign bodies. 

Your dog will usually be prescribed medication based on the type of ear infection they have, which will often be in the form of ear drops. Your vet will show you how to administer these properly and give you instruction on how regularly and for how long you need to use them.

In the most severe circumstances, where the ear infection has gone untreated for a long time, surgery may be required to provide relief for your dog.

*This information should not be considered to be veterinary advice. Please always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

What is progressive retinal atrophy?

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is the term for a group of inherited diseases that affect your dog’s vision due to the deterioration of certain cells in their eyes. It can lead to night blindness, and eventually complete blindness.

How is it diagnosed?

It can be difficult to diagnose PRA in its early stages. If vision loss is suspected, your vet will look for sluggish responses to light from your dog’s pupils, and unusually dilated pupils. They will usually then refer you to a specialist to confirm the diagnosis using an ophthalmoscope or electroretinogram (ERG). Genetic testing for PRA is also available to identify carriers of the disease.

What are the treatments for PRA?

There are currently no effective treatments for PRA. In some rare circumstances your vet may recommend surgery to prevent the retina from detaching.

If you find out your dog has PRA, the most important thing you can do is to help them transition into blindness confidently and comfortably. Consider the arrangement of furniture and other hazards in your household and keep them on a lead when outside the home in an unsecured environment.

*This information should not be considered to be veterinary advice. Please always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

Exercise needs

High

Since we were originally bred for long days in the field with hunting parties, we’ve got plenty of energy to spare, particularly those of us from the ‘working’ line. We love our daily walkies, and these are even better when you’re able to give us some safe time off-lead to follow the wonderful smells all around. When we’re at home, games that make us think are a favourite, whether we’re sniffing out treats hidden in a snuffle mat or learning fun new tricks with our favourite human – you!

Get your dog’s tailored exercise goal by downloading the free PitPat app

Appearance

As a purebred I’ve been around for years, and in that time my breed has split into two distinct types – show type dogs, bred for the conformation ring, and field type dogs, bred for our ability to work. Whilst we are the same dog at heart, there are slight differences in our appearance. Show type dogs tend to have longer, thicker coats, longer ear that are set low on the head, square muzzles, slightly rounded heads and are generally more compact. Field dogs will have longer bodies and muzzles, shorter ears set higher up, flatter heads and fine coats.

When it comes to my colouring, there are lots of options. Solid colours include blacks, reds and browns and mixed colours range from particolours, bicolours, tricolours and roans.

I have a double coat, so regular brushing is essential. You should only bathe me when necessary (such as after a muddy walk or a roll in something smelly). Professional grooming isn’t always necessary but can a great option every now and then to get me spruced up and comfortable, especially in the summer months.

Because of my double coat, I do shed year-round, with a couple of major sheds every year.

English Cocker Spaniel silhouette

Colours

Black

Red

Golden

Liver

Particolour

Bicolours (white or tan mixed with solid colour)

Tricolour

Roan

Grooming needs

Brush Daily

Bath when necessary

Hypoallergenic?

No. I shed my coat year-round.

Costs

One off costs

£2753

This includes the average cost of a puppy, and all the gear they will need, like their collar, bed and grooming tools.

Ongoing costs

£26 per week | £111 per month | £1332 per year

This includes your ongoing costs such as insurance, food, toys, and standard veterinary care, but not dog sitting, training or veterinary costs not covered by insurance.

History

Us English Cocker Spaniels were originally bred to hunt woodcock in dense undergrowth. Whilst many of us are still prized as hunting dogs, these days most of us are treasured companions. 

Spaniels in various forms have been around since at least 300 A.D. when they were mentioned in Welsh law. Up to the end of the 19th century, we were not a distinct breed from other Spaniels – puppies from one litter would be categorised as ‘Cockers’ or ‘Springers’ based on their size and abilities.

After the formation of the Spaniel Club in 1885 our breeds diverged, resulting in the recognisable English Cocker Spaniel that you know and love today. Being such a well-established breed, we’ve been part of the Kennel Club for years – and boy have we done well! With 7 ‘Best in Show’ wins, we’re the most successful breed in the ring.

Even so, those of us that you see in the ring look a little different to those of us out working in the fields. That’s because the two lines have been bred independently for years now, producing two very different appearances. Show line Cocker Spaniels have longer, lower set ears, a rounder skull and thick fur that needs regular grooming. Working line Cocker Spaniels have shorter, higher set ears, longer muzzles, flatter skulls and fine, manageable fur. They also tend to be more agile – perfect for all that hunting they are bred for!

Even with the differences between the two types, each one of us still has the affectionate and friendly nature you would expect from an English Cocker Spaniel. Given the right amount of exercise, attention, and love, we will make wonderful companions and best friends.

English Cocker Spaniel

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