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  • Temperament: Gentle, Smart, Happy
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 29 of 192
  • Height: 14.5-15.5 inches (male), 13.5-14.5 inches (female)
  • Weight: 25-30 pounds (male), 20-25 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 10-14 years
  • Group: Sporting Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Two Cocker Spaniels sitting side by side facing forward
Cocker Spaniel lying down facing forward
Cocker Spaniel sitting facing forward
Cocker Spaniel standing in three-quarter view
Cocker Spaniel head facing left
Cocker Spaniel sitting in three-quarter view
Cocker Spaniel coat detail
Cocker Spaniel

Find a Puppy: Cocker Spaniel

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Cocker Spaniel is the smallest member of the Sporting Group. He has a sturdy, compact body and a cleanly chiseled and refined head, with the overall dog in complete balance and of ideal size. He stands well up at the shoulder on straight forelegs with a topline sloping slightly toward strong, moderately bent, muscular quarters. He is a dog capable of considerable speed, combined with great endurance. Above all, he must be free and merry, sound, well balanced throughout and in action show a keen inclination to work. A dog well balanced in all parts is more desirable than a dog with strongly contrasting good points and faults.

HEAD

To attain a well-proportioned head, which must be in balance with the rest of the dog, it embodies the following: Expression-The expression is intelligent, alert, soft and appealing. Eyes-Eyeballs are round and full and look directly forward. The shape of the eye rims gives a slightly almond shaped appearance; the eye is not weak or goggled. The color of the iris is dark brown and in general the darker the better. Ears-Lobular, long, of fine leather, well feathered, and placed no higher than a line to the lower part of the eye. Skull-Rounded but not exaggerated with no tendency toward flatness; the eyebrows are clearly defined with a pronounced stop. The bony structure beneath the eyes is well chiseled with no prominence in the cheeks.

BODY

Neck-The neck is sufficiently long to allow the nose to reach the ground easily, muscular and free from pendulous “throatiness.” It rises strongly from the shoulders and arches slightly as it tapers to join the head. Topline-sloping slightly toward muscular quarters. Body-The chest is deep, its lowest point no higher than the elbows, its front sufficiently wide for adequate heart and lung space, yet not so wide as to interfere with the straightforward movement of the forelegs. Ribs are deep and well sprung. Back is strong and sloping evenly and slightly downward from the shoulders to the set-on of the docked tail. The docked tail is set on and carried on a line with the topline of the back, or slightly higher; never straight up like a Terrier and never so low as to indicate timidity. When the dog is in motion the tail action is merry.

FOREQUARTERS

The shoulders are well laid back forming an angle with the upper arm of approximately 90 degrees which permits the dog to move his forelegs in an easy manner with forward reach. Shoulders are clean-cut and sloping without protrusion and so set that the upper points of the withers are at an angle which permits a wide spring of rib. When viewed from the side with the forelegs vertical, the elbow is directly below the highest point of the shoulder blade. Forelegs are parallel, straight, strongly boned and muscular and set close to the body well under the scapulae. The pasterns are short and strong. Dewclaws on forelegs may be removed. Feet compact, large, round and firm with horny pads; they turn neither in nor out.

COAT

On the head, short and fine; on the body, medium length, with enough undercoating to give protection. The ears, chest, abdomen and legs are well feathered, but not so excessively as to hide the Cocker Spaniel’s true lines and movement or affect his appearance and function as a moderately coated sporting dog. The texture is most important. The coat is silky, flat or slightly wavy and of a texture which permits easy care. Excessive coat or curly or cottony textured coat shall be severely penalized. Use of electric clippers on the back coat is not desirable. Trimming to enhance the dog’s true lines should be done to appear as natural as possible.

HINDQUARTERS

Hips are wide and quarters well rounded and muscular. When viewed from behind, the hind legs are parallel when in motion and at rest. The hind legs are strongly boned, and muscled with moderate angulation at the stifle and powerful, clearly defined thighs. The stifle is strong and there is no slippage of it in motion or when standing. The hocks are strong and well let down. Dewclaws on hind legs may be removed.

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cocker spaniel illustration

About the Cocker Spaniel

Those big, dark eyes; that sweet expression; those long, lush ears that practically demand to be touched—no wonder the Cocker spent years as America’s most popular breed. The Cocker is the AKC’s smallest sporting spaniel, standing about 14 to 15 inches. The coat comes in enough colors and patterns to please any taste. The well-balanced body is sturdy and solid, and these quick, durable gundogs move with a smooth, easy gait.

Cockers are eager playmates for kids and are easily trained as companions and athletes. They are big enough to be sporty, but compact enough to be portable. A Cocker in full coat rewards extra grooming time by being the prettiest dog on the block. These energetic sporting dogs love playtime and brisk walks.

