The American Cocker Spaniel, also simply known as the Cocker Spaniel, is classified under the AKC (American Kennel Club) category of sporting dogs, and is the smallest sporting dog breed. Differing from their English counterparts, mainly in terms of size, the American Cocker Spaniel is considered one of the most popular purebred dogs in America.
Male American Cocker Spaniels have an average height of 15 inches (38 centimeters), whereas female American Cocker Spaniels have an average height of 14 inches (35.5 centimeters). Both genders have a weight range of 24 – 30 pounds (11 – 14 kilograms).
They have a lifespan of 12 – 15 years.
The name ‘Cocker’ comes from the Woodcock bird, a species that the Cocker Spaniel is exceptionally proficient at hunting. American Cocker Spaniels were bred from the English Cocker Spaniel around the early to mid 1900s, as some American dog lovers/breeders did not agree with the English Cocker Spaniel’s standards. Amongst the different physical attributes, American Cocker Spaniels have a longer coat and smaller body sizes compared to their English counterparts.
Originally bred to be a sporting dog (flushing and retrieving game birds), they are able to adapt to both wet and dry terrains. American Cocker Spaniels are now also seen as show dogs, therapy dogs and family companions.
American Cocker Spaniels are a small – medium breed, with a compact body that is smaller than the English Cockers’. They have round heads with a pronounced, abrupt stop, a short and broad muzzle, as well as a square jaw. Their most famous feature is arguably their ears, which are long and low-set. Their tails are docked (cut short), which makes this feature a prominent difference between the American and the English breed, as docking is illegal in most parts of Europe.
Their coats are silky, with the hairs of medium length along the body and hairs that are shorter and finer on the head. Feathering is seen on the ears, abdomen, and legs. American Cocker Spaniels can come in a variety of colors, ranging from solid colors (black, tan) to solid colors with tan points, to parti-colors (e.g. White with black).
The American Cocker Spaniel is known to be a great family pet as it is friendly, gentle, and sweet. They get along extremely well with children, and with early/proper socialization, can get along easily with other dog breeds, as well as cats. American Cocker Spaniels do not challenge their owners’ authority. Some dogs can be rather shy and sensitive (sometimes resorting to aggressive behavior when feeling scared or in pain), and these dogs should definitely go through training and socialization in order to teach it proper manners.
It is important to purchase an American Cocker Spaniel from a reputable breeder, as the increase in demand for American Cockers has led to a rise in breedings by breeders who are just interested in earning money. Dogs resulting from such breedings have changes in temperament (increase in nervousness, and general poor temperament) and additional health problems.
American Cocker Spaniels are not overly active, and will do fine in an apartment. They do need daily exercise, but a brisk walk can do the trick. In addition, the Cocker Spaniel’s hunting background shows through in his need to stay out of boredom, and this can be done through various canine sports.
General Care & Health
The coats of American Cocker Spaniels need regular brushing and trimming, regardless of its length. Cocker Spaniels are average shedders, but if the brush picks up more fur than usual, brushing should be done more often in order to keep shedding under control. Focus on the areas around the dog’s armpits, the backs of the ears, their rears, legs, and chest, as tangles are prone to occur in those areas. If left tangled, bacteria can start to develop in those areas. Their ears, due to the length, should be checked weekly, as ventilation through the ear canals is restricted. The hair around the ears should be trimmed short to aid with air circulation. The ear canals need to be kept dry to prevent infections. As their eyes tear a lot, regular wiping should be administered. Teeth should be brushed regularly as they are prone to bad breath, and nails should be trimmed once or twice a month. Check for signs of infection whenever grooming occurs, and keep an eye out for redness and inflammation of the skin, eyes, nose and mouth.
The recommended daily amount of food an American Cocker Spaniel should be getting is 1½ to 2½ cups of dry food, divided into two or three meals throughout the day. Despite the presence of a guideline, the amounts can be altered if the dog is highly active or otherwise.
American Cocker Spaniels are prone to the following diseases:
• Hip Dysplasia – a disease caused by the malformation of the hip joint that prevents the leg bone and hip from connecting properly. Dogs will experience discomfort/pain, lameness, and possibly arthritis.
• Cataracts – this disease causes opacity to form in the lenses of the dog’s eyes. It may lead to a substantial decrease in sight.
• Progressive Retinal Atrophy – a degenerative disease of the retinal cells; leads to blindness.
• Glaucoma – a buildup of pressure inside the eyeball.
• Patella Luxation – the condition in which the kneecap dislocates. As a result, the knee joint will slide in and out of place and will cause pain. Some dogs may end up crippled.
• Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anemia (IMHA)/Autoimmune Haemolytic Anemia (AIHA) – this disease involves a dog’s own immune system attacking its own blood cells. Dogs with this disease will have symptoms including pale gums, fatigue, swollen livers, and jaundice.
• Ear infections
The American Cocker Spaniel has a big heart, is excellent with children, and has a great temper. They make ideal family pets in their friendliness with family members as well as other canine breeds, but do require training and socialization in order to establish a strong personality in the dog. Cocker Spaniels are sensitive to emotions, and as such, require a patient, levelheaded owner.