These days most Cocker Spaniels are affectionate family companion dogs, but this breed has its roots in working and farming stock.
Cocker Spaniels are gundogs, which means they were bred to retrieve pheasants, ducks and other birds after they’d been shot from the sky.
There are two main types: the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel. Although they look pretty similar, they’re bred to different standards. The American Cocker Spaniel has shorter legs and noses while the English Cocker Spaniel has a taller, squarer shape.
The English Cocker Spaniel is further divided into ‘show’ dogs and the ‘working’ variety. Working Cocker Spaniels are bred to have shorter, less feathery coats and smaller ears.
Cocker Spaniel colours
You’ll see golden or black and white Cocker Spaniels most commonly, but they’ve actually been bred in quite a wide variety.
Solid colours include:
Then there are a variety of bicolour and tricolour variations including:
Black and white
Orange and white
Lemon and white
Black, white and tan
Liver white and tan
And finally, there are beautiful roan Cocker Spaniels which are a lovely mottled mix of white and another colour. For example, blue roan, liver roan and lemon roan.
Cocker Spaniel temperament and characteristics
Cocker Spaniels are a breed that just love to be around people. They will follow their human family members from room to room and like to always stay close.
While that makes them lovely companions, they can be prone to separation anxiety. But as they’re also clever, busy dogs, you can combat that with engaging ‘brain’ toys for dogs that keeps them occupied with a job to do while they’re left alone.
Cocker Spaniels are quick learners and a lot of fun to train.
Cocker Spaniel grooming and coat care
Cocker Spaniels’ coats do need some maintenance and they really need a daily brushing.
They shed a small amount continuously, but more in spring and autumn. They can also quickly become matted if their coats aren’t given regular attention, especially the show variety with their longer fur.
Pay attention to their feet as well – Cocker Spaniels are quite fluffy between their toes which can mean they pick up grass seeds, which can cause serious health issues.
Although Cocker Spaniels shed a fairly low amount, they are not hypoallergenic. The fur they shed releases dander the same as most other dogs and cats, so they can aggravate allergies like most other pets. A Cockapoo is a potentially hypoallergenic alternative to a Cocker Spaniel if you like the breed but suffer from allergies.
Cocker Spaniels can actually shed a lot more than an adult dog, particularly as they start to lose their puppy coat at around six months old.
At the groomers Cocker Spaniels are often shaved to keep them cool and neat, but they can also be hand stripped.
Cocker Spaniels do have a bit of a reputation for being slightly smelly dogs, but it’s debatable whether they’re more whiffy than any other dog.
If you’re grooming regularly and your Spaniel’s still making your eyes water, book a trip to the vet to check it’s not their skin, ears, diet, or anal glands causing the problem.
Cocker Spaniel insurance
Pet insurance for Cocker Spaniels is easily available and relatively inexpensive compared with some other breeds. In 2021, we insured almost 16,000 Cocker Spaniels at an average cost of £382.68. That’s well below the £474.77 average insurance cost for all breeds.
Cockers were the third most popular breed we insured last year, beaten only by their sister breed, the Cockapoo, and Labradors. We also saw that Cocker Spaniels cost £1,469 on average to buy, making them a fairly low-cost breed both to buy and to insure.
Cocker Spaniel health conditions
Cockers are a healthy working breed with fewer inherited conditions than many, although there are some common health issues to look out for:
Ear infections – those big, floppy ears can encourage bacteria, yeast and infection to breed. Ear infections were the sixth most common pet insurance claim for Cocker Spaniels in 2021, with an average cost of £156.
Hip dysplasia – This is normally associated with larger breeds, but it’s more common than average in Cocker Spaniels so dogs should be checked before breeding from them. We paid 46 hip dysplasia claims for Spaniels in 2021 at a total cost of £27,547. Hip dysplasia can cost upwards of £5,000 per hip if surgery's needed, even in a small breed like a Cocker Spaniel.
Separation anxiety – This behavioural problem can affect the loving Cocker Spaniel more severely than some breeds. Behavioural disorder was the ninth most common claim we saw in Cocker Spaniels in 2021, when we had 207 claims for them.
Grass seeds – Those fluffy toes can act like Velcro, so grass seeds were the fifth most common claim type for Cocker Spaniels in 2021.
Pet insurance can help cover the cost of claims like these. You can claim up to £15,000 a year with our Complete policy so it can cover even very costly conditions like hip dysplasia.
Frequently asked questions about Cocker Spanielss
When do Cocker Spaniels stop growing?
Cocker Spaniels will stop growing at nine-12 months. But they may continue ‘filling out’ a bit until they’re around two years old.
Are Cocker Spaniels good family dogs?
Cocker Spaniels are eager to please and amiable, so they fit in very well with family life where there is a lot going on.
Cocker Spaniels are known for being gentle and sweet-tempered. But vets have identified a rare syndrome seen in some dogs that they’ve termed ‘Cocker rage’.
Cocker rage is described as extreme and out-of-control aggression where the dog attacks without warning. Not a lot is known about the causes but there are theories that it may be caused by a type of epilepsy.
Cocker rage is extremely rare, but if you’re concerned make an appointment with your vet without delay.
Do Cocker Spaniels bark a lot?
They’re not an excessively noisy breed, but some Spaniels can find triggers like the doorbell a bit much for their lively nature and will bark.
Use their strong training drive to your advantage by turning the doorbell into a trigger for a different action, like coming to find you or going to their bed for a treat.
When do Cocker Spaniels calm down?
Cocker Spaniels are a lively breed. Don’t count on them slowing down too much as they age. There are plenty of 10-year-old Cockers still up for a wild tear around the garden like they’re a pup – it’s just part of their charm.