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Cocker Spaniel

Find a Puppy: Cocker Spaniel

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Cocker Spaniel Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

Selecting the best diet can be a matter of trial and for the individual dog. The key is to pay attention to food labels for quality ingredients. The owner can seek advice from their dog’s veterinarian regarding any particular sensitivities or needs the Cocker has. Choose a high-quality food and give it a fair tryout. A chicken and rice–based food has long been a good starting point for Cocker food trials, but consider individual sensitivities, likes, and needs. Maintain proper weight, but be careful not to overfeed. Groomers and veterinarians often see overweight Cockers.

GROOMING

Cocker Spaniels require regular, thorough grooming. Sessions missed are not easily made up and may result in tangles or mats in the Cocker’s coat. A metal, professional-quality dog comb with fine and medium spacing for the teeth is a necessity. You can follow combing with a gentle slicker brush, but the comb is key. Loose hair should be carefully removed with the comb, making sure you are clear and can see through to the skin everywhere. If you encounter snarls, do not pull through; rather, pick snarls apart, starting at the tips of the coat and then comb through. Be cautious when combing ears; the skin at the edges is thin and can be pierced by too-vigorous combing. The Cocker requires thorough bathing with quality dog shampoo. Thorough rinsing and re-rinsing are crucial, as soap residue can cause skin irritation. Dry carefully with a blow-dryer on not too hot a setting. Learn the procedure for cleaning and drying the ear canals. During bathing, check the Cocker’s skin for any inflamed spots and get treatment. It is key to learn grooming procedures yourself and/or enlist the services of a professional groomer who likes and is experienced in grooming the breed.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Daily Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Occasional

EXERCISE

The Cocker Spaniel is a sporting breed and should maintain good muscle tone, although the breed is not one that needs a lot of exercise for the purpose of discharging an abundance of energy. Cockers often enjoy getting their exercise by means of retrieving a ball or other toy, or accompanying their people on a walk. They very much enjoy spending time with their people, so walking is a good exercise option. If the Cocker has a canine companion, they can play to exercise each other. The Cocker Spaniel wants to please people and enjoys play, so these are tools you can use to encourage exercise.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Regular Exercise

TRAINING

Regarding training the Cocker Spaniel, the good news is that in general this is a people-pleasing breed. They want to be “good” in order to please their people, and they are generally sensitive and responsive to correction and a disapproving tone in their owner’s voice. Harsh means of correction are not usually warranted, nor are they productive in the Cocker. The breed enjoys the challenge of performance activities, and it is a good idea to try out the available activities and events to see what interests your individual Cocker and follow through with training. Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended. Cockers are rather easily motivated with food rewards and with play and praise.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Eager to Please

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Outgoing

HEALTH

The Cocker Spaniel’s national parent club, the American Spaniel Club, has a health committee that looks at breed health issues and makes recommendations to breeders for required health testing.The Cocker Spaniel has good longevity. A conscientious breeder can furnish records of the sire’s and dam’s health testing, for example for hips, patellas, and eyes. Breeders often have years of data regarding testing done in these health areas. Learn from the veterinarian proper procedures to clean the Cocker’s ear canals on a regular basis, especially following a bath, in order to avoid infections. Thorough grooming of the Cocker coat will aid in preventing mats, which can precipitate skin problems underneath.

Recommended Health Test from the National Breed Club:

  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Hip Evaluation
Cocker Spaniel lying in three-quarter view
Cocker Spaniel
Cocker Spaniel
Cocker Spaniel
Cocker Spaniel
Cocker Spaniel

History

The spaniel is a breed type of great antiquity, believed to have originated in Spain (the words “Spain” and “spaniel” being closely related). Spaniels have been bird hunters’ helpers since before the development of the rifle, when hunting dogs were used in tandem with nets.
For centuries, European and British spaniels were informally grouped as simply land spaniels and water spaniels. By the 19th century, however, when written breed standards, dog shows and field trials, and the very notion of purebred dogs began to gain traction in England, the various spaniels were classified as specific breeds. Among them was the Cocker, so called because they specialized on woodcock. These dogs, smaller than English Springer Spaniels but larger than English Toy Spaniels, were the ancestors of the modern Cocker Spaniel.

In America the Cocker Spaniel diverged into two varieties, American and English. The English was characterized as being taller and with a longer head than its American cousin, with a coat that was not as profuse. The English and Canadian kennel clubs registered the varieties as separate breeds beginning in 1940, and the AKC followed suit in 1946. The AKC breed names are the Cocker Spaniel (for the U.S. type) and the English Cocker Spaniel (for the British type).

A black Cocker named Brucie helped popularize the breed by twice winning Westminster’s Best in Show, in 1940 and ’41, but the Cocker’s American heyday came in the 1950s. The Cocker was the AKC’s most popular breed of the decade. It was the era of Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” and Vice President Richard Nixon’s Cocker, named Checkers, who helped change the course of U.S. political history.

(See the Cocker Spaniel’s AKC breed standard for detailed descriptions of the breed’s coat colors and patterns.)

Did You Know?

The Cocker Spaniel is known as the "smallest member of the sporting-dog family."
The Cocker Spaniel is one of the most popular breeds of American purebred dogs.
In Cockers, the name "cocker" derives from especial proficiency on woodcock, according to breed authorities.
The Cocker Spaniel has been exhibited in the United States since the early 1880s.
CH. Pett's Southwest Breeze (Ruby) was the first Cocker Spaniel in history to be awarded the AKC's Master Hunter title.
There are a number of acceptable, but very specific, color varieties within the Cocker breed: Black, Black with Tan Points, Parti-Color, and ASCOB (Any Solid Color Other than Black).

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Cocker Spaniel is the smallest member of the Sporting Group. He has a sturdy, compact body and a cleanly chiseled and refined head, with the overall dog in complete balance and of ideal size. He stands well up at the shoulder on straight forelegs with a topline sloping slightly toward strong, moderately bent, muscular quarters. He is a dog capable of considerable speed, combined with great endurance. Above all, he must be free and merry, sound, well balanced throughout and in action show a keen inclination to work. A dog well balanced in all parts is more desirable than a dog with strongly contrasting good points and faults.

HEAD

To attain a well-proportioned head, which must be in balance with the rest of the dog, it embodies the following: Expression-The expression is intelligent, alert, soft and appealing. Eyes-Eyeballs are round and full and look directly forward. The shape of the eye rims gives a slightly almond shaped appearance; the eye is not weak or goggled. The color of the iris is dark brown and in general the darker the better. Ears-Lobular, long, of fine leather, well feathered, and placed no higher than a line to the lower part of the eye. Skull-Rounded but not exaggerated with no tendency toward flatness; the eyebrows are clearly defined with a pronounced stop. The bony structure beneath the eyes is well chiseled with no prominence in the cheeks.

BODY

Neck-The neck is sufficiently long to allow the nose to reach the ground easily, muscular and free from pendulous “throatiness.” It rises strongly from the shoulders and arches slightly as it tapers to join the head. Topline-sloping slightly toward muscular quarters. Body-The chest is deep, its lowest point no higher than the elbows, its front sufficiently wide for adequate heart and lung space, yet not so wide as to interfere with the straightforward movement of the forelegs. Ribs are deep and well sprung. Back is strong and sloping evenly and slightly downward from the shoulders to the set-on of the docked tail. The docked tail is set on and carried on a line with the topline of the back, or slightly higher; never straight up like a Terrier and never so low as to indicate timidity. When the dog is in motion the tail action is merry.

FOREQUARTERS

The shoulders are well laid back forming an angle with the upper arm of approximately 90 degrees which permits the dog to move his forelegs in an easy manner with forward reach. Shoulders are clean-cut and sloping without protrusion and so set that the upper points of the withers are at an angle which permits a wide spring of rib. When viewed from the side with the forelegs vertical, the elbow is directly below the highest point of the shoulder blade. Forelegs are parallel, straight, strongly boned and muscular and set close to the body well under the scapulae. The pasterns are short and strong. Dewclaws on forelegs may be removed. Feet compact, large, round and firm with horny pads; they turn neither in nor out.

COAT

On the head, short and fine; on the body, medium length, with enough undercoating to give protection. The ears, chest, abdomen and legs are well feathered, but not so excessively as to hide the Cocker Spaniel’s true lines and movement or affect his appearance and function as a moderately coated sporting dog. The texture is most important. The coat is silky, flat or slightly wavy and of a texture which permits easy care. Excessive coat or curly or cottony textured coat shall be severely penalized. Use of electric clippers on the back coat is not desirable. Trimming to enhance the dog’s true lines should be done to appear as natural as possible.

HINDQUARTERS

Hips are wide and quarters well rounded and muscular. When viewed from behind, the hind legs are parallel when in motion and at rest. The hind legs are strongly boned, and muscled with moderate angulation at the stifle and powerful, clearly defined thighs. The stifle is strong and there is no slippage of it in motion or when standing. The hocks are strong and well let down. Dewclaws on hind legs may be removed.

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cocker spaniel illustration

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
Black Check Mark For Standard Color 007
Black & Tan Check Mark For Standard Color 018
Black & White Check Mark For Standard Color 019
Black White & Tan Check Mark For Standard Color 034
Brown Check Mark For Standard Color 061
Brown & Tan Check Mark For Standard Color 262
Brown & White Check Mark For Standard Color 063
Brown White & Tan Check Mark For Standard Color 066
Buff Check Mark For Standard Color 068
Buff & White Check Mark For Standard Color 299
Red Check Mark For Standard Color 140
Red & White Check Mark For Standard Color 146
Silver Check Mark For Standard Color 176
Blue Roan 053
Blue Roan & Tan 054
Cream 076
Golden 093
Red Roan 223
Sable 164
Sable & White 165

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
Merle Markings Check Mark For Standard Mark 035
Roan Check Mark For Standard Mark 036
Ticked 013
White Markings 014
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